The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), flagged-off its presidential campaign amid unresolved internal crisis. Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and his allies, who are yet to be assuaged after the party’s presidential primary, sent a clear signal to the rally by their absence.
Though the campaign flag-off was well attended, observers say the absence of Wike, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia, Samuel Ortom of Benue and Seyi Makinde of Oyo was a huge blow to the opposition party’s dream of reclaiming the number one seat in the country.
Present at the event were the party’s presidential candidate and ex-Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, his running mate, and Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, and Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, his Adamawa counterpart, Ahmadu Fintiri and the former lawmaker representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, among others.
This was not the first time the aggrieved governors were boycotting the party’s major event since Atiku’s emergence. In September when the PDP Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) was inaugurated, Wike and his allies, including Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, still stayed away.
Their action is hinged on the insistence that the PDP national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, must resign to provide for a sense of equity in the leadership of the party, with the Southern part of the country feeling neglected.
Prior to Ayu’s emergence as PDP national chairman, Wike and his allies were all over attending PDP activities and calling the shots. However, after Ayu emerged chairman, the PDP, unlike the APC, refused to zone its presidential ticket to the South; it rather threw it open, paving the way for Atiku to clinch the ticket.
While the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the party seem to have moved on, can the party win the all important presidential election next year without these five governors? That is the big elephant in the room.
LEADERSHIP reports that the last time five serving governors abandoned their party’s presidential candidate was in 2015 when five serving PDP governors abandoned their party’s presidential candidate Dr Goodluck Jonathan and pitched their tent with the then opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The PDP governors that abandoned Jonathan ahead of 2015 presidential election were Mr Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, then governor of Rivers State, Governor Abdulfattah Ahmed of Kwara State, Governor Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State, Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State and Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State. Even as the ruling party with all the powers that come with it the defection of the five governors marked a watershed in the crumbling and total collapse of the second term bid of President Jonathan and the humbling of the PDP at the general election.
How the current PDP which has only 13 state governors and is not in power at the centre hoped to triumph over the ruling APC in 2023 remains to be seen.
Obviously, Nigerians will be watching PDP to see how could win the presidency with a depleted structure, if it structures alone that would determine the outcome of the 2023 presidential election.
However, when LEADERSHIP spoke with the former national publicity secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and one of the spokespersons of Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign Kola Ologbondiyan he said that there is still room for reconciliation between the presidential candidate and the Nyesom Wike camp, saying that the five aggrieved governors have only given conditions which could still be resolved.
When reminded that the last time five incumbent governors abandoned the PDP presidential candidate close to the election in 2015 it did not end well for the party, he said that was only a conjecture, adding that despite the disagreements between the five governors and the party, none of the five governors have come out to openly say they would not work for the party.
He also said none of them have told their various states not to vote for PDP presidential candidate.
Kola’s position is however at variance with what some of the aggrieved governors have said about campaigning for Atiku. Recently at a public function in Rivers State, Wike tried to explain why the PDP launched its campaign in Rivers State with any insignia on vehicles with the image of the presidential candidate of the party, Atiku Abubakar.
He said Atiku came to Rivers State to pick his (Wike’s) enemies as campaigners from the state without consulting him.
He said since they are not wanted by the Atiku campaign, they cannot force themselves into Atiku’s campaign. However, LEADERSHIP findings showed that the Rivers State PDP was written to submit names for the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, but Wike was not ready to be part of it unless the national chairman of the party resigns for a Southerner to take the position.
Last week, Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom who belongs to Wike’s camp, called on the presidential candidate of PDP, Atiku Abubakar, to apologise over his outburst against him and the people of the state.
The governor also told Atiku not to think that Fulani alone could make him the president. Ortom stated this when he addressed youths from the Jemgbagh axis, who protested in solidarity with him.
The former vice president drew the ire of the governor during the interactive forum organised by the Arewa Consultative Forum in Kaduna recently when he (Atiku) accused Ortom of profiling Fulani and that the governor told him that his people used to rustle cows.
Ortom described as false the claim that he profiled Fulani herdsmen and made the claim that his people stole cows from his farm.
He said, “I condemn the statement against me by Atiku. When it got to me, I chatted with him through a WhatsApp message; he apologised but declined to make a public apology. But I am against the Fulani terrorists coming from Niger, Chad, Senegal, and Mali. He must do a retraction. If he does not, on the day of the election, we will vote according to the election.”
Ortom’s threat that if Atiku does not apologize or retract his statement on the day of election they are going to vote “according to the election,” shows that things may have fallen apart despite Kola Olagbondiyan’s Optimism on reconciliation.
Meanwhile, the PDP loss is likely going to be the gain of either the ruling party, the APC or the Labour Party. Already, LEADERSHIP findings indicate that the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is making moves to woo Nyesom Wike.
Recall that shortly after clinching the APC presidential ticket, APC governors from South West including governors Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and former governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi held series of meetings which was interpreted as part of attempts to woo Wike to support the APC presidential candidate.
Similarly, the presidential candidate of Labour Party Peter Obi has held series of meetings with the Wike-led camp in PDP. In one of such meetings outside the country, former president Olusegun Obasanjo was present.