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2023 Presidency: Alarm bells as PDP replays old future

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
18 September 2022   |   2:46 am
There are many sides to the one big question, which underscores the intractable wrangling in the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Why was the presidential ticket open?

Wike

How Wike’s Slight On Atiku Is Upsetting Party

There are many sides to the one big question, which underscores the intractable wrangling in the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Why was the presidential ticket open? It is that lack of fidelity to principles and ambivalence that has put the party in a cul-de-sac.

  
Consequently, current realities in the leading opposition party show that it is merely repeating its past mistakes barely seven months before another general election. Recall that PDP lost the 2015 poll to the amalgam of former fringe political parties called the All Progressives Congress (APC) owing to internal disputations over the propriety or otherwise of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s desire to seek a second term in office.
  
Notable party chieftains felt the former president ought not to have sought another full four-year term given the circumstances of his ascension, which they believed tipped the party’s zoning/power rotation pattern. The bickering caused a major slide leading to the party’s surprising loss after 16 years in the saddle.
    
Then, in 2019, when every indicator pointed to a possible rebound, the party again flunked it, losing to President Muhammadu Buhari and APC through the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, its presidential standard bearer.
   
Atiku’s defection from PDP and his candidacy in the last general elections are being touted as part of the ongoing recriminations within the opposition party, even as the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, is accusing the party’s presidential candidate of receiving the backing of some powerful figures in the APC-led Presidency to destabilise PDP.
   
Could it be that elements within APC that are not comfortable with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as the party’s presidential candidate are plotting a similar mutiny engineered by Atiku and five governors to defeat APC and win the presidential laurel for PDP?
    
That point was mooted in Wike’s allegation, thus deepening the fault lines within the main opposition party between the Northern and Southern blocs. The call for the national chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu to step aside from his position to balance the levers of power in the party has ignited concerns that PDP was repeating the same mistakes that pulled it down from the pinnacle of political power in 2015.
    
For instance, the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) meeting on Wednesday, September 7, 2022, had all the elements of a similar meeting in January 2013. The only variation was that unlike in 2013 when former President Goodluck Jonathan was in the saddle as party leader, the PDP of 2022 has no definite leader.
 
Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, the party’s national chairman, who was at the centre of the unrest within the main opposition party, experienced the same heat that was brought to bear on Alhaji Bamangar Tukur. While in Bamanga’s case, 10 out of the 14-member NWC turned their backs on the national chairman, Ayu had the privilege of North/South division, which propelled Southern members of the caucus to storm out of the meeting.
   
If the leading opposition party undertook a serious post-mortem after it lost the 2015 presidential poll alongside its Commander-in-Chief, Jonathan, it could have recognised how the events leading to Bamanga Tukur’s ouster prepared it for the eventual electoral disaster.
    
Perhaps, with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar walking the tight rope to ensure that he, alongside the party, does not experience another fall, the lifeline given to Ayu by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party might amount to a mere postponement of the evil day.
     
Rivers State governor and Southern stakeholders loyal to him had made Ayu’s resignation, in line with the national chairman’s undertaking, as their irreducible minimum demand for the return of peace in the party. But, in that was seen as a cosmetic political gimmick, the chairman, of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin, and the chairman of, the PDP Governors’ Forum, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, resigned from their positions. 
 
Despite the similarities and the dissimilarities between Ayu’s and Tukur’s situations, the repeat of history points to another possible loss by the PDP and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, unless a benevolent electoral accident happens.
  
The charges against Ayu are in three folds: One, the national chairman is on record as having avowed to step aside from his office in the event that a Northern presidential aspirant emerges as a candidate. Secondly, the national chairman was said to have congratulated and praised Governor Tambuwal for stepping down and urging his supporting delegates to cast their ballot for Atiku. Then, while the squabbling over his vacillation to keep to his gentleman’s agreement was raging, Ayu chided Governor Wike and those who were calling for his resignation as children, saying that they were not grown up when PDP was formed.   
   
Dr. Bamanga Tukur’s problems began right from the lead-up to the PDP national convention in March 2012. Although he was not the consensus choice of Northeast zonal stakeholders of the party, because the former governor of Gongola State was the beloved of party leaders, he was elected at the convention in Abuja.
  
Barely one year in the saddle, Tukur was accused of running the party like his personal estate, even as he was said to be transacting party business from his private residence instead of at the office.  
 
Matters came to a head when 10 out of the 12 members of NWC moved against Tukur during an emergency meeting, during which they condemned the chairman’s actions in his state, Adamawa. The rebels said the NWC was surprised and embarrassed by a purported ward, local council and state congresses in Adamawa State, pointing out that in the history of PDP, “only the National Secretariat conducts state congresses.”
    
The then Deputy chairman of the party, Dr. Sam Jaja and the national secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who briefed the press alongside other members of the 10, declared the Adamawa congresses null and void. There was no doubt that the 2015 election was at the root of the cleavages, particularly given the perception in some quarters that the PDP governors were planning to sack the NWC and put up a caretaker committee. 
  
On January 13, 2014, when Tukur summoned his own emergency meeting, only three persons, including the then national secretary, Prof. Adewale Oladipo, National Auditor, Adewole Adeyanju and the national treasurer, Alhaji Bala Buhari, turned up.
    
Peeved that other NWC members were within the party secretariat, but decided to avoid the meeting room, Tukur was forced to drive out of the premises, especially as he could not muster the required number to form a quorum.
   
Whether he was aware or merely wanted to test the resolve of the mutineers, Tukur seemed to overlook the vote of no confidence passed on him by the other NWC members two days before. However, the NWC members, in their report to President Jonathan, blamed Tukur for the division within the party, stressing that based on the differences between the chairman and other officials, PDP will not win the 2015 poll under the Adamawa-born politician.
  
Although Tukur claimed that a member of the PDP Stakeholders Forum demanded a million from him so he could mobilise support for him after some members defected to the APC, it was settled that the national chairman should go.
   
No sooner than the former Bauchi State governor, Dr Adamu Mu’azu was nominated to take his place, Tukur rushed to the court, thereby paving the way for his final removal. On December 3, 2014, at its 395th NWC meeting, the party looked into the suit filed by Tukur against the national chairman Mu’azu.
   
The NWC noted that Tukur breached Section 58(1)(a)( b)( h)( l) of the PDP Constitution 2012 ( as amended) and thereby suspended him alongside Aliyu Abuba Gurin. They were sanctioned for entering claims and counterclaims in suit FHC/ABJ /821/2014; Gurin vs PDP and three others, without first exploring and exhausting the party’s internal mechanism of redress.
    
The two officials were also axed for attempting to stop the planned national convention to nominate the party’s presidential candidate, as well as regularise the positions of the national chairman and other NWC members.
 
 
It was therefore in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the 2014 mistake, which cost PDP the 2015 poll that both the national chairman, Ayu and the presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, rebuffed calls on Ayu to resign.
   
Speaking while he commissioned a project at the Ogbunuabali area of Port Harcourt, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, disclosed that apart from Ayu’s pledge to quit if a presidential candidate emerged from the North, Atiku informed him (Wike) that Ayu had to go shortly after emerging as the PDP presidential standard bearer.
   
Wike challenged the former Vice President to deny that he made such remarks to him in Abuja, even as he declared that Ayu must resign for the party to move forward in peace for next year’s poll.

The Rivers State governor further accused Atiku and Ayu of hobnobbing with some powerful elements in the APC-led Presidency to turn deaf ears to the calls on the national chairman to keep to his words, just as he insisted that the right things must be done.

Other governors from the South in support of Wike, including Governors Seyi Makinde and Dr. Samuel Ortom, echoed the Rivers State governor’s sentiments. Speaking during the Southwest consultative meeting in Ibadan, Governor Makinde argued that there was no way PDP will be promising Nigerians a new lease of life, while it could not keep to promises it made within the party.
   
Addressing a press conference in Lagos, the former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Bode George, remarked that both Atiku and Ayu were courting failure for PDP by clinging to the chairmanship seat.
   
Regretting that PDP was toeing the same path as in 2014 when a faction known as the new PDP (nPDP) was incubated, George remarked that Ayu’s refusal to quit has already polarised and fragmented the party into two platforms, the Northern Peoples Democratic Party (NPDP) and Southern Peoples Democratic Party (SPDP).
   
Reacting to insinuations by some Northern stakeholders that there was a precedent, George maintained that those who claim that there was nothing wrong with this present arrangement are mistaken.
 

   
His words: “Some have argued that this happened during Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, where the candidate and the national chairman were from the same zone. Let the truth be told, there are remarkable differences in the scenario then and now. Then we had the leader of the party who was then a sitting president from the South and the candidate was from the North.
  
“We should not allow any sentiment – ethnicity or religion to divide us. Unfortunately, with what we are presently witnessing, our party may lose the next presidential election if we continue to disregard or fail to address the feeling and grievances of ‘alienation’ being presently experienced by the entire Southern population of this great country.
 
“In May this year, we elected our presidential candidate in the person of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, setting aside the principle of rotation as enshrined in the constitution of our party in the interest of peace and unity of our party. Today, we are in a situation in which our National Chairman is from the same zone as our presidential candidate.”
  
But, while the calls to resign pile on Ayu, those close to the national chairman claim that if the issue of zoning should be resurrected, the first person to quit is Atiku. But, feeling that the issue of zoning should not be invoked at this period of time, the former Vice President contended that Ayu’s removal could only be achieved through the constitutional method, which would entail a constitutional amendment.
   
Weighing in on the attempt to rope APC into the wrangling within PDP, a chieftain of the governing party, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, said the major opposition party, PDP, boxed itself into an irretrievable tight corner.
 
Okechukwu who is also Director General of Voice of Nigeria regretted that instead of sitting down to address the various challenges confronting their party, the leaders are busy passing the buck and blaming the APC.
  
Okechukwu, lambasted the PDP national chairman, Dr Ayu for accusing APC of sponsoring mischievous posts against him, denying that APC was fuelling the PDP crisis.
  
“The PDP national chairman should leave APC out of the confusion he plunged his party into when he deliberately betrayed the South and Governor Nyesom Wike by extension. The blame game and transfer of aggression are not the answer to Ayu’s odd consensus.
    
“Ayu’s odd consensus is the willing unpatriotic breach of the subsisting rotation of power from North to South convention by Ayu and his presidential candidate, His Excellency Atiku
Abubakar. The duo has reached the odd consensus that Atiku is not likely to win the 2023 presidential election. This is why they rejected the minor palliative of placating Governor Nyesom Wike and others that were hurt by the breach.

“Otherwise, if they are sure of victory, Ayu could have willingly stepped down long ago and waited for juicier slots post-2023 presidential election victory like SGF. Hence close the huge failure fracture starring them in the face consequent upon the betrayal of the South.”
     
It is possible that within the North/South disputation within the PDP, the party may be settling for defeat. The decision to appoint another northerner as Director General of the Presidential campaign leaves the impression that instead of victory in the 2023 poll, the PDP stakeholders are fighting for the structure as Okechukwu insinuated.

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