Dark clouds are hovering over the chances of the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) reclaiming power at the February 25, 2023, presidential poll.
While other political parties and their candidates have intensified their campaigns aimed at ‘grabbing” power, PDP is campaigning in the midst of an intense crisis threatening to tear it into shreds.
Pundits say the most worrisome is that those at the centre of the crisis are power brokers in the party.
Political analysts have predicted that if the opposition party does not resolve the crisis, there is the possibility that it’s outing in this year’s election would be futile.
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The crisis rocking the party is due to an avalanche of interests by various bigwigs in the party ahead of this year’s general polls.
Daily Trust reports that five aggrieved governors with the name G-5, who are members of the party led by Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, are insisting that the party’s national chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, must resign while another party stalwart from the South takes over his role.
It all started when Wike failed to clinch the party’s presidential ticket and was also not considered for the vice presidential slot as the presidential candidate of the party, Atiku Abubakar, picked Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate.
Credible sources in the PDP have hinted to our correspondent that with the development, some National Working Committee (NWC) members, Board of Trustees (BoT) and some state executives are also divided along the Atiku/Ayu versus Wike/G-5 governors lines and ready to join forces with their principals.
The G-5 governors are Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) and Ifeanyi Ugwaunyi (Enugu).
The G-5 governors have been holding meetings both within and outside the country, strategising on their next political direction. They have also consistently said they would not work for Atiku, but remain in the party.
Analysts have predicted that they would either pick the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu or Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP).
Controversy over zoning
The PDP right from inception cherished the principle of zoning its offices between the North and the South as enshrined in its constitution.
However, consensus and intrigues played by those who were eyeing the 2023 presidential ticket of the party brought former Senate President Iyorchia Ayu as the national chairman of the party.
Before the emergence of Ayu, a committee set up by the party and headed by the Bauchi State governor, Bala Muhammed, to evaluate the party’s performance in the 2019 elections and find a way forward towards winning the 2023 elections had advised the party not to zone the presidential ticket but look for a qualified and acceptable Nigerian that can wrest power from the ruling APC.
Daily Trust gathered that while those from the South saw the emergence of Ayu as an opportunity for the South to produce the presidential candidate, the northern stakeholders saw Ayu as the one that would pave the way for someone from the North to emerge as the party’s presidential candidate.
A sign that all was not well started when the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom-led committee on the zoning of the presidency threw open the race for aspirants from across the country.
Even though Ortom told newsmen at the Benue Lodge in Abuja, the venue of the final meeting of the committee, that their recommendation would be subject to ratification by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party and failed to state their position, it became clear that the committee had jettisoned zoning.
In a communiqué after the NEC meeting that preceded the submission of the committee’s report, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, told newsmen that the decision followed the outcome of the recommendation of the zoning committee put together by the party.
The party also compounded the situation when on the day it set up the Ortom committee to decide on zoning, equally announced the commencement of the sale of forms and said it was open to all aspirants.
First to buy the form was former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from the North and the eventual winner of the primaries.
In all, 15 aspirants bought the party’s expression of interest and nomination forms to contest the party’s presidential ticket, but at the end of the day, only 13 contested the primaries.
Among the top contenders were Atiku Abubakar, Nyesom Wike, former Senate presidents, Bukola Saraki and Anyim Pius Anyim, governors Bala Muhammed, Aminu Tambuwal and Udom Emmanuel among others.
As the convention drew nearer, it became clear that the battle was between Wike and Atiku.
At the convention venue, stakeholders believed the results could have gone either way before the intervention of Sokoto State governor, Tambuwal, who stepped down and asked his supporters to vote for Atiku.
After the collation of results, Atiku polled 371 votes, followed by Wike who got 237 votes and Saraki who scored 70 votes.
Battle for VP slot and agitations
Immediately after the primaries, the winner of the poll, Atiku, visited some of the aspirants including Wike.
A committee was also constituted by Atiku and the party to find a common ground on who becomes the vice presidential candidate of the party.
After extensive meetings and deliberations by the committee, three names – Udom Emmanuel, Nyesom Wike and Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta who became the eventual VP candidate – were nominated to Atiku to select one.
Trouble started after the announcement of Okowa by Atiku, with Wike and his supporters who had hitherto thought he would be the chosen one having come second to Atiku at the primaries, feeling aggrieved.
Governor Wike and his camp had insisted that the presidential candidate of the party and its national chairman, Ayu, cannot come from the same zone and demanded the resignation of Ayu to allow for what they called equity, justice and fairness to prevail.
They vowed that until Ayu vacates his seat, members of the group – governors, some members of the NWC and former party leaders – would not work for the emergence of Atiku as president.
Atiku himself recently said he has met with Wike on several occasions within and outside the country, but the issues remained unresolved.
Already, the Rivers governor, while commissioning a project in his state recently, disclosed that he would soon announce his preferred presidential candidate.
Even though the PDP and the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) have said the decision by the governors would not affect the party, many are skeptical that it would go a long way in determining the fate of the party in the forthcoming elections.
The spokesman of the Atiku/Okowa Campaign, Senator Dino Melaye, had warned the governors that any move by them (G-5) to support the APC candidate would signal the end of their political career.
Melaye said, “No blackmail, hate, or envy will stop Atiku. Attacking Atiku will cost them their political future. You don’t fight a man who has done nothing to provoke you. Atiku’s only offense is that he won a presidential primary transparently and openly conducted.
“No man should play God. It is too late to stop Atiku. They should have a re-think. Atiku will be president because the people have decided. My advice to the G-5, is don’t end your political career because of an inordinate ambition that will yield no result. If they take that step, it will be the last kick of a dying horse.”
On his part, the national publicity secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, said the party has not ruled out the chances of settlement with the aggrieved members.
According to him, the governors still remain members of the PDP, “they have not said they are no longer members of the party and as such, there is always the possibility of settling the issues that are in contention.”
He also disclosed that the issue of reconciliation is not a hundred-meter dash, but a marathon one and that the party was still very hopeful of settling its issues and going into the election as a united political party.