Hope of an end to the protracted crisis that has hit the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dimmed at the weekend.
The gulf between the camp of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar appears to be widening.
Wike’s supporters, sources said, may have foreclosed reconciliation with the Atiku camp.
Wike and three other PDP governors in his camp – Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) and Samuel Ortom (Benue) – had traveled outside the country at the weekend to deliberate on the way forward for their group, it was learnt.
They returned to the country yesterday.
The two camps have been at loggerheads over the lopsided composition of the leadership structure of the main opposition party.
To address the lopsidedness, the Wike camp has insisted on the resignation of the PDP National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, and his replacement with a candidate from the Southwest.
However, the Atiku camp, made up of mainly conservative Northern elements in the PDP, has vowed to retain Ayu as national chairman, despite the current North-South dichotomy.
A party source, who spoke with our correspondent on the telephone yesterday, said the two camps have refused to shift grounds since the last London meeting between Atiku and Wike’s loyalists.
“There is no new development on the matter because nothing has changed since they had that meeting in London a few days ago.
“As a matter of fact, we can’t see any positive signs of compromise between the two camps. Rather the two sides are rigidly sticking to their guns regarding the resignation of the National Chairman. So that is the situation at the moment”, the source said.
Some concerned party chieftains are worried that the unfolding events in the PDP portend a possible recast of the 2015 scenario, where unresolved internal disagreement led to high profile defections to the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
Among the defectors were four PDP governors who accused former President Goodluck Jonathan of reneging on a gentleman’s agreement to zone the party’s presidential ticket to the North.
The governors were Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto).
Others who defected were Atiku; former Senate President, Bukola Saraki and former House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal.
The source, however, said it may be too late for Wike and his loyalists to dump the PDP at this period.
According to the source, who did not want his identity disclosed, the Rivers governor and his loyalists may remain in the PDP and work against Atiku’s election from within.
The source further said that the perception in the Wike camp is that PDP’s chances of winning the 2023 presidential election appear very slim.
He added: “The truth is that the Rivers governor and his co travellers are more concerned about their political future post-2023 because they don’t see Atiku and the PDP winning the presidential election.
“Even Atiku and the PDP leaders are unsure of their chances in 2023 because some developments have changed the political equation this time around.
“The presence in the race of Peter Obi and his Labour Party and Kwankwaso flying the flag of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), have narrowed the chances of the PDP than what obtained in the 2019 election.
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“Added to the uncertainty is the strength and formidable structure of the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, who by every indication constitutes a serious threat to Atiku and the PDP.”
The PDP will be holding its National Executive Committee (NEC) and Board of Trustees (BoT) meetings on Thursday.
The two meetings will be preceded by a meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) and the National Caucus on Wednesday.
Party sources have hinted that the call for Ayu’s resignation may not come up at the NEC meeting, where decisions on the composition of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council are expected to be taken.
Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed has warned PDP stakeholders in the state to steer clear of the feud between Atiku and Wike.
Speaking shortly before a stakeholders meeting, the governor advised party candidates to respect the presidential candidate and the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP.
Mohammed said: “I don’t want anyone of us to get involved in the controversy at the national level. It is above us. Leave it to me to handle it as your leader. Certainly, we cannot afford it because it will have consequences on us”.
The governor stressed that the PDP candidates in the state must steer clear of the current controversy in the PDP at the national level in order not to be consumed with it.
The stakeholders meeting was attended by the state PDP Chairman, Alhaji Hamza Akuyam, the Deputy Chairman, Alhaji Bala Hadith and Campaign Director-General of the party for the 2023 election, Honourable Farouk Mustapha.
Others at the meeting were the deputy governorship candidate, Auwal Jatau, Speaker of the House of Assembly Abubakar Y. Suleiman, the Deputy Speaker, Danlami Kawule.
‘Rivers won’t clamp down on Wike’s detractors’
The Rivers State Government has said there is no plan to clamp down on any chieftain opposed to Wike.
The Chief of Chief to Wike, Chief Emeka Woke, described the recent allegation by one of the anti-Wike’s leaders, Senator Lee Maeba, that his life was under threat, as a spurious tale concorted by a deranged mind.
Maeba had alleged that a meeting was held at the Government House, Port Harcourt to clamp down on him and others.
But Woke refuted the allegation at the weekend in Opobo town, the headquarters of Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area during the grand finale of the statewide Grassroots Development Initiative (GDI) Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC) collection sensitisation rally.
Woke insisted that there was no such plan to clamp down or eliminate any person, adding that it was not in the character of the present administration.
He urged those making the allegations to desist from making frivolous claims.
“On my way here, I read one man that is unable to come home, called Ledogo, saying he will not come home again to campaign for PDP presidential candidate.
“He said the reason that he will not come was because I held a meeting in the Government House, that anytime he comes to Rivers State, he should be killed.
“My brothers, such thing did not happen and it will not happen. Any person that cannot come to Rivers State should look for a better excuse and not killing excuse.
“This government, we don’t kill anybody. We have never and will never kill anybody. Please if you don’t have strength, tell your people that you don’t have strength.”
Woke also took a swipe at the former Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who hails from Opobo, for claiming that the Wike administration had done nothing for the council.
He recalled that Dakuku served as a Commissioner for Works under the Chibuike Amaechi administration and never made any effort to advance work on the Opobo axis of the Ogoni-Andoni-Opobo/Nkoro Unity Road, from the point the administration of Dr. Peter Odili stopped work.
He wondered why such an individual would turn around to lie against a governor, who provided a road for the people of Opobo.
He said: “Before he became commissioner, the former governor of the State, Dr. Peter Odili, had initiated this laudable project, the Unity Road, to run from Ogoni, Andoni and Opobo and then he stopped in 2007.
“From October 2007, when your son (Dakuku) became Commissioner for Works until May, 2011, four good years, he did not add one meter to the road.
“The same man said Wike did not do anything for Opobo people. Yes, let us agree, because the lawyers will say, assuming though not conceding that Wike did not do anything, from that time in 1999 when he (Dakuku) started politics until Wike became governor, Dakuku was not able to drive a car to Opobo. Even if Wike has not done anything, the road he gave to Opobo is it not something.”
Rivers PDP governorship candidate, Siminalaye Fubara, lauded members of GDI for sensitising Rivers people in the 23 Local Government Areas on the need to collect their PVCs.
He said: “I want to thank GDI for this wonderful sensitisation campaign across the 23 LGAs of the State. You have done well. But it is unfortunate that a non-indigene will be the one to come and campaign against me, an indigene, a free born of Opobo. It’s not time for campaign, but at the appropriate time, we will tell you their real history.”
The event was graced by dignitaries across the state, including the Chairman of Rivers PDP, and Chairman of Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Amb. Desmond Akawor.