By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
The assurance from Senator Ike Ekweremadu that he is not leaving the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP over the snub on him and Southeast leaders by the party’s presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar and the national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus is reassuring for the party.
Ekweremadu, who at press time, was reported to be abroad had last Wednesday posted on his Facebook page, a statement affirming his continued membership of the PDP.
The message came in the wake of mutterings by his associates over the way the Southeast, and, in particular, himself had been treated by the PDP and the party’s presidential candidate following the party’s National Convention where Atiku emerged as the candidate.
“In the past 24 hours, I have been inundated with calls from friends and political associates seeking clarification on the rumours of my departure from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has dominated the media.
“Let it be known that my path in politics is in the hands of the Almighty God, who has indeed been very faithful and gracious to me. I’m very grateful to God for this.
“My vision in politics is a system that works for everybody, a social and political environment where everybody, every section, and every tribe not only counts but is also seen to count. As leaders, we must be mindful of this, for any system built on anything less will not endure.”
Ekweremadu’s assertion of fidelity to the PDP should ordinarily have been taken for granted given the extent to which he had soldiered on despite what his associates describe as the persecutions he took from the All Progressives Congress, APC led administration because of his apparent refusal to defect to the ruling party.
It was later to emerge that Ekweremadu may have been overwhelmed by the treatment he received from the PDP chairman, Prince Uche Secondus and the presidential candidate.
At issue was the way the vice-presidential candidate of the party emerged and was presented to the public.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that about one hour after Obi was named as the presidential candidate of the party on October 12 that Ekweremadu had instructed that a congratulatory message be sent out by his media spokesman. Ekweremadu’s promptness to congratulate Obi was despite the fact that the position had been dangled to him by Atiku more than a year ago. But Ekweremadu was said not to have committed himself to it, preferring to at that time project the best interest of the party and that discussion on a possible running mate should wait until after the convention.
However, he was immediately forced to ask his media aides to stop the congratulatory message that Friday when several Igbo leaders including a frontline governor expressed who also caused a statement issued by his spokesman to be retracted.
The grouse of the Igbo leaders was over the way the geopolitical zone was treated by Atiku and the PDP leadership in consideration of the ticket.
Central to the angst of the Igbo leaders was the claim that they were excluded from the decision room where their potential new political leader was chosen.
Present in Atiku’s Asokoro’s residence that day were the candidate, Prince Uche Secondus, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker Yakubu Dogara, and Governor Nyesom Wike. Ekweremadu as the second highest political office holder in the party was not consulted. Or was it because Ekweremadu was himself under consideration for the position? Saturday Vanguard gathered that of the about seven persons considered the choice eventually narrowed down to Obi and Ekweremadu.
In the end, Atiku was urged by those present at the meeting to choose Obi when quality of business acumen was brought in. However, the events of the previous week when the Southeast leaders had a rough outing with Wike at the PDP convention in Port-Harcourt surfaced to plant foreboding doubts on the Southeast leaders.
Before the Port-Harcourt convention, the Southeast leaders including governors, senators, and NEC members had met in Ekweremadu’s hotel suite where all the variables as they pertained to the Southeast were taken into consideration, and it was decided to support Atiku. Among the notable factors were the issues of restructuring and the one-term pledge by the former vice-president.
Even more, entreaties from Wike who was selling Governor Aminu Tambuwal for a meeting with the Southeast did not materialise. Wike, it was gathered, had sought an alliance between the South-South and the Southeast, but Ekweremadu had said that that alliance could only be reached at a meeting of the leaders. However, as the convention approached and with Wike believing that he had already struck the deals needed to sell his candidate, he did not think the meeting with Southeast leaders was necessary.
So, when the Southeast leaders did not see Wike, and they took the decision to back Atiku, the outcome of the poll on Sunday, October 7 became distressing for Wike.
The stares from the governor were said to have been unfriendly towards the Southeast delegation.
So even when Ekweremadu was not consulted on the choice of the vice-presidential candidate, the decision to also snub him when the membership of the Presidential Campaign Council was rolled out was said to have infuriated his associates. As the highest political office holder from the region and until two months ago, the highest PDP political office holder, the Deputy Senate President was said to have felt slighted.
The action against Ekweremadu, one of his associates said, was a reminder of some past actions taken by some of the party leadership against him.
Ekweremadu led the committee that was constituted to reform the party after the 2015 defeat. The committee proposed some far-reaching reforms which were seen as threats to the interest of some stakeholders, notably a few governors in the party.
Principally, the Ekweremadu led committee had recommended the use of biometrics in compiling the party register and also the use of direct primaries in the conduct of internal party elections.
Those recommendations, according to some sources, were not welcomed by some of the vocal governors who saw it as an attempt by Ekweremadu to overreach himself and to cut down on the influence of the governors.
One party member told Saturday Vanguard that Ekweremadu’s work in the reform committee was part of the reason Wike and former Governor Ayodele Fayose helped to bring Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the new national chairman of the party in 2016.
Ekweremadu was said to have opposed the emergence of Sheriff, but the vocal governors had their way. Meanwhile, Sheriff knowing that Ekweremadu opposed his emergence as national chairman also sought to cut down Ekweremadu.
It appeared at that time that some of the governors would not let up on Ekweremadu. When he launched his book in April 2016, a meeting of the governors was fixed for the same day giving the governors a reason to stay away. A situation that saw to it that only Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi attended the book launch.
Though these issues appeared to have been swept away with time, the developments after the October 6-7 presidential primaries seemed to have brought them back to the fore.
It is a matter of irony as Ekweremadu is believed to have stoutly resisted pressures and enticements from the APC leadership to cross over to the party. Many of his associates and fellow party men had caved in among whom were Senators Godswill Akpabio, Iyiola Omisore, Teslim Folarin, Musiliu Obanikoro, but he held on.
So it was a matter of irony that after having done all, that it was suggested that he was about caving in. His words of assurance that he was going nowhere must have been assuring to his followers.