After a six-week impasse over the choice of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential running mate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike finally met in Abuja yesterday to mend fences.
The two party leaders, who had been locked in a political battle, met at the residence of former minister of information, Prof Jerry Gana, a founding father of the party, at about 2pm, after the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) met with Atiku on Wednesday.
A source at yesterday’s meeting, who described it as cordial, said Atiku and Wike resolved to set up a committee of equal members to resolve the crisis points between their camps.
The lingering impasse has raised concerns within the party as it stalled the composition of the party’s presidential campaign council, LEADERSHIP Friday learnt. Political party campaigns are scheduled to begin next month.
Wike’s loyalists had protested the manner Atiku overlooked the Rivers State governor for the vice presidential candidate position in the forthcoming 2023 election.
Atiku had picked Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate, despite Wike emerging the favourite of most members of a committee set up to advise Atiku on whom his vice-presidential candidate should be.
After weeks of back and forth between camps loyal to the former vice president and the Rivers State governor, Wike had, as part of conditions for a truce, demanded the removal of Dr Iyorchia Ayu as PDP national chairman and for Atiku to commit to serving for one term if he emerges president in 2023.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP on condition of anonymity, the source who was present at the meeting described it as cordial, adding that the conversation was still ongoing.
“They both agreed to set up a committee of equal number of members to harmonise the grey areas. The committee will later meet with a larger committee to finalise the issues,” he said.
When asked about the deadline for the committee to deliver on its assignment, he said, “The two parties understand the urgency of the matter and we expect that they will do the needful timely.”
However, a PDP BoT member who spoke on condition of anonymity said in as much as the meeting was commendable, it was essential that the two actors resolve the issues in good time so that it does not affect the party’s campaign programme.
He added that the outcome of the meeting was strategic to the composition of the PDP presidential campaign council, adding “I believe that they are mindful that the party does not have much time.”
Calls placed to the PDP national publicity secretary, Hon Debo Ologunagba and the media aide to Atiku, Paul Ibe, on the meeting were not responded to.
Atiku appoints Dino Melaye, Daniel Bwala as spokespersons
Meanwhile, Atiku has appointed Senator Dino Melaye and Dr. Daniel Bwala as his campaign spokespersons for the upcoming presidential campaign.
According to a press release signed by Atiku’s media adviser, Paul Ibe, the two appointments take immediate effect.
Melaye is a politician and a member of the 8th Senate who represented Kogi West Senatorial district. He hails from Ayetoro Gbede in Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State.
Bwala, on the other hand, is a legal practitioner, politician and public affairs analyst. He hails from Borno State. He had been a staunch supporter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) until recently when he abandoned the party following its decision to field a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket.
In a related development, the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) and other party stakeholders have passed a vote of confidence on Ayu.
This was contained in a communique of the interactive meeting of the NWC with former national publicity secretaries, zonal/states publicity secretaries and other stakeholders held yesterday at the PDP national secretariat, Abuja
The national publicity secretary of PDP, Debo Ologunagba, who read out the communique, said “after a very comprehensive session, the meeting of former and serving spokespersons of the party resolves as follows: Restates confidence in the national chairman, Sen. Dr. Iyorchia Ayu and the National Working Committee (NWC) in running the affairs of the party; restates confidence in the capacity, experience and competence of H.E Atiku Abubakar to rescue, redirect and rebuild this country to earn the respect of the international community.
According to him, the party believes that only the PDP under the leadership of Atiku Abubakar has the capacity to protect and secure the lives and properties of Nigerians as well as rebuild the economy of the nation in such a manner as to put food on the table of the people.
Speaking earlier, Ayu said Nigerians want PDP to return to power.
“We try to convince Nigerian people of the disgusting realities that they find themselves in, thanks to the APC and all the lies they told against the PDP.
“And I think that, that message is getting through by the series of elections we’ve gone through. The elections in Abuja in the six local governments, people voted massively for the PDP. Out 68 councillors PDP won 48 of those councillors and APC got 18 or so.
“In the elections in Ekiti and Osun, again, it was clear that the preferred party that the Nigerian people want to take over power next year is still the PDP. This is not based on lies, it is based on realities, and our victory in Osun shows clearly that we are on the way to victory.”
According to him, the party is going to win the next election, increase its number of governors, control the National Assembly, House of Representatives, most state houses of assembly and the presidency.
APC names Lalong, Keyamo DG, spokesman of Presidential Campaign Council
On its part, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has named the governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, as the director general of Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council.
APC chairman Senator Abdullahi Adamu made the announcement yesterday while briefing State House correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
He also announced the minister of state for Labour, Festus Keyamo, as the spokesman of the campaign council, and Hannatu Musawa as the deputy spokesperson.
While fielding questions from State House correspondents, Adamu explained that the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the party would not undermine its fortunes in the 2023 election.
He said that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Senator Kashim Shetimma had a track record of achievements and excellence, stressing that what the country needs at the moment was the right leadership with competent people.
Speaking further, he said that it would be an act of sabotage for any member of the party to play up the issue of religion instead of supporting the party to ensure victory in the 2023 election, even as he strongly warned that there will be consequences for anyone who attempts to ply such a route.
Senator Adamu, who said the party and the president were on the same page over the choices of members of the campaign organisation, also assured that many of the issues currently raising public concerns about the party, especially the topic of same faith candidature, would be amicably and satisfactorily sorted out ahead of next year’s elections.
“We’re on the same page with Mr. President regarding our organogram and the individuals that are going to play different roles within the organisational structure of the campaign outfits,” he said.
Speaking on the so-much-talked-about Muslim/Muslim ticket of the party, Adamu described it as a positive development in the history of Nigeria’s politics, assuring that the current issues being raised about it would be sorted out ahead of the 2023 elections.
Responding to questions from correspondents on the issue, the APC chairman said despite the concerns raised, there are those who see a same-faith ticket as a positive development for the country’s politics.
“Yes, we have been hearing concerns being expressed. In the APC, we believe very strongly that no matter what description, no matter what faith you will associate with any one of our candidates, we are first and foremost Nigerians.
“ Just like you have people expressing fears or concerns about a Muslim-Muslim ticket, there are Christians that welcome it as a positive development in Nigerian politics. They are Nigerians.
“We are extremely sensitive to some of these sensitivities of fellow Nigerians or fellow members of our party, but the fact of the matter is, one issue does not determine a candidate or determine victory,” he said.
Speaking on the constitution of the party’s presidential campaign organisation, Adamu said APC arrived at the choice of the Plateau State governor, Lalong, purely on reasons of ability.
Vice presidential candidate of the party, Shettima, described the preoccupation of some people with the arguments on his party’s same-faith ticket as a distraction from the real issues facing the country, pointing out that both Asiwaju Tinubu and himself, as running mate, had track records that Nigerians ought to be consider ahead of religion.
Citing the Ribadu-Bafarawa presidential ticket of the Action Congress of Nigerian in the 2011 general elections, Shettima urged Nigerians to focus on issues and not the faith of the candidates.
According to him, “In 2011, the presidential candidate and the vice-presidential candidate of the ACN – both of them were Muslims. Nobody raised an eyebrow. Now, the opposition has seen a winning combination and they are petrified, deep down to the marrow of their bones.
“What Nigeria needs right now is leadership that will drive the transformation process. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has a track record of excellence. If you keep on stopping to throw stones at every dog that barks you, you will not reach your destination. We’re not trading insults and lies and mischief, we have established track records of excellence. Let our opponents show what they have done in their respective states.
“I brought forward Professor Babagana Zulum and I have ten others lined up. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s discuss issues, how to propel this nation to greatness is much more important than playing on the sentiments of Nigerians,” he said, adding that poverty and insecurity know no religion or ethnicity.
Also speaking, the director-general of the party’s campaign organisation, Governor Lalong argued that the party picked him because of his ability and not because he is a Christian.
“I’m not a Christian candidate. I was not nominated as a Christian candidate. The party said I’ve been nominated because of my ability. I’ve been a very loyal member of the party. I joined APC because I believe in APC.
“Second, I’m not only the governor of Plateau, I’m chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum. So I am able to carry out leadership in any capacity. I only want to express to you that I am surprised that I’m being announced now. I am sure we’ll not disappoint you.”