By Yusuf Alli, Managing Editor, Northern Operation, Mike Odiegwu, Port Harcourt, Aiweire Okungbowa, and Asaba Gbade Ogunwale, Abuja
- Rivers gov accuses ex-VP, others of rebuffing Jonathan in 2014
- Alleges Ayu received N1b from aspirant, manipulated presidential primary
- Dares party to suspend him if they can
- Atiku: allegations uncharitable, Wike fighting war that doesn’t exist
- Party fires back, says governor didn’t respect zoning in Rivers
- PDP candidate now Divider-in-Chief, 2023 campaign dead – APC Council
The crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) grew from bad to worse yesterday after Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike declared that the party was arrogant and scaring Nigerians with its mishandling of its own internal affairs.
“You are making Nigerians to be afraid. If you say Nigerians are not happy with APC and then you don’t want to do the right things because of that…with what you are doing, you are scaring Nigerians,” Wike said, berating several party leaders for bringing the PDP this low ahead of the 2023 elections.
He dared the party to sanction him if it could.
But the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, branded Wike’s statement uncharitable and warned him to steer clear of fighting a non-existent war.
A separate criticism of Wike came from the spokesman of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Charles Aniagwu, who said the Rivers State governor had no moral right to accuse Atiku of not respecting the PDP zoning arrangement, having rejected the party’s zoning formula in Rivers State himself in the run up to the 2015 governorship election.
The development in the PDP drew a sneer from the campaign council of the All Progressives Congress’ (APC’s) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
It called Atiku the divider-in-chief of the PDP for what it perceived as his inability to resolve the crisis.
Wike, who had served notice of his plan to ‘say it all’ about the PDP infighting, told newsmen in Port Harcourt yesterday that Atiku and Ayu were not helping the fortunes of the party ahead of the 2023 polls.
He recalled how in 2014 the former vice president, former Senate President Bukola Saraki and Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal rebuffed the then President Goodluck Jonathan and ruined his chances for reelection
The Rivers State governor, who spent about two hours in a live media chat at Government House, Port Harcourt on the PDP crisis, insisted that the refusal of Atiku and Ayu to fulfill their promises had portrayed them as untrustworthy characters in the eyes of Nigerians.
He said: “The constitution of our party provides that there shall be zoning of party and elective offices. It is clear; not ambiguous. But people will always try to manipulate the system to suit them.
“They slant stories in such a way as to deceive the public. The founding fathers knew the complexity of this country. They did it in such a way as not to have problems.”
The governor recalled various meetings held by Southern governors and their resolution that power must shift to the South, but lamented that while the APC though in power adhered to the rotational principle in the spirit of the country’s unity, the PDP arrogantly rejected zoning.
He said PDP having boxed itself into a corner, it was being hunted by the singular decision and must be restructured to give the South a sense of belonging.
He claimed that shortly after Atiku emerged as the party’s flag bearer, the former VP visited him and told him that Ayu must quit as chairman with a view to addressing the structural imbalance in the party.
Ayu himself, he said, promised before his election as chairman to resign in the event that a northerner was picked as presidential candidate.
The governor also said that during the London meeting his team had with Atiku, the PDP presidential candidate vowed to ensure the exit of Ayu and pleaded with them to give him a week to work out the modalities.
He, however, said they were surprised that Atiku treated them with disrespect when, instead of giving them feedback, went to an event and announced that any attempt to remove Ayu would cause a constitutional crisis in the party.
Continuing, he said: “The founding fathers of our party never made a mistake; they knew the complexity of this country and therefore they arranged it in such a way we did not have problems in our party.
“People should not forget history. It may not be favourable to you but for the sake of the society and the country, you must remember. In 2014, there was this issue of the presidential candidate of the party. Jonathan emerged as the presidential candidate.
“You also remembered that many people walked out of that convention. People like the candidate of our party today, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Aminu Tambuwal was one of them, the former Senate President, Saraki, was one of them. They all walked out saying that the presidency must come to the north.
“Of course President Jonathan, a sitting president, did everything to talk to them to come back to the party. Jonathan was rebuffed as a sitting President. I even remember there was a time he travelled to London to see Atiku; he rebuffed Jonathan, who was a sitting President.
Read Also: Wike to expose characters in PDP disguising as leaders
“We decided to remain in the party. You heard when the former Niger State Governor Aliyu Babangida came out and said they all agreed to work against the candidate of our party.
“But what is important is that some members of our party played anti-party activities because they believed that the presidential candidate should come from the north.”
‘Why current structure in PDP cannot stand’
Wike said the current power sharing in the PDP could not stand in view of its lopsidedness.
“We have had our primary and the presidential candidate emerged. But before the candidate emerged, there was the issue of where the chairmanship would go, because in our party, the chairman comes from south and the candidate comes from north or vice versa.
“The intention of the founding fathers was to allow for inclusiveness, for everybody to participate in the hierarchy of decision making. As it is today, three major persons make decisions for the party. One is the national chairman, the presidential candidate or the President, if you are in power, and then the Director-General of the campaign.”
‘Southern governors agreed that power must shift to South’
He accused some PDP governors from the South of betraying the collective decision that power must shift to the south.
His words: “We from the South, before now we had met and said the presidency must come to the south. The APC and PDP met.
“When this idea was mooted, they met and agreed that the conveners of these meetings would be the Governor of Ondo, Akeredolu, the Governor of Ebonyi, Umahi and the Governor of Delta, Okowa. They became the chief conveners of the Southern Governors Forum.
“The first meeting was held in Asaba. It was agreed that President Muhammadu Buhari, coming from the north had done eight years and therefore, the next should come from the South. The next meeting was held in Lagos and it was stated clearly that this is what they must pursue.
“The final meeting was held in Enugu. I don’t want to make certain statements made by some governors at that meeting. I remember that one of the governors said how will I tell my children that I cannot be president because I do not come from a particular section of the country?
“At the appropriate time, I will let you know the governor. We said that Secondus was already rounding off his term and could not go back since the presidency was coming to the South. It was not a personal thing.
“We went to the party and there were arguments and counter arguments. I was even surprised at the behavior of some of the governors who were even the conveners of the forum.
“Luckily the party set up a committee. At that committee, the governor of Benue State, Ortom, was the chairman of the zoning committee. They cleverly came up with the idea that only party offices should be zoned, not elective offices.
“Some people believed they are more intelligent than others. Some of us said that this at the end of the day would cause crisis for us. The chairmanship was now zoned to the north and that was why no southerner contested the position.
“When we lost election in 2015, the party sat down, formed a committee under Ekweremadu. The committee came out and said we should zone the presidency to the North. That was why in the 2018 convention, there was nobody from the South who contested that position.
“All the presidential aspirants came from the North, and everybody would remember we gave Atiku all the support. No state contributed more than Rivers.
“Those of them who claim they are highly connected and that they are the founding fathers of the party, now said there should be no zoning of the presidential ticket, leave it open, let the best candidate emerge, because they thought they had the number.”
‘How Ayu manipulated Atiku’s emergence’
The Rivers governor accused Ayu of working in tandem with Atiku to make him win the PDP presidential primary.
He said: “We have jettisoned our constitution knowing that we are laying a foundation, a seed of discord in future. But before the primary, Ayu emerged as the chairman. I stand to challenge anybody. Ayu kept thanking me and promising to unite the party. They started selling forms and people bought forms and said there was no need to zone. I saw fraud and manipulation.
“But some of us came out to say we wanted to run. The only thing I can tell you today is I feel pained that I don’t have the opportunity to fight bandits and oil theft (if I had been elected as president). The two things I told myself I was going to do was to take on insecurity head-on and the issue of oil theft affecting our economy today. But it is God that gives power.
“We campaigned seriously. They were shocked at the modus of our campaign. There were meetings upon meetings. A whole national chairman threatened some of the presidential candidates at that time that if Wike won he was going to resign.
“In fact, he was calling aspirants to withdraw for Atiku Abubakar. Bala Mohammed is there. Saraki is there. Tambuwal is there. Meetings were called. ‘You must withdraw if not we will lose, Wik will win.’
“This is the national chairman of a party who is supposed to be the chief umpire. Even at the primary, that was why we started the primary very late. Meetings were going on, asking people to step down. Some top retired generals were involved. Some of the meetings were held in their houses.
“But even in the committee for the convention, when we met in Benue Governor’s Lodge with the national working committee, I told the National Chairman that the people he was fronting for as chairmen of the committees were all supporters of Atiku Abubakar. He said no.
“I told him we didn’t want the party to be in crisis and challenged him to do the right thing so that at the end of the day all of us would be happy. We are opposition party not the ruling party and we must conduct ourselves in such a way to avoid internal crisis.
“But there was nothing Ayu didn’t do: manipulation of delegates list. Unfortunately for them, the numbers were not adding up. There was nothing they didn’t do to ensure Wike did not emerge. We went to the convention.
“You remember I spoke last. When I came out to speak, there was danger. The ovation was thunderous. It became a problem for them. I was highly disappointed by the former Senate President (David Mark). It had never happened in the history of elections. In fact, when you are speaking, whatever thing you want to do, you say it at that point.
“When everybody had spoken for them to commence, a whole chairman of the national convention planning committee said there was an announcement. It had never happened anywhere. People were thinking it was for security reasons. But he gave the microphone back to Tambuwal to come again and speak after everybody had spoken to say he wanted to withdraw. He now went ahead to say people should vote for Atiku Abubakar.
“At that point, if not for the love of the party, that convention wouldn’t have held. There would have been crisis at that convention. But we decided to go ahead for peace to reign. We decided to avoid anything that would cause problem. I would have said the convention would not hold, and if heaven was going to come down, we would have allowed heaven to come down that day.
“After you had done all you had done, you now went to Tambuwal to say he was the hero of the convention. A national chairman? We thought it was over and there would be reconciliation.”
‘I never lobbied to be vice-presidential candidate’
The governor denied ever lobbying anyone to be nominated as Atiku’s running mate.
He said Atiku offered him the position but he reminded the candidate he had already promised Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa same position.
He said: “I never ran for presidential primary to be vice-president, never. If I tell you the number of Nigerians that called me and said I should take the offer of vice-president but I said no. I said I don’t trust these people, I know them too well.
“The pressure was too much. I said let it not look as if it is a personal thing. After the convention Saturday, Sunday, the candidate wanted to see me. Immediately we sat down, he said, ‘Governor, look Ayu must go’. He said we have never had the presidential candidate and the chairman from the same zone. Atiku told me this. Let him say he never said so.
“The next thing he said was that he wanted us to work together. I said how? He said I should take the vice-president. I said no, you have already promised the governor of Delta. I told him I would discuss with my people. Integrity matters a lot. People don’t trust our leaders again.
“He said one of the retired generals wrote three names: Okowa, myself and the governor of Akwa Ibom. He was asked to write a letter asking the party to nominate the presidential candidate; that he didn’t want to make the mistake he made before when people accused him of nominating Obi without consulting the party.
“I challenge them to show the letter he wrote to the party that made the party to constitute a high powered delegation: five members of the national working committee led by the deputy national chairman (North), national Secretary, National Woman leader, zonal chairman of North Central, three serving governors, chairman of Governors’ Forum, Aminu Tambuwal, Bala Mohammed and Ortom; four former governors, Sule Lamido, Aliyu Babangida, Liyel Imoke, Olusegun Mimiko; three BoT members and two National Assembly members.
“Let any of them say they either saw me or I came to them to speak to any of them. I challenge any of them to say I lobbied for nomination.
The national chairman made sure they did not recommend anybody.
“They tried to do all permutations and they wrote there in order of preference. The national chairman went to the candidate in the midnight and asked him to pick anybody. I saw him and told him why do you have to make it look as if… look at the crisis you have caused for the party.”
On the London meeting with Atiku, Wike said: “We were invited to a meeting in London. Adamawa Governor Fintiri, Ortom, Makinde, Ikpeazu. Atiku said he had confronted Ayu on this statement and Ayu said yes.
“We sat down and he agreed with us that Ayu had to go. He said we should give him one week; that we would work out the modalities. This is what we must do to move forward. You are the presidential candidate; give the chairmanship to the South. If he respects us, what stops him from calling us to tell us there are constitutional issues?”
Wike said it was deceitful for people who never respected the constitutional provision of the party to cite constitution as the reason why Ayu should not resign.
He said persons advising Atiku had nothing to offer the party electorally and suggested that following the exigency of the matter, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party could be convened to restructure the party and rectify its decision during a post- election convention.
He said: “These people have nothing to offer this party electorally. You didn’t remember the party recommended zoning of elective positions. The presidency ought to have been zoned to the South. You can’t rely on the same provision to stay in office.
“NEC can meet and take the decision and meet again to rectify it in a convention. All we want is now you have given presidency to the North, give us our chairmanship. The problem is that we have not won election but we are too arrogant. We are telling Nigerians that we can’t be trusted. You can’t do without me in my state.”
He added: “I think you should praise some of us who stood firmly to say that power must shift to the South. For the unity of this country, we have not reached the level where you undermine this issue. If APC as ruling party can come out categorically to say we are zoning this to South, we have accepted our fate. But we are asking you to give us this but you are saying no.
“I say they believe that the presidency is supporting them. No party that wants to win election can be this arrogant. I know what APC can do. As an opposition party, you must show humility.
“It has nothing to do with the treatment of Wike. I am fighting for justice, fairness and equity. It is not about me. But as a party, we must show to Nigerians that we are trustworthy. The only way Nigerians can take it is when you start from this one.
“If you can’t do this now, you are making Nigerians to be afraid. If you say Nigerians are not happy with APC and then you don’t want to do the right things because of that. With what you are doing, you are scaring Nigerians.
“If we take advantage of the feelings of Nigerians by doing the right thing. If we remain like this till the election, Nigerians will have doubt about us.
“Who will suspend me? Look at the problem they are already having. Those who ran away from the party cannot suspend me. I am begging them to immediately suspend me. Anything you see you will take it”
‘Ayu seeks to be SGF’
Wike claimed that Ayu wants to be Secretary to the Government of the Federation should the party win the 2023 presidential election.
He said: “Some people have been given positions as we speak. Ayu wants to become the SFG. These are things happening in the party that we can’t say in public.”
Besides, he alleged that Ayu received N1 billion from a presidential aspirant in Lagos on the eve of the PDP primary on the grounds that the party was broke, yet the money was not paid into the PDP account.
Atiku to Wike: Don’t fight non-existent war
However, the Atiku camp in a swift response dismissed the allegations by Wike as uncharitable and warned him against fighting a non-existent war.
Speaking through a member of the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), Atiku said: “We are of the strong view that this is an uncharitable comment by a supposedly top member of the party, and obviously an elevated falsehood raised to put the presidential candidate in bad light.
“In all his political life, there is no evidence so far that Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President, has in his actions or pronouncements portrayed himself as an unworthy and unreliable political leader. He distances himself from disreputable actions and embraces the noble values that could propel our country to decency and greatness.
“This is what is responsible for his political activities: to be given an opportunity to contribute to the greatness of the nation and help advance the potentials of the country and its teeming youthful population. The Wazirin Adamawa remains a man of deep conviction, honesty and integrity.
“Governor Wike says he is fighting for fairness, justice and equity. But in the pursuit of all that, the governor assumes the state and the entire south of the country.
“With all sincerity and as a party faithful which he claims to be, he should stop fighting a war that does not exist.
“It is also important to dispel the impressions that may have been created during the interview that key political positions have been shared. Yes, politics is about negotiations and more negotiations to reach a consensus and, sometimes, even compromise, it is a futile exercise for positions to be shared when an electoral victory has not been secured.
”We appeal to Governor Wike that Nigeria is in desperate need of visionary leaders to rescue and redeem the nation from this wrecking administration. This is not the time to pull punches and settle scores particularly when they do not exist, but a time to combine strength and efforts to lift our people from nearly eight years of sustained pain and despondency. It is our prayer that God will rescue the country through PDP.”
The PCC source said the position of Atiku was that Wike’s camp should rethink their withdrawal in the interest of the PDP and Nigerians.
He said the ruling of the Supreme Court on Friday has put to rest the legality of the action of the party in throwing open its presidential contest.
He said: “On a day the Supreme Court threw out the suit which sought to have the PDP zone its presidential ticket to the Southern part of the country, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, in a live television broadcast acknowledged that he is not “bigger” than the party.
“Rt. Hon. Cosmos Ndukwe, a former presidential aspirant and former Deputy Speaker of the Abia State House of Assembly, had in April approached a Federal High Court in Abuja to stop the PDP presidential primary. He had lost at the Court of Appeal prompting him to proceed to the Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court in a unanimous decision on Friday held that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter on account that it is an internal issue of the party.
“The ruling of the Supreme Court is expected to lay to rest the legality of the action of the party in throwing open its presidential contest following the ratification of the Governor Samuel Ortom Committee by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party. Following the outcome of the presidential primary that produced Atiku Abubakar as the candidate of party and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as Vice Presidential candidate, Governor Wike, the runner up and who was passed over in the Vice Presidential search, has been up in arms against the party.
“The highpoint of the grievances was Tuesday’s pullout by the Wike camp from the Presidential Campaign Council. However, the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar had appealed to Wike and members of his aggrieved camp to rethink their withdrawal in the interest of the PDP and Nigerians who are looking up to the party to rescue it from the current socio-economic and political quagmire the country is facing.”
‘Wike rejected zoning in Rivers’
In a separate jibe at Wike yesterday, Charles Aniagwu, spokesman of the PDP presidential campaign council, said the governor himself once rejected zoning of the PDP governorship ticket in Rivers in 2015.
He spoke in a Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) interview.
His words: “In 2015, let’s not forget, Amaechi was leaving office. Amaechi is from the same place as Wike. You didn’t say let us move to the waterside.
“What Wike said then that I recall was that you need to, first of all, have the power before you begin to respect zoning; that the party in Rivers was not in power because Amaechi had moved to APC. That PDP could not be talking about zoning when they were not in power in Rivers.
”In Nigeria today, PDP is not in power. Besides, the last president from the party was Goodluck Jonathan from the South. Are you using Buhari of APC to zone in PDP when we are operating different constitutions? Those are some of the issues that I like my brother to answer.”
Aniagwu said those calling for Ayu’s removal based on equity and justice were not wrong. He however, appealed to the agitators to look at the bigger picture because the period was too close to the 2023 general elections.
Aniagwu said Ayu never denied agreeing to quit if a presidential candidate emerged from the North, assuring that Ayu will quit if the party wins the presidential election.
He said: “The national chairman was clear when he said if the party asked him to quit, he would. The party did not make that request, the NEC passed a vote of confidence on the NWC.
“Ayu has never denied what he said, but let us look at what he said and the laws of the party. Let us always think of the country first and not about North and South that tends to divide us.
“In developed climes, nobody talks about zones and regions. They talk about what works for the people. President Buhari is from Katsina today but I am not too sure that life has become far better for those in Katsina than it was in 2015.
“In 2006, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was President and Ahmadu Ali was National Chairman. The primary was conducted and Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of blessed memory emerged presidential candidate of the party.
“Ahmadu Ali prosecuted that election and Yar’Adua became President before the party held a Convention to bring in somebody from the South and nobody asked Ahmadu Ali to leave because a presidential candidate had emerged from the North.
“When Jonathan became President after the death of Yar’Adua, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor remained National Chairman of the party until it was time for another election.
”These are tenured offices and the issue of zoning is only in the offices and positions. The position of a presidential candidate is not an office; it only becomes an office after winning election.”
Aniagwu said Atiku was not opposed to Ayu stepping down, but he stressed that it should be done after the general elections.
“The difference between what we are saying and what Governor Nyesom Wike and his group are saying is timeline.
“Our presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and our National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, are on the same page with them to return the National Chairman to the South. But that can only be done after the general elections because we have a bigger picture in view.
“Again, Ayu stepping down is not the problem. Going by our party constitution, moving the Chairman from the North to the South is the problem because a Deputy National Chairman (North) is expected to take over from him by virtue of Section 45 of the party’s constitution.
“So even if Ayu leaves, what happens to Iliya Damagun who is the Deputy National Chairman?
“What happens to the National Secretary Senator Samuel Anyanwu who hails from Imo State? By the convention and principles of our party, both of them don’t come from the same zone because both of them actually run the party,”
He added that when leaders come together to hold meetings, the majority of the people are not usually part of those meetings, pointing out that it is the law that represents and protects the interest of those who are not opportune to be in that meeting.
“Ayu has said if the party asks him to go he will leave, but the NEC of the party has met and they have considered the issues and came to a conclusion that it was not the right time for that move.
“And so we appeal to our great leader, Governor Nyesom Wike and other stakeholders of the party to respect the decision of NEC on the matter by exercising patience with the party until after the general elections.
“The reason why we are pleading with them is because Atiku wants to run with everybody on board, in six months time this election would have been done and dusted and these changes would be effected,” he said.