By Dapo Akinrefon, Umar Yusuf, John Alechenu, Egufe Yafugborhi & Chioma Onuegbu, YOLA
Amid growing tension in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential candidate of the party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, led other party chieftains, including his running mate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, PDP National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu and former vice-president, Arc. Namadi Sambo to receive 160, 000 members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Adamawa State into the party.
This came on a day Ayu denied reports that he had resigned
His denial came amid increasing tension in the party over ongoing talks between Atiku and aggrieved party members sympathetic to Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
Atiku had appointed a seven-man team, led by Governor Umaru Fintiri of Adamawa State, to hold discussions with Wike’s team, led by former Information Minister, Professor Jerry Gana.
The two camps are billed to meet in Port-Harcourt on a date yet to be announced.
Wike’s camp mum as Odili’s birthday overshadows anticipated meeting
Yesterday, loyalists of Governor Wike were mum on the proposed meeting with the Atiku camp in Rivers State, due to the state government’s participation in the birthday celebration of former governor, Dr. Peter Odili.
The celebration dominated events around the state as the event attracted governors of Benue and Abia states, Samuel Ortom and Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu; former governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko; former Transport Minister, Senator Abiye Sekibo, and other party chieftains.
When Vanguard contacted the PDP chairman in Rivers, Ambassador Desmond Akawor, on the planned interface, the call wasn’t fruitful.
We’ll know outcome of any meeting — Source
But a credible source within the Wike camp told Vanguard: “Yes, we are here in Rivers to celebrate. However, we will know the outcome of the meeting when they are through.”
Losers plotting my downfall — Wike
But speaking during Odili’s birthday celebration, Governor Wike alleged that some aggrieved governorship aspirants who lost out in the Rivers State PDP primary, which produced former state accountant-general, Sim Fubara, were now collaborating with his opponents in Abuja to plot his downfall.
He said: “On my last birthday in 2021, 12 midnight, some of our elders called to see me. They said they came to wish me happy birthday.
“Then, they presented me a letter that I should run for president. All of them, including Dr Abiye (Sekibo) signed the document. I said okay, you people too should go and give me someone who will be governor after me. They all sat there, looking left and right.
“I asked them: Those of you who are interested in being governor should raise your hands. Everybody raised hands. One person didn’t raise his hand — Senator Bari Mpigi. I asked why he was not interested; he replied ‘let me hold what God has given me. I don’t want to lose the two.
“Some persons don’t know the history. They go and tell all kinds of stories. But the truth is this: all of them (elders) signed the document prepared by O.C.J. Okocha that whoever I will bring, they will abide by it.
“But now, they went to Abuja that I must not be vice-president. I also read yesterday when I was in Paris, one of them saying that I told him that if they do to me what they did to Dr Odili that I will collapse the system.
“I am not an ungrateful person and I will never be ungrateful in my life. What’s important is that I have done well as a governor. I am happy and I am leaving office a happy man.”
On how he has benefitted the mentorship of Dr Odili, the Rivers governor said because he trusted the advice of the former governor, he is not surprised at the turn of events and the outcome of the PDP presidential primary.
He said: “There was a time every political class abandoned Dr. Odili. This is a man who gave us everything. Some people called him Mr Donatus. There was no abuse he did not get.
Everybody he tried to help their families, at the end of the day, all betrayed him.”
In his response, Dr Peter Odili said he and his wife, Justice Mary Odili (retired), were overwhelmed by the birthday gift courtesy of the state government.
Atiku receives 160,000 APC members
In Yola, the Adamawa State capital, Atiku vowed to curb the current insecurity and poverty in the nation, if voted into power.
He spoke while addressing a mammoth crowd of PDP supporters who converged in his honour.
On the occasion, he received over 1,640 APC defectors from Mubi North and Fufore Local Government Areas of the state.
He said: “Though I am not here to campaign, rather to receive the supporters and decampees as well as integrate them into the big umbrella of the PDP.”
Governor Fintiri also promised to work tirelessly for the people of the state and the party, assuring that Atiku will emerge the next President in 2023.
Also speaking, the state chairman of the party, Mr A.T. Shehu, revealed that 1,640 decampees were received from Toungo Local Government Area, while two serving members of the state House of Assembly and over one hundred others were from Fufore and Mubi North Local Government Areas respectively.
Speaking on behalf of the supporters, a member of the Adamawa State House of Assembly from Fufore Gurin Constituency, Shuaibu Babbbas, affirmed their loyalty and commitment to the PDP in its quest to oust the APC and fix the country.
Ayu denies alleged resignation
Following rumours that he had resigned his position, the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, said he had no plans of doing so.
He said he had neither resigned nor does he have any plan to do so in the foreseeable future.
A tweet by his Media Aide, Simon Imobo-Tswam, said: “The PDP National Chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, has not resigned and has no plan of resigning.
“For clarity and emphasis, he was elected for a tenure of four years.”
Oyinlola tipped to be Atiku’s Campaign DG
Meanwhile, there are strong indications that a former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola may emerge Director-General of the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation.
A top PDP leader, who spoke to Vanguard in confidence, said: “I stand by what I said, if Atiku does not respect the South-West, he will lose massively. What is D-G? What do we want to do with the D-G? We don’t want their D-G position. We want the National Chairman because he is the chairman of the campaign. The D-G is just an appointee. I heard they want to make Oyinlola chairman of the campaign but I will oppose them, I will fight them and I will mobilize the Yoruba people to back out from the campaign. They will be surprised.”
On reconciliation, he said: “We pray there is headway because that is why we are talking.”
Giving Wike chairmanship slot‘ll solve crisis — Sen Okon
Commenting on the crisis rocking the party, a founding PDP member, Senator Anietie Okon, yesterday, advised the party to placate Governor Wike by ceding the chairmanship position to him.
Senator Okon, in an interview, noted that the chairmanship position is the only solution to the feud between him (Wike) and Atiku Abubakar.
His words: “The PDP should give Governor Wike the national chairmanship position to placate him. That is the only solution to the crisis in the party. I know Wike has the capacity; he has what it takes to strengthen the party ahead of the 2023 elections.
“As a South-South caucus member of the PDP, I am confident that the PDP will be stronger under Wike as the national chairman because of his wealth of experience and his leadership qualities. He is a widely accepted leader.
“I know he will not disappoint the party when given that position. The party needs a leader like Wike because he has what it takes to ensure that PDP is properly position PDP to win election.”
Asked if the Rivers governor would accept the chairmanship position, the pioneer National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, said: “I know he will accept it.”
Wike won’t leave PDP, he’s a principled politician – Dele Momodu
Also yesterday, publisher of Ovation magazine, Mr. Dele Momodu, said Wike will not not leave the Peoples Democratic Party, describing him as a principled politician.
His statement came amid speculations that Wike, who is a member of the PDP, might defect from the party after losing the presidential and vice-presidential tickets.
Speaking on Sunrise Daily, a Channels Television programme, yesterday, Momodu said developments in the party, following the outcome of the presidential primaries had made the governor of Rivers a force to reckon with.
“For me, Governor Wike is a very principled man; if there’s one thing he has been consistent about, it is his love for PDP; I believe he will not leave PDP. He is playing a mind game and he’s good at it. What shall it profit him if he joins APC?.
“The situation in PDP shows what Wike is in the equation of things in Nigeria. If you have a man who is your best governor across the board, across party lines, Wike stands out as a fantastic performer.
“Today, the fear of Wike is the beginning of wisdom in PDP, there is no question about that. Wike is smart, he knows the game he’s playing, and what he wants to do is to force a deal with the party. That’s my own reading of the situation.
“He is a very smart politician. I’m sure eventually the party will reach an agreement with him,’’ he said. Momodu said Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the PDP, should have a one-on-one meeting with Wike to resolve the crisis rocking the party.
He added: “What I would advise Atiku Abubakar to do today is to sit down one-on-one without no other person present with Wike and agree on deliverables.
If possible, sign an agreement.
“Governor Wike believes that the party should have respected the zoning principle, number two, he believes that zoning would have favoured a Southern candidate. Three, he believed that of all the Southern aspirants, he is the one that has the capacity to deliver victory to the party.
“Then number four, I believe he thinks he should have been to one to make that presidential candidate.”