Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar yesterday mobilised his loyalists in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for a strategic meeting ahead of tomorrow’s deliberation by the party’s key holders on the future of the immediate past governor of Rivers State, Nyesome Wike in the PDP.
Acting National Chairman of PDP, Ambassador Umar Ililya Damagum, who summoned tomorrow’s meeting, was absent at yesterday’s talks held at the Maitama, Abuja residence of a former Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Tom Ikimi.
Also absent at the meeting were Wike’s allies — Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde and Rivers State Governor Similaye Fubara(Rivers) as well as Enugu State Governor Peter Mbah, a protégé of Wike’s friend, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Yesterday’s talks came amidst reports that Atiku’s loyalists were moving against Damagum over their suspicion that he is working for Wike.
Wike and his colleagues in the G-5 have been locked in a running battle with the PDP after the party decided to go into the last elections with its then National Chairman, Dr.Iyorchia Ayu and presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku both from the North.
The G-5 which also includes Makinde and former Governors Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia ), Samuel Ortom (Benue) and Ifeanyi Ugwuayi (Enugu) opted not to work for the party in the presidential election on account of the issue of national chairman and presidential candidate coming from the same part of the country.
Only last Thursday, Wike was nominated as a minister by President Bola Tinubu; a development which is said to have further irked the Atiku camp.
They are said to be now pressing for sanctions against him but are not sure that Damagum will go with them on that line of action.
In attendance at yesterday’s meeting with Atiku were the host Ikimi, suspended PDP national chairman Ayu, former Governors Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano) and Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta).
Serving PDP governors at the meeting were Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa), Bala Mohammed (Bauchi), Sheriff Oborevwori (Delta), Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Ademola Adeleke (Osun), Caleb Mutfwang (Plateau) and Dauda Lawal (Zamfara).
A source at the talks said it was all about consultations by party leaders to help reposition the party, foster reconciliation and strengthen it for the future.
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Some PDP members who got to know of the meeting last night however expressed concern over its agenda of “how to move the party forward.”
But loyalists of the minister designate said any attempt to sanction him could spark the emergence of a parallel PDP structure.
Sources said the party leadership may meet afresh on Saturday in Abuja for further discussion on the future of the PDP.
A source said: “There have been enquiries on the meeting between Atiku and other PDP leaders. They only came together to discuss the state of the nation and how to move our party forward.
“There is no basis for this anxiety because the meeting focused more on the state of the nation.
“After the Presidential Election, Atiku has been having a series of meetings with party leaders to appreciate them for standing by him and to strengthen the PDP. This latest meeting was a continuation of the meeting with select leaders.”
Responding to a question, the source said:”Some governors from G5 were not invited for obvious reasons.”
Asked why the suspended National Chairman was at the meeting, the source said: “Ayu was there in his capacity as a PDP leader like any other person.
“The meeting had no secret motives; it was about the state of the nation.”
But some leaders of the party were suspicious of the meeting following rumours of a likely plot to suspend Wike.
His supporters, who got wind of the meeting, immediately activated an emergency plan to checkmate Atiku’s camp.
A source in Wike’s camp said: “There is no smoke without fire. Atiku and other leaders met a few days after the release of the ministerial list. The meeting was outside any organ of the party.
“What is the name of their platform? We are ready for them. The alternative is to have a parallel PDP in the country. They should be wiser.”
Disturbed by the tension, it was gathered that the party’s leadership has tentatively fixed a meeting for next Saturday.
“The party’s leadership is trying to reconcile and put PDP in good shape. We don’t need distraction.
“By Saturday, we will know where PDP is headed,” a source added
Online publication, The Cable, reported on Friday that Atiku’s loyalists were in the process of getting Damagum out of his position as acting national chairman.
But the party chairman told The Nation at the weekend that he was not aware of any moves by some interest groups within the party to remove him from office.
He said that consultation was already in progress on the Wike issue.
“We are already consulting with the PDP Governors Forum on the matter and the National Working Committee (NWC) will be meeting on Monday to take a definite position on it”, Damagum said.