The reconciliation efforts in the Peoples Democratic Party may suffer a delay as the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, whose emergence and choice of running mate has caused disagreements among some party chieftains, has travelled to the United States.
Sunday PUNCH also learnt that on his return, Atiku planned to meet with Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who is said to be aggrieved by the outcome of the party’s presidential primary and his failure to emerge as the running mate.
Some party chieftains, including Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and former Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, have in the last few days expressed displeasure over the state of affairs in the party. While Ortom criticised the way Wike was treated in the run-up to the emergence of a running mate, Fayose, who participated in the party’s presidential primary, said it was southern presidency or nothing.
A former governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, had also expressed reservations over the way Atiku disregarded the recommendations of the committee set up to choose a running mate for him and went ahead to pick Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.
Some sources in the party told Sunday PUNCH that the party leadership was concerned about the developments, but that Atiku’s presence was also necessary for most of the issues to be resolved.
Multiple sources said the former vice-president was advised to take out time to relax, having been consulting since he emerged as the party’s candidate in the February 25, 2023 election.
One of his allies, who first spoke with one of our correspondents on Saturday morning, said the purpose of the trip was for him to rest and strategise on how to placate those aggrieved over Okowa’s emergence.
He was asked by one of our correspondents how the PDP candidate was handling the conflict in the party and if the trip of the former vice-president would not slow down the peace process aimed at placating the angry members of the party.
The source said, “Yes, you are correct. Atiku is in the US. He is expected to brainstorm with some of his allies and find a way of settling the problems in the party.
“Thankfully, there is still ample time to discuss, harmonise and even settle differences. So, nobody should think these politicians don’t know what they are doing.”
Director, Support Group and Events Technical Committee, Atiku Abubakar for President 2023, Oladimeji Fabiyi, also confirmed Atiku’s trip to the United States.
He said the cacophony of voices in the party was not different from any other political party. He said the developments in the PDP, like any other big political party, was normal especially during the election cycle.
He added, “As you can see, even the ruling All Progressives Congress is going through some challenges too. The difference is that PDP is a party of the people owned by the people unlike the APC that is almost a one-man party.
“I make bold to say that there is no crisis in the PDP. Yes, there are dissenting voices which do not signal a crisis that can shake the foundation of the party. As a result, the emergence of Governor Okowa is a welcome development among all the organs of the party. You will recall that the candidate of our party, Atiku Abubakar, made very wide consultations before arriving at the choice of his running mate.
The leadership of the party and the candidate will reach out to those voices that do not seem comfortable one way or the other because we know that PDP has to be united going into the upcoming election.”
Asked when Atiku would return to the country, he said, “as soon as possible,” adding that “those of us close to him encouraged him to take a break after the rigorous campaigns before the presidential primary. He will return before you know it.”
Fabiyi added, “Atiku will reach out to all critical stakeholders of the party, not just those with complaints. Atiku understands the fact that the party must first be united before we can go into election and no stone will be left unturned in achieving that. The key word here is engagement which Atiku is seriously doing in order to bring everyone together.
“I want to maintain that there is no tension in the party, it is just family differences which are already being attended to by the leadership of the party and the candidate. Even in states where we have pockets of differences they are being resolved by reconciliation committees across board. Like I said, every concerned party man and woman are being consulted.”
In a tweet on Saturday night, Atiku called for concerted efforts to move the country forward. He wrote, “Getting this country back on track will require all hands on deck. And I am excited to go on this journey with my vice-presidential candidate, H.E Dr Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa. Let’s come together as ONE (sic) towards a brighter future for all and for Nigeria.”
…may meet Wike
One of the aides of the former vice-president, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak on the issue, noted that Atiku would meet Wike once he returned to the country.
Wike on Saturday arrived in the country from Turkey, where he went for vacation.
The source said, “Many people are aware that the Rivers State governor is unhappy that he lost the primary and was not chosen as the running mate, despite the fact that he was recommended by the committee set up for that, but no issue is beyond reconciliation.
“Atiku will meet with Wike when he returns. Governor Wike is a key member of our party and we need him to be on our side, not just for the election but also because that is the right thing to do. The governor is a good party man and is not the type to jump around and once Atiku meets him, we are confident the issues would be resolved and they would be able to work together for the overall interest of the party.
Meanwhile, the Board of Trustees of the party and other party caucuses are intervening to bring lasting peace to the party.
A BoT member who is also a former National Secretary of the party, Prof Wale Oladipo, told Sunday PUNCH that though the interventions were not official, the crisis would not affect the party’s chances in the 2023 general elections.
He said, “Though there is no official meeting on the issue, I can attest to the fact that there are interventions here and there on it. Members of the board are intervening, other caucuses are also intervening. We will resolve it.
The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, is a valuable member of our party and our presidential candidate is also our valuable member. We will resolve it. There is nothing to worry about. It is politics.”
Running mate battle
Meanwhile, the politics of picking a running mate has always been a contentious one, going by investigations by Sunday PUNCH.
A top source in the party recalled how former President Olusegun Obasanjo refused to pick the late Abubakar Rimi, who was said to be the choice of the northern oligarchy. Instead, Obasanjo picked Atiku, who was then the governor-elect of Adamawa State.
“Obasanjo believed that Rimi was too popular and could overshadow his presidency. Hence, he went for Atiku,” the source said.
It was also based on the same reason that the late Umaru Yar’Adua dropped the likes of a former Governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili, and a former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, for the then Governor of Bayelsa State, Goodluck Jonathan.
When Yar’Adua died, it was also gathered that a former Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, was suggested to Jonathan as his deputy after he was sworn in as the President, but to the surprise of many, Jonathan went for Namadi Sambo, who was the then governor of Kaduna State.
Wike, Amaechi return
Wike returned to Port Harcourt, the state capital, on Saturday after a short trip to Turkey.
Wike, in company with the Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, landed at the Port Harcourt International Airport on Saturday afternoon. He was received by PDP stakeholders led by the state party chairman, Desmond Akawor, and a retinue of other leaders. He was driven to his private residence in Port Harcourt.
Meanwhile, the governor’s arrival coincided with that of the former Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, who landed earlier on Saturday.
Amaechi while addressing All Progressives Congress faithful and party supporters said he was on ground to give steam to the party ahead of the general elections.
There are fears that there may be escalated tension in the state ahead between the supporters of the two politicians, who used to be friends but are now at loggerheads. Wike had recently moved to prosecute Amaechi and others over alleged sale of state assets, among others.
…seeks Tinubu’s victory
Amaechi has also urged thousands of his supporters to work for the party and ensure that its presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, wins the 2023 election.
Speaking at the APC secretariat in Port Harcourt, he said he would be on ground to ensure the party’s victory in the state, while urging them to shun whatever grievances they had.
He added, “Please, the contest for the presidency; we should know that we must go and vote for our party, no matter how angry you are. They have chosen, let’s go and vote for our party. For the stories you hear about the people who are gossiping, how they are having meetings in France, let this be your own France.”
“Those days of meeting and writing results have all gone. We must praise INEC and the National Assembly for reducing the level of rigging.”
Reacting to the allegations of alleged sale of Rivers State Government assets running into several billions of naira, Amaechi said, “I hope the governor has good lawyers?”
He added, “The Supreme Court said in its judgement, when they said he (Wike) has powers to set up a panel and that the work of the panel is to gather information and after they have finished gathering information, they would pass the information to the ICPC, the police or the EFCC.
“The police have not invited me, the ICPC has not invited me; the EFCC has not invited me. Secondly, there is what is called fair hearing. It is at that point where they invite me that they will hear my own side of the story. They have not heard my own side of the story; you go to court, to do what? Something must be giving him (Wike) confidence.”
Speaking earlier, the state APC governorship candidate, Tonye Cole, assured party supporters that the party would be on the ballot come the governorship election.