PDP in throes of unresolved crises as poll draw nigh

The ripples caused by the recent suspension of some high-ranking members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is still being felt across board, with many of those affected threatening all kinds of actions against the party and sabotage in its ongoing electioneering campaigns.
Atiku Abubakar.

Plateau State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Caleb Mutfwang (left); PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu during the party’s presidential campaign in Jos… PHOTO: NAN
• Wike/Atiku Crisis Threatens Party In C’River As Division Deepens In Delta
• Lagos PDP Losing Members To Labour Party, APC Ahead Elections

The ripples caused by the recent suspension of some high-ranking members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is still being felt across board, with many of those affected threatening all kinds of actions against the party and sabotage in its ongoing electioneering campaigns. 
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While the party grapples with the latest rumpus, some stakeholders have opined that the latest action is one of many that keep dividing the party and leading it down the path of self-implosion.

As the general elections draw near, observers have been pondering what effect the party’s unending crises, which has defied solution at all levels, may have on its fortunes in the presidential and governorship elections ahead given the current realities.

The party in the penultimate week suspended former Enugu State governor, Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu State) and Chief Chris Ogbu (Imo State) for alleged anti-party activities. Others who had also been slammed with suspension included Ayeni Funso – (Ekiti), Ajijola Lateef Oladimeji (Ekiti Central), Emiola Adenike Jennifer (Ekiti South II), Ajayi Babatunde Samuel (Ekiti North II), Olayinka James Olalere (Ekiti Central), Akerele Oluyinka (Ekiti North I) and Fayose Oluwajomiloju John (Ekiti Central I).

Reacting to his suspension by the PDP National Working Committee (NWC), Nnamani said that the suspension came as a rude shock and huge surprise.
 
He stated: “I was never at any time notified of any petition or complaint against me, or informed of the grounds that formed the decision of the NWC of the PDP to suspend me from the party.
 
“I was not also invited to any meeting, proceeding, or hearing of the NWC of the party where my supposed offense (s) was/were discussed. I was, therefore, not afforded the opportunity to make representations on my behalf at any meeting where the proposal and decision to suspend me from the party was made.

“My right to fair hearing was consequently violated against the clear provisions of the constitution of the party, especially in disciplinary proceedings and more importantly, the superior constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Just as Nnamani complained of ill treatment, so did other party members who were suspended. The latest casualty of the suspension spree being the chairman of its Ebonyi State Chapter, Okorie Tochukwu Okoroafor, who the party’s NWC placed on immediate suspension in the penultimate Friday.
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Again, according to the party, Okoroafor was suspended over allegations of anti-party activities and violation of provisions of Section 58 (1) of the PDP Constitution (as amended in 2017), in what some have termed a gradual crackdown on forces against the Iyorchia Ayu leadership of the PDP.

The Governor Nyesom Wike group also better known as G-5 or Integrity Group, has been at war with Ayu since the conduct of the party’s presidential primary election in May 2022. Wike lost that election to former Vice president Atiku Abubakar. But the ripple effect of the feud across board has been disturbing, to say the least.

For instance, the party in Cross River State has remained divided as the Governor Wike/Atiku Abubakar crisis deepens. And politicians in the state have argued that if the crisis is not resolved, it will affect the chances of PDP in the state and at the national level. 

A former member of the House of Representatives, who representated Calabar Municipality/Odukpani Federal Constituency in the state, Mrs. Nkoyo Toyo declared that it is dangerous for the PDP to go into the 2023 elections divided.

The former PDP governorship aspirant said, “We must remember that everyone who comes into an election, comes to win and when push comes to shove, people will deal with the reality of what is before them.

“The fact that Cross River State was, overtime, historically, a PDP state, was because we were also a ruling party in the state. As we speak, the PDP is not the ruling party. The resources we used to run elections in Cross River State in the past, have often been linked directly or indirectly to those in power.”

She warned: “Today, access to power and all the instruments of power are in the hands of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and that APC is competing against the PDP. For me, it will be, to put it mildly, foolhardy to think that we in PDP can face this election, first as opposition, second without the resources of Cross River State, as well as the support of the state organs and institutions that hitherto, we used to have, and then decide that it is ok for us to split ourselves in the middle.

“I think there is sense in some candidates owing their success to Wike. I can name them, Jaribe in the North, Sandy Onor as governorship candidate, and by extension, few other persons here in the South got their tickets courtesy of that arrangement. So, you do not expect them to get up and do whatever they like; they do not even have the government of Cross River State as Wike has been the source of funding for them.

“In the absence of other funding sources that are dedicated to their elections, they have to be careful about which direction they take their anger and concerns to. Like we say in politics, one day is a very long time as so many things can change in one day. If you go beyond these persons that have had direct contact with Wike on the basis of their candidacy, you would hardly find anybody that is split between Wike and Atiku.

“So this so-called crisis that we are dealing with is an artificial construct because we in the PDP are not in doubt as to how we would win this election. We know for certain that if, for example, Atiku wins the first election, the bandwagon effect of his victory would be such that in two weeks, a lot of states would begin to support him on their own. 
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“So the overflow and impact of one victory on the other is linked. I may be wrong about this but to my understanding so far, Wike has been the source of support for certain persons in this election and it is only natural for them to stay loyal.”

She stressed: “Our leaders are hoping and believing that this crisis would be resolved in a way that they would not have to say something against Wike. If you watch their election campaign pattern, it has been quiet on the candidacy of Atiku and not propagating the candidacy of any other person. And the hope is that at some material time, some wisdom or revelation will come on everybody and make us realise that it is more important that we unite and win this election.”

Responding on how the crisis will affect the PDP in 2023, Onor, the PDP governorship candidate, said that there is no party without crisis. “So that of PDP is not an exception, it will be resolved.” 
THE South South region has, indeed, been the backbone of the opposition PDP following its loss of the 2015 presidential election to the ruling APC. And expecting that the party’s presidential ticket would be zoned to the region, in view of its existing understanding since formation in 1999, many, especially politicians from the area, had geared for the race.
  
The recent suspension of some members for anti-party activities has no doubt further polarised the party in the zone, just one month to the presidential election, and the signs are obvious from the campaigns, even though no major chieftain in the zone was affected.

In Delta State, there have been divisions arising from the governorship primary between the camps of former governor, Chief James Ibori, and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa over their choices of guber candidate, following their failure to reach a consensus.
  
The loss of Ibori’s anointed – David Edevbie to Okowa’s Sheriff Oborevwori did not thaw the tension, or has Edevbie’s second loss at the Supreme Court helped to reunite the party, as the gulf becomes wider with defections of some chieftains to the APC during the campaigns.
  
Certainly, Okowa’s emergence as the party’s vice presidential candidate added another dimension to the scene, with many looking away from the party’s governorship and presidential elections, despite the reconciliatory efforts of former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.
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Prominent among the absentees are Ibori, Edevbie, pioneer chairman of the party in the state and five-term senator representing Delta South, James Manager; former commissioners, and the like, making many to believe that it is not yet Uhuru in the ruling party in the state.
  
But despite what is playing out, the state Chairman, Chief Kingsley Esiso, keeps assuring that reconciliation was ongoing and that aggrieved members that are feeling left in the lurch could still join the train even at the eleventh hour to solicit votes for Oborevwori and Atiku.

There is no doubt that the SouthWest geopolitical zone will be the bride that must be wooed in the next presidential election, by whoever wins the largest votes across the North among the four major presidential candidates of the APC, PDP, Labour Party (LP) and New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
 
This perhaps is one of the reasons Atiku Abubakar, Bola Tinubu and Peter Obi, who are considered as the foremost contenders, are doing everything within their capacities to ensure that they register their strong presence across the six states in the zone ahead of the February 25 presidential polls.
 
For the PDP, the ongoing face-off between the G-5 governors of the party and Atiku over their demand that Ayu steps down for a southerner may jeopardise the chances of the party in the presidential election, according to analysts.
  
As some of them put it, “Any of the presidential candidates hoping to dust other contenders in the race must, or has to get considerable 25 per cent of votes across the SouthWest region, in addition to whatever he could get from the northern region, which has the largest population of voters.”
 
This may have justified the reasons that the PDP National Headquarters is not relenting in cowing supporters of the G-5 governors in the region while it insists on “no negotiation or backing down on Ayu’s national chairmanship.”
 
Though, the party, during its campaign in Ibadan a fortnight ago, appeared to have reached a truce with Governor Seyi Makinde, one of the G-5 governors, when Atiku commended the Oyo State governor for creating a conducive environment for the rally to hold and for also deploying the state’s structure for the campaign. The expectation that such truce would translate into the resolution of the crises in other SouthWest state chapters did not see the light of day, as the Ayu-led executive wielded the big stick by suspending former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose and other sympathisers of the G-5 governors.
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The reverberations of such action, The Guardian, learnt has further fueled crises across the zone, prompting those who were expecting to see an end to the imbroglio to start flagrantly romancing with the presidential candidate of APC, Tinubu.
 
Looking at how the crisis has divided the Lagos Chapter of PDP and the likely consequences in the coming presidential election, multiple stakeholders in the state told The Guardian that PDP stands the risk of losing woefully in the state if the face off is not resolved before the general elections.
 
For instance, the Lagos PDP is currently divided into three factions. There is the faction of the governorship candidate, Abdul Azeez Adediran, which is allegedly running an independent campaign but cannot boast of having the backing of the PDP National Secretariat in Abuja.
 
It was learnt that Adediran aka Jandor, is merely hanging onto the Atiku camp to stay afloat ahead of the governorship election scheduled for March 11 2023, since he fell out with governors Nyesom Wike, leader of the G-5 governors and Makinde. The two governors allegedly backed Adediran to secure the party’s gubernatorial ticket in the state.
 
There is also the Bode George’s faction. The former deputy national chairman of PDP is one of the ardent advocates of the Ayu-must-resign campaign to pave way for a SouthWest, preferably Southwest candidate to emerge as national chairman to give a sense of belonging to the Yoruba in PDP.
 
George and his loyalists are not relenting in their stance that PDP risks performing poorly, not only in Lagos but also across the SouthWest if the former VP remains adamant that Ayu must not leave.
 
In an interview with The Guardian, recently, the former Military Administrator of Ondo State, cautioned Nigerians and especially southern electorate against believing that Atiku will restructure Nigeria if elected. He said, “If the former vice president could not address the simple issue of balancing as laid down by the founding fathers of the PDP, how can he then be trusted to restructure Nigeria?”
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Another faction in the state is led by some stakeholders like the former state chairmen, Ade Dorothy, Tunji Shelle and Dr. Adetokunbo Pearse, among others. This faction neither relates with Adediran nor George, but its aim is to ensure Atiku’s victory in the presidential election.
 
Findings show that the PDP in Lagos is gradually losing members to the Labour Party and APC ahead of the general elections as a result of the unresolved crisis.
IN Ekiti State, the recent disciplinary measure against Fayose and others by the NWC will definitely not help the party. It is also unfortunate that the PDP lost badly in the July 2022 governorship election by coming third behind APC and the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
  
Many fear that the party might likely perform poorly in Ondo State. With incumbent governor Rotimi Akeredolu of APC in power when the elections are held, it may not give room for the major opposition to thrive. The likes of former Governor Segun Mimiko is also alleged to be on the side of the G-5 governors, which is a minus for PDP in the state.
 
The Oyo PDP is also sharply divided along the Atiku versus G-5 governors. Following the suspension of some party stakeholders by the Ayu-led executive, the much-touted truce seems to have subsided. The party remains divided among the loyalists of Atiku, which include former ministers Jumoke Akinjide, Elder Wole Oyelese, and erstwhile deputy governor of Oyo, Azeem Gbolarumi and Makinde, who believes Ayu has to resign.
 
Meanwhile, Gbolarumi told the media recently that PDP will perform well and Atiku would win with over two million votes in Oyo.
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However the polarisation in the PDP is not that pronounced in Osun and Ogun State. Following the victory of Governor Ademola Adeleke last year, the Osun PDP is said to have forged a united front even as some APC members are said to be defecting to it.

Meanwhile, if the quietude that the PDP has enjoyed in the SouthEast region could have advanced the party’s strides towards regaining political control of the area in the forthcoming general election, the intrusion of the Labour Party, through its Presidential candidate, Obi, has seriously changed the dynamics.

One thing that has gone well for the party in the last couple of years, especially since the national leadership of Senator Ayu came on board is the unity of purpose that has reduced tension, crisis and factionalisation of its membership. Unlike in previous elections where parallel candidates were paraded, that of 2023 has presented a different scenario.

Aside from the former Enugu state governor, Nnamani, who was recently suspended by the leadership of the party, and the few defections and resignations by some members, the party has maintained a level of sanity that could indicate its seriousness to participate in the coming elections.

However, whether this relative peace would translate to electoral victory at the end of the day depends largely on the activities of the Labour Party and its Obi.

PDP was the dominant party for the people of the region in 1999. It lost control of Anambra State in 2003, when Obi, through the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) won the governorship election of that year.
Imo State followed suit in 2007. The crisis that bedeviled the party did not allow it to produce a governorship candidate that was acceptable to the generality of the people. Without a candidate in the election, a lowly-rated People for Progressive Alliance (PPA) won the election. Since then, the party has not recovered the states. While APGA has retained control in Anambra State, Imo State has moved from PPA to APC.
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The Ebonyi State case is similar. Governor Dave Umahi, who used the platform of the party to win his second term bid, had a few months after the 2019 general elections, dumped the party and joined the APC. The development currently leaves the PDP with two states of Enugu and Abia in the region.

As it is, what is threatening the PDP’s comeback bid in the zone amid the disdain of the people to the APC is the aspiration of Obi in the Labour Party. Since joining the party after resigning from the PDP, Obi has continued to win the hearts of many with his large followership.

In the zone, many people freely campaign for him. They are ready to sacrifice anything for his sake. Several groups that are self-funded are springing up daily for his support just as he has become a household name and very much loved by the people.
Many who have either resigned from the PDP or APC have done so to join Obi in the Labour Party. His vote banks swell by the day even as his campaign posters and billboards have remained the most dominant in the region.

Even with their membership and affinity with the PDP, It has become a difficult thing for the two governors of the party in the region to campaign with the name of their Presidential candidate following the popularity that Obi is enjoying among the elite, youths, the rich and the poor.

The two governors of Abia and Enugu, who have stuck with the party, have not helped matters. Their affinity with the G-5 group has seriously hampered the PDP in the region. They don’t campaign for the party’s presidential candidate, or the success of the party in the national election. They have also cared less about anti-party being played even by their appointees against the party.

Part of the challenge that the PDP is faced with in the zone is how to convince the people on how the rotation clause in the constitution of the party was changed soon after it became their turn to produce the next president, and why Atiku should be picked from the North after the incumbent.

Indeed, the PDP had rotated its presidential slot. It suddenly somersaulted on the situation a few months to its presidential primary in the guise that it was done to enable the party regain power at the centre. It was the somersault, which many believed was wrong that made Obi to leave the party and embrace the Labour Party.
The general feeling is that it was a betrayal of trust on the side of the party, which had received enormous support from the region for the 16 years in which it was saddled with the responsibility of governance.

Stakeholders of the region strongly feel that it is their turn to produce the next president after Muhammadu Buhari and that Obi presents the best opportunity for such realisation. Through the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, they have carried the message to all the nooks and crannies of the country. Their message has also continued to receive favourable responses from leaders of other zones, including the Middle Belt; Afenifere, the Niger Delta and personalities like former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, Goodluck Jonathan among others.

Looking at the scenario, stalwarts of the party believe as well as that though the PDP would win the 2023 elections, it would certainly not do so with votes it would garner from the SouthEast region.

Former National Auditor of the party, Chief Ray Nnaji, had told The Guardian that, he was upbeat about the victory of the party in the coming polls because, “the APC has failed woefully”, stressing that the “only alternative is the PDP, which performed excellently well when compared with the APC”.

He, however, added: “We are banking on the votes from the north to decide the elections, not the one from the SouthEast because the way it is, the scenario appears very difficult to penetrate with the level of popularity and acceptance Peter Obi is enjoying in the region. Obi has really done well and has exceeded my expectations, so far.”
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