PDP Crisis and Atiku’s Campaign on the Plateau

In this piece, Seriki Adinoyi writes on the damage the internal crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party is likely to wreak on the presidential bid of Atiku Abubakar in Plateau State, if not quickly addressed.

The internal crisis rocking the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) again reared its head by way of low turnout at the presidential campaign rally in Jos, the Plateau State capital, where the stadium was not as electrifying as it used to be in the past rallies of the party.

Former Governor of the state, Da Jonah Jang, who is famously described as a rallying point of the party, with a substantial control over the party in the state, was conspicuously absent.

His absence alone cast a dark cloud over the rally that used to be charged with large number of able-body young Plateau men that are his foot soldiers. No thanks to the protracted internal wrangling that has torn the once robust party into shreds. Jang belongs to the camp of the Governor of River state, Nyesom Wike that has been calling for the head of the party’s National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu.

His position has not changed on the matter. He has continued to reiterate that Ayu promised that if a Northern presidential candidate emerge from the party primaries he was going to resign as the party National Chairman, and that promise must be honoured for the sake of justice and fair play. He decided therefore that he was not going to be part of Atiku’s campaign, and was therefore not at the rally.

Jang again repeated that he has nothing against Atiku as a person, but rather against the process that led to his emergence in which the primary election was skewed in his favour, and subsequent refusal of Ayu to honour his words. Though cases were made to explain away his absence at the rally, as having travelled abroad for medical checkup, discerning minds know that no medical checkup would have prevented Jang from attending the rally. 

Okowa was in Jos a few weeks earlier to inaugurate Atiku’s campaign office, Jang was in town but never attended the event which ordinarily he should have championed as the leader of the party in the state.

But rather he flew to Lagos to attend a meeting called by the Wike group. Aside from the Wike versus Atiku crisis, PDP in the state has been standing on lame feet with camps contesting for the control of party.

The Jeremiah Useni-led camp had had a long-drawn battle with the Jang group, a development that has attracted reconciliation teams from the National headquarters of the party.

Litigants met themselves in court as aggrieved members seek legal redress.

As the crisis festered, many had accused Jang of being unduly firm and unyielding over the control of the party, adding that a little understanding here and there from him would have sufficed.

The gulf among members got even wider with the outcome of the party’s gubernatorial primaries where Jang allegedly showed his power by allegedly enthroning his preferred candidate in the person of Caleb Mutfwang.

Mutfwang spent a whole lot of time trying to mend fences with the other aspirants, but Jang looked away as if nothing happened.

So, his ‘enemies’ within the party got even angrier with him. The only way they could spite him was to pitch their tents with the Atiku camp knowing that Jang is for Wike, probably to whittle down Jang’s influence by supporting Atiku and making him irrelevant.

But the poor outing at the stadium showed that Atiku and the PDP definitely need Jang to be able to maintain hold on the state. Anything different would be as good as handing over Plateau presidential election to any other party, and the All Progressive Congress (APC) will undoubtedly maximize it.

For a rally that held at the same Rwang Pam Township stadium venue where Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the APC also held a flag-off of his campaign with a massive turnout that attracted President Mohammadu Buhari and other APC bigwigs from across the country, one would say that what the PDP held was a child’s play in the name of a rally, and will advise the party to do more if it truly intends to maintain its hold on state.

PDP has never lost presidential election on the Plateau; because the people see the party as their own with the like of late Chief Solomon Lar as a founding father and first national chairman, and the like of Jang as a Board of Trustee member that has rallied unprecedented support for the party in the state.

But the story has changed completely; things have now fallen apart, and the centre has refused to hold. At the stadium, though the stage was set early, the usual massive and steaming crowd that greeted past PDP rallies was absent as divided supporters managed to muster courage to the venue. Many of the stands at the rally were scanty at the beginning of the rally as weary supporters awaited Atiku, who had led other stalwarts of the party to pay homage on the Gbong Gwom Jos.

He also visited the Anglican Bishop of Jos, Benjamin Kwashi and an Islamic leader, Sheikh Yahaya Jingir.

The rally held anyway, and Atiku promised to revamp Nigeria’s economy, tackle insecurity, and rehabilitate roads connecting Jos to other parts of the country, if he wins the election.

Addressing the people, he said, “For the people of Plateau, it is a homecoming for me because I have been a resident of this state for the past 20 years. All roads connecting the Plateau to other states have been neglected by the APC. We will rehabilitate all the roads and revamp the economy of the state.

“In fact, even the contract awarded to refurbish the Abuja – Akwanga -Lafia – Makurdi roads ignored Plateau State despite the potentials of the state. This too will be visited by the PDP government if elected in 2023. Other roads such as Lafia – Shendam road will also be rehabilitated to enhance commerce”.

On insecurity in the state, the presidential candidate said, “If the people of Plateau want peace, they should vote PDP. We promise you that we will restore peace to Plateau.”

Atiku said he would restore the tourism potential and other economic activities in Plateau.

“Plateau was renowned for its nice weather and ambience, a potential that could generate millions of dollars to benefit the people and the state economy, if showcased”

He enjoined the people to vote for the PDP to enable him to deliver on his promises.

Also speaking, PDP National Chairman Ayu, recalled how the founding fathers and leaders of the party, including elder statesman Solomon Lar, brought development to the people through good governance.

He expressed regret that the gains recorded in Plateau State and the country under the PDP administration had been reversed when the APC took over power in 2015. Urging the people to ensure that the PDP is returned to power in 2023, Ayu said, “You see what former Governor Jonah Jang did when he was in power. He and other patriotic leaders built the state.

“But, when you left PDP, the party also left you, and you started suffering. Whatever cracks that exist in the party, are all over. PDP is back as one. PDP is a rock. Nobody is going to displace the PDP again in Plateau State.”

On his part,the PDP vice presidential candidate, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, noted that Nigerians had suffered so much in the hands of the APC administration.

“Our government, working hand in hand with the state government, will improve tourism nationwide to enhance internally generated revenue and improve the lot of the people.

“In our bid to unleash the full potential of this beautiful state, we will revisit the Kura falls power generation plant, we the older ones here recall in the not distant past how this plant was serving the whole of Plateau State and beyond but this is not the story now as power outages are back to even this beautiful city is Jos. The PDP will seek to enhance every possibility of development, upscale governance and enhance service delivery”, he noted.

The party governorship candidate in the state, Mutfwang, told the rally that the party had never lost any presidential election in the state, and assured PDP was going to win again come 2023.

There is however, a fear that Jang’s position against Atiku campaign may rob on Mutfwang, his preferred gubernatorial choice.

In a mild drama at the rally, just like Tinubu, Atiku was addressing the crowd at the rally in Hausa language when he wanted to chant PDP but mistakenly said, “A-, I mean PDP”.

Atiku said (in Hausa), “People of Plateau, this stadium has a history. As you have heard, we elected MKO Abiola here; it was here that we also elected Olusegun Obasanjo. We have elected different Heads of states in this place. In the name of God, and for the respect of this place (stadium), vote for A-, I mean PDP.”

Reacting, residents of Jos said the gods of the land are against Tinubu and Atiku; confusing them such that they are incoherent when they appear before the people.They alleged that the two have no good intention for the people of Jos and Nigerians as they are only paying lip service, adding that the “God we serve will continue to confuse everyone that comes to the state with evil intention.”

A political analyst, Mr. John Igye said, “That’s what you get when politicians would not remain in their parties to build it, but would always cross-carpet to other parties at the slightest provocation”, adding that “While Atiku’s blunder may have stemmed from his years of jumping from one party to another, Tinubu’s blunder looks more like a problem of incoherence either as a result of age or ill-health.”

According to him, Tinubu repeatedly referred to his Director of Campaign Council as Solomon Lalong, instead of Simon Lalong. He added that they are both not fit to rule Nigerians as they have baggage hanging on their necks. Igye said it was terrible that of over 200 million Nigerians, the country has no better persons to lead them than persons that are worn out.

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