Imperatives of Atiku, Integrity Group’s Reconciliation
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) Presidential candidate in the 2023 presidential election is not new to party politics. Among all those angling to replace outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari, Abubakar, or Atiku as people prefer to call him is the most experienced and holds the record for presenting himself to be elected President the most times since 1992 when he narrowly missed being picked as the late Chief Moshood Abiola’s running mate to Babagana Kingibe on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
Although Atiku served as Vice President with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for two terms of eight years, his ambition to lead Nigeria has remained central to his political maneuvers since he left office in 2007. So when he again joined the race to seek the exalted office in 2023, many believed he was the man to beat. With the dismal performance of the ruling party and the evident disenchantment of the people with the prevalent hardship and poverty in the country, the majority of Nigerians now seek alternatives to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in PDP and other parties.
With the seeming political wave blowing in his favour following his clinching of the party’s presidential ticket, all that was left for Atiku to do was to manage success. Regrettably, his very success became his current albatross; Atiku is watching as his presidency is gradually slipping away from him and possibly consigning him alongside Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the president Nigeria never had because of the almost intractable misunderstanding with the five governors (Integrity Group) led by Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike.
The spat with the Wike’s group which has dragged on for months now, defying several interventions is threatening to scuttle both the opportunity for the party to return to power and an Atiku presidency. As the group insists on the National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu’s resignation as a panacea to peace, some of the party’s hardliners are insisting that Wike and his group should be ignored.
As this disagreement festers, Atiku has glaringly failed to show leadership. For a man who aspires to lead a complex country like Nigeria, why would it take him centuries to settle with the splinter group within the party and set his gaze squarely on the big picture?
For those asking that Wike be ignored, between Ayu and Wike and his group, who has more electoral value? Ayu has just his vote while all the five governors control their states.
This internal fracas is not a new development to the PDP. In the build-up to 2015, a new group New PDP (NPDP) emerged asking former President Goodluck Jonathan to drop his 2015 ambition including dropping then national chairman, Bamanga Tukur, and other demands. Today, we all know how the influence of the group cost Jonathan the presidency.
Since Ayu and his cohorts based on their bloated egos have decided to stay put even when the Chairman, BoT, Walid Khalid voluntarily resigned, Atiku ought to have shown leadership by asking Ayu to resign for peace to reign.
There are several reasons why Wike should not just be dismissed with a wave of the hand. In 2015, after the PDP was ousted by Buhari, it was Wike who picked the pieces of the party, nurturing and bankrolling it till another election cycle. Many would argue that Wike is selfish and a bad loser. Every politician including Atiku works for his selfish interest. While Atiku has gravitated from PDP to APC and back, Wike has remained steadfast in the party.
If there is any party man that has bragging rights over PDP because of his commitment and dedication, that is Wike. Atiku, who is reported to be living abroad, is a fair-weather party man who stays aloof whenever it comes to financing and managing the party only to swoop in during the period of election for the party’s ticket. Wike has every right to be angry because he has invested heavily in the party only for Ayu to manipulate the primaries in favor of Atiku.
He feels betrayed, used, and dumped by the party. Wike believes that the party would have stuck by its agreement on zoning and not changed the rules halfway through the game. He strongly believes that, had the zoning arrangement been sustained, his main interest of power shift to the South after Buhari would have been a fait accompli.
Wike is being accused of wanting to be president. Yes, and so what? Are those angling to be president now and those who have served more qualified than Wike? Wike is eminently qualified to be Nigetia’s president and he knows it.
However, Wike is not entirely exonerated from what is happening to him now. Infact, his traducers say it serves him right. In other words, Wike can rightly be credited with being the architect of his own misfortune. For instance, as a party man who is well versed in the party’s constitution, what did he do when a committee was set up to review the position of the party on zoning? Did he also raise a voice when yhe comittee submitted its report? What did he do when the report zoning the presidency to the north was endorsed by the party’s highest decision making organ NEC? Perhaps all southern governors were positioning themselves for vee Pee jettisoning their earlier declaration for a southern president.
Atiku needs to have a rethink, rather than carrying on as if he is already president, he needs to realise that from the point of equity, a southerner and not another northerner ought to be the PDP flabearer.
Now that he has emerged, he should not ride roughshod over southerners who were instrumental and would still pave his way to victory. His utterance at Arewa event where he publicly declared that the north does not need the south to win the presidency is very divisive and does not fit a person who should be viewed as a unifier.
Atiku has no choice other than to reconcile with Wike, he has no moral justification not to because you can’t seize a child’s sweet and still hush him from crying. Atiku has to table a compromise to rein these five governors back to the fold to secure his victory.
What Atiku needs to urgently consider is to ask Ayu to step down for peace to reign. Wike and his four cohorts have political capital, Ayu has none just ego. So in the coming days Ayu should be compelled to step down for the party to move forward.
Atiku needs to be reminded that if he has forgotten so soon that Wike has a huge war chest. He’s rumoured to have single handedly financed Atiku’s past election with about $16m. Apart from Atiku, Wike is also believed to have been instrumental to Tambuwal’s second term triumph as governor in Sokoto.
Atiku should realise that all these people asking him to forget Wike and his colleagues can’t even win in their polling booths. Wike, Ikpeazu, Ortom, Ugwuanyi are all two term governors and Makinde is set to return for a second term. These five governors have full control of their party structures in their respective states and would decide where the pendulum swings in 2023.
The current attitude of behaving as if all is well and some people don’t mater has its draw backs, the NPDP caused havoc in 2015, the G5 or Integrity Group could re-enact same scenario. A stitch in time saves nine.