There are strong indications that the five aggrieved Peoples Democratic Party governors may endorse their preferred presidential candidate on January 5, barring any unforeseen circumstances.
The PUNCH gathered on Tuesday that the governors, who are presently meeting in London, United Kingdom, might be influenced by former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s advice that the Presidency should come to the South-East in 2023.
Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Samuel Ortom (Benue) and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu states and some political heavyweights from the South had parted ways with the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, over his alleged refusal to prevail on the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu to resign after Atiku, a northerner clinched the presidential ticket of the party.
The governors insisted that Ayu’s resignation would ensure a balance in the leadership of the main opposition party.
Although Atiku and the governors held several meetings in Nigeria and the UK, there was no headway as they insisted on Ayu’s removal from office as a precondition for peace.
However, in deciding on the presidential candidate to support, a top source informed The PUNCH that the governors might heed Obasanjo’s counsel that they should endorse the Labour Party presidential standard bearer, Peter Obi.
The former President had met with the governors in London in August where he reportedly lobbied for Obi.
Giving a background on the factors that might sway their decision, an aide to one of the governors stated, “The governors are considering Obasanjo’s advice that the Presidency should come to the South in 2023. Obasanjo has advised them to support Obi because he believes that if the Presidency comes to the South, it should go to the South East.
“That is why at their last meeting in London, he lobbied for Obi because justice and fairness demand that South-East should produce the next president.’’
Asked when the governors, known as Integrity Group would unveil their preferred candidate, the source said, “From all indications, the governors will announce their preferred candidate next week. If there is no major event before January 5 when Makinde will kick off his campaign, they will make the announcement on that day in Ibadan.’’
An aide to another governor dismissed reports that the group were divided over the choice of the presidential candidate to endorse.
According to the source, at the London meeting on Tuesday, the governors agreed that since Atiku failed to prevail on Ayu to step down, they should work for a southern candidate.
Speaking on the alleged cracks in the rank of the governors, the source stated, “Not really, but they have different approaches to the issue. Some of them have nothing against Atiku. But none of the governors will come out to speak against the joint decision of the group that the presidency should come to the South. If Ayu has stepped down, they would have supported Atiku.’’
But other sources are insisting that the unity of the Integrity Group may be hanging by a thread, as there seems to be a crack in the fold.
The contention, it was learnt, involves who to support between Obi and the All Progressives Congress standard bearer, Bola Tinubu.
Wike had said at several fora that nobody can break the ranks of the G5, adding that attempts to do so by their detractors had collapsed.
It was learnt that the ambition of Ortom, who is gunning for the Senate and Makinde, who is seeking a second term in office may be hanging in the balance as a result of their faceoff with Ayu.
Besides this, the Benue State governor had not hidden his love and preference for the former Anambra State governor whom he said could deliver Nigeria.
Following moves by the governors to dump Atiku, the leadership of the party said they were at liberty to do so.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Ibrahim Abdullahi said going into the polls a divided house might not be ruled out, saying, “Let’s go to the polls like that. We can’t exhaust all the options, anyways.”
In his reaction, however, the PDP Deputy National Youth Leader, Timothy Osadolor, said the Wike-led group lacked the pedigree to question Atiku’s faithfulness to the party.
He stated, “That the G-5 purportedly led by Wike is talking about trust and loyalty is laughable and painful in the ears of discerning Nigerians. If anyone is to talk about trust that person must not even stand close to Governor Wike to do so, for him or her to be taken seriously.
“We know Wike and Wike knows himself. He should tell us what happened between him and all those that helped him in the past starting from Peter Odili, who in his large-heartedness still tolerated him, to Rotimi Amaechi, another former governor. Wike coming out to say he will announce his candidate to Nigerians and campaign for the candidate is akin to the last kick of a dying horse.’’
Osadolor also called on Ayu to speak up, noting that “another lie told by Wike was that Atiku Abubakar promised to ask Ayu to resign. How possible is that?
“Go and listen to the speech the chairman gave on resignation. He said: ‘I am a democrat and a party man. If a Northern candidate emerges as a presidential candidate and my party asks me to resign, in the interest of the party, I will.’
“He neither said if a failed aspirant asked him to, nor did he say if Wike asked him to. Rather than ask him to resign, the National Executive Committee passed a vote of confidence on Dr Iyorchia Ayu and the National Working Committee that he leads. How else do you want the party to say carry on?
“We empathise with Governor Wike. He was already seeing himself in Aso Rock as Mr President, as Nigerians are determined to bring back the PDP into the presidency to help salvage what is left of the fabric of this nation,” he added.
George warns Atiku
Meanwhile, a member of the Integrity Group and former chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Bode George, has wished Atiku good luck if in his opinion, he thinks he has what it takes to win without the support of the five governors.
In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, George said, “If Atiku thinks he can win without us, good luck to him. His aides who are speaking for him know nothing about the foundation on which the party stands.
“We have stated our position but if Atiku thinks he knows better than us, it is good with him. We will make our position clear and work toward what we believe in. Atiku cannot threaten us because for someone like me, I am not looking for anything from him. What do I need now… A job or an appointment? I am already retired.
“We are not saying he cannot win without us but we wish him all the best. If he says we would be retired politically if he goes ahead to win without us, that is fine. I will go home.”
While noting that the presidential candidate has left the South-West with nothing to bargain with; the retired Naval Officer said it would be difficult to prevail on Yoruba people to pitch their tent with the PDP with Ayu still in charge as party chairman.
But the Atiku-Okowa presidential campaign organisation is insisting that the PDP presidential candidate will win the 2023 presidential election at the first ballot.
The campaign said that with the massive support for Atiku by Nigerians, the positive result of the presidential election would shock pollsters.
The campaign council, which disclosed this in a statement by its spokesperson, Kola Ologbodiyan on Tuesday, added that Atiku enjoyed “the camaraderie and support of greater majority of Nigerians who are not confined in the indices relied upon by many of the pollsters in their forecasts on the 2023 presidential elections.”
Ologbondiyan revealed that “It is incontrovertible that Atiku will win the majority of lawful votes across the country and garner the constitutionally required 25 per cent of votes in more than 24 states of the federation.
“It is evident that the massive traditional voters of the PDP across the polling units, wards, local governments, states and the six geo-political zones are not distracted in their steadfastness to rescue Nigeria from the misrule of the All Progressives Congress by voting en masse for Atiku.’’
In a related development, the Director-General, PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Aminu Tambuwal, on Tuesday, charged the Nigerian voting public to use their Permanent Voter Cards to remove the APC from power in the 2023 general elections.
Tambuwal, who is the governor of Sokoto State, pointed out that the APC had plunged Nigeria into numerous problems without solutions and harped on the need for the electorate to vote for and ensure the victory of the PDP presidential candidate and his running mate, Ifeanyi Okowa on February 25.
The PCO DG, represented by PDP former National Vice Chairman (Southwest), Dr Eddy Olafeso, spoke in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital during the inauguration of the PDP Presidential Campaign Committee and Campaign Management Committee.
He condemned the leadership styles of the APC and urged PDP members “to work for peace to defeat the monster called APC and its beneficiaries in the country.”
The acting Chairman, Ekiti PDP PCC, Chief Ogundipe Makanjuola, said, “What is required is the unalloyed commitment to winning the presidential election in the next two months so that the PDP can revamp the battered economy of Nigeria.”
The acting Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees, Adolphus Wabara, advised Ndigbo not to be in a hurry over the 2023 presidential bid as the party’s presidential candidate “will hand over to them after his tenure in 2031, if he wins.’’
Wabara, who spoke Tuesday in Umuahia during the inauguration of the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Council, argued, “There is no way Ndigbo could get the President. Ndigbo had 95 votes and only 14 was given to Igbo aspirant, Anyim Pius Anyim.
He said the presidential candidate has promised to hand over to an Igbo man.
“We should not be in a hurry, but he will do it. Let us begin now to look for the black goat now that it is daytime. Our overall leader is a man of God who will not victimise us.”
He called for support for Atiku and urged all PDP candidates to live by the party’s mantra and show that “Abia is PDP and PDP is Abia.”
With 18 presidential candidates, he said Nigeria is not a one-party state, adding “So, all must vote according to your conscience and according to party. PDP is the oldest party in Nigeria; if you look at our antecedents, you will understand what is happening in the party.”
Addressing the members of the campaign council, the South-East Coordinator of the council and Senator representing Abia Central at the National Assembly, Theodore Orji boasted that Abia had been and shall remain a PDP state.
“We have a presidential candidate, Atiku and our brother, the vice presidential candidate and the sitting governor of Delta State, Okowa. The party brought out our candidate and it is our duty to support him,’’ he admonished.’’
The state coordinator of the council in Abia, Chief Charles Ogbonna advised the members to be faithful party men, adding, “I have seen the handwriting on the wall that Atiku is going to win.’’