6th September, 2022
By Richard Elesho
These may not be the best of seasons for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as Nigeria wobbles its way towards the 2023 election dateline. Like a malfunctioning behemoth, the main opposition party is fast degenerating to a house of commotion. Rather than focusing on strategies to wrestle power from a political hyena, its members are plagued by an internal war of attrition.
Ironically, Rivers State Governor Nyeson Wike, a man who has demonstrated rare commitment to the party, has also become its Bull in a China shop. He dangles a big wood, and at the slightest provocation, threatens to smash its fragile shell to smithereens.
Last week, he was in his element. Specifically on Thursday, 1 September, while commissioning internal road in Omerelu community in Ikwerre Local Government Area, LGA, of the State, the Governor threatened to facilitate PDP’s defeat in the imminent polls.
In a direct reference to PDP National Chairman Dr Iyorchia Ayu, with whom he has been daggers drawn, he said: “Now we have seen that you don’t want the party to win election, we will help you.”
Ayu had earlier rebuffed Wike’s demand for his resignation. While speaking on the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, Hausa Service, the previous day, Wednesday, he described those calling for his removal as children.
“I was elected PDP National Chairman for four years, now I am not even one year old. The issue of Atiku’s election does not apply to the position of party leader. I won the election. I haven’t done anything wrong, the noise is not bothering me. When we started the PDP journey, we did not see these children. They are children who do not know why we established this party. We will not allow one person to come and destroy our party,” Ayu stated.
The Rivers Governor who will usually not ignore an insult, responded the following day. “Doctor Ayu said we are children. Yes, the children brought you from the gutter to make you chairman.
“Ayu, you said you founded this party, but you left the party in 2007. You founded a company, you left the company, people stood and brought out the company to what it is today, you have no moral right to still come and claim that you founded that company, you left with your shares.”
PDP, which members like to describe as “the biggest party in Africa”, has been nursing cracks within it’s walls. The schism escalated from the animosity that characterised its elective convention in June. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar emerged as Presidential candidate in a fiercely contested Primary.
Wike came second and grudgingly expected to be compensated with the Vice Presidential slot. The Rivers Governor accused Ayu of bias following the latter’s description of Sokoto Governor Aminu Tambuwa who stepped down for Atiku, as hero of the primary.
Even at that, Wike’s hope of becoming Running Mate was dashed. Although, the Rivers Governor topped the list of three persons recommended by the party’s Vice Presidential Selection Committee, Atiku overlooked him. He settled for Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State. The party, which has not known peace since then, is almost bifurcated down the middle.
Wike is joined by the triumvirate musketeers, Samuel Ortom, Okezie Ikpeazu and Seyi Makinde who are fellow Governors of Benue, Abia and Oyo States. Former Governors, Donald Duke of Cross River, Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and PDP Board of Trustee, BoT, member Chief Olabode George are also in that company.
With Atiku in the trenches are Ayu, also a former Senate President and Sule Lamido, former Governor of Jigawa State.
Tormenting overseas meetings:
Days after issuing the Ikwere threat, Wike jetted out to London for strategic meeting with his colleagues. There are two permutations on the agenda of the meeting. One says the group went to London to further discussions with Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. The other is that the group went to deliberate on how to strengthen their position ahead of two crucial PDP meetings scheduled for later in the week.
Irrespective of the agenda, holding meetings overseas has become a fancy for Nigerian politicians in general, and especially the Wike group. On Monday, 21 August, the group had a week long series of meetings with different fellow diaspora politicians in London.
They met at different times with Tinubu, Presidential candidate of Labour Party, LP, Peter Obi, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Atiku. Details of the meetings were not made public, except in the vague ‘public interest’s rhetoric.
Similarly, Wike was in Europe for opaque political deliberations in July. Indeed, both Wike and Tinubu had course to deny holding any meeting in France around the first week of July. Observers say the meetings send jitters down the spines of those craving the return of peace to the party.
Demand for fairness, equity
Beyond Wike’s personal loss at the convention is the group lament of PDP members from the south. At the centre of issues in the crisis is rotation of political and party offices.
All the major offices as presently constituted are occupied by members from the north. Atiku from Adamawa, Ayu from Benue, and Walid Jibrin, the party’s BoT Chairman are all from the North, leaving southerners with a feeling of marginalization.
Bode George did not mince words on the matter. “The issue of the PDP chairman must be addressed before commencement of campaigns for the 2023 elections.
“It is an antithesis and against the norms and culture of our party that our presidential candidate, our national chairman and the chairman of the Board of Trustees will come from one section of the country.
“Party members from the South are already feeling alienated; the PDP is not a private company. So, before we start the presidential campaign at the end of this month, the National Chairman must go to the South.
“That is what Governor Wike is saying and as a life member of the Board of Trustees of our party, I support this position 100 per cent.”
Resurface of legal battles
The PDP is a party in turmoil. A house divided against its self, on many fronts. Its former National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus has last week, opened another battle, by proxy. The immediate past top party stalwart, who was removed in controversial circumstances last October has finally and suddenly found his voice..
Secondus’ former principal secretary, Chuma Chinye is the face of his current awareness. He dragged the party, before a Federal High Court in Abuja praying it to sack the Ayu-led leadership. He claimed his principal was illegally and forcefully removed from office.
His suit seeks a declaration that the removal and replacement of Secondus as National Chairman and his replacement by Elder Yemi Akinwumi, Deputy National Chairman and his exclusion and ousting from office for lawful reason or any just cause and without regards to the provisions of Constitution of the 1st Defendant is unlawful, unconstitutional and of no effect whatsoever.
“A Declaration that in the absence and deliberate exclusion of Prince Uche Secondus, the then National Chairman from presiding over the conduct of and presiding the holding of the National Convention and on the 30th and 31st day of October 2021, when the National Convention was held, the said National Convention, the outcome and all matters, resolutions, decisions and steps including the election/adoption of the 2nd and 20th Defendants as National Chairman and Members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the 1st Defendant is null and void and of no effect whatsoever by reason of it being improperly constituted.
“An Order setting aside the proceedings of the National Convention of Defendant that held on the 30th and 31st day of October 2021 including resolutions, steps taken, including the election/adoption of the 2nd Defendants as National Chairman and Members of the National Working Committee as same was not properly constituted and consequently null and of no effect.
“An Order of Perpetual Injunction restraining the 2nd-20th Defendant further performing the functions of the National Chairman and Members of National Working Committee (NWC) of the 1st Defendant and from parading themselves as National Chairman and Members of the National Committee of the 1st Defendant from exercising any of the powers or performing functions or enjoying any of the privileges of these offices.
“An Order directing the 1st Defendant to conduct an emergency Convention in accordance with the provisions of its Constitution National Chairman and Members of the National Working Comm ninety (90) days from the date of the judgment of this Honorable Court.”
Secondus is not the only proxy cases on the party’s match to 2023. On August 12, a case filed at a High Court seeking the nullification of Atiku ticket. The suit had been instituted against Atiku, Tambuwal, and the PDP over the conduct of the party’s presidential primary.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/782/2022, Wike and a chieftain of the PDP, Newgent Ekamon, were listed as plaintiffs. In the originating summons, the PDP was said to be listed as the first respondent while the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was the second respondent. Tambuwal and Atiku were listed as the third and fourth respondents respectively.
Ekamon asked the court to determine eight points including whether the transfer of Tambuwal’s votes to Atiku in the primary was illegal and void.
Allegations of fifth columnists
Crisis rocking the party has sometimes been laid on the doorsteps of people who do not mean well for it, either within or outside. It is argued that the main agenda of such people is to create disaffection and make reconciliation a herculean or impossible task. A sampler is the well publicised Wike suit.
The Governor denied ownership of the suit. He said he neither filed nor instructed anyone to file a suit on his behalf. He suspected that some assumed supporters of the candidate were behind the suit, to cause bad blood in the party. He warned that people behind the scheme were doing no good to the candidate.
The verbal tirade between Wike and the Ayu have also been suspected to be manipulated by outsiders. The party Chairman denied a viral social media post in which he was reported to have cast aspersions on Wike’s family heritage and fatherhood. In the posts he was quoted as saying Wike is not the biological father of his three children.
“I state, categorically and without equivocation, that the posts are completely false. Even the inelegant construction of the posts puts them beneath my personality.
“I never said anything after Wike’s statements the other day and do not intend to say anything in response”, the statement added.
Simon Imobo-Tswam, Ayu’s Special Adviser on Media and Communications, further accused the ruling APC of planting stories in the media to compound the crisis rocking the opposition party.
Stifled reconciliation process
The crisis within the party is giving many stakeholders sleepless nights. Atiku was believed to have instructed his close supporters to retreat from the fire line and halt all the tirades.
Several groups and individuals have also been trouble shooting on the conflicts. Elder-stateman and former Information Minister, Prof. Jerry Gana is the arrowhead of one the efforts. Peace committees from the warring factions have been formed and met. Many solo efforts to unite members are also going on at the background.
How well and soon, will the gladiators sheath the swords?