Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s emergence as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have thrown the opposition party into a crisis that may impact its performance in the 2023 general elections.
Naija News reports that top members of the PDP had called for a power shift to the South after the two terms of President Muhammadu Buhari, but the opposition party instead decided to throw the race for its presidential ticket open.
The PDP primary produced Atiku as its flagbearer, with Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State finishing second in the race.
Just after the primaries, the National Chairman of the party, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, drew the wrong attention to himself after describing Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State as the hero of the convention during a visit to the Governor.
Many interpreted Ayu’s statement to imply that he had a preferred aspirant for the PDP ticket, questioning his neutrality in the process that produced Atiku.
After the convention, Atiku wrote to the party’s leadership to help him in the selection of a running mate with Wike, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State – who reportedly backed Atiku in the primary, going against the ‘Asaba Accord‘ where southern presidency was agreed upon – and Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom emerging as the front runners.
Atiku, in his wisdom, rejected the selection of Governor Wike by various committees to pick his ally, Okowa as his running mate. This has not gone down well with many in the PDP, resulting in an impending crisis that may affect the chances of the opposition party in the 2023 election.
Wike has remained silent after losing the vice-presidential slot to Ifeanyi Okowa, with many sources revealing that the Rivers governor is weighing up his options.
God has not told me to back Atiku – Ortom
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, who was a member of the PDP panel that selected Wike as the party’s running mate, told Arise TV that his support for Atiku Abubakar depends on the instruction from God.
The Governor said he is still waiting to hear from God before he can support Atiku in the 2023 Presidential election, adding that he is fasting and praying about the issue.
He added that the party’s best choice for the Vice-Presidential candidate would have been Nyesom Wike due to his commitment to the PDP.
Ortom disclosed that he expects Atiku to meet with Wike and other governors to explain his choice of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as his running mate.
He said: “All of us have our weapon; Wike can be ‘something,’ but when it comes to mobilization impact, value addition, and reaching out to make sure that the party works, the man is an instrument. He’s somebody who stood for the party and made sure that things worked. Some of us believed in him, but unfortunately, it was somebody else. But the party is Supreme.
“However, some of us have resorted to prayers. I have been in hibernation. We’ve resorted to prayer: ‘Lord God, where do we go from here.’ I believe as a Christian that power belongs to God. The Bible says a man can receive nothing except it is given to him from above.
“I am praying. I have gone into hibernation. I am fasting and praying. So, in the end, if God directs me that I should support Atiku, why should I not do it? After all, he’s my party member. But I am waiting for him to do more. I expect him to reach out to Wike, who came second in the presidential primary. The man he denied the popular view of the PDP members — 14 out of 17 — who said Wike should be the vice-presidential candidate. I expect more explanation. I expect him to talk to Wike — whom we are supporting — first. I expect him to reach out to some of us so that together we can work as a party.”
Ortom advised that calling the presidential aspirant on the phone to resolve the issue in the party would not be resourceful.
He further stated that when others left PDP, Wike remained and brought him back to the party when he was treated unjustly.
The PDP Governor said, “Why do you just send calls to Wike? You should have to go to him.
“When people left the party, Wike was on the ground. It was Wike that brought me back to PDP when I was treated unjustly.
“He brought me back to PDP in 2015. You have treated Wike badly. The party and national level should go to him and appeal to him. He came second to Atiku.”
Southern presidency or nothing – Fayose kicks
In a post on his Twitter page on Wednesday, former Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose added fuel to the fire threatening to engulf the PDP.
According to Fayose, it was the turn of the South to produce Nigeria’s next president after Muhammadu Buhari’s two-term as president.
Fayose wrote: “The PDP Constitution provides for a rotational Presidency. Section 3(c) provides that the Party shall pursue its aims & objectives by “adhering to the policy of the rotation & zoning of Party & Public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness.
“The current President of Nigeria is a 2-term Northern Presidency, thus implying that it MUST be a Southern Presidency in 2023 or NOTHING.
“Awa ‘South’ lo kan.’ Nigerians should await details soon.”
Fayose, in an interview with Premium Times, recalled how Atiku promised to make Wike his running mate after winning the presidential ticket of the PDP.
The former Governor said the Atiku failed to fulfill his promise following his decision to pick Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.
Fayose said, “Wike never said he wanted to be VP, but when Atiku visited him, he was the one who said, ‘I want you to be my VP.’ He said that to Wike. If that then changes, is Wike not supposed to be told? Is he not supposed to know?
“PDP set up a committee to recommend a running mate for the candidate, and the committee voted and picked Wike, but they didn’t comply with the recommendation of the committee.
“If the party is now a one-man show, we will show them that we can resist it. We are with Wike 100 per cent.
“When they need Wike’s money and Wike’s support, they will say, ‘Wike is good enough. Wike has been injured, but we will remain with him. Whatever he does is what we would do; wherever he asks us to go is where we will go.”
Fayose, when asked what he would do if Wike asked them to support Atiku, said, “Wike will never say we should support Atiku.
“Wike cannot come out to say he is supporting Atiku. I dare him to say so; because he knows that whatever he says will haunt him forever. If Wike supports Atiku, we will abandon him.”
Grievances are normal – Atiku’s aide
However, Atiku’s media aide, Paul Ibe, said it is normal for members of the main opposition party to be aggrieved.
Ibe, however, stated that PDP has a way of resolving their issues, adding that all differences would be sorted and all would be happy.
The media aide further stated that the bigger challenge for PDP is to kick out the All Progressives Congress in 2023.
Calls for Senator Ayu’s removal
Calls for the removal of the PDP National Chairman have heightened recently.
Sources have revealed that some top members of the opposition party are making moves to oust the Iyorchia Ayu over the role he played in the emergence of Atiku.
Following the swelling rumours of his suspension, the PDP had to release a statement describing such reports as fake news.
Naija News reports that Debo Ologunagba, the PDP spokesman, in a statement, disclosed that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was aware of the absence of our National Chairman and that Damagun will be performing the duties of the National Chairman in an Acting capacity pending Ayu’s return.
He then urged all members and supporters to disregard the report as “fake news.”
Also speaking, the Senior Adviser to Senator Iyorchia Ayu on Communication and Strategy, Simon Imobo-Tswam, has maintained that his principal remains the National Chairman of the PDP.
Tswam urged members of the public to ignore such reports, adding that Ayu is only out of the country on vacation, and he properly handed over to Deputy National Chairman (North), Amb. Umar Damagun who has been carrying out the duties of the office.
In his words, “Earlier today, mischievous stories broke on the social media to the effect that Ayu has been ‘suspended over allegations of misappropriation.
“The stories further add that the Deputy National Chairman (North), Amb. Umar Damagun has been appointed in his place in an acting capacity.
“This is supposed to have followed a phantom emergency meeting of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC).”
Osun governorship election
With the crisis in the opposition party, activities of the PDP in the forthcoming Osun governorship election may be affected. This was evident on Wednesday with the absence of many governors during the inauguration of the campaign council of the party.
The only two governors who attended the campaign council inauguration were that of Delta, Ifeanyi Okowa, and Taraba, Darius Ishaku, supporting reports that Atiku’s emergence had polarized the party.
The governors that shunned the inauguration were that of Rivers, Oyo, Bayelsa, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Sokoto, Adamawa, Abia, and Enugu. They were all appointed as vice-chairmen of the campaign council.
The council was, however, inaugurated by the acting National Chairman of the PDP, Amb. Umar Damagum.
Speaking at the event held at the PDP National Secretariat in Abuja, Damagum charged members of the party to work for victory in Osun State, saying there is no reason why PDP can’t win the election.
He charged the council to “go to Osun State and win the election for us,” adding that “Osun is key to our presidential election.”
He added that the PDP candidate f the election, Senator Ademola Adeleke, is popular already, which should make victory easier.
This article was originally published on Naija News