The Supreme Court yesterday put to rest the debate on whether or not former Vice President Atiku Abubakar emerged presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party in breach of the party’s constitution which allows zoning of the presidency between the North and the South.
Specifically, the highest court in the land threw out a suit seeking to compel the PDP to zone its presidential ticket to the Southern part of the country.
A presidential aspirant at the PDP primary and former deputy Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, Cosmos Ndukwe, had in April 2022 approached a Federal High Court in Abuja to stop the PDP presidential primary.
After losing at the lower court and the Court of Appeal, he proceeded to the Supreme Court.
But the apex court, in a unanimous decision, held that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter on account that it is an internal issue of the party.
The ruling of the Supreme Court is expected to end the debate on the legality or otherwise of the party throwing open its presidential contest following the ratification of the Governor Samuel Ortom-led committee by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party.
After emerging as the runner up at the presidential primary, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, had felt slighted that he was passed over in the search for a running mate, following Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s emergence as vice presidential candidate of the PDP.
The highpoint of the crisis in the party was the pull out from the Presidential Campaign Council by the Wike camp.
However, the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar had appealed to Wike and members of his aggrieved camp to rethink their withdrawal in the interest of the PDP and Nigerians who are looking up to the party to rescue it from the current socio-economic and political quagmire the country is facing.
But speaking yesterday in a lengthy interview on NTA, AIT, Channels and TVC, Wike continued his attacks on the PDP, its presidential standard bearer and the national chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, saying the party leadership has already shared positions in the party ahead of the 2023 polls.
He declared that he is not bigger than his political party, just as he accused Ayu of being corrupt.
Wike spoke while addressing a nationally televised press conference in Government House, Port Harcourt.
The governor said, “I am not saying that I am bigger than the party. If they want to suspend me, no problem. But those who ran away from the party cannot suspend me. I am governor of Rivers State and I am here. Let them suspend me and see what happens next.”
Wike stated that the PDP can win the 2023 presidential election if it takes advantage of the opportunity being given to it by Nigerians.
The governor said, “If we take advantage of the support of Nigerians, which is doing the right thing, we will win the 2023 presidential election. We should not allow this opportunity which Nigerians are giving to us to go just like that.”
He stated that although he was pained that he did not have the opportunity to fight insecurity and oil theft in the country, he never lobbied to be nominated as the PDP vice presidential candidate.
“I never ran for the presidential race in the PDP to become vice presidential candidate. I challenge members of the selection committee to say that I met anyone of them to lobby to be selected as vice presidential candidate,” he stated.
Wike further said ahead of the PDP presidential primary, the National Chairman mounted pressure on some aspirants to withdraw from the race and support former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, because of the fear that he (Wike) will win the party’s presidential ticket.
The governor said, “We have had our primaries and a presidential candidate has emerged. But before the presidential candidate emerged, there was the issue of where the chairmanship will go to because in our party, the chairman comes from either the South and the presidential candidate comes from the North or if the presidential candidate comes from the South, the Chairman will come from the North.
“The intention of the founding fathers was to have inclusivity so that everybody will participate in the decision making of the party because as it is today, three major persons and those who take decisions for the party; one of the National Chairman, one is the presidential candidate or the President of you are in power and then, the DG (Director-General) of the campaign.
“These are the three key positions that oversee the runnings of the party and make decisions on how the party will move forward”, the governor added.
He stated that several political parties, including the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Labour Party (LP) have been approaching him to dump the PDP to join to them.
“Aside from Tinubu, who is from the APC, other political parties are talking to me as well including Labour Party because they all know my worth and how I can ensure that they win the 2023 poll. But I have not accepted any of the offers presented by those parties,” he noted.
Wike Is Acting Tinubu’s Script, Atiku’s Camp Alleges
But countering Wike, the camp of the PDP presidential candidate yesterday reiterated the resolve of Atiku to move on with his campaign, just as they accused Wike of working for the APC presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Shortly after Wike’s interview, Senator Dino Melaye and Daniel Bwala, both spokespersons to Atiku, took to their separate Facebook pages and repost a paragraphs from Atiku’s last statement where he emphasized that it is time to move on.
Quoting Atiku, the two spokesmen posted: “Our election destiny is in the hands of God who gives power and the voters whom He uses. There is a reason for amended electoral act and the upsurge of voter registration. Power now is in their hands, make no mistake.
“Let us forge on with the task and the mandate that we have been bestowed with. It is time, therefore, to move on with the formidable tasks of nation building ahead of us.”
Atiku had made the statement shortly after the Wike’s camp declared their withdrawal from the party’s presidential campaign council.
Also, the PDP National Youth Vanguard, one of the apex youth movements in PDP, accused Wike of working for the APC presidential candidate.
The group also accused Governor Wike of using the call for Senator Ayu’s removal as a ploy to distract the PDP and its presidential candidate ahead of the 2023 general elections.
In a communiqué made available to journalists yesterday after its meeting in its state office located at Nasarawa LGA in Kano State, the national coordinator of the group, Amb Ibrahim Bala Aboki alleged that it’s now clear to all concerned Nigerians that Wike has signed a pack with Bola Tinubu as an agent of destabilisation in the PDP.
Aboki claimed that Wike’s activities along with his cohorts in recent times have shown that the governor is using the “Ayu Must Go” campaign to distract the PDP and its Presidential Candidate ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“We have been made aware of an agreement entered into between the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and the former Lagos State Governor and the All Progressives Congress (APC), Presidential Candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to destroy the PDP from within in exchange for his protection when he leaves office in 2023”if is not true Convinced the Party Leader, Amb Bala Aboki said.
The PDP Youth Vanguard stated that the governor has been shopping around and talking with presidential candidates of APC, Labour Party and PDP, but has signed a pact with Tinubu who has asked him to weaken the strength of the PDP from within in the “Ayu Must Go” campaign.
“In the first instance, why is Governor Wike always at the forefront of championing the removal of party chairmen at any given opportunity? Recall that in 2016 after the loss of the PDP in the 2015 general elections, it was Governor Wike who orchestrated the installation of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as chairman of the party who nearly destabilized the party, except for the Supreme Court ruling of July 12, 2017”, the group queried.
Similarly, a group, Atiku People United (APU), rose from a strategic meeting in Lagos, condemning the way the agitation for resignation of the national chairman and rezoning is being pursued.
In a communiqué signed by Chief Dapo Sarumi, founding national vice chairman South West; Hon Rahman Owokoniran, PDP South West secretary and others, the movement said it is disturbed by the negative signals sent and perception being created by the actions of Wike and his group.
“While it is the right of all members to claim or maintain their moral or legal rights, mouthing statements and insinuations that could demarket and destroy our party and or candidate should be a no-go area and should be viewed with every seriousness because you can’t damage a foundation and still go ahead to build on it.
“We believe, and very strongly too, that the current do or die agitation in the Party is unfortunately due to inability of our leadership to reflect on benefit of hindsight. Leaders who have done great for the Party unconsciously are ready to kill the Party and kill their own ambition exactly as it affected us in 2015. Note that almost all those at the center of the bitter bickering are election ticket holders or godfather to Party ticket holders”, the communiqué noted.
Sack Ayu Before It’s Too Late, CUPP Tells PDP
But the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) called on the National Executive Council of the PDP to as a matter of urgency reverse its decision on the party’s national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu.
Spokesperson of the coalition, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, asked the party’s NEC members to quickly show Ayu and the party’s national secretary, Samuel Anyanwu, the way out for the party to be unified ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Ugochinyere accused the two party leaders of carrying out internal anti and divisive activities which have been polarising the party.
He particularly accused them of engaging in falsification and swapping of names of winners of party primaries.
The CUPP spokesperson accused Ayu and Anyanwu of allowing inducement to make them change the name of the winner of Ideato South House of Assembly primaries with an aspirant who came last in the election.
Ugochinyere who doubles as candidate of the PDP for Ideato North and South Federal Constituency Imo State said in a statement: “Keeping these two men in office reminds us of the dark days of Ali Modu Sheriff as National Chairman of the PDP.
“I call on the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to press it on chieftains of the party and Ayu on the need to save the party from further polarisation and loss of our base in the South.
“This can be achieved by ensuring that PDP National Chairman, Senator Ayu quits the party now alongside the National Secretary, Anyanwu.
“Alhaji Atiku Abubakar must be careful of sharing information with Ayu and Anyanwu as both still maintain strong tiers and contacts with the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, including his wife, Oluremi, that Anyanwu worked closely with in the Senate and still working with with the hope that an Asiwaju Presidency can help him with his anti-PDP guber ambition.”
Again, APC, PDP Flagbearers Wrangle Over Chances In 2023
Meanwhile, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and his PDP counterpart, Atiku Abubakar, yesterday rekindled their media war over issues of credibility and their chances in the 2023 presidential poll.
Tinubu started the political row when he asked Atiku to “kiss his ill-fated presidential bid,” noting that the former vice president’s bid to take another shot at the presidency was slipping away.
In a statement by the director, Media and Publicity, of the
APC Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, Tinubu said he pitied Atiku because he created the crisis for himself by pushing the fallacy that only a northern candidate can win the presidency for his party despite the open record that southerners, when they network with their northern compatriots, can also win the election.
Onanuga said, “Once again, another bid for the presidency of our country by former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar is slipping away. This is unraveling before our very eyes even before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) blows the whistle for electioneering campaign. His party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in disarray. The signs are just too ominous for the Waziri what with the report by the Economic Intelligence Unit predicting another trashing for him in the forthcoming polls.
“After violating his party’s code for power rotation between the north and south and grabbing the PDP ticket without a modicum of sensibilities about our national ethos, Alhaji Atiku is now faced with the karma of his inordinate ambition.
“The PDP has imploded in a battle of attrition, the result of which is predictable. The ongoing fraticidal war where a faction of the party being led by the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike is engaging Atiku in a fight to finish has undermined any momentum the PDP candidate had hoped to build.
“With further loss of confidence in PDP by its own members who cannot find any redeeming feature in the fast disappearing party, it is crystal clear that Atiku’s latest bid for the Nigeria’s top job has hit the rocks.
“A pillar of Atiku’s campaign is the claim of being a unifier and nationalist. That bogus claim has
now been discredited, even within his party as the disaffected members cry for justice and inclusivity.
“Instead of the perennially running and perennially failing candidate to offer them some sop, he has rebuffed them, pleading that he could not grant their request for justice.”
Describing Atiku as a man that cannot resolve crisis within his party, Tinubu said, “Instead of being a unifier, Atiku is now a divider-in-chief.
“His campaign on this score is heading for a still birth, just as some of his programmes have been found to be nothing new, as they are already being implemented by the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Former leaders, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan demonstrated this in 1999, 2003 and 2011.
“As a campaign, we can only pity former Vice President Atiku for the self-inflicted injury he invited unto himself. Chinua Achebe, the very accomplished novelist in one of his classics, Arrow of God, wrote that a man who brought ant-infested faggots into the homestead should not grumble when lizards begin to pay him a visit.
“Atiku brought this unto himself and we dare say he can kiss his ill-fated presidential bid goodbye
But firing back at Tinubu, the PDP presidential candidate asked the APC to focus on providing answers to weighty character questions about its presidential candidate rather than expend precious time on what is happening in PDP.
Atiku said what exists in the APC is at best graveyard peace.
In a statement signed by his media aide, Paul Ibe, Atiku described the APC comments as a laughable work of an interloper.
He said, “It exposes the APC and its presidential candidate as a bunch of busy bodies who, rather than focus on the burden of credibility that continues to dog their campaign, are poking their nose into minor internal issues of the PDP.
“Well, since the APC Presidential Campaign Organization seems to have woken up from their state of hibernation, it is good to remind them that there are pending questions about the social and educational history of their candidate that Nigerians want answers to.
“We shall be kind enough to remind the APC that when, in the next few days, campaigns begin in earnest, Nigerians will require answers to some weighty character questions about their candidate and, rather than expend precious time on what is never their business, should use the remaining few days judiciously.”
Atiku added that whatever was happening in the PDP is a conversation among leaders of the party and that, in itself, is a reflection of the PDP, as a living and engaging political party.
He added that the conversation in the PDP is all about consensus building, which in itself is a major ingredient for peace and unity.
“The PDP, as a truly democratic party, understands that democracy is a lively concept because it allows for people to express their opinions and, it is within that understanding that everyone becomes part of the process.
“The same, of course, cannot be said of the APC where what exists is at best graveyard peace. It is on record that in the seven years and more that the APC has been in power and with the attendant hardship that the party has foisted on the ordinary people of Nigeria, the candidate of the APC, former governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu had not for one single time stood on the side of the people.
“And, that is so for the obvious reason that the presidential candidate of the APC considers his poorly conceived presidential ambition more important than the adversity that his party has unleashed on a vast majority of Nigerians. We wish to remind the APC that its presidential candidate has to own the failures of the party in the last seven plus years. He should also know that Nigerians will not reward their failure with nothing less than a resounding loss in the election.
Tinubu and the APC ma lu’le!
“It is important to let Tinubu and his paid agents know that what obtains in the PDP is not the mundane stoicism that the APC is known for,” he noted.
The statement added that Atiku has established credibility before the masses of the country that he is one patriot who can be counted on to stand by the side of the people – even when the times are hard.