…. As turmoil in Rivers, Abia, Oyo, Delta, Ogun, Edo, Kano, others compound party’s woes
By Dayo Johnson, Deola Badru, James Ogunnaike, Ozioruva Aliu, Ugochukwu Alaribe & Shina Abubakar
Apart from the internal crisis arising from the fallout of its presidential election primary, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP’s chances of victory in some state chapters are threatened by intra-party crises.
Some of the controversies, Sunday Vanguard learned, preceded the party primaries held between last May and June while others are outcomes of the selection process for candidates.
The contentions are such that have left party chieftains and their supporters divided and disillusioned.
In some states, the incumbent governors are in the middle of the troubles while some National Assembly, NASS, members are principal actors in others.
For instance, in Abia, Rivers, Delta, Edo, Oyo and Abia, the state governors have been variously fingered in the internal squabbles.
Some of the states have already witnessed the defection of party heavyweights and their supporters to parties like Labour Party, LP, and New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, thus depleting PDP’s strength ahead of the 2023 elections.
Some chieftains who didn’t dump the party confided in Sunday Vanguard that they may likely support other parties during the general elections. Others are indifferent.
Meanwhile, forces loyal to the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in Rivers State, where Governor Nyesom Wike hails from, have moved against the governor who is at the centre of the crisis rocking the opposition party at the national level.
Since Atiku chose not to pick Wike as his running mate after the Rivers governor emerged as the first runner up in the PDP presidential primary, the party has been split into Atiku and Wike camps.
Amid reconciliation efforts, however, Wike has been romancing opposition figures, the latest being the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Labour Party (LP) presidential candidates, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Mr Peter Obi respectively, who he parleyed with abroad last week, a situation that raised questions about whether he may defect from the PDP.
Sunday Vanguard learnt at the weekend that anti-Wike forces are organizing a 10-million-man-march for Atiku in the coming days in Rivers and the five other states of the Niger Delta.
Last Wednesday, National Chairman of the party, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, had said the PDP was sure of winning 25 governorship seats – a declaration that somewhat confirmed the unhealthy state of affairs in some state chapters.
He made the assertion when the National Working Committee, NWC, of the PDP had an interactive session with the party’s gubernatorial candidates in Abuja.
13 govs, 38 senators
He said: “I am very happy with the signs of progress made so far in various states and some of the little issues that we have clarified and it was an extremely useful meeting.
“So, we are happy that the members of the party are very determined that we don’t just win at the national level, state Houses of Assembly, National Assembly, or state governorship. We want to return about 25 state governors or more as we used to have. So, the mood at the party is excellent.”
The PDP currently has 13 governors against All Progressives Congress, APC’s 22.
As of June this year, the party had 38 senators and 126 members of the House of Representatives.
For a party in turmoil at the national level given what was termed a rebellion led by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State since he lost the presidential primary to Atiku and the latter’s choice of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as running mate, the issues in some states may dim its prospects at the general elections.
As things stand across the states, whether the number of elected persons would increase or reduce is to be determined by how well the crises in the states are managed.
State-by-state findings by Sunday Vanguard revealed that PDP’s chances are not only threatened by the Wike factor but also by deep-seated rivalry among members.
OYO: Fears over re-election prospects
Party chieftains in Oyo State are worried over the re-election chances of Governor Seyi Makinde.
This is a result of what a national leader of the party described as Makinde’s sour relationship with state PDP leaders.
At different fora, Makinde said he had successfully crossed the hurdle of getting the party’s re-nomination ticket in an exercise many aggrieved members described as a “stage-managed governorship primary.”
He contested and defeated his only opponent, Hazeem Gbolarunmi, a former deputy governor of the state.
Many pundits believe there is more work to be done in reconciling disgruntled groups in Oyo PDP.
They deplored the manner the governor seems to operate ahead of the 2023 governorship contest, saying he is more like a lone ranger as almost all the critical stakeholders that worked for, or with him in 2019, have dumped him.
They accused Makinde of running what was described as an “exclusionist government.”
Long before the last primaries, the governor was known to be having a frosty relationship with state party stalwarts.
At the moment, fence-mending within and outside the state is required to brighten PDP’s prospects in Oyo.
The biggest headache that may undermine Makinde’s second term bid is the impeachment of his erstwhile deputy, Rauf Olaniyan.
Speaking on the Oyo situation, a party elder at the national level, who pleaded anonymity, said:”Makinde, like Wike, has succeeded in offending PDP leaders in Oyo. He has stepped on many toes. If he’s not careful his re-election may not be possible. He will only win except APC fields an unpopular candidate.”
OGUN: Aftermath of primary
The crisis rocking Ogun State chapter of PDP began in 2011 due to irreconcilable differences between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the then state governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, over who controls the party structure.
The matter led to the party’s defeat in that year’s election. Defunct Action Congress of Nigeria ,ACN, won virtually all elective positions in Ogun at the time.
During the build-up to the 2019 elections, disagreement over who flies the party flag as governorship candidate divided the party between the late Senator Buruji Kashamu and Oladipupo Adebutu, a former member of the House of Representatives.
After the demise of Kashamu in 2020, the national body of PDP tried to reconcile all the aggrieved members of the party ahead of the 2023 general elections, but the reconciliation efforts hit the rock.
At the centre of the current logjam are Segun Showunmi, Ladi Adebutu and Jimi Lawal, who are bigwigs in the party.
At the moment, there are many cases before the courts initiated by aspirants as well as party stakeholders, which may affect the chances of the party during the 2023 general elections.
The current face-off began before the party’s primary elections when some aggrieved members alleged that Adebutu had hijacked the State Working Committee ,SWC, led by Dr. Sikirulahi Ogundele. A faction of the party loyal to late Senator Kashamu also accused the SWC and Adebutu of tampering with the list of delegates.
During the governorship primary, the party produced two candidates at parallel events. Showunmi and Adebutu emerged as the party flag bearers at the two primaries held at Iwe -Iroyin Press Centre of the Nigeria Union of Journalists and Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, respectively.
The SWC-supervised primary was marred by violence and disagreement over the “authentic delegates list” to be adopted for the exercise.
Reacting to the emergence of Adebutu, Jimi Lawal called on the national leadership of the party to cancel the exercise and organise another primary to choose its gubernatorial flag-bearer, alleging that the genuine list of party delegates who participated in the election was manipulated to contain names of people that were not elected at the State Ward Congress. He threatened legal action if the party failed to address his grievances.
However, the party’s NWC has recognised Adebutu as the duly elected governorship candidate of the PDP in Ogun State. But other camps are still aggrieved.
EKITI: Fayose’s ‘overbearing’ influence
The chances of PDP returning to reckoning in Ekiti in the 2023 general elections are low.
This is not unconnected to the fratricidal war within the party, which has eroded its support base, depleted its rank and reduced its popularity in the state.
For the first time since the advent of the Third Republic, PDP suffered a monumental defeat in a governorship election, losing not only 15 out of the 16 local governments in the state but also its traditional base to the APC.
According to political watchers, the party set itself on the path of self-destruction when the leaders couldn’t hear nor understand each other.
The issue predated the governorship election of June 18, 2022.
It could be traced to the Ward Congresses of mid-January 2022.
And ever since, every attempt at resolving the debacle had met brick walls.
The camps in the party are led by former governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, and Senator Abiodun Olujimi respectively. Another ex-governor, Segun Oni, is also a factor in Ekiti PDP crisis.
The final straw that broke the camel’s back was the governorship primary where Fayose’s protege and erstwhile state party chairman, Bisi Kolawole, emerged as flag bearer. The process leading to his emergence was alleged to have been fraught with electoral fraud.
There were allegations of doctored delegate lists, a situation that led to the withdrawal of Olujimi from the contest.
Unhappy at the result of the exercise where he came second, Oni and his supporters exited the party.
However, a reconciliation committee headed by Senator David Mark could not resolve the impasse nor did it succeed to prevent Oni and aggrieved party men from defecting.
State Publicity Secretary, Raphael Adeyanju, in a chat with Sunday Vanguard said the controversy is a fallout of the last governorship poll.
According to him, “members felt that the loss was needless. People had the feeling that the election was deliberately programmed to fail. The genesis of that failure as far as I am concerned was the inability to achieve genuine reconciliation after the primary election.
“Those who lost the election were bad losers and those who won were not humble enough to assuage the aggrieved. Nobody was ready to place the interest of the party above self-interest.
“Another cause of the problem is the feeling that former Governor Ayodele Fayose had an overbearing influence on the party at the expense of other party leaders.”
ONDO: The Mimiko, Jegede feud
PDP faces hurdles in Ondo State.
One of the reasons is the leadership tussle between former Governor Olusegun Mimiko and his estranged political son, Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, who contested twice for the governorship seat.
Incidentally, both Mimiko and Jegede have separately pitched their tents behind Atiku and Wike respectively.
While Mimiko is with Wike, Jegede is with his longtime friend and benefactor, Atiku.
Before now, the two party leaders had parted ways after Mimiko left office and defected to the Labour Party and later Zenith Labour Party.
While Mimiko left the PDP, Jegede took over the leadership of the party and twice contested for the governorship election but lost.
Since the latter returned to the party last year, Ogun PDP is believed to have become polarised.
Consequently, state party leaders are now divided into both camps.
Loyalists of Jegede think Mimiko’s return would affect his chances and dominance in the party ahead of the 2024 governorship poll.
If the two leaders failed to resolve their differences, the party’s performance in the 2023 election may be woeful.
The choice of where the party’s candidate for the 2024 governorship election would come from is another bone of contention.
OSUN: Legal battle
Irrespective of the victory of Sen Ademola Adeleke at the Osun governorship poll, all isn’t well with the state chapter of PDP.
The controversy has taken another dimension following the refusal of the party’s former factional governorship candidate, Mr. Dotun Babayemi, to withdraw a case he instituted against the party and the Governor-elect, Senator Adeleke.
Babayemi contested the ticket with Adeleke at a parallel primary held at WOCDIF Centre in Osogbo, while Adeleke emerged from a similar exercise held at Osogbo township stadium which was supervised by the party’s National Secretariat and INEC.
Though Babyemi lost the suit against the party and Adeleke at both the High Court and Appeal Court, he has vowed to pursue the matter at the apex court.
Meanwhile, the Caretaker Chairman of Osun PDP, Dr. Akindele Adekunle, has warned Babayemi against colluding with APC to truncate the party’s recent victory.
The party said: “It is worrisome Babayemi’s refusal to listen to calls by elders of his group who urged him to discontinue legal challenge.”
But Babayemi is adamant.
His spokesman,Oladiran Ojedele, said: “Our symbol, Omooba Dotun Babayemi is not seeking to truncate PDP’s victory but he’s out for justice, seeking to claim his mandate at the law court. Is such a lawful trajectory out of place? For all those who are now crying wolf, what genuine efforts did they make to ensure the PDP is not exposed to litigation?”
EDO: Supremacy conflict
Governor Obaseki shocked bookmakers when he easily defeated his opponent, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the APC, on the platform of the PDP.
But the unity in the party displayed before the election of Obaseki is threatened. Virtually all party leaders are divided along Obaseki and Chief Dan Orbih camps.
Orbih is the South-South National Vice Chairman of the party. He holds the record of being the longest-serving state chairman of PDP. Orbih is a close ally of Wike.
When members of the PDP were yet to savour their return to Edo State Government House, the crisis ensued over the infusion of those who came with Obaseki into the party and sharing of political offices.
The PDP became sharply divided between the old PDP who now call themselves the Legacy Group and the new PDP, comprising those who came with the governor and others.
Expectedly, the PDP had a parallel congress during the primary elections where factional candidates emerged in all the elective positions.
There are cases in courts both at the state and federal levels over adhoc delegates list.
In the court, the Orbih faction enjoyed a short reprieve as the Federal High Court ruled in its favour, stating that the delegates lists used for the primary election were in favour of his group.
But the Court of Appeal, a few weeks ago, quashed the ruling of the lower court as it insisted the issue of delegates and their election or selection is an internal affair of a political party and not the courts.
The Orbih faction has appealed to the Supreme Court.
However, the decision of the Appeal Court has further widened the gulf between the two factions.
Whichever way the Supreme Court rules, the party would be further divided as both factions have left little or no room for reconciliation. The situation may affect the fortunes of the party in the elections in 2023.
RIVERS: Atiku loyalists move against Wike
Contrary to what many think, the outcome of the PDP presidential primary is not the cause of the battle in Rivers PDP.
The real reason closest party allies of Wike are abandoning him is as a result of what observers called the humiliating manner the Rivers governor thwarted their ambition to succeed him.
He had influenced the emergence of a former Accountant-General of the state, Siminialayi Fubara, as the PDP governorship candidate in the
Senator Lee Maeba, one of the Rivers PDP governorship aspirants, who spoke on the matter, said: “I’ve never been so humiliated all my life.
“Wike bought 14 of us forms and warned us not to campaign. He then said the Accountant-General (Fubara) is good and will be accountable to him for at least six months or the next year. And that I should not go to the primary because if I go I will get zero vote. The Account-General will take the first position.
“He had already shared the votes. He did this to all of us in Rivers. This is a man I followed to over 22 states campaigning for the presidential primary. He did this, campaign, freely and came second in the primary. He fooled us to the end.”
The party bigwigs believed to have been badly treated by Wike include former Deputy Speaker of House of Representatives, Austin Opara, ex- Rivers PDP Chairman, Felix Obuah, former Sports Minister and Secretary to Rivers State Government, Sen George Sekibo, ex-Transport Minister, Abiye Sekibo, and Tammy Danagogo among others.
Lately, the governor has been locked in a political battle with many PDP leaders in the state, who he accused of associating with his enemies in Abuja.
Wike accused the party leaders of working to ensure he wasn’t chosen as Atiku’s running mate.
Earlier, he had stopped them from associating with Atiku without his consent.
Consequently, he relieved some of board appointments at the state level and even ordered the arrest of a member of House of Representatives, Chinyere Igwe.
In the last two weeks, two hospitality centres and a fuel retail outlet belonging to estranged PDP allies have been sealed and occupied by police on the orders of the governor.
But unfazed by the intimidation, the home opposition against Wike is waxing stronger. Amidst the governor’s clampdown on pro-Atiku supporters, House of Representatives member, Farah Dagogo, announced that he and other Atiku loyalists were mobilizing for a 10-million-man-march in support of the PDP presidential candidate.
Dagogo, who suffered prison detention and lost the governorship bid on account of the 2023 differences with the governor, hinted, Wednesday, that the planned rally to drum support for Atiku was already at advanced stage and would happen in a matter of days across the Niger Delta.
The day before, Sudor Nwiyor, Director General of Wike Solidarity Movement, WSM, had also dumped PDP to join the All Progressives Congress (APC).
ABIA: PDP dominance threatened
The dominance of PDP in Abia State is under threat owing to internal strife among members and the determination of opposition parties to upstage the party.
Following the controversial three-man delegate election, which produced Prof. Uche Ikonne as the PDP governorship candidate, some aggrieved aspirants who bought forms for the governorship and legislative positions defected to other parties to actualize their ambitions.
However, others abandoned their ambitions in deference to party loyalty while a great number who chose to remain have withdrawn from party activities since the conclusion of the party primaries.
Before the delegate election, controversy had erupted in Abia PDP following the zoning of the governorship position to Abia North and Abia Central senatorial zones. Stakeholders of Abia North zone had insisted on the zone producing Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s successor since Abia Central and Abia South had produced Chief Theodore Orji and Ikpeazu, respectively. The party was yet to resolve the zoning controversy when some aspirants protested against the delegate election, alleging that it never held.
The aggrieved PDP governorship aspirants including former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, current Deputy Governor, Ude Chukwu , Senator Emma Nwaka, Chief Ncheta Omerekpe, Enyinnaya Nwafor and Dr. Chima Anyaso among others, had stormed the party’s national secretariat in Abuja over the matter.
Those who left the PDP for other parties include Senator Abaribe, who emerged as senatorial candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance,APGA, in Abia South, Prof. Greg Ibe, who emerged APGA governorship candidate, Nwafor , governorship candidate of Young Progressives Party, YPP, his running mate, Anyaso, Ginger Onwusibe and Darlington Nwokocha, who are both running for the Isiala Ngwa Federal Constituency and Abia Central senatorial seat.
Others include Chief Michael Nwoke, who defected to the YPP to contest the Obingwa/Osisioma/ Ugwunagbo Federal Constituency seat, ex-National Directorate of Employment, NDE, Director-General, Dr. Chuku Wachuku, Dannie Ubani, Dr. Nwachukwu Okoli, Chief Kingsley Mgbeahuru and Chief Okezie Ugboaja among others.
Sunday Vanguard investigations revealed that some elders of the party such as Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, Dr. Eme Okoro , Senator Emma Nwaka, Chief Charles Ogbonnaya, Chief Princewill Onyegbu, James Okpara, and ex-Senate President and Secretary of the PDP BOT , Chief Adolphus Wabara, are not known to have identified with party activities in the state since the controversial delegate election.
Ogbonnaya, who is a former commissioner, is opposing the emergence of Ikonne as the party governorship candidate, insisting that Ikpeazu should not hand over to his kinsman.
It was gathered that the state party leadership had set up a reconciliation committee to reach out to aggrieved stakeholders. Ikpeazu is also said to be reaching out to the aggrieved stakeholders to unite the party ahead of the elections. How well the reconciliation efforts work would largely determine the fate of the party in the general elections.
DELTA: Divided house
The case of Delta PDP gives a lot of concerns to stakeholders. The reason is that the state has been a traditional PDP base since 1999.
In fact, it’s one state where the people are PDP and literally live PDP. Apart from always producing state governors since 1999, Delta PDP is reputed for the block votes it delivers for PDP presidential candidates.
Sadly, this reputation is threatened following the emergence of the Speaker of Delta State House of Assembly, Sheriff Oborevwori, as the party’s governorship candidate.
The Speaker is believed to be the anointed candidate of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa while a gubernatorial aspirant, Mr. David Edevwie, has the backing of former Governor James Ibori, who is influential in the party.
Today, Oborevwori’s candidacy seems to have ruptured what had been a united political family. So real is the fracture caused by his emergence that party chieftains loyal to Ibori now stay away from state PDP functions.
However, what may likely bring about the biggest upset is the decision of Edevwie to challenge Oborevwori’s eligibility for the position in court.
He had gone to court, citing irregularities in the results presented to the Independent Electoral Commission ,INEC, by the Speaker.
Oborevwori is also facing a case of identity theft, impersonation and forgery instituted by Evance O. Ivwurie in the District Court of Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
A Federal High Court in Abuja had disqualified Oborevwori.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo agreed with the plaintiff that he ought not to be the candidate of the PDP for allegedly supplying false documents to INEC.
The judge subsequently directed INEC and the PDP to recognise the plaintiff, David Edevbie, as the candidate. While the matter is currently on appeal, there are fears that whichever the ruling goes, it may affect PDP’s performance in the general elections.
ANAMBRA: Old battles
Apart from the fallout of last-party primaries and congresses, a fresh crisis recently emerged in Anambra PDP.
This time, a group loyal to a member of the Board of Trustees, BoT, Chris Uba, announced the suspension of the Acting State Chairman of the party, Mr. Okey Asolo.
Asolo was accused of insulting Uba, who is a foundation member of PDP by suspending him ,Uba, and Linus Ukachukwu from the party last week over alleged anti-party activities. Already, the defection of former Governor Peter Obi has further depleted the party’s rank in the state as some chieftains dumped the party in like manner.
Other state chapters whose prospects in the next elections would be determined by how best their crises are resolved include Ebonyi, Niger and Kano.