The Nation Newspaper
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is facing fresh hurdles in the bid to resolve his differences with Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike as the various parties intensify preparations for the commencement of campaigns for the 2023 elections.
The campaigns are due to take off on September 28 according to the time table issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Atiku, credible party sources told The Nation yesterday, is in a fix on how to handle the demands of the Wike camp, chief of which is the resignation of the PDP National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu.
It was gathered that getting Ayu to step aside and replaced by a southerner may require amendment of the party’s constitution for the purpose of legalising the changes being sought.
The former vice president and his camp are also said to have begun to feel jittery about the possibility of losing a large chunk of the votes from the Southeast to the Labour Party presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi.
The zone is considered by the PDP hierarchy as its traditional stronghold.
Besides, Atiku is said to be troubled by the realization that his acceptance of Wike’s demands will translate into he (Atiku) abandoning some of his strong allies from Rivers State who are currently not on the side of their governor.
Atiku fears that except he mends fence with Wike, his campaign runs the risk of running into lack of financial support from the seven state governor allies of Wike.
“If there is no concession from Atiku, the PDP Presidential Campaign Organization may lack the necessary political support and it might be cash strapped to prosecute the 2023 poll.
“Running an election is not a tea party,” one of the sources said.
Continuing, the source said: “The Labour Party presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, may split Atiku’s votes in the Southeast and in the South-South, and the race may be tough for Atiku if he does not agree terms with Wike.
“And in the Southwest, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo is not keen on selling Atiku’s presidential bid. He believes that power should shift to the South in 2023. He has pitched tent with Obi.
“It is also a dilemma for Atiku to abandon some stakeholders like ex-Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Austin Opara, Senator Lee Maeba and others loyal to him.”
Atiku is not yet back in the country following his mid week meeting with Wike in London.
He is expected back in Abuja today.
A source in his camp said: “All the talks with Wike and other stakeholders are normal in an election year. At the end of the day, we will disagree to agree.
“Our candidate is embarking on reconciliation to enable him set up a robust campaign structure. I can tell you that Atiku will survive all these challenges.
“We are expecting him back in Abuja today. He will thereafter rub minds with his team and backers on what transpired in London.
“Wike will also hear from Atiku soon. No one is weak in this game.”
The two sides, during the London meeting, agreed to reconvene within two weeks.
Wike returned to Nigeria on Friday and is expected to consult with his governor allies, party leaders and other stakeholders on the London meeting.
The main demand of his camp is for Ayu to step down for a Southern candidate.
A source privy to the talks between Wike and Atiku said: “The meeting centred on Atiku’s request for Wike’s support and why PDP ought to return to power in 2023.
“The governor insisted on his demand that Ayu must go to pick a Southern candidate to ensure equity and inclusion in the party.
“He said it will be hard to sell Atiku’s candidacy in the South with Northerners in control of vital structures of the party.”
A party leader said: “Atiku is constitutionally hamstrung because PDP’s constitution is explicit that once a national chairman is stepping down or being forced to leave, he must be succeeded by a new candidate from the same geopolitical zone.
“Strict adherence to the PDP’s constitution in this situation will lead to another Northerner replacing Ayu in the worst case.
“Apart from persuading Ayu to sacrifice, Atiku may need to convene a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party to manage the exigency. The issue is beyond the presidential candidate.
“Some stakeholders, like ex-Governor Sule Lamido and Governor Aminu Tambuwal, do not see the reasons for pandering to the whims and caprices of Wike.
Section 45 (1) provides as follows: If a National Officer of the party is removed or resigns from office,he shall immediately hand over to the National Secretary all records ,files and other property of the party in his or her possession.
(2) In the case of the National Chairman,he shall hand over to the Deputy National Chairman from his own region/part of the country who shall,without prejudice to Section 47 (6) of this constitution, act as the National Chairman pending the election of a replacement.
(3) In the case of National Secretary,he shall hand over to the Deputy National Secretary.
(4)This provision shall apply mutatis mutandis to other levels of the Party structure.
Another issue that came up was the constant attacks on Wike from Atiku’s camp.
“The governor was not happy about the attacks from those who knew little or nothing about discussions between him and the PDP presidential candidate, “a source added.
Asked the next step, a source in Wike’s camp said: “In the next few days, we are looking forward to consultations with the governor’s strategists, the governors that are backing him, the stakeholders and the party leaders.”
Anxiety in Atiku’s camp over Obi
There are also indications that the Atiku camp is feeling jittery about the threat posed to the chances of the PDP flag bearer in the Southeast by Mr. Peter Obi of Labour Party.
Some of Atiku’s backers even think the challenge from the Southeast portends more danger to his presidential ambition than the unresolved rift with Wike.
The Atiku camp, sources said, also considers some states in the South-South such as Cross River and Edo as vulnerable.
It was further gathered that the camp has been making attempts to reach out to Obi for the purpose of finding a mutually beneficial working relationship between the two presidential candidates.
The Atiku loyalists are said to be hoping to leverage the long standing political relationship between the two presidential candidates.
Obi was Atiku’s running mate when the latter contested for president in 2019 on the platform of the PDP.
Most of Atiku’s loyalists did not pick their telephone calls when our correspondent called them for reaction yesterday.
One of the loyalists, a former Police Affairs Minister Adamu Maina Waziri, who managed to pick his call, declined to comment.
“I have no comments,” he told our correspondent on the telephone.
Obi denies talks with Atiku
Meanwhile, Obi yesterday denied holding any talks with Atiku with a view to working with the PDP candidate ahead of the election.
The Obi-Datti Media Office described such reports, which have gone viral in the social media, as the handiwork of “uncharitable propagandists” who indulge in distorting facts in the pursuit of imaginary relevance for their paymasters.
The statement said: “Rather than strive to contend with the hard sell of their candidates, these mischief makers bandy about misleading accounts of the issue-based messages of our candidates just to score cheap political points and thus distract the discerning public.
“We know the intention of the spin-doctors in selling an utterly false story that the high-flying Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi, met with his PDP counterpart and reached a deal. Nothing can be further from the truth!
“Obi’s foreign trip, its motive and where and who to meet are already in the public domain; his meeting in the UK with some Nigerian political leaders is visually seen by all. But mischievous propagandists prefer to concoct lies in a desperate effort to clean up their candidate.
“We understand why the focus is on the Obi-Datti candidacy; they are easily the front runners in this 2023 race and the tag team has irresistible messages that are resonating with the embattled Nigerian public who are anxious more than ever to reclaim and take back their country.
“The LP candidates are on a divine mission to rescue and rebuild this country and cannot be distracted by any fabrications intended to mislead. If Obi’s mission is to rescue Nigeria from the old order, he ought not be seen working for the changing order.
“Obi’s respect for Atiku or any leader in this country has more to do with his sound upbringing and the fact that his style of politics is devoid of hate and bitterness and should not be misconstrued to be cavorting the spent order represented by the competition.
“These propagandists need to know that the movement Obi and Datti-Ahmed are driving is not something in control of one man negotiating it away.
“Nigerian people have taken the steering from Obi and are driving him to the Aso Rock Villa; they will not look sideways for distractions.”