From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Hope for resolution of the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the aftermath of its national convention rose last week, following a meeting between its Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike.
The meeting, which was the first time that Atiku and Wike will be meeting face-to-face since the former chose the Delta State governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate for the 2023 presidential poll, was held at the Abuja residence of former Minister of Information, Jerry Gana.
Sources close to the two party leaders, said that they resolved at the meeting to raise a committee consisting of equal number of persons from the two camps to address all contentious issues.
The committee is expected to report back to a larger committee for the final resolution on all the issues.
Sunday Sun gathered that party stakeholders are optimistic that the meeting between the duo will led to the eventual resolution of the crisis rocking the opposition party, so that the party can approach the 2023 general elections as a united house.
There have been an uneasy calm in the PDP following the nomination of Okowa as the party’s vice presidential candidate by Atiku, as the loyalists of the the Rivers State governor had expressed misgivings over the former’s nomination.
According to them, Wike, who scored 237 votes to place second at the opposition party’s National Convention, should have been chosen as Atiku’s running mate.
In the aftermath of the presidential primary, the PDP had set up a Special Committee to shop for a suitable running mate. The majority of the members of the panel, which consisted of members of representatives of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC), Governors Forum, Board of Trustees ( BoT), former Ministers Forum, had reportedly gunned for the Rivers governor to be chosen as the party’s vice presidential candidate.
Nevertheless, the panel headed by the Deputy National Chairman (North), Umar Damagun, recommended Wike, Okowa and the Akwa Ibom governor, Udom Emmanuel, as probable vice presidential candidate. And Atiku chose the Delta governor as his preferred candidate.
This was to the disappointment of Wike’s supporters, who accused the national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu of bias in the nomination of the party’s presidential and vice presidential candidate.
Ayu, while speaking at Okowa’s unveiling, had dismissed reports that the majority of the panel members voted for Wike as their preferred choice for the vice presidential slot.
Since then, the PDP has been on the edge, with different organs of the party, including the governors divided over the issue with the aggrieved members of the party allegedly shopping for a candidate to replace Ayu as national chairman.
Consequently, party stakeholders are excited that the meeting between Atiku and Wike is an indication that the post nomination crisis rocking the party would be resolved in no time.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, told Sunday Sun that the Atiku/Wike is significant on the bid of the opposition party to unite Nigerians to rescue the country from the grip of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Ologunagba said: “The significance of that is what we have been saying all along, that we are the party that had organ that has processes. That is consistent with the practice of democracy where negotiation, resolution of conflict and reconciling divergent views in a peaceful manner, this is what is now unfolding
“It portends good tide to our country and to our party. Because if we have a party that reconcile it’s differences, then it will be able to look at the different divergent views in the country and bring the people together so that we can form a rainbow coalition of different background, but common purpose.”
Also, Daniel Bwala, spokesman to the PDP presidential candidate, shared the same view.
Bwala told Sunday Sun that for Atiku and Wike to agree to meet is an indication that they are committed to resolving all the differences.
According to him, “it (the meeting) is a step in the right direction. Anytime people meet, differences are resolved. It is when people don’t meet that differences are not resolved. For both parties to agree to meet, it means that the parties have agreed on consensus. And both personalities are consumed with passion and loyalty for the party. And they have a common and shared dream of rescuing Nigeria from the doldrums that the APC and this government have gotten us into.”
The excitement over the meeting not withstanding, pundits say the ability of the PDP to go into the elections as a united front will depend largely to whether or not the demands of the Wike group are met.
Prior to last Thursday’s meeting between Atiku and Wike, supporters of the Rivers State governor, had met in Abuja, last Sunday to review developments in the party.
At the end of the meeting, they reportedly insisted on the replacement of Ayu with a Southerner as a condition for peace with the Atiku’s camp, as well as accommodation of their supporters, in the government, should the PDP win the 2023 presidential election as condition to support Atiku.
Pundits say that these demands are likely to form the fulcrum of the discussions by the committee to be set by both men.
However, whatever resolution they are able reach will have far-reaching implications for the PDP 2023 presidential campaign.
A source close to the Wike’s camp told Sunday Sun that the two leaders are expected to brief their supporters on their discussions and then raise their team for the committee as agreed.
“They will now table their issues. Number one, Ayu must go. Two, how his people will be accommodated in the government,” he stated.
Nevertheless, a source at the PDP national secretariat, told Sunday Sun that “those conditions are figment of imagination.”
He stated that “if you’re trying to reconcile a party and you are going for the head of the national chairman, it means you are going for the soul of the party. Whatever grievances they have, they are going to resolve them. It is true that there would be concessions. The two parties agree to go back and brief their members. Then they will be able to come to a common ground.”
When Sunday Sun sought the reaction of Ologunagba, on the likely implication of rejiging the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) purportedly demanded by Wike’s supporters, he said:
“I don’t have the detail of what transpired. And like I have said to you severally, I don’t respond to speculations. What you have just said to me are in the realm of speculation. This party has an organic processes.
“These are all imaginations. We know as a party we are together. We are focused not just on the individual interest, but on the national interest. Because you know that all hands must be on deck. But this is not the time to begin to talk about speculations. We don’t have that information.”
However, Bawala explained that there is already an agreement by stakeholders in the North, that once Atiku wins the election, Ayu would automatically relinquish his position for a southerner.
He noted that the demand for accommodation in the government, should the PDP win the 2023 general elections is not a big deal.
According to him, “if you are talking about inclusion and inclusivity, then that is not a tough ask. Because the party is one. Once the party wins, everybody will be included in the process of advancing the country.”
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that whatever decisions reached in eventual resolution of the PDP crisis will affect the party one way or the other in the 2023 polls.