The crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party took a new dimension on Friday with the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, making a series of allegations against the Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, and the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, among others.
While the PDP is waiving the olive branch in the direction of the governor, Ayu and Atiku refused to react to his outburst.
At the PDP convention in May, Wike had polled 237 votes to finish second behind Atiku, a former Vice-President, whose 371 votes gave him the privilege of flying the party’s flag in the 2023 presidential election.
Although Wike has continued to pledge his loyalty to the PDP, he is insistent that following the emergence of Atiku, the national chairman of the party, Ayu, cannot continue to preside over the affairs of the PDP given that he is from the North like the presidential candidate.
With Ayu and Atiku both unwilling to grant his request, Wike has wasted no time in forming a formidable movement whose members include governors Seyi Makinde, Okezie Ikpeazu and Samuel Ortom of Oyo, Abia and Benue states respectively, to force the chairman out of office.
The pro-Wike movement also has in its fold, veteran politicians like a former Minister of Information, Prof Jerry Gana; ex-governors Donald Duke, Olusegun Mimiko and Jonah Jang of Cross River, Ondo and Plateau states, respectively, as well as former Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Olabode George, among others.
With the party and Atiku not prepared to meet the demands of the governor, Wike’s team withdrew from the PDP presidential candidate’s campaign council.
Wike, in a television interview with some journalists in Port Harcourt on Friday, dared the PDP to suspend him and await the consequences.
“Who will suspend me? Which party? I beg them today, they should not waste time to suspend me. They should call a National Executive Committee meeting now and say, ‘You are now suspended from the party’. Anything you see, you take. They know what I will do,” he boasted.
On the options available to him in the event of a suspension, the governor asked, “What do you think is our job here? My job here is not just to do projects. I am not saying I am bigger than the party, but those who ran away from the party cannot suspend me from the party.”
‘Ayu manipulated delegates’
In what appeared to be an indication of a personal feud between the governor and the party’s chairman, Wike revealed some of the intrigues that characterised the convention and presidential primaries of the PDP.
“He (Ayu) was calling aspirants to withdraw for Atiku. I was there; Saraki and others were there. He (Ayu) manipulated the delegates. There was nothing Ayu did not do to ensure that Wike did not emerge,” he lamented.
Aware of his political relevance in Rivers State, Wike reminded his party that winning in the oil-rich state without his support was a mere wish, saying, “You can do without me, I agree; but to say you will win without me in this state (Rivers), it will not be possible.”
PDP jettisoned zoning
He said, “Those who thought they were too powerful, highly connected and that they own the party said there should be no zoning of the presidential ticket. They said, ‘Leave it open and let the best candidate emerge’, because they think they have the numbers.
“We jettisoned our constitution, not knowing that we are laying the foundation (and sowing) the seed of discord in the future.”
According to him, the failure of the PDP to abide by the agreement reached that the South should produce the President in 2023 is the reason he fell out with his Delta and Enugu state counterparts, Ifeanyi Okowa and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
He stated, “We (governors) from the South met and said the presidency must go to the South. Governors Rotimi Akeredolu, Dave Umahi and Ifeanyi Okowa were the conveners. The first meeting was in Asaba and in that meeting, it was agreed that with President Muhammadu Buhari being a northerner and certain to do eight years, for the sake of inclusion, the next President should come from the South.
“The next meeting was in Lagos and we also agreed to pursue the agenda. The final meeting was in Enugu. I remember one of the governors said, ‘How can I tell my children that I cannot be President because I did not come from a particular section of the country?’ At the appropriate time, I will name the governor.
“That was why we said Secondus’ (Uche) time was running out and he was not going back. The presidency has to come to the South and the presidency cannot come to the South if you (Secondus) are the chairman of the party.
“I was surprised at the behaviour of some governors, who were even the conveners of the southern governors’ meeting. They started shifting grounds, insisting that the chairmanship should not be zoned.
“We set up a committee chaired by the governor of Enugu and Ortom was the deputy chairman. Because they thought they were too clever, they said they would zone only party offices and not elective offices, and we asked why. We said this would cause a crisis for the party.
“The chairmanship was zoned to the North and that’s why nobody from the South contested.”
Wike alleged that Ayu was eyeing the seat of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation if Atiku wins the presidential election.
He said, “You see when we talked about Ayu, it seems people don’t know what is involved. Ayu wants to be in power so that he will be there and if we (the PDP) win (presidential election), he wants the Secretary to the Government of the Federation position. You know these positions have been shared and then they are talking to ‘small boys’ like us to play along like we don’t know what is going on.
“I can tell you that because most of you don’t know what is going on in the party. Somebody has been given the Senate President position. And do you think I will sit here on national television to tell you things I don’t know? It is just because of confidentiality and certain things that we cannot say them here.”
The governor said Ayu exerted pressure on some of the PDP presidential aspirants like Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State and a former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to step down for Atiku on the day of the convention.
“There’s nothing Ayu did not do for me not to emerge as the PDP candidate. Ayu did everything to manipulate the system to ensure that all the numbers did not add up,” Wike added.
The governor disclosed that Atiku had during a meeting they held in London promised to work out within a week modalities for Ayu’s resignation as the national chairman of the party, but he never did.
He explained that after the one week elapsed, instead of returning back to his group to state the challenges encountered, the presidential candidate was using the PDP constitution as a defence.
He added “You are talking about the constitution now, but you forget that the constitution says there should be zoning of elective and party offices.
“You did not remember that the constitution says so. Now, is there nothing called expediency? Is there nothing called doctrine of necessity? Now, look at where we have found ourselves.
“Ab initio, the presidency ought to have been zoned to the South; you knew it. What you’ve done is to show how clever or smart you are. Now, there is a crisis and you’re now falling back to that constitution to say that there will be a constitutional crisis.
“You cannot have your cake and eat it. You can’t.”
The governor noted that the National Executive Committee of the PDP could take the decision now to accommodate the resignation of Ayu as the national chairman and seek ratification at a convention later after the elections.
According to him, such a decision will be for expediency purposes in order to allow for a southerner to become the national chairman of the party.
Wike said those who were advising the PDP presidential candidate to ignore Rivers State votes did not wish him well in the forthcoming election.
“Anybody advising Atiku that (to ignore Rivers’ votes) is a wicked man, and I know those who are doing it. They don’t have electoral value in their own units. Some of them are from Edo. Look at their calculation.
“Buhari didn’t win in Rivers State, but Buhari won in Lagos and Kano. Does Atiku have Lagos now? Does he have Kano? The only one he has always had is Rivers and you say you don’t want them.
“No state contributed more than Rivers State. I challenge the presidential candidate (Atiku) to tell PDP members if there’s any state that contributed in any way more than Rivers State in the 2019 presidential election.”
The governor specifically accused Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri, who hails from Yobe State, as one of those misleading the PDP presidential candidate.
He added, “Has the PDP won Yobe State? Now, what is his electoral value that he (Waziri) will bring to the table?
“Tell me, since 1999 when we started this democracy, the PDP has never won Yobe State and then you are going about…; we will deal with him. We will sanction him.”
He cautioned the PDP against taking Nigerians for granted, saying they were already disenchanted with the failure of the All Progressives Congress-led Federal Government.
The governor pointed out that the promise of hope by the PDP to Nigerians must be seen from how it was able to resolve the current leadership imbalance and marginalisation among its members.
He stated, “You see, people take Nigerians for granted and that’s what the PDP is trying to do. Because Nigerians are not happy with the APC and therefore, we don’t want to do the right thing. You don’t do that.
“Rather, since we believe that the APC government has not done well, we, as people who want to take over, should show more seriousness to Nigerians.
“It is we as a party that must show to Nigerians that we have integrity, that we are trustworthy to do what we have promised Nigerians and that when we come, all these issues of marginalisation will be a thing of the past.”
‘Ayu collected N1bn’
The governor faulted Ayu’s posture as a man of integrity as he described the former Senate President as very corrupt.
He stated, “I’m totally informed. Ayu has the opportunity to challenge me, I will reveal more.
“Some of the governors can tell you. Will he deny the fact that he collected N1bn from Lagos? Let him deny it; I will tell him who gave him the money not from the Lagos State Government. The money was given to him in Lagos.
“He met one of the presidential candidates (aspirants) and told him that he’s not sure these governors may want to sponsor the party.
“That money did not enter into the account of the PDP, but we are not attacking Ayu on that basis.”
While some PDP presidential aspirants picked nomination forms for other elective offices, Wike said he was fully focused on the presidency; a development he noted made him to reject the offer to go to the Senate by the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu.
“I didn’t contest so I can become a vice-presidential candidate. I am not like others who were not serious and bought senatorial forms alongside the presidential form and that’s why when Tinubu offered me the Senate slot, I didn’t go for it,” the governor stated.
The PDP is, however, optimistic that the disagreement between Ayu and Wike will be resolved amicably.
Reacting to the governor’s outburst, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Ibrahim Abdullahi, said the PDP would find a way to resolve the crisis on time to prepare for the polls.
On the governor daring the party to sanction him, Abdullahi said, “Wike has defiantly pursued a course, which should ordinarily be resolved amicably. He is one of the best we’ve got in terms of performance and we cannot afford to discard him. He should give peace a chance and sheath his sword
“These issues will be resolved in spite of the seeming intractable nature. Governor Wike cannot afford to destroy a house he has laboured to build with uncommon zeal.”
On allegations of Ayu scheming to become the next SGF, the deputy publicity scribe said, “That is a view he (Wike) has maintained and stoutly amplified at any given opportunity. Ayu’s personal misdeeds, if at all, should not justify this measure of defiance and belligerence, especially after being persuaded to see the bigger picture.”
On his part, former national officer of the PDP, Diran Odeyemi told Saturday PUNCH that unless the crisis was resolved, Nigerians would find it difficult to trust the PDP.
He stated, “It is obvious that the party is in crisis, the end of which nobody can predict. If we don’t resolve this, I am not sure Nigerians will trust us again. All our leaders exchanging banters should please calm down in the interest of the party.
“Atiku, Wike and Ayu should close ranks and work together to save our party and put behind them whatever differences they have.”
‘Atiku, reliable leader’
A source in the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, who did not want his name in print because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the “uncharitable comments” made by “a supposedly top member of the party” was an “elevated falsehood raised to put the presidential candidate in bad light.”
In a chat with one of our correspondents, the source stated, “In all his (Wike’s) political life, there is no evidence so far that Atiku Abubakar, a former vice-president, has in his actions or pronouncements portrayed himself as an unworthy and unreliable political leader.
“He distances himself from disreputable actions and embraces the noble values that can propel our country to decency and greatness.
“This is what is responsible for his political activities to be given an opportunity to contribute to the greatness of the nation and help advance the potential of the country and its teeming youthful population. The Wazirin Adamawa remains a man of deep conviction, honesty and integrity.
“Governor Wike says he is fighting for fairness, justice and equity. But, in the pursuit of all that, the governor assumes the state and the entire South of the country. With all sincerity and as a party faithful, which he claims to be, he should stop fighting a war that does not exist.”
The source also dispelled the rumours that key political positions had been shared by Atiku.
“Yes, politics is about negotiations and more negotiations to reach a consensus and, sometimes, even compromise, it is a futile exercise for positions to be shared when an electoral victory has not been secured,” the source added.
Ayu, aide mum
Efforts made to get the reaction of Ayu were not successful as of Friday night. Several calls made by one of our correspondents to his telephone were not answered. He also did not respond to a message sent to him via WhatsApp.
Also, his media aide, Simon Imobo-Tswan, refused to speak when he was contacted. “I cannot talk now. Call me later,” he responded via a text message.
However, when contacted again, Imobo-Tswan did not respond.
APC mocks Atiku
Meanwhile, the APC Presidential Campaign Council, on Friday, asked Atiku to kiss his bid to become Nigeria’s next President goodbye amid the deepening crisis in the PDP.
It said against his claim of being a unifier, the former vice-president had become a “divider-in-chief,” having violated his party’s code of power rotation between the North and the South to pick the PDP presidential ticket.
It also described the crisis in the PDP as the “karma” of Atiku’s “inordinate ambition.”
The Director of Media and Publicity of the campaign council, Bayo Onanuga “The PDP has imploded in a battle of attrition, the result of which is predictable. The ongoing fratricidal war, where a faction of the party being led by the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike is engaging Atiku in a fight to finish, has undermined any momentum the PDP candidate had hoped to build. With further loss of confidence in the PDP by its own members who cannot find any redeeming feature in the fast disappearing party, it is crystal clear that Atiku’s latest bid for Nigeria’s top job has hit the rocks.
“A pillar of Atiku’s campaign is the claim of being a unifier and nationalist. That bogus claim has now been discredited, even within his party as the disaffected members cry for justice and inclusivity. Instead of the perennially running and perennially failing candidate to offer them some sop, he has rebuffed them, pleading that he could not grant their request for justice.”
But reacting, one of Atiku’s presidential campaign spokesmen, Charles Aniagwu, said while recent happenings in the party were not a crisis but a normal political engagement, Nigerians were looking forward to the PDP rescuing the country in 2023.
“There is no crisis in the PDP; we’re just having a normal political engagement within the PDP. The fact that the APC is waiting for a crisis in the PDP tells you that they already know that they have lost the election. So, the APC knows that the election is won and lost already,” Aniagwu stated.
Tinubu’s camp reacts
Reacting to Wike’s claim that Tinubu offered him a senatorial ticket, Onanuga said it would be unfair for Nigerians to take the allegation hook, line and sinker, adding that he could not comment further until he heard from his principal.
“I can’t say anything until I speak with my principal to corroborate if he actually made the offer. Otherwise it will be wrong for one to conclude after hearing from one party without the contribution of the other,” he stated.
The spokesman for the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo, also toed the path of Onanuga by saying he could not speak for the Candidate.
“I cannot confirm or deny this offer. I can only say that Asiwaju is a party man to the core, an astute politician and a large-hearted leader, so whatever he does will be to promote and protect the interests of all leaders, party members and stakeholders in Rivers State,” he said.
‘Wike eyeing 2027’
The spokesman for the Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign, Daniel Bwala, said the Rivers State governor was insisting on Ayu’s removal because of his intention to pick the party’s presidential ticket in 2027.
Bwala, who said this during an interview on Channels TV’s Politics Today, said if Wike succeeded with Ayu’s removal, the new chairman would pave the way for him to clinch the party’s ticket in 2027.
He said, “What is it about, Iyorchia Ayu that he has to leave, because if we are going to pander to what we hear everyday even from the party, there is this wide believe that he (Wike) wants to run in 2027 for the presidency and for him to succeed in that, he has to put the chairman; but that he will have to then undermine the party’s progress because that will pave the way for a new order for the 2023 election that he wants to run. I never said that but those who said that have furnished facts to support it.”
He stressed that Wike was playing god on the party through his insistence that the party’s chairman must resign.
Bwala stated, “Let me tell you why you can’t play god, Atiku left the party, it survived; Ayu left the party, it survived; if Wike leaves the party, it will survive. Obasanjo is not in the PDP, it survived. You need to understand and know the limits of your operations and influence.
“At every material time that the party took decisions, at least in the last few times that we know, they were decisions that were taken in the belief that Wike should have his way; that’s why I said it is not good to play god; it is not good to have quarrel with people.”