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The newly appointed Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party and former Senate President, Chief Adolphus Wabara, has begun crucial moves to save the main opposition party from imminent collapse.
As a result, he is leading a delegation of the PDP BoT, comprising some former governors, ex-deputy governors, ex-ministers and other top party chieftains to meet three of the aggrieved PDP governors within 48 hours.
The meeting is meant to placate the aggrieved governors and prepare grounds for further negotiations that will stop the moves by the ruling All Progressives Congress governors to woo the PDP governors to their side as the race towards the 2023 poll intensifies.
The PDP has been enmeshed in a major internal crisis after its presidential primary election that produced former vice president Atiku Abubakar as its candidate.
Governor Wike Nyesom of Rivers State, who came second behind Atiku in the primary, alleged foul play in the process and has insisted that the chairman of the party, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, must step down for a candidate from the South.
Following the primary, Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa’s emergence as the running mate to Atiku is believed to have infuriated the Rivers State governor, who was reportedly eyeing the vice president’s slot.
Ayu has insisted he will not resign and the development has further polarised the party with Wike and some aggrieved governors listing the PDP chair’s exit as a condition for supporting Atiku for the 2023 poll.
Already, some governors of the APC and their presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, are reportedly wooing the governors to the fold of the ruling party.
But Wabara, in an exclusive interview with The PUNCH on Wednesday, said he would lead the PDP BoT team to meet the aggrieved governors in the next 48 hours.
“We are starting our moves by paying official visits to some of our leaders posing to be aggrieved.
“Within the next 48 hours, we will be meeting with about three governors to hear them out and appeal to them that what matters is, that we should win come 2023. I have been avoiding press releases or interviews for now, unless I have something to tell Nigerians, my party faithful or the world.
“You will hear from me much later. But we are starting the consultations and interventions tomorrow and in 48 hours’ time, we will be meeting with the three governors.”
On Monday, the PDP BoT met with Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State.
A press statement obtained later from the Chief Press Secretary to the Abia State governor, Onyebuchi Ememanka, quoted Wabara as saying the visit to the governor was meant to ensure victory for the party in next year’s elections.
According to him, the BoT desires to look into the problems in PDP, hence the decision to move around to call on governors and other stakeholders of the party with a view to ensuring victory for the party in next year’s elections, maintaining that the PDP has a conflict resolution mechanism with which to handle its problems.
The meeting later went into an executive session after which Ikpeazu and Wabara spoke to journalists.
Members of the PDP BoT, who were part of the delegation, are former governors of Enugu and Kogi states, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo and Alhaji Ibrahim Idris. Others are a former deputy governor of Abia State, Eric Acho Nwakanma; former minister of special duties, Saminu Turaki; former national deputy chairman of the party, Chief Shuaibu Oyedokun; former Minister Hajia Zainab Maina; and Dr Esther Uduehi.
Ikpeazu was quoted as telling the BoT delegation that if the PDP must win the 2023 presidential election, the party must come up with sufficient courage to take decisions that would stabilise the party.
The governor pledged to assist the BoT to resolve the problems confronting the party with a view to ensuring that the PDP clinched victory in 2023.
The governor stressed that the “PDP must remain angry and hungry for power,’’ adding that the party must correct the mistakes that made it lose the election in 2015.
George expresses anger
However, a former Chairman of the BoT of the PDP, Chief Bode George, has said peace has yet to return to the party because salient issues fuelling the crisis in the party have not been resolved.
George, in an exclusive interview with one of our correspondents on Tuesday, revealed that the immediate past Chairman of the PDP BoT, Walid Jibrin, was forced to resign and replaced with Wabara, describing last week’s vote of confidence in Ayu by the party NEC as “shenanigans”
He was responding to questions on why he had not broken his silence since the PDP primaries and if peace had returned with the decisions reached during the last NEC meeting.
George said, “That is why I said I would not release anything until I see all the plans because, in politics, we like them to resolve issues amicably. But if it deviates, I will make my reactions.
“I am not too sure peace has returned to the PDP. All those shenanigans that they carried out last week are not going to work. How many people came there? It was more of the northern Peoples Democratic Party versus the southern Peoples Democratic Party. Where is the national PDP?
“I left the meeting when people were making comments that were arrogant. I felt really uncomfortable, instead of telling the man (the truth), they will say ‘nobody like you.’ So, I got up and walked out because I did not want anything that would spoil my day. I have been in this party since 1998 and I have never seen it this way.
“That is why I said they are trying to divide the party (between the North and the South) and it is very dangerous. At the BoT meeting that I left, they removed the chairman, Board of Trustees, the conscience of our party. Why? The man who was to arrange the mediation and reconciliation was forced to resign.
“With all this spinning that they are sending to the public, ask him (BoT chairman) who invited him for discussion. Who promised him that he will be given a position once he leaves? Is that appropriate?
“Why are people treating everybody else like a fool? He did not resign voluntarily. That was why I said that this is terrible. It is getting terribly worse. Too much deceit and lies and that are what is happening in Nigeria.
“The country is just sitting in one spot, not moving to any direction. We must carry everyone along. We must have a sense of belonging, commitment.”
‘Ayu must go’
Meanwhile, indications further emerged that the crisis rocking the opposition party might linger for some time as the PDP in the South-West on Wednesday demanded Ayu’s resignation.
Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, made the position of the region known at a stakeholder meeting in Ibadan with the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and his running mate, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, in attendance.
In a press statement later by Makinde’s CPS, Taiwo Adisa, and titled, “2023: South-West PDP resolves to back Atiku, insists Ayu must go,” the governor said the S’West PDP had resolved to back Atiku and his running mate in the 2023 election, declaring however that Ayu must resign.
He said Ayu should resign for a chieftain from the South to take over the position, noting that this would make the people in the southern part of the country have a sense of belonging in the party.
Makinde, who was named the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, had in his address earlier at the venue described the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, as the chairman of the forum.
The governor said the eight-year rule of the APC had left the country sharply polarised and the issue of where power resides must be addressed carefully so that people from the South would not feel like aliens in the party.
Makinde explained that the insistence of Governors Nyesom Wike, Samuel Ortom and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and himself that the PDP must play a politics of inclusion by allowing the national chairmanship post to move to the South, should not be seen as having a problem with the party or the presidential candidate.
He stated that the governors had left the issue of the presidential primary election behind them.
Makinde said, “I want to thank everyone for coming to this meeting and I think, at this point, we have to tell ourselves nothing but the truth.
“What we will do here is to speak the truth to ourselves. Yes, others have spoken here about the positive side of things but we do have challenges and issues to address in our party. But one good thing is that we have the capacity to address those issues.
“Of course, I have seen people abuse me on social media, saying this issue is about Wike, Makinde, Ortom, and Ugwuanyi but the truth is we don’t have any issue either with our party or our presidential candidate.
“If there are challenges, we must bring them to the table so that we can address them to ensure that our journey is smooth and we can get to our destination. So, this is not about individuals.
“I see some people talk about what cropped up during and after the presidential convention when somebody was selected as the vice-presidential candidate. Truth is, those are issues that are behind us. They have happened and they have happened but this is where we are.
“Are there issues coming out of those that we really need to address so we can be successful at the end of the day? The answer is yes and we will address them. Integrity and honour must be a part of our national psyche.
But responding to the demand, Atiku told them that the constitution of the party would have to be amended for that to happen.
Atiku said the constitution of the party would have to be followed to make the demand of the South-West PDP possible, while urging them not to allow the issue to derail the train of the party from the 2023 elections.
Atiku said, “The most important event facing us today is the election of 2023 and how to win it. From what I have seen in Lagos and Ibadan, I can tell you that we can win the elections if we want to and it is possible for us to take over all the Southwestern states.
“More so, the new Electoral Act has improved our electoral processes and has made it difficult for people to write results. They cannot do it anymore and they cannot rig. If they send thugs to snatch ballot boxes, the boxes will not be counted. So, the era is over. The most important thing for you is to make sure you are registered to vote and protect your vote.
“The PDP is the oldest political party in Nigeria and since the return of democracy. Over time, the PDP has developed its own constitution, electoral processes, zoning of offices, power sharing, and others, which will bring about the unity of the party and that of the country. I have no problem with wherever any of the members of the party comes from but it must be done in accordance with our constitution, regulations, and practices.
“Therefore, what Governor Makinde is calling for is achievable under our constitution, rules, regulations, and procedures. So, those institutions must serve as guides to whatever changes we make. That is why we cannot do anything outside the constitution unless it is amended to reflect what we want them to be.
The vice-presidential candidate, Senator Okowa, said Nigeria was sick and Atiku was the prescribed drug to cure it and bring it back to life. He said the PDP would win the remaining states in the South-West in 2023.
Osun State governor-elect, Senator Ademola Adeleke, the acting National Chairman of the PDP, Iliya Damagun, former governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Senator Biodun Olujinmi were also in attendance. They spoke on the need for the party to forge ahead as a united front, adding that the PDP had demonstrated the readiness to win the presidency and liberate Nigerians from the hardship brought upon the country by the APC.
Senator warns party
Meanwhile, the Senator representing Benue North West Senatorial District as the National Assembly, Emmanuel Orker Jev, has said the decision of some party chieftains that Ayu should remain in office is meant to avoid further problems in the party.
Speaking to one of our correspondents on the telephone on Tuesday, Jev said the national chairman was ready to step down anytime but he is being hindered by the party’s constitution.
“We are operating a constitution in the party and the constitution says, if Ayu leaves, the deputy national chairman of the party who is from the North takes over, so, it can still not move to the South. It means that the crisis will still be there.
“Ayu is ready anytime to quit the position but this has to be negotiated or else it will put the party in serious danger. Already, the Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, has said that if Ayu leaves the party, he too is ready to leave.
The senator however advised that the people would need to sit together and sort things out before the national chairman steps down.
Speaking on Ortom’s role in the crisis, Jev said, “Ortom is in a dilemma because he has been Wike’s friend, it was as a result of this that he (Ortom) facilitated the election of Ayu and he cannot just leave Wike, so also he cannot dump Ayu. Ortom too is looking for negotiation out of this.”