PDP and the Return of long Knives
by Dare Odufowokan
As former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Governor Nyesom Wike’s camps disagree and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors sport for war, Assistant Editor, ‘Dare Odufowokan, reports that PDP may have returned to its days of long knives
FOLLOWING its unexpected defeat by the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the 2015 Presidential Elections, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have returned to its days of long knives. Before the 2019 general elections, the party had been in a running battle with internal wrangling and intrigues, as it faced one challenge after the other, which threatened its very existence. It took the July 2017 Supreme Court verdict that sacked the Ali Modu Sherif-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the troubled party to bring respite to the then near moribund party.
Fresh troubled however reared its head with the controversial election of Prince Uche Secondus as the National Chairman of the party few months later, but sanity prevailed somehow and the party, with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its flag-bearer, entered the 2019 presidential race pretty much stronger than it had been since the 2015 defeat of then President Goodluck Jonathan by Muhammadu Buhari of the APC. Not even allegations that the primary election that produced Atiku was rigged could threaten the peace of the party ahead of the elections.
Even after the defeat of Atiku and the PDP by President Buhari in the last presidential election, the opposition party continued to appear united as its leaders vowed to floor Buhari and APC at the tribunal and retrieve what they widely described as the stolen presidential mandate of March 2019. But today, the party seems to be on its way back to the days of long knives following the outbreak of fresh hostilities among its leaders. Observers say the latest crisis rocking the party, though gently, if not promptly curtailed, have the capacity to return PDP to its old crisis-ridden self.
On the surface, trouble returned to the opposition PDP after Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State publicly congratulated President Buhari on his victory over Atiku and his party at the presidential election tribunal last week. But party sources claimed there had been undercurrents before Wike’s open defiance of his party with his congratulatory message to Buhari. “Things have not really been the same thing between some of our governors, especially Wike, and the camp of Alhaji Atiku for some time now,” a party official told The Nation.
A five-man panel led by Mohammed Garba dismissed the petition of the PDP and Atiku Abubakar, its presidential candidate, saying the petitioners failed to convince the tribunal in the reliefs they sought. Expectedly, the PDP has rejected the verdict of the tribunal and asked its lawyers to file an appeal at the Supreme Court. The party in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, alleged that despite the flawless evidence laid before the court, President Buhari was still declared winner of the 2019 Presidential Election.
Describing the judgement as a barefaced subversion of justice and a direct assault on the integrity of the nation’s justice system, Ologbondiyan said the party was shocked that the tribunal allegedly failed to point to justice. The opposition party however urged Nigerians to remain calm, saying its lawyers are upbeat about obtaining justice at the Supreme Court. Breaking ranks with his party, Wike, a leading light in the opposition party, who was also the coordinator of Atiku’s Presidential Campaign in the south-south, sent a congratulatory message to Buhari.
In the message Simeon Nwakaudu, his media aide, issued on his behalf, Wike asked Buhari to use his victory to unite Nigerians, “irrespective of their political leanings.” “Governor Wike called on the President to work towards the unity of the country, noting that the country is divided,” Nwakaudu said in a statement. Expectedly, the congratulatory message drew the flaks from some prominent PDP leaders and chieftains, with many of them accusing him of seeking President Buahri’s attention to the detriment of his political party.
In the midst of the backlashes generated by Wike’s action, former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, considered a close ally of Wike, who was reported to have also congratulated the President, denied doing so and pledged his support for Atiku and the PDP. Nigerians should disregard any congratulatory message issued in my name on the outcome of the presidential election judgment. My party has indicated its intention to appeal the judgment, and as a party man and believer in the PDP/ATIKU 2019 project, I can’t author such statement,” Fayose said on his official Twitter handle.
The PDP youths under the aegis of PDP South South Youths Vanguard, also berated Wike for congratulating President Buhari over his victory at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal. Reacting to Wike’s position, the PDP South South Youth Vanguard, in a statement by its National Chairman, James Efe Akpofure, said the governor was biting more than what he can chew. He said that the governor is not bigger than the party, adding, “how can the leadership of PDP say that the party is heading to the Supreme Court and Wike who was approved by the party to fly its flag at the governorship elections, and a member of the party is congratulating the President, who benefitted from a faulty judicial system that has been gagged by the executive.
“Wike should know that he’s not more than the party and as such, he should stop bad mouthing and ridiculing the PDP. If he thinks because he was the one that brought the National Chairman he can do whatever he likes, he should have a rethink. The party cannot take a position on issues and he’s taking a contrary position by congratulating the President the whole world says manipulated the election that brought him on board.”
Undeterred by the missiles being hurled at him, an unrepentant Wike threw more spanners into the works of the fragile peace in his party when he said he congratulated Buhari after the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal confirmed his election because it is better to offer public congratulations than visit the President at night. Wike said unlike some governors of Peoples Democratic Party, who visit President Buhari at night, he made his declaration public because it came from the heart.
“I am sure all of you are surprised that I congratulated Buhari. Is it not good for me to congratulate him than to go to his house in the night? So many PDP governors go to see him in his house in the night. I have never gone and I will not go. We are the only state that the Federal Government refused to pay us our money used to execute federal projects because I don’t go to see him in the night and I won’t go. He is not my friend, he is not doing well, but he won in court, should I say that the court did wrong? No. “President Buhari, congratulations and carry Nigerians along. Unify the country, the country is too divided. I am saying what is right. What I will do, I will do, what I will not do, I will not do,” he said.
To further expose the crack within the wall of the opposition party, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State said PDP governors have decided to team up with Atiku Abubakar to get the Supreme Court to upturn the judgment of the tribunal. Speaking as Chairman of PDP Governors Forum, of which Wike is a member, Dickson encouraged Atiku and the PDP to appeal the judgment at the Supreme Court. He said posterity would not be kind to any PDP governor that abandons the party and Atiku to fight the legal battle alone.
“We would be doing a greater disservice and moral injustice to our party, our democracy and Nigerians in general if we turn blind eyes, swallow such bile and applaud that rape of justice. The judgment to say the least has further painted our judiciary with darker colors, only this time around with a never-before-seen blemished coat of tar. However, we are hopeful that the Supreme Court will rewrite that history by ensuring that such stains and tar are removed from our judicial archives. This is our stand, now and in the future. Posterity would judge us harshly if we do otherwise,” he said.
But observers of the politics of the party say by rushing to congratulate Buhari for his victory at the election petition tribunal, Wike was sending a message Atiku and his supporters within PDP couldn’t have missed. Wike, in the run up to the PDP presidential primaries, never hid his opposition to Atiku. He openly chided the later’s camp for allegedly trying to move the party’s convention away from Port-Harcourt. “This is a continuation of the ‘beef’ between Wike and those on the side of Atiku,” a source insisted.
The Nation gathered that before now, there has been a subtle struggle for the control of the party between Atiku and Wike. According to very reliable party sources, after the 2019 presidential election, the Rivers State governor had been making frantic moves to regain control of the party which slipped from his grip following Atiku’s emergence as the presidential candidate of the party. But it has not been easy for him to get the party back under his control owing largely to the optimism of chieftains that Atiku will triumph at the tribunal.
“Wike also didn’t like the fact that he was not being consulted as much as he wanted on the affairs of the party. Even Secondus, the national chairman, who rode on the influence of Wike to the position, now tilts more towards Atiku and his camp as far as party activities and decisions were concerned. This probably may be because Atiku and his people were the ones pursuing the cases at the tribunal and keeping the party alive with their activities,” our source suggested, indicating that relationship between Wike and Secondus may not be at the very best currently.
“One of such things Wike find annoying is the recently announced Dubai trip by party leaders to confer with Atiku on the state of the party. He thinks he is being shut out of the party too much. Interestingly, many PDP leaders currently feel the Rivers governor is throwing his weight around too much. Even some of his fellow governors are prepared to engage him in a showdown should he make any further move that is capable of destabilizing the party. Remember how he recently threatened to deal with the party and its leaders if he is angered,” our source said.
Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Sen Walid Jubrin, had recently said he arrived in Dubai with prominent party leaders to hold talks with Atiku. He said the meeting between Atiku and the BoT members would centre on reconciliation and other issues within the party. “After our meeting with Atiku, the BoT as a body will meet to consider other issues affecting the party, including the report of the committee that investigated the crisis in the party over the minority leadership in the House of Representatives,” he added.
The Nation gathered that one other issue causing disaffection within the opposition party is the handling of the crisis over the minority leadership in the House of Representatives. Wike is said to be displeased with the current position of the party on the matter. He had reportedly described the panel set up by the PDP BOT to resolve the Minority leadership crisis as the most corrupt in the history of the party. Sources say Wike is opposed to the emergence of Hon. Elumelu as the Minority Leader. The refusal of the party to move against him is displeasing to the Rivers State governor and his supporters.
During the week, the Chairman of the BoT, Senator Walid Jubril, and the Secretary, Senator Adolphus Wabara, disagreed over the submission of the investigative report. Addressing reporters after a meeting of the board at the party’s Abuja secretariat, the two chieftains contradicted one another on the status of the committee’s report. The BoT investigation committee, chaired by former Senate President Iyorchia Ayu, also had two other former Senate Presidents, David Mark, and Wabara, as well as former Deputy Senate President, Ibahim Mantu, as members.
A former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara, served as Secretary of the committee. However, Opara resigned from the committee before it concluded its assignment. Jubril said the Board had received the Ayu committee report but had yet to submit same to the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. But he was swiftly countered by BoT Secretary, Wabara, who said that the Board had indeed submitted the report to the NWC. Wabara said, “We have considered the report and we have submitted the report on Elumelu to the NWC.”