By Dapo Akinrefon, Egufe Yafugborhi & John Alechenu, LAGOS
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, yesterday, insisted that for peace to reign, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu must resign from office.
This was Wike’s condition for peace when Adamawa State governor, Umaru Fintiri, visited him in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, yesterday.
This is coming at a time other leaders of the PDP are also mounting pressure on Ayu to step down.
However, sources within the party are of the view that its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, does not want to throw Ayu under the bus by easily giving in to Wike’s condition.
Vanguard was reliably informed that Governor Fintiri went as an emissary from Atiku to seek understanding with Wike.
The meeting, which held behind closed doors, was to find a resolution to the feud between the two leaders.
At the meeting, a credible source told Vanguard that the Rivers governor vowed not to “attend any meeting with Atiku, with Ayu as party chairman.”
Recall that Ayu had said he would step down once a northerner emerges as PDP Presidential candidate.
Vanguard was reliably informed that Wike told Fintiri that even without his insistence on Ayu’s resignation, honour, dignity and sincerity should make Ayu resign, based on his promise to do so once a northerner emerged as presidential candidate.
Similarly, former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George, had urged Ayu to do the honourable thing and resign. The source, who told Vanguard that Ayu remaining as party chair “is the sticking point”, expressed Atiku’s disposition not to be seen as “throwing Ayu under the bus.” Besides, the source disclosed that “a section of party leaders are piling pressure on Ayu to step down and do the honourable thing.
“Yes, Wike may be angry with Ayu for allegedly stopping him at the convention and again as running mate, but the real issue now is the burden of honour that is on Ayu’s head. He promised at Eagle Square that he would resign once a Northerner emerges as presidential candidate.”
According to some of the party leaders, historically, PDP chairmen have always been sacrificed. But in this case, the source continued, “Ayu is being told that he can make the sacrifice himself because that was a promise he made. There is a difference between a Northern candidate emerging and a president emerging. The burden of integrity is on him.”
Atiku, Wike in verbal war over reconciliation, campaign council composition
Similarly, the camps of Alhaji Abubakar and Governor Wike yesterday engaged in verbal tirades over the reconciliation meeting and composition of the party’s campaign council as they accused each other of insincerity.
While Governor Wike’s camp accused Atiku and the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, of paying lip service to the peace process, the PDP candidate said the Rivers governor does not want to be carried along in the composition of the Campaign Council.
Strong indications, however, emerged yesterday that the PDP candidate may pick the Director-General of his campaign council from the South-West as a way of placating the region.
There were also speculations yesterday that Governor Wike may have ordered the lowering of PDP flags in Rivers State, especially those displayed inside the Rivers Government House.
Rumoured lowering of PDP flags not true, say govt source, party spokesperson
But in a swift reaction to the speculation, a Government House source, who dispelled the rumour, said: “It is not true party flags are being lowered. Moreover the only place where there is PDP flag is inside the Exco Chambers.
“So where is this coming from that they are removing the PDP flag? Rivers State Government is adorned with state flag of White and Blue. I can’t remember PDP flag displayed anywhere inside the compound.
“I can’t remember seeing such decorations inside Government House, Port Harcourt, except inside the Exco Chambers behind the governor’s seat, alongside the Nigerian flag.”
It’s an attempt to distract Wike — Rivers PDP
Similarly, Publicity Secretary of the PDP in Rivers State, Mr Tambari Gbara, said those peddling the rumours were out to distract Wike, noting that there is no crisis in the party.
Gbara said: “It’s all rumours from those who want to de-market and distract the government of Rivers State. PDP is more united and stronger in Rivers State now, solidly behind our leader, Nyesom Wike. There is no crisis in our party, except for baseless rumour peddlers that have nothing to offer.”
Why Wike is angry — Ally
Meanwhile, loyalists of Governor Wike have accused the Atiku camp of insincerity.
A usually reliable source within the Wike camp told Vanguard that while former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar and the PDP National Chairman, Ayu, were paying lip service to the peace process in daytime, they were busy causing disaffection in Wike’s camp at night.
The source, who spoke in confidence, accused both Atiku and Ayu of going behind Wike’s back to negotiate with individual members.
The governor’s ally said: “While we all submitted to Wike’s leadership and are negotiating as a group, the party’s presidential candidate and the national chairman went behind Wike to negotiate with individual members.
“Our principal is not selfish; he wants the good of all of us who stood behind him. Okay, is it now that Atiku and Ayu remember that they were political allies with Austin Okpara, Lee Maeba and the likes?
“These were men whose political visibility has virtually disappeared until Wike came and rehabilitated them. Now our two party leaders want to break our ranks.
“We are aware that they (Atiku) have already drawn a list of members of their campaign council without our input, let’s see how they intend to forge ahead without us.”
Wike doesn’t want to be carried along — Source
But firing back, a close ally of the PDP candidate told Vanguard that the Rivers governor’s remarks and actions do not show he wants to be carried along by the party.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Is Wike carrying himself along? The truth of the matter is that there have been extensive overtures to bring him on board and his behavior and actions have not been reflecting someone who wants to come on board.
“To that extent, the party cannot wait for him to come on board, neither can the candidate wait for him. There seems to be a sense that everybody wants to move on. If and when he is ready to come on board, he (Wike) is welcome and if he thinks otherwise, so be it.”
Campaign D-G may come from S-West
On Wike not being carried along in the composition of the Campaign Council, the source said: “I am sure you are aware that Wike and Atiku met recently. Now, when you enter such negotiations, one of the principles of peace making is that you withdraw all hostilities but he entered a treaty and is still behaving as if the meeting did not exist or does not matter.
“It means that you are giving the people a sense that everything you want to do, is to stagnate the process of growth and movement. It is not true to say they did not reach out to him. It is on record that he was reached out to but what we should interrogate is his reaction to that effort.\
“If people come to see Atiku and you say you will bury them in Rivers, does that suggest that he wants to work with Atiku? His language does not show he wants to be carried along.”
When asked about the composition of the council, the source said: “What I know is that there are overwhelming arguments that the position of the D-G should come to the South, specifically South-West. Who it will be, I don’t know.”
We respect every member’s freedom of expression—PDP
Meanwhile, the PDP has said it recognises and respects the right of every member to express personal opinions which may not necessarily be a reflection of the view of majority of members.
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr Debo Ologunagba, said this in response to a question on views expressed by Chief Bode George in a recent interview.
He said: “We respect his views but his views cannot be equated with the view of the majority of our members.
“The view of a member, no matter how highly placed, cannot equate that of the majority of members.
“Right now, we need to recognize the need for the party to remain united. We have a system, a robust conflict resolution mechanism, we are getting to our destination which is peace in the party and the resolution of our security challenges nationwide.”
Ologunagba dismissed speculations that Governor Wike was plotting to leave the PDP because of disagreements.
He said: “He (Wike) is an important member of this party; he is a man who has invested so much in this party, he has also harvested so much from the party, the party has also promoted him.
“He has said in so many fora that he is a committed party man and has remained loyal to the party since inception.
“Before the presidential primaries which he contested, he told the whole world that he was ready to respect the outcome of the elections. I have no evidence that he has changed his mind.”
Speaking about ongoing reconciliation efforts within the party, he said: “Reconciliation is not a one hundred meters dash, it is a marathon. Nigerians have a right to expect quick fixes because they have been pillaged over the last seven years.
“I know for a fact that there are behind the scene discussions which details cannot be put on the pages of newspapers.
“Slowly, we are getting there; we need to get away from the current state of affairs as a nation.”
Majority support Ayu, NWC
Speaking about calls by some party members for the removal of Ayu as national chairman, PDP spokesperson said: “We don’t want to go into the election with a constitutional crisis, we have barely six months to the election.
“Even if you say Ayu should go today, his replacement comes from the same North. There has been precedence, when (Umaru) Yar’Adua became our candidate (2007), Ahmadu Alli, a fellow Northerner was national chairman and remained so until the party won the 2003 elections.
“Several organs of the party have met at different occasions and have passed vote of confidence on his leadership and the National Working Committee.
“Elections are coming and we don’t need a distraction. You can’t destroy the whole for a part, we respect people’s rights and positions but going into negotiations, you cannot say it is either this or nothing.
“It means you’re not ready to negotiate, we don’t have that in our party, and we are all interested in the survival of our party and our nation Nigeria. We will look at the need to do balancing.”