From Fred Itua, Abuja
Ahead of the constitution of the campaign organisation of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the crisis rocking the party appears far from over.
The latest development, Saturday Sun reliably gathered, may put a clog in the wheel of the opposition party’s determination to triumph in next year’s presidential election.
The festering crisis in the party, which assumed a new dimension last month following the announcement of Ifeanyi Okowa as the running mate to Atiku, Saturday Sun has learnt, started a few weeks after Iyorchia Ayu was elected National Chairman of the PDP.
A source in the PDP told Saturday Sun that the widening gulf has now pitted six PDP governors, predominantly from the South, against Atiku’s presidential bid.
The source listed some of the governors as Nyesom Wike of Rivers State; Samuel Ortom of Benue State; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State; Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and Ishaku Darius of Taraba and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, as governors unwilling to support Atiku’s bid.
Confirming the bad blood in the rank and file of the party, Ortom had, during the weak, said he might not work for the actualisation of Atiku’s presidential bid.
He said: “All that was needed even before the pronouncement, after we did our recommendation, Wike would have been reached out to, he is a human being.
“This is a man who has built the party today in PDP. He has fought all night and all day to see that this party remains together. So, he would have been reached out to, to say that this is the decision we are taking and this is the reason we are taking this decision, and I think he would have understood.”
According to the PDP source, trouble started when Ayu was elected national chairman of the PDP. The source said leaders of the party had agreed to zone the chairmanship of the PDP to the North, while the South, like the All Progressives Congress (APC), would produce the presidential candidate.
He said as soon as Ayu assumed office, he jettisoned the arrangement he inherited and started working for the emergence of Atiku, who is seen as his close political ally, to emerge as the candidate. The source, who didn’t want to be named, said despite attempts by governors and other leaders of the party to prevail on Ayu to respect the agreement that he inherited, the former Senate President remained adamant.
“When it was obvious that Ayu wasn’t ready to listen and zone the presidential ticket to the South, governors and other leaders decided to leave the contest open. But they agreed to support a Southern aspirant, but people like Okowa, Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and other people, especially from the South South, started working to ensure that a Northern candidate emerged,” he narrated.
Revealing further, the source said when Wike lost the primary election to Atiku, party leaders agreed that it would be best to pick him as the running mate to Atiku. He revealed the aforementioned governors met with Atiku and other leaders to pick Wike as a popular choice, but were ignored by Ayu and Atiku, who are believed to be micro-managed by some powerful Northern leaders. Unable to have their way, he said the six governors decided not to play any active role during the presidential campaign of Atiku. He said though they may not defect to the APC, they’re likely to sabotage the chances of the PDP from within.
“The governors can’t and won’t defect. They understand that clearly. If they defect now, their candidates can’t win elections. Some of them are gunning for a second term. But they’ll sabotage Atiku the same way PDP governors sabotaged President Goodluck Johnathan in 2015.
“If you recall, many governors of the PDP, especially from the North, worked for the emergence of Buhari. They didn’t leave the PDP, but they sabotaged it from within. That’s what may play out in the case of Atiku.
“There is a general consensus from Southern leaders that power should return to the region. And many PDP governors are close friends of the presidential candidate of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. They will work for him. If that happens, hold Atiku and Ayu responsible,” the angry source further revealed.
Saturday Sun has also reliably gathered that Tinubu’s men have started reaching out to the aggrieved governors and other key Southern leaders of the PDP. It was learnt that Tinubu’s current vacation in Europe is part of the arrangement to meet with some of the governors who are also out of the country for the summer holiday.
Currently, Wike and Ikpeazu are in Turkey on their annual vacation. Beside Tinubu who is in Europe, other key PDP and APC leaders, are reportedly out of the country too for some clandestine meetings, ahead of the kick off of the campaigns in September. Despite the festering crisis, Atiku has assured that he will reconcile the various factions and address concerns raised. In a Facebook post, he wrote: “The Peoples Democratic Party will remain united. Focus on our actions. We are taking action to address the feelings of all party members. The unity in our community is my priority. Our resolve to unify Nigeria starts in our party and moves to the community, then on to society.
“Every governor, legislator, and other elected officials produced by our party, and party members and loyalists are much loved and respected by me. When they speak, I listen. I do not only listen. Appropriate actions have been taken, are being taken, and will continue to be advanced.”