*Considers Abuja, Asaba or Yola for the flag-off

*Battle for party spreads to Ekiti, Lagos, C/River, others, pits leaders against one another

*It’s a family issue, says Atiku

*Obi promises to run a responsive, transformative govt as Labour Party picks Jos for campaign flag-off

*Wike’s fighting for self – Metuh

By Dayo Johnson, John Alechenu, Nnamdi Ojiego & Chioma Onuegbu

Despite the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the party is going ahead with preparations for the commencement of its presidential campaign for the 2023 general elections, without the embattled Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, and members of his team.

This is as the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, assured that disagreement among members would be resolved very soon.

Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP, Mr Peter Obi, has said that his government, if elected as the president in 2023, would streamline governance and ensure that it is responsive, transformative, and effective.

Wike and his supporters had, on Wednesday, pulled out of the Campaign Council of the party’s presidential candidate and vowed not to play any role until the National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, resigned.

However, Sunday Vanguard learnt that the PDP, which has fixed Wednesday, September 28, for the inauguration of the Campaign Council, is considering three states/ venues for the flag-off.

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The presidential and National Assembly campaigns begin the same Wednesday, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) timetable, and will run through Thursday, February 23, 2023, while the elections proper hold Saturday, February 25, 2023.

A party insider familiar with the development said the PDP was putting finishing touches to drawing up the programme of events for the inauguration as well as logistics. 

“For now, Abuja, where we will be inaugurating the Campaign Council, Uyo, Asaba and Yola are among the venues being considered. We are taking a lot of things into consideration.

“We have not settled for a venue because our candidate is still moving around meeting zonal caucuses to hear from each one of them directly”, the source revealed.

The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, who is currently in Uyo with members of the National Working Committee and other party leaders, told Sunday Vanguard on the phone that the party was going ahead with its plans and programmes.

He said, “Our programmes are going ahead as planned, nothing has changed. The date for the inauguration of our campaign council is already known, we will make the venue and time for the flag-off public when we are ready.”

The PDP has been enmeshed in internal rumblings since after its presidential primary election in May which Atiku, a former vice president, won.

The decision of Wike, who finished second in the primary, and his supporters not to be part of the presidential campaign has further widened the cracks in the party.

Divided Party 

While the PDP standard bearer is doing everything to unite the party for the forthcoming elections, the state chapters have remained divided.

Sunday Vanguard understood that in Cross Rivers State, while a former governor and member of the reconciliation committee, Mr Liyel Imoke, is in the camp of Atiku, another former governor, Mr Donald Duke, is in Wike’s camp.

Findings also showed that in Lagos State, while a former Deputy National Chairman, Chief Olabode George, is in bed with Wike who, he said, was fighting for justice and equity in the PDP, the party’s governorship candidate in the 2023 elections, Olajide ‘Jandor’ Adediran, is with Atiku.

And whereas the governor-elect in Osun State, Senator Ademola Adeleke, is with the Atiku group, a governorship aspirant in the last election, Dotun Babayemi, has joined the Wike group.

In Ekiti, those in the Atiku camp include former deputy governors Kolapo Olusola Eleka, Dr Sikiru Lawal, and Senator Abiodun Olujimi. Others are the factional state chairman, Deji Ogunsakin, a former PDP chairman, Gboyega Oguntuase, PDP State Publicity Secretary, Raphael Adeyanju, state Woman Leader, Sade Akinrinmade, former Deputy Speaker, Segun Adewumi and former House of Assembly member, Hon. Samuel Omotosho.

Those in Wike’s camp include former Gov. Ayodele Fayose, Mr. Lere Olayinka, all party candidates except Senator Olujimi, former acting Gov. Tunji Odeyemi and the Secretary, Elders Council, Mr. Idowu Odeyemi.

In Ondo State, while the two-term governor, Olusegun Mimiko, is with Wike, his political son and former governorship candidate of the PDP in the state, Eyitayo Jegede, is a staunch ally of Atiku.

Also, a former deputy governor, Hon Agboola Ajayi, who was in the same camp with Mimiko during the last governorship election in Ondo, is not on the same page with him this time around. Ajayi is with Atiku even as he’s contesting for the Senate seat in Ondo South.

Many leaders of the party in the state are not at home with the support Jegede is giving to Atiku and the make-belief that the party in the state is lining up behind Atiku.

Those who spoke with Sunday Vanguard in confidence recalled how Wike and Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State bankrolled Jegede’s governorship election in 2020 and also supported the PDP while Atiku ignored the party during its trying times after Jegede lost the election to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Sunday Vanguard’s findings further revealed that in Edo State, while Governor Godwin Obaseki is undecided, the South-South zonal Chairman of the party, Chief Dan Orbih, is on the side of Wike.

Sources said the Atiku camp and that of the National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, desperate to win over Orbih from Wike by recognizing his faction against that of Obaseki, has yielded no fruit.

In Ogun State, the party’s governorship candidate, Hon. Ladi Adebutu, his running mate, Abdulkabir Akinlade, and the Sikirulahi Ogundele-led executive are with Atiku while others queue behind Wike.

Whereas in Oyo, Governor Seyi Makinde is one of the arrowheads of Ayu must go and vicariously with Wike, many party leaders in the state are rooting for Atiku.

Disagreement will be resolved soon – Atiku

Meanwhile, Atiku has described it as family issues, challenges bedevilling the party and assured that they would soon be resolved.

He gave the assurance on Friday in Uyo, Akwa Ibom, during the 35th-anniversary celebration of the creation of the state.

Represented by the Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, and Governor of Sokoto State, Alh. Aminu Tambuwal, Atiku appealed to the people to support the PDP to return to power at the centre and also to remain in power in the state.

His words: “I urge Akwa Ibom people to continue their support for the governor to finish strong. I believe also that with your support, Pastor Umo Eno, will emerge as your next governor. We believe that there should be continuity of PDP in Akwa Ibom while our party will return to power in 2023.

“Yes, we must acknowledge that we are having internal family issues, but be rest assured that we are not involved or engaged in the war of attrition. 

“It is a political disagreement and very soon, all of that will be resolved and the PDP will remain stronger, until we win the election, by the grace of God, come February 2023.”

Wike’s fighting for self – Metuh

In a related development, a  former National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, has said that Wike and his colleagues demanding the resignation of Ayu were pursuing self-interests while hiding under the cloak of protecting southern interests.

Metuh in a chat with Sunday Vanguard said: “I’m a Southerner, People should stop thinking that this issue is about the South. If it was about the South, they would not have taken the chairmanship from the South to the North in the first place, it would have remained in the South.

“If it was about the South, the Presidency would have been zoned to the South East and the party would say, South Easterners go and run and all other zones would not run. It happened in 2019 when the presidential ticket was zoned to the north other zones didn’t contest.

“If it was zoned to the South East this time around, people like Atiku Abubakar and Aminu Tambuwual would not have contested. Nobody in the north would have contested in our party.

“Those people talking today have deceived the South. The South-West was denied the chairmanship in 2017 and this year’s convention, the South-East was denied the presidential ticket.”

Continuing, the former NWC member noted that Atiku had done all that was expected of him.

“There is nothing people expected Atiku to do that he has not done. He has shown leadership, he has shown tolerance, and has shown discipline. He cannot ask the national chairman to resign because he has no such powers.

“Please, they should stop distracting the Atiku campaign because it is as if some people are plotting Atiku’s downfall so that they can take over the party.

“Part of why I have come to speak in favour of Atiku is because some of us argued, campaigned and lobbied him to return to the party in 2015. I flew to Dubai to ask Atiku to come back to the PDP.

“We want to win this election, if we lose in 2023, nobody should think we can come back and reorganize the party.

“We want to win this election, if we lose this is the end. These people should bring their issues and let us handle them in-house. Right now, it is becoming difficult for Atiku to restrain those who want to fight back, they want to make Atiku look weak and portray him as indecisive as somebody who can pander to the wish of an individual or group even when it is illegal.

“How on earth do you expect that he can stand and defend the interest of the nation if an individual can make him appear weak? If he bends to these people, some of us will not support him.”

2023: I’ll run a responsive, transformative govt – Peter Obi

The presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP, Mr. Peter Obi, has said that if elected as the president in 2023, the overall task of his government would be to streamline governance and ensure that it is responsive, transformative, and effective.

Obi stated this yesterday while speaking at this year’s ‘Success Conference’, held in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital.

According to the LP standard bearer, Nigeria is currently one of the most miserable countries in the world in terms of poverty rate, the number of out-of-school children, infant and under-5 mortality rate, life expectancy, and a host of others.

While expressing hope that Nigeria’s problems are not unsolvable, he appealed to Nigerians, especially the youths, to see the 2023 election as an opportunity to take back their country and more importantly, shun every form of primordial sentiments.

He said: “This conference is both timely and highly topical as it brings together our vibrant youths to reminisce on their roles, as key agents of change, in advancing national development.

The 2023 election should be based on competence, capacity and commitment to doing the right thing and not on ethnicity/tribe and religion since the high cost of living, insecurity and other problems that are facing us have no discrimination against ethnicity/tribe and religion.

“It is imperative that, as this conference draws closer to the most critical period ahead of the 2023 elections, all young people of voting age obtain their PVCs and make sure they cast their ballots for qualified, competent, and trustworthy candidates at the local/state and national levels.

“Governments at all levels have a responsibility to provide an environment that allows people to achieve their life goals, including those related to infrastructure, health, education, and security of life and property. Good leaders bring about the good life; terrible leaders bring about destruction.

“Without a doubt, the new administration taking office in 2023 will face a plethora of domestic and external challenges provoked by cumulative leadership failures over the years. These challenges have threatened our national unity, social cohesion, and citizens’ trust in the government and impeded our economic outcomes.”

Labour Party picks Jos for the flag-off

In another development, the Labour Party, LP, has picked Jos, the Plateau State capital, as the tentative venue for the flag-off of its campaign.

Sunday Vanguard gathered that party leaders were impressed by the large following they believe the party and its candidate enjoy in the state.

This, added to the pride of place the state enjoys as a melting pot of a cross-section of Nigerians, informed the choice.

A source familiar with the workings of the party said: “It’s tentative but Jos is the likely venue. We are aware that the state governor, Simon Lalong, is the Director-General of his party’s campaign but our presence should not be an issue.

Every state should and would be open for every party to the campaign.”

When contacted, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Arabambi Abayomi, said: “We will let you know when we decide on the venue and time for the flag-off. For now, we are working on the inauguration of our campaign council which by God’s grace, will take place this week.”

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