The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike’s team has given a condition for holding peace talks with the representatives of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar on Friday.
Sources in the governor’s team told The PUNCH on Wednesday that Wike’s men would, on getting to the meeting, insist on the resignation of the party’s National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, as a condition for the talks to proceed.
It was, however, learnt that Atiku’s delegation had vowed to reject the call for Ayu’s resignation.
The PUNCH had reported that the rift between Atiku and Wike started after the governor’s ambition of becoming the party’s vice-presidential candidate for the 2023 general elections failed following the emergence of the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as Atiku’s running mate.
According to sources in Port Harcourt, the first demand of the governor’s men at the meeting is Ayu’s resignation.
The sources added that if Atiku’s men failed to support the call for Ayu’s resignation, the meeting would not proceed.
A member of Wike’s team, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “Ayu has shown that he cannot be trusted. He once said that once a presidential candidate emerges from the North, he will resign. Now, he cannot honour his own words. Can such a man be trusted?
“Ayu should leave in the interest of equity and fairness. He has to go before we agree to hold the reconciliation meeting. He is not an unbiased umpire. He worked for Atiku.”
The PUNCH reported that the meeting to settle the rift between Atiku and Wike could not materialise on Monday because Atiku’s representatives on the panel were absent.
It was learnt that the Adamawa State Governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, who should have led members of the reconciliation committee in Atiku’s camp to the meeting was the chief host during the defection of some All Progressives Congress members in Yola.
There were strong indications on Wednesday that both sides had yet to agree on the venue of the Friday meeting.
A reliable source in Atiku’s camp claimed that both parties agreed to hold the meeting in Abuja.
But a source in Wike’s camp said no one in the governor’s team was aware of the decision that the meeting would hold in Abuja.
The source further said if Ayu resigned in the interest of the party, the reconciliation meeting would be held in no other place than Port Harcourt.
“In respect of the meeting to settle the disagreement between Wike and Atiku, and as a counter to the statement that an agreement had been reached for the meeting to be held in Abuja on Friday, we are stating categorically that the meeting will be held in no place other than Port Harcourt.
“That is our position; we are unaware of the agreement that informed the claim that the reconciliation committee will meet in Abuja on Friday,” the source in Wike’s camp said.
‘Ayu won’t go’
Confiding in one of our correspondents, a member of the reconciliation panel, loyal to Atiku, said the party could not afford to remove Ayu at this time, noting that such a move would put the PDP on the back foot in the run up to the 2023 general elections.
The party stalwart further explained that the panel expected Wike’s representatives to focus on resolving the crisis and not present conditions that may be impossible to meet.
Speaking to The PUNCH on Wednesday, the party leader and reconciliation panel member stated, ‘’The panel is empowered to resolve the crisis between Atiku and Wike but that does not mean the governor can push the party around or dictate impossible terms and conditions.
‘’Though, he is important to the PDP, he cannot dictate to the party. So, the various conditions attributed to his camp such as the resignation of the party chairman cannot sail through. Removing the chairman less than eight months to the election is a recipe for defeat and we cannot accept that.’’
When contacted for reaction, the media aide to the PDP chairman, Simon Imobo-Tswana, referred our correspondent to his earlier statement in which Ayu said he would not resign.
The Media Adviser to the PDP presidential candidate, Paul Ibe, declined comment when asked for reactions to the demands by Wike’s camp.
Addressing the clamour for the resignation of the PDP chairman, especially, the demand by a chieftain of the party, Chief Bode George, that a meeting should be convened to address the matter, the party spokesman, Debo Ologunagba explained that the party had a procedure for handling such issues.
He stated, “The party always has procedures to convene meetings, we are not even aware of what he said. The party has not received any call to that effect. You are just telling me now as news. The PDP is one, we are united.
“We are working towards the goals and mission of this party, discussions are going on. We recognise the need to be steadfast in the interest of the Nigerian people.’’
Reacting to the crisis, Olabode George, in an interview on Channels television’s Politics Today, monitored by one of our correspondents on Wednesday, said it was as if some kind of devil had entered the party.
He, however, urged Wike and Atiku to calm down because their ambitions could never be bigger than the party.
He said, “It is not only a bother to me, it is a bother to a lot of the committed, the elders, and members of the upper chamber of the party. It looks like some kind of devil has entered the midst of our party. But let me tell you something; our party has the capacity to resolve our crisis, our party has enough experienced leaders, committed leaders, and followers who will sit and be able to handle and resolve this crisis once and for all.
‘’Fortunately, we have about five weeks from now before we commence the campaign. All my appeal now is that Governor Wike should cool down. Presidential candidate Atiku should also cool down because none of their ambitions should be bigger and higher than the ambition of our party. We are appealing to both of them because there is no organisation anywhere in the world that will not have crisis but the capacity and the ability to handle the resolution of such crisis will be a measure of how developed or reliable or respectable that organisation is.”
Backing the call for the resignation of the PDP chairman, George said the North could not hold the presidential and chairmanship positions of the party.
According to him, it would be difficult to convince people in the South if the current situation continued
He argued, “All we are saying, for purposes of inclusivity: give us a position that we in the south will take home to convince our people that now the North has the presidential candidate. What are we going to use on the platform to convince the larger members of the party?
“If we don’t do that, we will not be able to convince Nigerians, especially people in the South. And I’ve told my friends from the North that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Imagine, if it was from this side that it happened, would they have accepted that? No.
Ologbondiyan allays fears
A former National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, dismissed concerns Wike may form an alliance detrimental to the PDP’s chances during the 2023 presidential election.
He said that Wike was more politically savvy to hobnob with opposition parties and form an alliance that could affect PDP’s electoral fortune during next year’s presidential election.
Ologbondiyan gave the assurances during an interview on an Arise TV programme, ‘The Morning Show,’ on Wednesday.
He added that the party was working frantically to put its house in order and resolve its internal crisis.
Asked about Wike’s meeting with opposition political figures, Ologbondiyan said the governor was at liberty to associate with politicians from other camps as such was within his rights.
“I know it and I believe that Governor Nyesom Wike is savvier politically to go and put the life of his own political machinery into an arrangement that will stop its candidates from winning elections. I know he will not do a thing like that and I am very confident about that.
“I know it as a fact that Governor Samuel Ortom is contesting for Senate in Benue and the senate and presidential elections come up on the same day and same time.
“I know Governor Ikpeazu has senatorial interests too. So you think that they would sit down as politicians and sell out to a party that they don’t have conviction about its performance? That is not the way politicians do their thing and I am sure of that,” the PDP ex-spokesman said.
‘’He (Wike) is at liberty to associate with them (opposition politicians). It is until Governor Wike picks APC or other political parties’ membership cards then we can conclude he has left the party. Until then, he remains a member of PDP.
“For us in the party, what is important is how we will win the 2023 elections. What is important to us as a party is how we will relieve Nigerians from the burden of APC and President Muhammadu Buhari,” Ologbondiyan added.
A PDP presidential aspirant, Sam Ohuabunwa, advised Ayu, to step resign. Ohuabunwa, who stated this during a Channels Television’s Politics Today, on Tuesday, said, ‘‘I have evidence, because in my own perspective he’s principled and he’s a man that means well ordinarily. So, I do not think we need to remind him about what he said before he was elected chairman of the PDP, if he really said that.
“If I’m leading a party that’s about to go to war and I understand the mindset of Nigerians currently, that’s inclusiveness-making sure we have religious, ethnic and demographic balancing and carrying everybody along irrespective of tribe or Creed, then I will have to do the needful and make sacrifices.”
Meanwhile, the Rivers state governor has said people of the state will not support any person without a development agenda to succeed him in 2023.
Wike spoke at the inauguration of the remodelled Waterlines House in Port Harcourt on Wednesday performed by a former Kogi State governor, Alhaji Idris Ibrahim.
Wike in a statement signed by his media aide, Kelvin Ebiri in Port Harcourt, noted that some candidates in other political parties aspiring to succeed him in office have no agenda for the state.
He vowed not to allow the state to go astray and be taken over by those ‘’who are only interested in advancing their selfish ambitions.’’
Advising Nigerians, he stated, “Tell your people in Abuja to go home and canvass for your party to win elections,’’ adding that polls could not be won in Abuja hotels.