Have Wike and PDP reached point

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From Ndubuisi Orji, AbujaHope of resolving the crisis, which has pitched five governors in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP),  led by Nyesom Wike of Rivers State,  against the national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu and presidential candidate of the main opposition party, Atiku Abubakar,  before the 2023 elections,  is dimming by the day.The  gladiators in the PDP crisis have  continued to maintain their hard line posture, fueling concerns amongst  party stalwarts, that they may have reached a point of no return, in the battle for supremacy ahead of the 2023 polls.The four months crisis which has  continued to take a toll on the opposition started in June , after Atiku named Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate for the 2023 general elections. Apart from Okowa, others shortlisted for the PDP vice presidential ticket were Wike and the Akwa Ibom State governor, Emmanuel Udom.In the aftermath of the nomination, the camp of the Rivers State governor, who had accused Ayu of bias in the process leading to the emergence of Atiku and Okowa as the PDP 2023 presidential standard bearer, launched a campaign for the replacement of the national chairman with a Southerner.Apart from Wike, others in the vanguard for the removal of the PDP chairman include Governors  Samuel Ortom, Benue; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Enugu; Okezie Ikpeazu, Abia and Seyi Makinde, Oyo. Other members of the group are Donald Duke, Jonah Jang, Ibrahim Dankwambo, Segun Mimiko, Ayo Fayose,  former governors of Cross River, Plateau, Gombe, Ondo and Ekiti states respectively, as well as Chief Olabode George, Professor Jerry Gana, Mohammed Adoke amongst others.The Wike group had continued to insist that with the emergence of a northerner as PDP presidential candidate, the national chairmanship should revert to a  Southerner, as a means of creating a North/ South balance in the opposition party, ahead of  next year’s polls.According to them, Ayu must honour  his promise to quit, as national chairman, if a Northerner emerges the PDP 2023 presidential candidate, in the interest of the opposition party.Recall that the the PDP chairman, after his emergence, had stated in an interview that:  “I am a very democratic person and I will do everything to promote the interest and image of my party. If the PDP says I should step down after a presidential candidate emerges and happens to be from the North, I will be very glad to do so, because what we want is to take over the government and run the government in the interest of Nigerians. So, I will sacrifice anything to ensure that my party wins.”Nevertheless, Ayu has said he would would not resign as he was elected for a four years tenure. While Atiku, on his part, said he cannot force the PDP chairman to quit. Since then, neither the PDP leadership nor Atiku has known peace.Although there have been various efforts to resolve the crisis, with the opposition party ‘s National Executive Committee (NEC) passing a vote of confidence on Ayu, none of the peace initiatives has achieved the desired results.In the last few weeks, the gulf between the two divides has continued to deepen. First, the Wike group, after a meeting in Port Harcourt announced their withdrawal from the PDP presidential campaign council.Besides, supporters of the aggrieved governors, across the country, are equally  distancing themselves from the opposition party’s presidential campaigns in their respective states. For instance, in Edo State, loyalists of the Rivers State governor, led by the PDP national Vice chairman, South South, Dan Orbih, disassociated themselves from the party’s campaign council in the state.Also, in Ondo State, former governor of the state, Segun Mimiko, who was appointed to lead the Atiku/ Okowa Campaign in the state, declined the appointment, citing Ayu’s continued stay in office as his reason.Indications that the PDP might have reached a point of no-return in the crisis, which has polarized  its different organs, emerged last week as the two divides in the rift  said there is no going back in their respective positions.Wike, while speaking at the Rivers State Government House, in Port Harcourt, said his group will not be blackmailed to drop its demand for the replacement of Ayu with a Southerner, before the 2023 polls. He added that it is obvious that the PDP chairman cannot lead the party to victory in the next general elections.According to him, “If you like abuse us  the way you want to abuse us but we will stand by what we have said. If you say you will not relinquish that position to the South, no problems.“Go ahead, but you can’t force us to do what we think is not right. We will not do it. So, this kind of man cannot, in all honesty, take this party to any victory. He cannot.”On the flip side, Atiku, in an interview with the Voice of America (VOA), Hausa Service, last week, was quoted to have said that the PDP has moved on, stating that Ayu cannot be replaced before the 2023 polls.“We are yet to resolve the matter( party crisis). But we have moved on. I don’t have any worries about that anymore. And at this junction, it’s improper to talk about leadership change in the party while elections are fast approaching,” the former vice president reportedly said.Nevertheless, the former vice president, said efforts were still being made to get Wike and his men to see reasons why they should come on board the campaign trail.The PDP candidate, who spoke through his media aide, Paul Ibe, said his statement that he has moved on(in respect to the party crisis)  is “in the context of the campaign.”According to Ibe, “based on INEC time-table, the campaign officially kicked off on September 28. We can’t wait for all things to be equal, because all things will never be equal.“So,  the Atiku/ Okowa PDP presidential campaign has set off. It has left the station, that is a fact. However, since the train has left the station, it will also stop at both scheduled and unscheduled stops, during which time other people may get on board. Like I said, all things can never be equal. But along the way, some things may be redressed. So, our expectations are that  along those stops, people will get on board.”Regardless, analysts say with the stand-off between the Wike group and Atiku/Ayu, their might be a repeat of the 2015 scenario in the opposition party, in the 2023 polls.Recall that prior to the 2015 general elections, Atiku had led then  Governors  Rotimi Amaechi, Rivers, Rabiu Kwankwaso,  Kano;  Abdulfatah Ahmed, Kwara; Murtala Nyako, Adamawa,  Aliyu Wamako, Sokoto, former Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Governor Aminu Tambuwal, who was then speaker of the House of Representatives, out of the opposition party. They were to later join forces with the then opposition parties to form the All Progressives Congress ( APC), which defeated the PDP in the 2015 polls.There are concerns amongst PDP stalwarts and support groups that the opposition party may be threading a similar path  with the five aggrieved governors,  and their supporters, refusing to participate in the party’s presidential campaign. Nevertheless, Dele Momodu, Director of Strategic Communications in the PDP Presidential Campaign Council,  said the situation in the party presently is different from the 2015 scenario.Momodu explained that there was not much the PDP could have done to avert the defeat in the 2015 elections, as the electorate, at that point, perceived them as “fatigued”, adding that  “what you have today is a candidate who’s the most experienced, most net worth, and governors’ anger is personal and not about PDP not delivering on its mandate.”Although the PDP has continued to express optimism that the crisis will be  resolved before the 2023 polls, whether or not  the opposition party will go into the election as a united front will be clear in the days ahead.



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