PDP Crisis: Can Saraki Break the Jinx?

Former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, last week sounded upbeat about the possible reconciliation between the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar and G-5 governors led by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. It remains to be seen, if the former Kwara State governor can break the jinx, Chuks Okocha writes

Since many have failed, can the former Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, effectively resolve the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)? This is one question that is seriously begging for answers from members of the party who have all lost hope that any good thing can come out of the party ahead of the presidential election in February 2023.

Speaking with journalists in Ilorin, Kwara State, last Monday on the sidelines of the 10th memorial prayer for his late father and Second Republic Senate Leader, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, the former Senate president said the party would soon surprise Nigerians, adding that members of the party would work together to better the lot of Nigeria.

“We will surprise Nigerians. We are going to work together to improve the lot of Nigeria. This is because we all think about what is good for this country. Look at the poverty that is on the street. Look at how governance has not gone well.

“We will put Nigerians first because Nigerians want PDP back in power. The little differences between Governor Wike and Abubakar, we will resolve them and at the end of the day whether it’s Wike or others all of us in PDP want a better Nigeria.”

THISDAY gathered  that Saraki has taken up the gauntlet to spearhead the reconciliation of the warring factions in the party in order for it battle the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Labour Party (LP) in 2023.

The PDP has been enmeshed in a leadership crisis since after its presidential primary, which was won by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar at a special convention held in Abuja in May.

While making a presentation at the PDP primary, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, who had also been screened to contest the presidential ticket, announced his withdrawal from the race and asked his supporters to back Atiku.

A day after the primaries, the PDP National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu paid a visit to Tambuwal where he hailed him as the “hero of the convention,” a comment that raised mutual distrust within the party. Further cracks in the opposition party widened after Atiku overlooked Wike and settled for Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as his running mate.

In response, Wike’s camp began to agitate for Ayu’s resignation as national chairman of the party because he and Atiku are from the same region – the North. 

Ayu has insisted he would not resign because he was elected for a four year-term. Several efforts by Atiku to appease the G-5 governors both abroad and at home have not yielded any positive results.

Wike and his group have insisted that the current leadership structure, where the North holds the presidential ticket as well as the national chairmanship positions, was against the Constitution of the party and a gross injustice to the South. 

The disagreement worsened when the G-5 governors withdrew from the party’s presidential campaign, insisting that Ayu be removed or should resign from his position for a southerner to succeed him. The governors not only stayed away from the party’s presidential campaign rallies held in Akwa Ibom, Kaduna, Edo and Borno states, they frequently made incendiary comments to demarket  Atiku.

Saraki has however expressed optimism that the political differences between Atiku and the G-5 governors would soon be over.

 His optimism is driven by the outcome of the meeting between him and Wike’s team which made the Rivers State governor to declare that they had never closed the door against reconciliation.

“I have stated severally that we are here for reconciliation. We have never closed the door for reconciliation. All we are calling for is equity, fairness, and justice. In fact, that is the hallmark that PDP stands for,” Wike reportedly said.

Before Saraki’s effort to reconcile warring factions in the party, the party had set up a reconciliation committee to reconcile the Atiku and the G-5. Its recommendation was sent to the Board of Trustees (BoT). It recommended that Ayu should resign his chairmanship position after the 2023 poll.

The recommendation, which was signed by the BoT chairman, Senator Adolphus Wabara, noted that people had been wronged on both sides, but that party leaders and people close to them should desist from making further inflammatory remarks or granting press interviews on the matter.

“The BoT called on the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum (Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State) to convene a meeting of the forum without further delay; called on all leaders of the party to match words with action, and where commitments are made, to unconditionally fulfil the same.

“(The BoT) urged the national chairman as an eminent leader to give a firm assurance that he will resign his position after the 2023 elections. In the same vein, the BoT chairman has been authorised to offer apologies on behalf of all members who feel maligned or aggrieved by the public statements made by its members nationwide that have sharpened the current division in the party.”

THISDAY gathered that this did not yield any positive outcome because as soon as the governors returned from Spain where they went to deliberate on the issue, they renewed their determination not to shift ground.

Recently, the social media and some newspapers were agog with reports that a former Senate President, Senator David Mark; former Governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili and his Delta State counterpart, Chief James Ibori were among the eminent emissaries drafted by Atiku to plead with Wike to put an end to the disagreement in the party.

But sources close to Odili later informed THISDAY that nobody told him to help in assuaging Wike’s feelings.

Against the backdrop that PDP losing the 2023 presidential election would embarrass Saraki and many other members of the party, many are hoping that all hand would be put on deck in the task of bringing peace to the party.

But in the meantime, Wike has continued to make incendiary comments that tend to show that the conditions for peace between the leadership of the PDP and his group are non-negotiable.

Speaking last Wednesday during the inauguration of the Rumuepirikom flyover in Port Harcourt, the governor stressed that he and his group would only accept reconciliation that is based on equity, fairness and justice. The governor maintained that their position that elective offices must be shared equally between the North and the South in the PDP ahead of the 2023 general election remained sacrosanct.

Indirectly lampooning the leadership of the party, the Rivers State governor urged Nigerian leaders to strive to have integrity in order to be able to keep their promises to the people. He said he would not accept the argument that failure to keep promises was a familiar trait among politicians.

“We stand for equity, fairness and justice. That is what the G-5 governors will continue to preach. We have said we are not against reconciliation, but reconciliation must be based on equity, fairness and justice. But now, because I said let the right thing be done, let agreement be agreement. Because I have said that, I have now become an enemy. Because we said, look, we had an agreement, do this, do that, and some people believe that they will not and we said it must be done,” he stated.

“You must tell me what is the interest of my community. I will not join anybody who does not want my state to benefit. I will not support anybody who does not like my state. Individuals can behave that way, I will not behave that way. If I say something today, I will do it. If there is any reason, I won’t do it, I have to come back to you and let you know this is the reason why. And that is what they call integrity,” the governor said.

By the time he hosted the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, who was in the state on Thursday to inaugurate projects, Wike openly assured him of logistics and other support anytime Obi comes to campaign in Rivers State.

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