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Atiku/Obi search for truce in Southeast, as PDP holds rally

By Lawrence Njoku, Southeast Bureau Chief
16 December 2018   |   4:28 am
The convention threw up Atiku and later Obi as his running mate. No sooner had they emerged than rumour spread that certain stakeholders were opposed to their choice.

[FILE] PDP presidential standard-bearer, Atiku, former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose ; Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Vice Presidential Candidate, Mr. Peter Obi; Senator Ben Bruce and National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus at the South West rally

Last week’s meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, his running mate, Peter Obi, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, southeast governors and Governor, Nyesom Wike of Rivers State in Port Harcourt was an indication that the pains inflicted on the party since the conclusion of its national convention in October are healing.

The convention threw up Atiku and later Obi as his running mate. No sooner had they emerged than rumour spread that certain stakeholders were opposed to their choice.Governor Wike, who was reported to have left the convention venue before official closure did not hide his disdain over how he was outsmarted. The sad development got to its crescendo last week, when Wike was reported to have threatened to resign as South-South campaign Coordinator for the Atiku-Obi presidency.

It was gathered that the intervention of some stakeholders that included former President, Goodluck Jonathan made him change his mind and agreed to carry on. It was this development that may have caused him make available the state’s facilities to be used to host the Port Harcourt meeting to further seek the path of peace.

On the other hand, governors of the Southeast zone and Ekweremadu who had earlier met where they stoutly rejected the choice of Obi on the guise that they were not carried along in the selection process continued in their opposition with boycotting of activities of the party involving the candidates, among others.

The faceoff took another dimension when none of them attended a function at Adamawa state where Atiku was turbaned. They rather chose to attend other minor functions held outside their states or were allegedly engaged in other state matters.Last week however, a glimmer of hope in the party’s quest to clinch the presidency and end the rift that had arisen from its convention came to the fore when all the ‘combatants’ met in Port Harcourt.

A source, which described the meeting as “highly successful”, said it has set the tonic needed to advance the political cause of the party in the coming elections, adding that without it, no justifiable progress can be made.Apart from Wike, who hosted the meeting, all the governors of the southeast zone, including Ekweremadu were present. It was said to have reached a truce on how to work together and deliver the party in the election in the states concerned.

Although, it could mean acceptance to work with the party on the side of the Southeast governors, what is not too clear is what would happen to a rumoured relationship that has elicited their support to return President Muhammadu Buhari in the zone during next year’s elections.

Have they abandoned the cause, which many of them have leaned on to get their way back to office in their various states or could it be part of the usual maneuverings that had gone on over the years?A source told the Guardian: “If you notice, this is the first time we are having these governors and Ekweremadu in a place with our candidates since the conclusion of our national convention. It tells you that the party is moving forward and that when we say we will recover power, that it is not a joke. All those who felt that they will capitalize on the outcome of our convention to cause further crisis in the party should look elsewhere as we are sure of retaining our states and making further inroads in others.”

However, to underscore their serious search for truce and perhaps consolidate on the gains and successes so far made, a meeting of Obi with southeast governors and stakeholders of the party in the zone took place in Enugu on Tuesday. The meeting held at the party’s zonal office and had in attendance the chairman of Southeast governor’s forum, Dave Umahi, who is also the Southeast Coordinator of the party’s Presidential campaign.

A source in the meeting who pleaded anonymity told the Guardian that the leaders agreed to shore up support for the Atiku/Obi mandate further with a zonal rally to be held in Anambra this week.

He stated that the rally is being planned to send the signal that the zone is not against the presidential candidates, explaining that though Anambra “is not a PDP state, but we want to sound it that the Vice Presidential candidate has the support of his people and that the attempt to divide us will not work.”

The Guardian gathered that the zonal rally would involve all Igbo groups, organizations and associations in Igboland, stressing that it would be used by “Umahi to announce a workable plan towards winning elections for the PDP in the zone next year.”

The source continued: “I think it is time for them (governors) to stand firm in the entire arrangement. One thing you must know is that what we are going into next year has received Igbo endorsement and anybody playing politics with it is playing with the future of Ndigbo. An opposition to the Atiku/Obi mandate is an opposition to Igbo agenda. That is the situation”

He disclosed that the fear that some of the governors and leaders “might be retired” from the scheme of things fuelled the opposition in the first instance, stressing that, an unwritten affinity to work for President Mohammadu Buhari’s success in the 2019 election so as to secure their return ticket also contributed to their position.

Sources said should feelers from last week’s meeting and the planned zonal rally be anything to go by, it would mean putting paid to the hope of President Buhari making an inroad in the zone during the elections.

To arrive at the truce however, it was gathered that it took various visits and calls from some prominent Igbo leaders including the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, past Senate Presidents, past Ministers among others who believe that support for Atiku/Obi was the way to go irrespective of the promises President Buhari made to address infrastructural gaps in the zone as well as the rumour of returning power to them in 2023.

Founder and Leader of Living Christ Mission Worldwide, His Grace, Most Rev Daddy Victor Hezekiah, who had cautioned Ndigbo to be careful over what he described as “fake promises” in the coming elections, asked them to vote according to their conscience. He had however, insisted that nothing had happened in the last few years to change the ugly position Ndigbo had been placed in the scheme of things in the country

Daddy Hezekiah told the Guardian: “It was not enough to promise Igbo presidency in 2023. We should be asking ourselves what they have done with the mandate they received from the people. What have they done for the southeast zone? How far have they addressed those issues that have put Igbo down? In terms of appointments, what did we get and why have they acted and still acting as if we are not part of Nigeria? So I want our people to pray and seek God’s guidance. But the truth is that I supported President Buhari but he has disappointed me”

The governors “hide and seek”, their one leg in and out of Atiku’s candidature  since electioneering activities kicked- started, it was further gathered, were aimed at securing their second term in office, especially with the common knowledge that majority of them have abysmally performed to retain their tickets in the past three years.

The source said that the pressure the PDP has faced in the zone in the last three years was attributable to the politics the governors had played, where they have not only encouraged other opposition political parties, but have failed to advance the cause of the PDP in their states.

But Director General of the Southeast governors’ forum, Prof Uchenna Ortuanya, told the Guardian that the governors had never distanced themselves from the PDP nor worked against the aspirations of the party in order to retain their offices in 2019.He stated that they had made individual efforts and sacrifices to further the cause of the PDP, despite not being the party at the centre, explaining that, they have worked hard to earn the support of their people.

“All the governors are in one accord and will always work with the PDP in the zone to realize their aspiration. In the case of Atiku/Obi, they have never disagreed with the party. They have supported the choice and will work to ensure their emergence.
“Certain information being spread by people on the position of the governors is not true. I don’t think it is right to say that a visit of the governors to the president to present to him challenges in the zone means that they are no longer working for the PDP; it is also not right to say that the absence of the governors to a function by the party means they have abandoned the party; they have their individual engagements and will support whatever the party is doing”, Ortuanya said.

Chief Uzochukwu Orji, a chieftain of the PDP in Abia State who hailed what he described as “understanding” over the presidential choice of the party, however, challenged the leaders to work for the party.He stated: “We are faced with a major election. How these governors will behave from now will convince us that they are really for PDP. It is not enough to meet behind closed door; we need these meetings transformed into realities. I believe this is what the multitude of members of the party in the zone is waiting for. We should firm up the path taken by Igbo leaders to restore the PDP to power’.

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