By Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Egufe Yafugborhi & John Alechenu, LAGOS
For the first time after the presidential primaries and selection of running mate which resulted in a crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; and Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, met, yesterday, to hammer out solutions to the logjam.
Atiku and Wike are the two arrow heads in the crisis.
The duo, Vanguard gathered, held their long awaited, face-to-face meeting behind closed doors at the private residence of Professor Jerry Gana, a member of the party’s Board of Trustees, BoT, and pledged to resolve their differences within seven days.
The meeting held on a day Atiku named Senator Dino Melaye and Daniel Bwala as his campaign spokesmen with the PDP National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, boasting that the party will win the 2023 polls on account of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and President Muhammadu Buhari’s alleged failures.
A top ranking member of the party leadership told Vanguard that the meeting was held in a very cordial atmosphere with both men exchanging banters before meeting behind closed doors.
The source said: “The long-awaited meeting between our presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and Governor Wike, was held at Professor Jerry Gana’s residence today (Thursday). They both agreed to set up a joint consultation committee made up of equal number of persons (from both sides) to thrash out the issues.
“This should be done between now and next week after which they are expected to brief the various organs of the party. This is the first step towards the setting up of our Presidential Campaign Council. Very soon, all these challenges will be behind us and the ruling APC will know their time in office is up for good.”
When contacted, a source in Wike’s camp said: “Our principal is yet to brief me but I know whatever decision he takes, he will reach out to us and we will collectively decide the way forward.
“We all agreed at our meeting that our collective political interest will be better served in the PDP. The party belongs to all of us; what transpired before and after our primary is behind us now. “
Also contacted, Atiku’s Media Adviser, Mazi Paul Ibe, said, “I cannot comment because I’m yet to be briefed by my principal.”
It will be recalled that Wike and his supporters were angered first by the scheming, which led to Wike’s loss at the party’s presidential primary and then by the decision of Atiku to by-pass the Rivers State governor in his choice of running mate.
Atiku picked Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as running mate from a list of three persons nominated by a Special Committee he set up to assist him in his search for a running mate.
Chairman of the committee and Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, in an interview revealed that the panel had voted 14 to three in favour of Wike as the preferred choice but Atiku chose Okowa.
In response, Atiku had explained that he picked Okowa as it was his prerogative, noting that he felt Okowa, who has both legislative and executive experience would best complement him.
Wike has the backing of some PDP governors and stakeholders. Among other things, they are reportedly demanding the resignation of Dr. Iyorchia Ayu as national chairman; promise by Atiku to do a single term if elected; and headship of the Senate and House of Representatives among others.
In the run-up to the national chairmanship race amid contestation for zoning of the presidential slot, Ayu reportedly promised to resign if the North picked the presidential ticket in line with the party’s established power sharing arrangement between the North and South. Both Atiku and Ayu are from the North.
Wike may work against Atiku’s election — Source
Atiku and Wike’s meeting notwithstanding, a PDP leader said the Rivers State governor may work against Atiku if the issues were not properly handled.
The source said: “Wike will not leave the PDP but he will act as a spoiler. Very soon, those who Atiku does not favour, whether in the choice of the campaign council or he misfires, are those Wike will latch on and use against the PDP candidate. He will be an opposition within the opposition.
Once he launches an attack against Atiku, he will just declare for Peter Obi.
“He is secretly supporting Peter Obi. It will be the same thing Rauf Aregbesola did to them in Osun State. Though Aregbesola did not decamp, he only instructed his supporters to back Ademola Adeleke. It is the same card Wike may play during the campaigns.”
Indeed, a chieftain of the party in Port Harcourt, said: “The onus is on Atiku and Ayu to lead their charge on being open to bringing something to the table, except they want to confirm that they induced Reuben Abati to send the message that a man who kept PDP afloat when all others jumped ship and when the party was sinking does not deserve some respect and recognition in the party’s power sharing equation.
“So, it is not about Wike’s people patronising Atiku and Ayu. Demands and terms have been speculated in the public space. It is not for Wike or his associates to advertise or debate them in the media. When mutual understanding is reached, people will know because Wike is an open person who despises backyard talks.”
However, another top party source said: “Atiku and Wike know what is at hand. They know that the 2023 presidential election is make-or-mar for the PDP and there is a need for them to resolve their differences so that we face the election with a united front.”
PDP’ll win 2023 polls —Ayu
Meanwhile, the PDP national chairman, yesterday, boasted that the party will win the 2023 general election on account of what he described as the woeful performance of the President Buhari administration and the APC.
The PDP chairman spoke at an interactive session with former national, zonal and state publicity secretaries of the party at the PDP National Secretariat, Abuja.
He said: “Our victory in Osun State shows clearly that we are on the way to victory.
“We are definitely going to win the next election, we’ll increase the number of governors, we’ll control the National Assembly, House of Representatives, most state Houses of Assembly and of course the big prize, friends, we shall return to the villa.
“Our publicity management is formed on the realities of our performance and the realities of what we want to do for the Nigerian people.
“We do not want to claim victories that we have not earned. And I think that it is important that we maintain this relationship with the Nigerian people. They should trust us. The English man says actions speak louder than words.
“And the Nigerian people, as long as we continue to do the right things, they will believe us and they will definitely give us their mandate.
“We have already demonstrated this in the last six to eight months since we took over as the NWC of the party.
“We try to convince Nigeria people of the disgusting realities that they find themselves in, thanks to the APC and all the lies they told against the PDP.”
Ayu added that Nigerians now know the remarkable difference between the PDP and the APC in terms of performance.
His words: “I think that message is getting through by the series of elections we’ve gone through.
“The elections in Abuja in the six local governments, people voted massively for the PDP. Out 68 councillors PDP won 48 and APC can down to 18 or so.
“The elections in Ekiti and Osun, again, it was clear that the preferred party that the Nigerian people want to take over power next year is still the PDP. This is not based on lies, is based on realities.
“It’s based on the reality of these two states elections — Ekiti and Osun, never mind we had hiccups in Ekiti for reasons which many Nigerian and party members know, we still keyed in on a very important state of Osun.
“This means we now control the heartland of the South-West. We control both Osun and Oyo, and if you control the heartland of the South-West, you are likely to win in the rest of the South-West in Ondo, in Ogun and of course the big prize in Lagos.
“So, we need to work harder to tell Nigerians the truth. We need to convey to Nigerians the failure of the APC and go ahead and tell them what we will do for them as realistically as possible.
“People don’t vote for you for what you did for them in the past alone. They don’t vote for you if they’re convinced that when you come in their quality of life will improve.”
Speaking in a similar vein, National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Debo Ologunagba, said the party under Ayu’s leadership has demonstrated capacity since it took office barely six months ago.
“When we took over eight months ago under the leadership of the rescue mission captain, Dr. Ayu, we came in with the mandate to reposition this party.
“Under his leadership, we have been pointedly directed that we need to change the narrative with regards to how we communicate.
“We started out by first of all determining exactly what we want to achieve. I know we’re used to a certain mindset about how communication should go.
“But we came out with the mandate that we will as a party and as a National Working Committee under the leadership of the chairman and the Directorate of Publicity that we will confront and engage in conversation war with the liars of the APC.”
Meanwhile, the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, has appointed Senator Dino Melaye and Daniel Bwala, into his media team.
A statement by his Media Adviser, Mazi Paul Ibe, in Abuja, said: “Presidential candidate of the PDP and former Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, has appointed Senator Melaye and Dr. Bwala, as spokespersons for the upcoming presidential
“Melaye is a politician and a member of the 8th Senate, who represented Kogi West senatorial district. He hails from Ayetoro-Gbede in Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State.
Bwala, on the other hand, is a legal practitioner, politician and public affairs analyst. He hails from Adamawa State.”