With less than five months to the 2023 general election, presidential candidates of major political parties are still grappling with internal wrangling within their parties.
The situation, LEADERSHIP findings revealed, has crippled party activities in the build up to the polls despite the official flag off campaigns seven days after.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had fixed September 28 for parties to officially flag off the 2023 campaign season.
But while the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) is still struggling with the composition of its campaign council, the leading opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is yet to resolve the crisis of confidence within its fold despite being the only party that has so far inaugurated its campaign council.
Also, while party’s like Labour Party (LP), Social Democratic Party (SDP) and New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) admitted that they are yet to constitute their campaign councils, the Africa Democratic Congress (ADC) is also locked in an internal crisis.
Till last night, APC governors were still locked in a meeting with director general of the party presidential campaign council and Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, at the campaign office at Wuse 2.
The meeting of the governors with members of the campaign council, LEADERSHIP gathered was to address the grievances of some members, including the governors, over the constitution of the campaign team ahead of the return of the APC presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, from the United Kingdom.
The party and its campaign council are poised to receive Tinubu back to the country from London where he had been in the last few days.
It was learnt yesterday that the APC will inaugurate its presidential campaign council on October 10 after postponing the event indefinitely following the controversy trailing the composition of the campaign team.
Members of the council chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari and the women wing of the council led by first lady, Aisha Buhari, would be inaugurated at the banquet hall of the presidential villa.
After announcing that it would commence the 2023 campaigns on Wednesday September 28, 2022, with special prayers and a road show, the Tinubu/Shettima campaign council had issued another statement saying it had suspended the campaign kick-off indefinitely.
The director general of the campaign council and Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, said the decision to postpone the kick-off of the campaign is aimed at accommodating more members of the party.
He assured that a new date and timetable for the formal take-off of the campaign will be announced soon.
Secretary of the presidential campaign council, James Faleke, had released a 422-member council, with Tinubu and Abdullahi Adamu, the national chairman of the party, as deputy chairmen, as well Governor Lalong as director-general.
The list was however rejected by governors under the party’s platform on grounds that the presidential candidate and the party ignored their nominations and replaced them with others from their respective states.
The national working committee (NWC) of the APC was also said to have rejected the list because its members were not consulted before constituting the campaign team.
Following the said report, the presidential campaign council issued a statement clarifying that the list released was a partial one, adding that more names would be added on the list of members of the campaign team.
In a swift reaction to the protest that trailed the list, the director, Media and Publicity, of the campaign council, Bayo Onanuga, in a statement on Monday, called for calm, stating that nominees of the aggrieved governors and other party members would be included in the list.
For the PDP, there seems to be no solution in sight to the crisis rocking the party, as members of the party’s Board of Trustees (BOT) yesterday failed to resolve feud between the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.
Speaking after the closed door meeting with Wike in Government House, Port Harcourt, BoT acting chairman and former Senate president, Adolphus Wabara, said although the meeting was fruitful, it was not conclusive.
Wabara said: “We have been robbing minds for the past four hours with His Excellency, the performing governor of Rivers State, Mr Project. This meeting took about four hours. We have not concluded.
“You know to make peace takes some time. But, I think we are at it. We are better informed. Every coin has two sides. We have been briefed by His Excellency. We are going back to Abuja to digest all that we have gathered.
“It has been very fruitful but one thing we must understand is that this family still remains one under one umbrella called PDP and by the special grace of God, we will end up very victorious. With his (Wike’s) cooperation and the cooperation and support of all other governors, we will make progress.
“In concrete terms, it is work in progress. Like I said, we get there. We will definitely get there. This is the first-time members of the Board of Trustees are coming to see His Excellency and for your information, he is also a member of the Board of Trustees. We robbed minds and we will find a solution very soon.
On his party, Governor Wike said what was important is that the PDP is united.
“As the BOT Acting Chairman said, the most important thing is to have unity. What is important is that the House is united. So, the issue of whether we achieved peace today or not is immaterial,” he stated.
Meanwhile, as the BoT members were meeting with Wike in Rivers, members of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) also met in Abuja where they cleared themselves of any wrongdoing over the controversial housing allowance which was returned by five members of the NWC.
The NWC also resolved to set up a committee to conduct an extensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding the newspaper report which said the housing allowance paid by the party to its national officers was a bribe.
The committee headed by the national legal adviser has one week to investigate the matter and report back to the NWC for further action.
The meeting which was the first meeting hosted by the embattled PDP national chairman, Sen Iyorchia Ayu, started shortly after he arrived in the party national secretariat at about 1pm.
The meeting which ended at about 8pm was said to have dwelt on the controversy surrounding the return of housing allowance.
Sources at the meeting told LEADERSHIP that the meeting was stormy, as Ayu decried the embarrassing situation caused by the action of the NWC who returned the funds.
It was also learnt that talks of punitive measures were considered over the matter.
When contacted, one of the NWC members who returned the controversial money declined to speak on the issue, saying “I just came out of the NWC meeting and I am heading into another meeting. I can’t talk now.”
In a statement however, the national publicity secretary of PDP, Hon Debo Ologunagba, said the meeting “thoroughly examined the strange publication by a particular newspaper which reported that the Housing Allowance legally paid by the Party to its National Officers was bribe.”
He added that after a thorough scrutiny of the payment by the party, “the NWC in session established that the payment was not a bribe but Housing Allowance duly approved and paid to National Officers of the Party in line with the Conditions of Service and Entitlement of the Staff and Principal Officers of the Party.
“Meanwhile, some other opposition political parties have also said they are still working on the lists of their campaign council.
According to the political parties, once the lists are ready it would be announced.
The political parties that spoke with LEADERSHIP are Social Democratic Party (SDP), Labour Party (LP) and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
National publicity secretary of the SDP, Ambassador Rufus Ayenigba, who said they were still working on the list, added that the campaign council will soon be inaugurated.
“We are still working on it. It will be announced soon,” Ayenigba said when asked about the party’s plans for the 2023 election campaign council.
Also, the national publicity secretary of the LP, Comrade Ayobami Oluwafemi, said they were still working on the campaign council’s list, adding that once the party’s chairman returns from the UK, the committee will be inaugurated.
PDP Candidates Drag Ayu, Anyanwu To EFCC Over Misappropriation, Others
Meanwhile, the crisis engulfing the PDP appears to have worsened, as some party members have dragged the party’s leadership before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegations of misappropriation of funds, theft and forgery among others.
The party members, under the aegis of the Forum of PDP Candidates and Aspirants for 2023 Elections, sent a petition to the commission’s chairman on the matter.
The petition dated September 30, 2022 was jointly signed by the forum’s coordinator, Chris Ogbu; secretary, Dauda Yusuf, and publicity secretary, C. Ikenta.
Specifically, the petitioners asked the commission to investigate and prosecute the party leaders over allegations of criminal misappropriation of party’s funds, unlawful disbursement of funds, bribery and falsification of documents.
Those the petitioners want investigated are Senator Iyorchia Ayu (the National Chairman), Senator Samuel Anyanwu (the National Secretary) and Umar Iliya Damagnum (the Deputy National Chairman (North).
The petition read in part, “It is a matter of national and international embarrassment that the aforementioned members of the National Executive Committee of the Party, without the due authorization of the NEC, has criminally mismanaged and frittered over N10 billion which the party realised from the sale of Nomination Form during the party primaries.
“They had also engaged in various acts of bribery and extortion of candidates without regard to the firm stand of the party in the fight against corruption.
“This allegation is backed up with the recent development of refund of various sums of money by some members of the National Working Committee who unknowingly received the alleged bribe from the trio of Senator Iyorchia Ayu (the National Chairman), Senator Samuel Anyanwu (The National Secretary) and Umar Iliya Damagnum (The Deputy National Chairman (North) into their various account numbers without their consent or authorization.”
Asking the EFCC to probe the PDP NWC, the petitioners said, “There is therefore an extremely urgent need, in the overall national and our party’s interest, for your commission to move in immediately and investigate the alleged financial crime of humongous magnitude and possibly charge all that are culpable to court of competent jurisdiction to serve as a deterrent to others who may have such plan of commission of same crime ahead of 2023 general election.
Obi Cries Out Over Attack, Arrest Of Supporters
Meanwhile, presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 general election, Peter Obi, has raised alarm over alleged secret arrest and intimidation of supporters of his presidential ambition under the umbrella of Obidient Movement.
Obi alleged that security agents were secretly arresting his supporters for holding Obidient rallies in various parts of the country, especially in Lagos.
A social media user, Obi Flag Boy, was allegedly attacked at Oshodi, Lagos, on Sunday.
It was further learnt some of the party’s supporters were arrested before the rally on Saturday.
Obi’s allegation may not also be unconnected to the alleged arrest of the Lagos State coordinator of the Saturday rally by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS).
The coordinator, Joseph Onuorah, was arrested when he arrived in Lagos on his way from France.
He stated that the right to peaceful assembly and other civil liberties are clearly guaranteed in the constitution and as such should not be deliberately violated by security operatives.
The Labour Party presidential candidate and his running mate, Yusuf Baba-Ahmed Datti, have been holding rallies in different parts of the country with massive supporters in attendance.
Obi, in his verified Twitter handle, said elections are not deemed free and fair when a certain group deploys the tool of intimidation as a strategy to silence the opposition during campaigns and voting.
He called on the federal government to advise security agents to respect the rights of the citizens in the discharge of their duties.
“Elections are not deemed free and fair when a certain group employs the tool of intimidation to ensure that the opposition is silenced, both at the campaigns and at the polls.
“Peaceful assembly and unfettered electioneering campaigns are constitutionally guaranteed. Both and other ordered liberties cannot be breached wilfully by security agents.
“Reports of supporters of Obidient Movement being silently arrested by security agents is extremely disturbing and condemnable.
“We must ensure that everyone is given a level playing field in the forthcoming elections, and that no eligible Nigerian, irrespective of ethnicity, religion,” Obi tweeted.