Wike, Ayu’s rants put Atiku in a ‘tight corner’

By this time last week, many Nigerians, especially members and supporters of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), were a little excited about the hope that peace would return to the party and the possibility of it gaining the full support of one of its key leaders, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, for the 2023 elections.

The excitement followed news of a meeting between the governor and the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.

The duo met over dinner at the Carlton Hotel in London on August 26 with Governors Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Samuel Ortom of Benue State and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, among others.

In the same week, and before the meeting, the governors met Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), a former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, and the presidential candidate of the Labor Party, Peter Obi.

All of the meetings were linked to preparations and strategies for the 2023 general elections, with the governors, who are all members of the PDP, ostensibly trying to decide who to support among the presidential candidates.

Their date with the non-PDP candidates prompted Atiku to take a detour to a business trip to Paris to meet the governors in London – with the hope of reconciling them and keeping them in the party.

Mr. Wike has resented Atiku and the PDP since the presidential primary in June. After losing the presidential ticket to Atiku – which he and members of his camp believe was due to a decision by Sokoto Governor Aminu Tambuwal to step down late in the race – Mr Wike blamed the party of betraying him and violating his constitution.

Efforts by the two men to meet, either in person or through emissaries, have either stalled, stalled or not been entirely successful. The August 25 meeting did not have a different outcome.

New problem

AFor the moment, there does not seem to be a clear adjective to qualify this last meeting between Atiku and the Wike camp. Indeed, while requests have been made and resolutions made at the meeting, one is still consulting on how to meet the requests while the other seems to be adding fuel the fire he lit by literally dancing and basking in the attention he receives from political suitors.

One of their meeting requests was for the party’s national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, to step down and be replaced by a candidate from the south.

The demand, Camp Wike explained, is to correct the imbalance in the party leadership.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr. Wike’s team is already pitching Taofeek Arapaja, National Vice President of the Party, South, for his appointment as Acting National President pending the holding of another congress.

Following this request, Atiku promised to consult and get back to the group. While no time has been set for Atiku to report, it’s been over a week and there’s still no word from him – at least not about that.

The presidential candidate is undoubtedly in a tough spot as his main task, as requested, is to get Mr Ayu – one of his loyalists – out of office.

Clearly, Mr. Wike and his group don’t care which method Atiku would use to fulfill their request. They just want Mr. Ayu to resign as he promised before the primary.

A much more difficult task

HAlthough it already looks like Atiku is responding to this request, Governor de Rivers and the party chairman actually didn’t make it easy.

The latest installment in the series of blockbusters that have emanated from the PDP is the back and forth between the two men.

Over the past week, Nigerians have seen the duo argue over who is more mature, who is guilty or who uses vocabulary better, among other things.

After Mr Wike’s meeting with Atiku, his supporters continued to demand Mr Ayu’s resignation – as a way forward for the party. And in a terse response, Mr Ayu fired people asking him to quit as a child.

He maintained that he was elected for a four-year term and that he had not even completed one.

“I co-founded the PDP in Nigeria and some boys who don’t know how we struggled and what we went through can’t cause problems for the party. When we started the PDP, we didn’t know these boys, they are children, they don’t know why we founded the party. We will not agree with a single person to come and destroy our party,” Mr. Ayu said.

Many Nigerians knew this answer would be answered and it took less than 24 hours for Mr. Wike to prove them right.

In his response, he called the President arrogant and ungrateful. He said the people Mr. Ayu called “children” brought him out of nowhere and put him in the position he is in now.

“Someone said that those of you who say the right thing should be done are boys; they are children… You can imagine how ingratitude… how ungrateful people can be… Dr. Ayu said we are children. Yes, the children brought you to be president of the party, the children brought you from the gutter to make you president. You have been impeached and fired. Arrogance can’t get you anywhere.

Mr. Wike also challenged the PDP chairman to prove himself as a man of honor and keep his promise to step down if the northern region produces the presidential candidate.

Although Mr Ayu has said he will not comment or respond to Mr Wike again, the existing feud between the two men is also felt by the presidential candidate who obviously needs both men – everyone – on board as parties prepare for campaigns.

How Atiku intends to appeal to the already angry Mr. Ayu and at the same time appealing to Mr. Wike is a puzzle that many Nigerians are waiting to see how it will be solved.

One thing is certain though. He will, in the meantime, hope that the two men behave well and try not to aggravate the already critical situation.

For the members there is peace, hope

For some members of the PDP, there is no crisis in the party.

This is the message they put out last week – “disagreement between family members is normal”, “people are allowed to have different opinions”, “the party is united”, “the party is ready for 2023 and sure of victory” and least convincing of all, “everyone in the party – including Wike – is on the same page.”

The most recent comment came from party spokesperson Debo Ologunagba who said what the PDP is experiencing is differences, not a crisis and the events of the party will not only be resolved soon, nor will it affect the direction of the party and preparations for the next year’s polls.

He was, however, aware enough to recognize the current discord between some members.

A few others are so hopeful that with or without the current crisis rocking the party and with or without Governor Wike, the party will achieve victory in the 2023 election.

For Phrank Shaibu, a special assistant, public communications at Atiku, Governor Wike is part of the PDP but “whether the rooster crows or not, the sun will rise. Atiku will be president in 2023.”

“But, despite the problem, are we ready?… The answer is yes. He (Atiku) remains the only candidate who is not only prepared but very prepared,” he said in an interview with Arise TV.

Final plans and strategies

IThere are less than four weeks left until the start of campaigns on September 28 and the party will no doubt use that time to try to fix cracked walls and broken fences in its house.

Already, the National Working Committee of the party has scheduled a meeting for Thursday. The meeting originally scheduled for August 10 and 11 has been postponed.

At the meeting, members are expected to continue consultations regarding Mr. Wike’s request.

While he hopes to make progress in his consultations in the new week, Atiku hopes that MM. Wike and Ayu will find a way to at least stay quiet. Mr. Ayu will probably play pretend for now. But for Mr. Wike, it is impossible to predict what the governor will do.

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