Six weeks ago, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held its special national convention in Abuja to select its presidential flagbearer. The process produced former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of the PDP amid highly intense political intrigues that still raise dust in the ranks of its leaders till today.

Just after the process, the losers quickly withdrew to their political enclaves, to nurse their deep wounds. However, they still agreed to work for one common goal: Positioning the main opposition party for a landslide in the next presidential election.

The rationale for a common political front is indisputable. As its National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu put it, the PDP has firmly resolved “to rescue Nigeria from the brink of collapse.” He attributed this resolve “to how the government of All Progressives Congress (APC) had mismanaged the country’s diversity, sharply divided its citizenry along ethnic lines and exacerbated religious tensions nationwide.”

Resolving to achieve this lofty goal did not come easy. Rather, the frontline actors, especially presidential aspirants, had to make some concession in order to end the impasse. The concession actually predated its special convention held between May 27 and 28. It was a product of the power-sharing negotiation that preceded its National Convention held on October 31, 2021.

At that time, nearly all the leaders of the PDP supported Ayu’s aspiration on a condition that he would resign if a northerner eventually emerged the presidential flagbearer. With Abubakar’s nomination, the failure of the PDP leaders to honour this agreement was the genesis of the party’s post-primary crisis, which its key national leaders believed, should have been better manageed in the interest of justice.

Likewise, the process of nominating the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa as Atiku’s vice presidential candidate constituted another source of contention that further pitted the camp of Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike against Atiku’s camp. As the Benue State Governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom alleged, 14 of the 17-man committee constituted to search for Atiku’s running mate voted in support of Wike. Atiku was accused of ignoring recommendations of the committee he had set up.

The failure to decisively resolve these issues has now polarised the PDP into two highly influential camps. On the one side are Wike; Ortom; Oyo State Governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde and former Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, among others. On the other side are Atiku; Okowa;  Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal; his Adamawa counterpart, Ahmadu Fintiri, former governors, former ministers and some elders of the party.

The bone of contention now is the emergence of Okowa as his vice presidential candidate instead of Wike, who was recommended by the selection committee. Obviously, this decision escalated the post-primary conflict, which Ortom argued, could have been averted if the party leadership had insisted on implementing the decision of the 17-man committee.

With these thorny issues, the future of the PDP is unavoidably uncertain ahead of the 2023 presidential election. But the Chairman of PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jubrin, is optimistic that the disagreement between Atiku’s camp and Wike’s supporters will be resolved. Jubrin, specifically, revealed Abubakar’s plan to lead a reconciliation committee once he returned from his oversea trip.

Can these disagreements be resolved as simply as Jubrin put it? What happens in a few days will definitely determine whether the party will be able to reconcile Atiku and Wike. However, Wike and his strategists have listed some conditions, which some analysts claimed, are legally justified and politically requisite to transform the PDP from its opposition clout to the ruling status by 2023.

Their conditions for peace include Ayu’s resignation in line with the pre-primary agreement, adherence to power rotation between the north and south, intra-party inclusion in the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation and concessions for Wike’s camp if the PDP eventually wins the presidential election, which has already been scheduled to hold on February 25, 2023.

The first condition borders on the need to restructure the PDP for fairness and justice. The argument of Wike’s strategists is premised on two legal instruments: Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and PDP Constitution, 2021. There is consensus among the PDP leaders that the instruments are supreme in resolving the party’s internal dispute.

Aside, the founding fathers of the PDP graciously subscribed to the primacy of the instruments in determining any internal rift. With Atiku’s emergence, Wike’s strategists alleged imbalance in the structure of the party, which they claimed, significantly put the south at disadvantage in the power calculation, hence Ayu must call it quit immediately.

They cited Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution to buttress their claims, which they said, would not be compromised as a precondition for peace and reconciliation. The section, as enshrined in the country’s grundnorm, made compliance with the federal character principle mandatory in the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs.

Also, in the preamble of its own Constitution, the PDP agreed to uphold the federal character principle in the composition of its organs at the federal and state levels. In specific terms, the preamble emphasises the resolve of the main opposition party “to conform with the principles of power shift and power sharing by rotating key political offices amongst the diverse peoples of the country…”

In the power-sharing negotiation that preceded its October 2021 convention, the PDP national chairman acknowledged the centrality of these legal instruments to the internal organisation of the party. Consequently, Ayu agreed to step aside, if a northerner eventually clinched the presidential nomination of the PDP. Now, Atiku has clinched the party’s nomination.

Six good weeks after a northerner emerged the party flagbearer, Ayu has not demonstrated the spirit of patriotism to the founding principle of the PDP, a party in desperate need of soothing balm to heal its wounds of injustice and unfairness. What then has changed between when Ayu pledged to toe the path of honour to unify all interests within the party and after Atiku emerged the flagbearer of the PDP?

The second condition relates directly to alleged manipulation, which according to Wike’s strategists, characterised Okowa’s nomination as running mate. In an ARISE NEWS Channel interview, Ortom demanded an explanation on the rejection of Wike as the vice presidential nominee after securing popular votes of 14 members of the 17-man selection committee.

For him, there is no justification for rejecting Wike given his controlling influence to galvanise the southern leaders to secure a landslide for the PDP in the next presidential poll. On the contrary, a BoT member, Alhaji Adamu Waziri disputed Ortom’s claims on the grounds that members of the selection committee never voted to arrive at its decision. Rather, according to him, its members agreed to submit three names to the flagbearer to enable him choose his preferred running mate.

If the PDP eventually wins the next presidential election, what will the flagbearer offer not just for Wike, but also for his political allies national? This question constitutes the third condition, which Wike’s strategists revealed, had already been highlighted for deliberation when they resume negotiation in the coming weeks.

Already, Jubrin had proposed that Wike should be allowed to lead Atiku’s campaign. Also, Waziri revealed Atiku’s plan to make Wike the Minister of Petroleum provided that the PDP was able to dislodge the APC from the seat of federal power. None of these offers will bring about an olive branch to the ranks of the PDP. By implication, it is not just about Wike any longer. Obviously, Wike has become a movement now synonymous to a southern presidential agenda, which they alleged that Okowa betrayed.

Rather than de-escalating the crisis, the offers have complicated the crisis with a resolve that Wike will not hold direct discussion with Atiku again on two grounds. First, as Wike’s allies claimed, previous agreements with Atiku were not honoured. Second, they observed, Wike’s confidence that any future agreement will be honoured has plummeted to almost ground zero.

Can the PDP go to the polls without Wike and his political allies? This is one fundamental question that the PDP ought to have objectively addressed before making some crucial decisions that dampened Wike’s confidence in the sincerity of Atiku and his political associates. Going to the 2023 presidential poll may be an exercise in futility without securing Wike’s outright backing, at least for three reasons.

First, Wike’s state has the third largest voting strength in the country after Kano and Lagos. With Wike’s support, the PDP will poll convincing majority votes in the 2023 presidential election in the state. Lastly, Wike’s vast access to funds is obviously indisputable. Without equivocation, according to some analysts, no other governors in the party commands that pool of resources.

On these grounds, most analysts agreed that Wike’s decision to work for or against Atiku’s victory would shape the decisions of his colleagues who are sympathetic to his cause. Failing to far-reaching concessions to appease Wike and his political allies may translate to electoral defeat for the PDP in the next election.


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