Emameh Gabriel writes that with the current crisis rocking the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, it may be having problems making inroads ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) came out of its national convention last year unscathed to the amazement of many, after months of leadership tussles that eventually led to the sack of the party’s former national chairman, Uche Sencondus.
So many people had thought that after the convention, the new leadership of the party would keep the ship steady but events in the last few days have shown that the party is at the verge of crashing even before the take off of the 2023 presidential election campaigns, a development that explains that the main opposition party might be facing problems to make headway in next year’s general elections.
The ‘Rescue Nigeria’ mantra the PDP adopted for the 2023 general elections seems to have gone up in flame as it is currently been overwhelmed by the litany of crises in some of its state chapters and especially the outcome of its recent presidential primary.
While the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) is putting its arsenal together and even making efforts to poach from the ranks of the PDP, a Third Force wave led by Labour Party’s Peter Obi appears to have further polarized the PDP in some parts of the country, especially the South East.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State are the main actors in the centre of the controversy, with analysts asserting that this could be the end of the road for the once largest political family in Africa.
While there are ongoing efforts by aggrieved members of the party to mend fences, moves by the ruling APC to reap from the crisis is likely going to make it almost impossible for the opposition party to redeem itself if its leadership fails to put its act together.
Presidential candidate of the party, Atiku Abubakar, recently noted on his Twitter handle that he remained a listening leader and would ensure that all grouses in the PDP are adequately addressed.
The PDP came out of its convention in December, 2021 without rancour leaving the impression that the party was ready to reinvent itself by holding up to its internal democratic tenets but the outcome of its presidential primary has left party almost in tatters.
The absence of 11 PDP governors at the inauguration of the Osun State national campaign council ahead of the state’s governorship election has stirred up suspicious that all is not well with the party.
Without doubt, this has proven that the Ayorchia Ayu-led Peoples Democratic Party is currently faced with a strong challenge threatening the existence of the party once again, as it battles to keep its head above water.
The crisis in the PDP today is deeply rooted, first in the party’s refusal to zone its presidential ticket to the South and Atiku Abubakar’s emergence as the party’s flag bearer as well as his refusal to pick Governor Nyesom Wike, who came out second at the primary as his running mate, after 14 out 17 governors of the party endorsed the Rivers State Governor as the preferred choice for Atiku.
Atiku’s victory at the party’s presidential primary did not come by surprise to many. THISDAY had reported after the party’s convention in December last year that the emergence of Ayu, a close associate of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, as the new chairman of the PDP was a trump card for Atiku.
Calls by Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) on the party to zone its presidential ticket to the South for the sake of equity and justice were rebuffed by leadership of the party led by Ayu, Atiku’s close political ally.
A source from the party told THISDAY that Governor Wike was manipulated to axe Uche Sencondus to plant Ayu who would later do Atiku’s bidding.
“Wike would have seen this coming if he had listened but he was so emotional about the removal of the former national chairman that he couldn’t realize that Sencondus was a better evil to him. So Atiku took advantage of his weakness and foisted Ayu on the party with the impression that the party would zone its presidential ticket to the South”, said the source.
The PDP had after its presidential primary election in May, 2022, decided to shop for a running mate from the South South where the party believed it could ger significant votes from come 2023 polls as the South East was no longer an option due to the agitations in the region over its refusal to cede its presidential ticket to the region.Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who came second in the primaries was the favourite but again lost out to his Delta State counterpart, Ifeanyi Okowa.
Atiku had after consulting governors of the party for a choice for a running mate, turned down the suggestion to pair up with Wike. His decision did not go down well with majority of the committee members who saw Wike as a better choice. This was allegedly against his initial promise to pick Governor Wike after winning the party’s primary election.
Atiku’s decision has left the party divided with most Southern PDP leaders who are not happy with him now appear to be working against him. 
Last week, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, had accused Atiku of not doing enough to reconcile aggrieved persons within PDP after the party’s presidential primaries.
Fayose had also in his Twitter handle faulted the PDP disregard for its constitution on zoning, insisting that it must be a Southern President or nothing. Fayose who was critical about the consequences of the party’s refusal to zone it ticket to the South before the primary wrote:
“The PDP Constitution provides for a rotational Presidency. Section 3(c) provides that the party shall pursue its aims and objectives by adhering to the policy of the rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices, in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness.
“The current President of Nigeria is a two-term Northern Presidency, thus implying that it must be a Southern Presidency in 2023 or nothing.”
Writing in Yoruba language, Fayose also tweeted that “awa South lo kan” — which means, “it is the turn of the South”, adding that Nigerians should “await details soon”.
The former Ekiti State governor also alleged that Atiku “promised” to make Wike his running mate after he was declared winner of the PDP presidential primary election, but reneged on his promise after winning the party’s ticket.
In what clearly explained that the opposition party was in for a long battle, Fayose had threatened that, “If the party is now a one-man show, we will show them that we can resist it. We are with Wike 100 per cent. When they need Wike’s money and Wike’s support, they will say, ‘Wike is good enough’. Wike has been injured, but we will remain with him. Whatever he does is what we would do; wherever he asks us to go is where we will go.”
On his part, Governor Ortom also declared that he was not sure whom to support in the 2023 presidential poll as he was hoping on God to direct him. Ortom in several interviews expressed disappoinment over ill-treatment of his friend, Governor Wike, by the party’s leadership after the primaries.
His grievance was Atiku’s decision to pick Governor Okowa of Delta State as his running mate in place of Wike, who had majority of votes of the committee set up to advise on the most suitable candidate.
Atiku who is in United Arab Emirates amid criticism from party faithful for leaving his party behind in the middle of crisis for holidays, at the weekend reacted on his verified Twitter handle saying:“The @OfficialPDPNig will remain united. Focus on our actions. We are taking action to address the feelings of all party members. The unity in our community is my priority. Our resolve to unify Nigeria starts in our party and moves to the community, then onto society.”
He continued: “Every governor, legislator and other elected officials produced by our party, and party members and loyalists, are much loved and respected by me. When they speak, I listen. I do not only listen, appropriate actions have been taken, are being taken, and will continue to be advanced.”
Speculations are rift about Wike’s future in the PDP with rumour of his alleged romance with the presidential candidate of the ruling APC and former Lagos State governor, Ahmed Bola Tinubu. His recent meeting with former governor of Anambra State and Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi, has left a lot to be desired about his next move.
Although Wike had vowed never to leave the PDP, analysts have raised the questions that for his associates to openly grant interviews about how badly he was treated and also declaring that Wike will never support Atiku’s presidential bid, shows that there is more to what is playing out in Wike’s camp.
While some have said his grievance was justified, some have said described his behavior as selfish and as one who wants “to pull down the party because of his selfish ambition.
Former governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, last week advised members of the party not not blame Governor Wike for feeling aggrieved about the outcome of the selection of Atiku’s running mate, as he had been a strong pillar of the PDP,  but called on Atiku to sit with Wike for a talk.
According to him: “I won’t blame Wike for feeling bad, because he has been one of the pillars of the party. Let the presidential candidate, Atiku, sit down with Wike to discuss issues, because he is the only one that knows why he picked his running mate, the matter is resolvable.”
Makarfi, however, expressed optimism that the party would come out stronger to win the 2023 elections.
“We have learnt our lessons and we will do more than we did when we are in power. As long as elections will hold in 2023, PDP will win, but we need to work hard for us to win in 2023. PDP is set to bring back true democracy to Nigeria and we have learnt our lessons.”
On his part, the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Debo Ologunagba, has assured that the party would come out stronger from its current predicament, noting that
practical steps would be taken to address and reconcile all aggrieved members.
Ologunagba explained the present crisis in the party was expected but the PDP as an organic party will negotiate and reconcile all members. “We will come out stronger. We are not perfect, but PDP will come out perfect. We have the necessary organs that will unite the members and come out stronger. There will be negotiations and reconciliations of all members for the general good of rescuing Nigeria”, he assured.
Thehere are indications, however, that the crisis rocking the party appears far from over as reports at the weekend have it that six PDP governors, most of whom are from the South, are working against Atiku’s presidential bid.
It was gathered that serving Governors Nyesom like Wike of Rivers State, Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and Ishaku Darius of Taraba and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, are not disposed to Atiku candidacy.
Atiku was reported to have asked former Minister of Police Affairs, Adamu Waziri to meet Wike, who is on holiday in Turkey, after the governor shunned several attempts by the former vice president to arrange a meeting between them.
THISDAY gathered that Governor Wike last Thursday refused to grant audience to Waziri, who was sent to speak with him by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar.
The main opposition party will have to put its house in order by reaching to all aggrieved individuals including Wike ahead of the presidential campaign expected to commence in September, this year.
Founded on January 22, 1995, THISDAY is published by THISDAY NEWSPAPERS LTD., 35 Creek Road Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria with offices in 36 states of Nigeria , the Federal Capital Territory and around the world. It is Nigeria’s most authoritative news media available on all platforms for the political, business, professional and diplomatic elite and broader middle classes while serving as the meeting point of new ideas, culture and technology for the aspirationals and millennials. The newspaper is a public trust dedicated to the pursuit of truth and reason covering a range of issues from breaking news to politics, business, the markets, the arts, sports and community to the crossroads of people and society.
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