Peoples Democratic Party

Atiku, PDP dare Wike, Makinde, begin campaigns Wednesday

The People’s Democratic Party has finalized plans to inaugurate its presidential campaign council on Wednesday, September 28, regardless of the withdrawal of some party heavyweights and prominent campaign council members led by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.

The party revealed that all its programmes would be carried out as scheduled, adding that it had no plan to suspend them for any reason.

The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, disclosed this to The PUNCH in Abuja on Thursday.

The party made this position known after a series of meetings by its leadership between Wednesday and Thursday, following the pullout of the Wike-led group.

Wike, his Oyo State counterpart, Seyi Makinde, ex-Information Minister, Prof. Jerry Gana, Chief Bode George and other prominent members of the campaign council announced their withdrawal from Atiku’s campaign council after a marathon meeting in Port Harcourt on Wednesday.

The development compelled the PDP National Working Committee to summon an emergency meeting where the options before the party were discussed and decisions taken.

When asked if the inauguration of the campaign council slated for Wednesday would go on as scheduled, Ologunagba said, “All programmes of the party are on and we have no plan to stop.”

Describing the PDP as a party of law and order, the image-maker stressed the importance of playing by the rules at all times.

“The constitution of our party is supreme and the conduct of our affairs must align with it. Again, we are a party with tremendous respect for the law. So, all we have set out to do will take place as there is no reason whatsoever to do otherwise,” he added.

It was  gathered that the National Working Committee has in the past 24 hours enjoyed tremendous support and goodwill from other organs of the party, particularly the National Executive Committee and the Board of Trustees.

The two organs were said to have expressed the willingness to play reconciliatory roles between the party and the pro-Wike group.

Chieftains back party

A former governor of Jigawa State and member of NEC, Sule Lamido,  said, “Whatever the party says, that is our position.”

A former governor of a North-West state who did not want his name in print advised Ayu to remain calm, stressing that the vast majority of PDP members are behind him.

“The chairman was elected, not appointed and he was elected for a fixed term. He cannot be removed simply because a few powerful stakeholders want him out. So, I advise him (Ayu) to remain calm. This challenge will be over in no distant time,” he assured.

Another member of NEC, Dr Eddy Olafeso, echoed the position of the party spokesman, calling for respect for the party’s constitution in the move to find a common ground.

He said, “There are thousands of prominent people in our party. Yes, those who pulled out of the campaign council are very important to us but the party is more important than individuals. The truth is, the party must not be trampled upon in a haste to please a number of people.

“We know the genesis of what is going on. People are trying to cause divisions in the party at this moment and this is very unfortunate.”

On whether the party would appoint replacements for Wike, Makinde, and others who pulled out of the campaign council, Olafeso had this to say, “The party will not wait for anybody. We won’t encourage absolutism and unilateralism. Our campaigns will commence with immediate effect as soon as the council is inaugurated next week.’’

A National Working Committee member, Timothy Osadolor, submitted that Wike’s withdrawal from the campaign council would not affect the party’s chances in the polls, noting that he is just a member among thousands of others.

“Sometimes the butterfly thinks he is a bird but he can never be a bird. Wike thinks he is the all and all of the PDP but he is not. Appropriating the attribute of God to himself is not necessary and it is far and above his capacity. Nigerians are not interested in who lost the primaries but those who have the solutions for the myriad of problems bedevilling the country,’’ he stated.

Speaking in an interview on Arise Television programme monitored by our correspondent, Thursday, a former presidential aspirant of the party, Chief Dele Momodu admonished the Wike-led group to embrace forgiveness and desist from making Atiku look like a weakling.

He stated, “Forgiveness is nothing new. It is recognised in every religion that when people offend you and come to you, which I think Atiku has done, the rest is within the party and the aggrieved members.

“My own worry is that we seem to be putting so much pressure on Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as if he can unilaterally remove the chairman of the party. Even if he (Atiku) should do that, a lot of us will feel vilified. He cannot do it (remove Ayu) but all he can do is speak with Dr Ayu and we don’t know what is going on between all of them.’’

Responding to a question, he noted, “I know nobody will want to be seen in that light. Like anytime Governor Wike says you must go, you must go; it becomes a psychological thing as well for the party. It doesn’t work that way.

‘’Some of these things we have discussed privately with some of our party members and we believe that nobody should attempt to make our candidate look so weak or like someone that just can be pushed around.

“I mean, can I go to Governor Wike’s state and just tell him to go and sack the state’s party chairman? He doesn’t have the power to do so. It can’t happen. So, that is my position.”

Wabara meets Tambuwal

Meanwhile, Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal has expressed optimism that a solution to address the crisis in the party would soon be worked out among the PDP governors.

He made the declaration on Thursday while hosting the acting Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees, Sen. Adolphus Wabara, in Abuja.

The governor further stated that they have interacted with the BoT in the belief that the party will come out of the crisis soon.

He stated, “I would like to thank the BoT chairman, members and his team for this very important initiative. We all know that the BoT is the conscience of the party and whenever there are issues of this nature, the Board of Trustees steps in. It is part of their functions in the party, constitutionally speaking.

“We have engaged with them and I believe that they are likely to come up with what will be a solution to the problem we have.

“Be rest assured that as governors of the party, we are also talking to ourselves on the way forward and very soon the Governors Forum will meet and we will come up with what we feel should be the solution and the way forward for the party.

“We are all interested in working together for an objective and that objective is for the party and Nigerians of goodwill, because we believe we have had enough of the government of APC.

“We are working to send out the APC and their government, come May 2023; It is a collective responsibility. Of course, we must apply balms, since we all believe that what we have is not good enough; we must work together to solve our internal problems, forge ahead and prosecute the electoral battle and by the grace of God we will have victory.”

On his part, Wabara announced that Nigerians would witness a united PDP ahead of the national campaigns, adding that members of the party will interact with the national chairman of the party, Ayu, the party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, including his running mate, Ifeanyi Okowa, on the way forward.

According to Wabara, the BoT is going the extra mile to find a solution to the problems in the party, adding that they have met with some governors of the party except Wike who has been inaccessible.

He stated, “Our aim is to get into the Aso Villa; for PDP to get into the Aso Villa in 2023, we need everybody to come on board.

“We are still moving around. In six days, the campaign (council) will be inaugurated. We hope and pray that before then, Nigerians will see a more united PDP. We are doing this not for us, not for the Chairman of the Governors Forum or anybody, we are doing this for Nigerians.

“Nigerians are looking up to the PDP to deliver them from what we are experiencing with the ruling party as we speak.  We are going to meet the national chairman of the party, we will also be meeting our candidate, Atiku Abubakar. We are also meeting the vice-presidential candidate, Ifeanyi Okowa, who will call upon us at any moment.

“We have also met with some of the governors. We started from my state, Okezie Ikpeazu; we moved to Enugu to meet Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and from there we met Seyi Makinde of Oyo. We met with Jerry Gana, we are really digging around to find solutions.

“We are looking for solutions for all of us to come together and win the election in flying colours.”

Reacting to the withdrawal of Wike’s camp from the campaign council, the BoT chairman said they would speak with the Rivers governor on Friday (today).

“After Wike’s address, tomorrow we will speak with him. Wike is a member of the Board of Trustees. We have made an attempt to meet with him but I believe he has been very busy,” he said.

Wike plans fight

Meanwhile, Wike has declared that he will not leave the main opposition party for whatever reason. The governor stated that he was rather interested in preserving the sanity of the party and would stay back to fight for the enthronement of unity, inclusivity, equity and peace in the PDP.

Wike made the declaration at the Rivers State PDP stakeholders meeting in Government House, Port Harcourt, on Thursday.

The governor described himself as a man of character, ‘’unlike those who cannot keep their word and walked out of the party at the Eagle Square in Abuja in 2014.’’

He said, “One thing I have always told people is if anybody is doing anything to think that we will leave the PDP, foul.

“We will do the fight in the party. We are not like them when in 2014 they walked out from Eagle Square. They’ve forgotten. They walked out and joined the APC. Is it not correct?

“Did they remain to fight inside the party? But we remained, they ran away. Now, there is a fight in the party, we will not run.

“We will fight it in this party. Those who run away from fights are weak people. We will not. So, everybody should know this is the state where we are so that nobody tells you all kinds of stories.”

The governor insisted that the constitution of the party clearly stated that elective and party offices must be zoned which should be respected.

Wike wondered why the former PDP BoT chairman was forced to resign while Ayu was excused from doing what is right.

He said, “You have taken the presidential candidate, you have taken the party chairman, you have also taken the DG (director general) of the campaign. We are talking about party politics. Decisions are made by the presidential candidate, chairman of the party and the DG of the campaign.

“They are telling you; they told the chairman of the BOT to resign. So, you know there is a problem. You said he should go and resign.

“You can put pressure on him (BoT chair) to resign when his tenure hasn’t come to an end, but you cannot put pressure on the chairman to resign. You think at our level you will deceive us; you’ll tell us stories?’’

Wike recalled how in 2015, soldiers on the instruction of the Federal Government allegedly interfered with and even annulled elections, but were resisted.

The governor regretted that despite the risk taken to ensure the victory of some candidates at the polls, ‘’the same people are now in Abuja plotting against me but they won’t succeed because God has blessed me.’’

The Rivers State governor also clarified that he never promised the party governorship ticket to any candidate despite the pressure some leaders mounted on him and the attempts made to divide the state House of Assembly.

He further said though he didn’t clinch the PDP presidential ticket, he gave a good account of himself at the primary.

The governor revealed that the Rivers State PDP campaign team would be unveiled next week, noting that the campaign pattern would be based on each local government’s peculiarity.

He assured that the PDP candidates in the state would be returned elected by Rivers people who he said were satisfied with the performance of his administration.

The governor stated that the Federal Government won’t be able to use the army and the police in the 2023 elections, ‘’because Nigerians will vote for political parties on the basis of their performance.’’

The state PDP Chairman, Amb. Desmond Akawor said the party in the state passed a vote of confidence on Wike for the way he has piloted the affairs of the state.

‘Ayu mustn’t go’

Meanwhile, a chieftain of the PDP, Sani Umar, has said the call for the removal of the party’s chairman  is ill-timed, with the 2023 general elections just around the corner.

Umar said this while speaking with Channels TV’s Seun Okinbaloye on Politics Today, on Thursday evening. He said although he didn’t condemn the call for the chairman’s removal, those who made the call were “asking for too much.”

“I think it is not appropriate at this time. I am not saying the call is out of order but it is coming at a very wrong time. The timing for ‘Ayu must Go’ is not the correct timing. One, Ayu has been elected, he is even learning the ropes of running the party, understanding the issues of the party, and trying to move the party forward. There are two ways you can remove him; it is either you lay a complaint to the National Economic Council of our party and say he is guilty of certain offences, or he can resign by himself.’’

He added that those who were making the call for the removal of the party’s chairman were simply asking for too much at an inappropriate time and that heeding the call will negatively affect the PDP.

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Power Shift: PDP Shuns South, says Atiku, Kwankwaso, others free to run

Amid intense calls for power shift from the North to the South for the 2023 presidential election, the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, has said it will not stop aspirants of northern origin from contesting its presidential ticket.

It said it would leave the ticket open for all aspirants irrespective of their states or geopolitical zones.

This implies that prospective aspirants from the North including former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar; a former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki; Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State, his counterpart in Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, a former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso, and others are free to contest the party’s presidential primary as against the clamour for power shift to the South.

As of the time of filing this report, Saraki is the only northern aspirant to have declared his intention on the PDP platform, even though there are clear indications that others would contest. The Governor of Oyo State, Mr Seyi Makinde, revealed in October 2021 that Atiku and Tambuwal had indicated interest to contest the 2023 election.

In the South, however, only a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and ex-Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, and a former Chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Sam Ohuabunwa, have indicated interest in the race in the PDP.

Southern groups such as  Afenifere in the South-West and Ohanaeze in the South-East, prominent individuals across the country, the Southern Governors Forum and many others had called for power shift to the South when the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), serves out his second tenure in May 2023.

The Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum on January 13 said in Abuja that political parties that fielded northern presidential candidates would not enjoy its support in the 2023 general elections. Some persons have also called for the inclusion of a rotational presidency in the constitution to ensure that every geopolitical zone has a chance to produce the president.

However, some northern groups, including the Northern Governors Forum, opposed the position of the Southern Governors Forum, saying zoning was unconstitutional and that the president could come from any part of the country.

Despite the clamour for power rotation, however, none of the 18 political parties has made its position known on the issue of zoning, even though several aspirants from the different parts of the country have declared their intention to contest the coveted office, mostly on the platform of the PDP and the All Progressives Congress.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Debo Ologunagba, said the party would not stop anyone on the basis of age or where they come from.

He stated, “We must rescue the country from where it is today, and in doing that, we do not have to think of where the next President would come from, but the ability, experience and integrity to work.

“In the PDP, persons from every part of the country will be allowed to contest, but we can only boast that the primary will be free, fair, transparent and credible. We cannot be talking about zones in deciding on who becomes the presidential candidate of the party.

“Everybody that qualifies to run and is interested will be allowed to run. Nobody will be stopped. We will be guided by the party’s and the country’s constitutions.

“We won’t shut anybody out of the electoral process. When the time comes, all organs of the party will however be involved in the decision-making process on the guidelines for the party’s presidential primary. These organs include the ward, local government, state, zonal executives, the National Assembly members, Board of Trustees and the National Executive Committee of the party.”

Our target is to win the election – BoT member

Meanwhile, a ranking member of the PDP Board of Trustees in the South-West, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said an opposition party that wants to win an election may not prioritise zoning, unlike a ruling party that should ensure power rotation.

He said the PDP would have to ensure the emergence of its best aspirant that could guarantee its victory at the poll regardless of who other parties present.

He added, “We want to win the election. Therefore, we may not insist on zoning. Any opposition political party that wants to win an election should not allow a ruling party to push it to do what is not right for it.

“Winning an election involves every legal means and that is what we are expected to do as the main opposition party that wants to win the presidency next year. We won’t allow the APC to push us to decide what might not be good for us. That is what we are trying to do. PDP does not need to zone. We are not in government; therefore, we won’t be pushed.”

God’ll teach us what to do, says Bode George

Reacting to the issue, a former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Bode George, said the party would need to have roundtable talks on the issue and possibly embark on constitutional amendments to avoid similar issues subsequently.

He added, “Naturally, the position of the national chairman of the party and its presidential candidate must not come from the same zone. So, let us wait for the time when we would pick our presidential candidate.

“Our founding fathers never thought that another political party would win the presidency and that was why we never envisaged what is happening now, that another party would win the presidency apart from the PDP.

“Now, the opposition won in 2015 and it is time for another election. We have a northerner now as the President, but he was not produced by the PDP. What do we do? We need to go back to the roundtable, embark on consultations, deliberations and even amend the party’s constitution.

“We have so much to discuss. I am happy that the current national chairman of the party (Iyorchia Ayu) is one of the nine founding fathers of the party. We must put the zoning issue in black and white. I believe we have to settle this issue of zoning once and for all. God will teach us what to do.”

Lifting lid on restriction on zoning good for PDP – Adamawa PDP chief

The PDP Chairman in Adamawa State, Tahir Shehu, described as a good development the lifting of the restriction on zoning of the presidency within the party.

Shehu, who is a loyalist of Atiku, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Friday evening, said Nigerians were looking forward to the party to rescue them.

He added, “The PDP remains the solution to the myriad of problems bedevilling Nigeria, and Atiku remains better placed with his records to turn things around. It is therefore a good development for our party to throw open the ticket to allow whoever wishes to contest the presidency to vie for it.”

Asked if zoning was a bad idea, Shehu said, “Zoning violates the principle of democracy because the position will be restricted to a particular zone. I believe the PDP has taken the clue that Nigerians are all anticipating that it is the party that will emancipate them from their present predicament. The PDP remains the only solution to insecurity, poverty, unemployment and a wobbling economy foisted on Nigerians by the ruling APC.”

It’s the turn of the North to produce President – Bala Mohammed

Meanwhile, Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, said on Friday that it was the turn of the North to produce the president, adding that the Presidency was not for any section of the country but for everyone.

The governor spoke when a Contact and Consultation Committee he set up for his presidential ambition, which went round some states in the country, submitted its report to him on Friday at the Government House in Bauchi.

He said, “As the chairman of the committee said, they couldn’t go to all the states but they damned the consequences and went to Zamfara State. I don’t know how many people will agree to go to Zamfara at this time but they went and they went to Katsina State. There are very few states they did not go because I told them not to.

“Presidency is not just for the North, the South or the centre; it is for the country. The Nigerian situation is so bad, we have never been on the brink like we are today, a lot of sentiments here and there being expressed, issues of self-actualisation, self-determination by some communities that feel shortchanged or excluded in the federation.

“The federating entities which are the states are so divided between the North and the South and some of us that benefited so much from the federation, we believe there is nothing better than the Federal Republic of Nigeria because it has a lot to offer.”

He said further, “We are aware of the agitations of the southern part of the country because the leader of the country today, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is from the North, will finish his tenure in 2023, so power should rotate to the South.

“But I want to say that I am in PDP, I am not in APC. It is the APC that has this burden (of zoning the presidency to the South). In my party, the last President was from the South and he was my President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. During this period, my party was at the center for 16 years, 14 of those years were led by the people from the South, so where is the justice and the justification? Therefore, it is the turn of the North (to produce the President).

“This presidency, if we want to be just and equitable to Nigerians, especially the young generation, should be open to everybody from every section of the country, even from the South, the North, everywhere so that Nigerians will be given the opportunity to elect or recruit the best that can provide a solution.”

…party to adopt constitutional provision on age qualification

In a related development, the party also reacted to the statement made by Makinde, a chieftain of the party, who on Tuesday warned Nigerians against electing persons above 70 years.

Makinde, who spoke in Ibadan during the 65th birthday anniversary and thanksgiving service of the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev Supo Ayokunle, advised Nigerians to vote for a younger person.

The governor said, “We have seen a lot of elder statesmen who want to run this country at age 75 or 78. I want them to think twice and I am saying to the people of Oyo State and Nigeria that this world is not easy.

“It is possible for you to delegate, ask people to go all over the place but when they are reporting to you, if something has not been added, a few things may have been removed. We are in an election season basically and what I will say to us as a people is that we need to choose wisely and elect the people who have the energy to truly serve the country.”

In his response, Ologunagba said further that the party would be guided by the constitutional requirements on age limit for party members aspiring to be the President of Nigeria.

He added, “We are guided by the Nigerian Constitution. This constitution and the Electoral Act (as amended) stipulate the age limit for those qualified to contest for all the elective positions. Therefore, that would guide us. We won’t impose any other age limit on any of our aspirants into any of the elective offices.”

Speaking on behalf of Atiku, who is about 74 years old, his media aide, Paul Ibe, said age had nothing to do with leadership and that in line with the popular saying, “his (Atiku) fine wine gets better with age”.

Citing former United States President, Donald Trump, and the incumbent, Joe Biden, who are both over 70 years as examples, Ibe said experience, capacity and competence should be considered, noting that some young political leaders had performed below expectation.

Ibe said, “The governor should know that age is not a measure of leadership. We have seen governors and leaders at different levels who are young but have not done well. They may have energy but it is directed in the wrong direction.

“Leadership is a mix of experience, capacity and competence. Look at some of our governors who are young and establish for yourself what they have done with the opportunity they were given, so I think that’s a wrong way to look at it.

“Nigeria is facing an existential threat of insecurity, an economy that is not working for the average Nigerian, joblessness and other challenges. As a stakeholder, he (Makinde) should know better. If you are going for a critical football game, for example, you go with your best and not with players with broken legs.

“At the point we are now, we have all acknowledged that we face serious challenges. We need the kind of leadership that can get us out of this situation. If that is the case, we should be looking for someone that can deliver on all those fronts.”

According to Ibe, Nigeria needs a president who is able to bring people together and a detribalised Nigerian who understands the issues at hand.

“That is the kind of person we are looking for and those are the conversations we should be having,” he added. “Age should not be a barrier. In Malaysia, they had a president, who, after he had retired, was elected at about 92 years to come and clean the mess that had been made.”

Ibe advised Nigerians to make informed decisions and consider the health, preparedness of aspirants and those with well articulated policies in making a choice.

Asked when Atiku would declare his interest, Ibe said consultations were ongoing. He added, “The presidency of Nigeria is not a tea party. You need to be able to build a consensus around your ambition. People must buy into it. The process of getting people to buy into that bid is what is going on right now. The declaration is just a formal thing and is the end of that part of the process. So, we don’t want to put the cart before the horse.”

Reject VP slot, we are not second-class citizens, Ohanaeze tells Igbo

The pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndgibo Worldwide, has said it will not play the second fiddle to anyone by accepting the position of vice-president from any party. It said any aspirant who does that would lose the support of the region.

The spokesperson for the group, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday, said, “We have made it known to all the political gladiators from Igboland that we don’t want any of them to accept to be vice-president.

“Even when Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State was called to be the chairman of the zoning committee, we imposed it on him that his committee should not in any way zone the vice presidential position to the South-East. Any aspirant that wants to be a deputy from the Igbo descent will not get our support.

“Any report that any of the aspirants wants to accept to be the deputy is just an imagination. Ohanaeze has made it clear that no political aspirant should get involved in being the vice president because we are not second-class citizens. We cannot accept things like that.”

He advised aspirants from the region to remain focused, courageous and not be afraid of any heavyweight from another region.

“Igbo presidency is God’s own plan. We have no fear of anyone who is not from the South-East region that has declared their intentions. The truth is that 2023 is the turn of the Igbo and it is clear to everybody, even the international community. The conscience of anyone trying to jeopardise this would be telling them ab initio that they are embarking on an unjust journey. Equity demands that this is the turn of the Igbo and all hands are on deck to actualise this.”

Asked about the plans of the region on how they would clinch the seat, he said, “Nobody will tell you about their plans going into a battle. We cannot speak about the strategy in public but there is a plan in place to achieve our aim.”

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