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ATIKU, PDP DARE WIKE, MAKINDE, BEGIN CAMPAIGNS WEDNESDAY

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The People’s Democratic Party has finalised plans to inaugurate its presidential campaign council on Wednesday, September 28, regardless of the withdrawal of some party heavyweights and prominent campaign council members led by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.

The party revealed that all its programmes would be carried out as scheduled, adding that it had no plan to suspend them for any reason.

The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, disclosed this to The PUNCH in Abuja on Thursday.

The party made this position known after a series of meetings by its leadership between Wednesday and Thursday, following the pullout of the Wike-led group.

Wike, his Oyo State counterpart, Seyi Makinde, ex-Information Minister, Prof. Jerry Gana, Chief Bode George and other prominent members of the campaign council announced their withdrawal from Atiku’s campaign council after a marathon meeting in Port Harcourt on Wednesday.

They hinged their decision on the refusal of the party chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, to resign from office, insisting that the position must come to the South for balance, justice, and equity.

The development compelled the PDP National Working Committee to summon an emergency meeting where the options before the party were discussed and decisions taken.

When asked if the inauguration of the campaign council slated for Wednesday would go on as scheduled, Ologunagba said, “All programmes of the party are on and we have no plan to stop.”

Describing the PDP as a party of law and order, the image-maker stressed the importance of playing by the rules at all times.

“The constitution of our party is supreme and the conduct of our affairs must align with it. Again, we are a party with tremendous respect for the law. So, all we have set out to do will take place as there is no reason whatsoever to do otherwise,” he added.

The PUNCH gathered that the National Working Committee has in the past 24 hours enjoyed tremendous support and goodwill from other organs of the party, particularly the National Executive Committee and the Board of Trustees.

The two organs were said to have expressed the willingness to play reconciliatory roles between the party and the pro-Wike group.

Chieftains back party

A former governor of Jigawa State and member of NEC, Sule Lamido, said, “Whatever the party says, that is our position.”

A former governor of a North-West state who did not want his name in print advised Ayu to remain calm, stressing that the vast majority of PDP members are behind him.

“The chairman was elected, not appointed and he was elected for a fixed term. He cannot be removed simply because a few powerful stakeholders want him out. So, I advise him (Ayu) to remain calm. This challenge will be over in no distant time,” he assured.

Another member of NEC, Dr Eddy Olafeso, echoed the position of the party spokesman, calling for respect for the party’s constitution in the move to find a common ground.

He said, “There are thousands of prominent people in our party. Yes, those who pulled out of the campaign council are very important to us but the party is more important than individuals. The truth is, the party must not be trampled upon in a haste to please a number of people.

“We know the genesis of what is going on. People are trying to cause divisions in the party at this moment and this is very unfortunate.”

On whether the party would appoint replacements for Wike, Makinde, and others who pulled out of the campaign council, Olafeso had this to say, “The party will not wait for anybody. We won’t encourage absolutism and unilateralism. Our campaigns will commence with immediate effect as soon as the council is inaugurated next week.’’

A National Working Committee member, Timothy Osadolor, submitted that Wike’s withdrawal from the campaign council would not affect the party’s chances in the polls, noting that he is just a member among thousands of others.

“Sometimes the butterfly thinks he is a bird but he can never be a bird. Wike thinks he is the all and all of the PDP but he is not. Appropriating the attribute of God to himself is not necessary and it is far and above his capacity. Nigerians are not interested in who lost the primaries but those who have the solutions for the myriad of problems bedevilling the country,’’ he stated.

Speaking in an interview on Arise Television programme monitored by our correspondent, Thursday, a former presidential aspirant of the party, Chief Dele Momodu admonished the Wike-led group to embrace forgiveness and desist from making Atiku look like a weakling.

He stated, “Forgiveness is nothing new. It is recognised in every religion that when people offend you and come to you, which I think Atiku has done, the rest is within the party and the aggrieved members.

“My own worry is that we seem to be putting so much pressure on Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as if he can unilaterally remove the chairman of the party. Even if he (Atiku) should do that, a lot of us will feel vilified. He cannot do it (remove Ayu) but all he can do is speak with Dr Ayu and we don’t know what is going on between all of them.’’

Responding to a question, he noted, “I know nobody will want to be seen in that light. Like anytime Governor Wike says you must go, you must go; it becomes a psychological thing as well for the party. It doesn’t work that way.

‘’Some of these things we have discussed privately with some of our party members and we believe that nobody should attempt to make our candidate look so weak or like someone that just can be pushed around.

“I mean, can I go to Governor Wike’s state and just tell him to go and sack the state’s party chairman? He doesn’t have the power to do so. It can’t happen. So, that is my position.”

Wabara meets Tambuwal

Meanwhile, Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal has expressed optimism that a solution to address the crisis in the party would soon be worked out among the PDP governors.

He made the declaration on Thursday while hosting the acting Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees, Sen. Adolphus Wabara, in Abuja.

The governor further stated that they have interacted with the BoT in the belief that the party will come out of the crisis soon.

He stated, “I would like to thank the BoT chairman, members and his team for this very important initiative. We all know that the BoT is the conscience of the party and whenever there are issues of this nature, the Board of Trustees steps in. It is part of their functions in the party, constitutionally speaking.

“We have engaged with them and I believe that they are likely to come up with what will be a solution to the problem we have.

“Be rest assured that as governors of the party, we are also talking to ourselves on the way forward and very soon the Governors Forum will meet and we will come up with what we feel should be the solution and the way forward for the party.

“We are all interested in working together for an objective and that objective is for the party and Nigerians of goodwill, because we believe we have had enough of the government of APC.

“We are working to send out the APC and their government, come May 2023; It is a collective responsibility. Of course, we must apply balms, since we all believe that what we have is not good enough; we must work together to solve our internal problems, forge ahead and prosecute the electoral battle and by the grace of God we will have victory.”

On his part, Wabara announced that Nigerians would witness a united PDP ahead of the national campaigns, adding that members of the party will interact with the national chairman of the party, Ayu, the party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, including his running mate, Ifeanyi Okowa, on the way forward.

According to Wabara, the BoT is going the extra mile to find a solution to the problems in the party, adding that they have met with some governors of the party except Wike who has been inaccessible.

He stated, “Our aim is to get into the Aso Villa; for PDP to get into the Aso Villa in 2023, we need everybody to come on board.

“We are still moving around. In six days, the campaign (council) will be inaugurated. We hope and pray that before then, Nigerians will see a more united PDP. We are doing this not for us, not for the Chairman of the Governors Forum or anybody, we are doing this for Nigerians.

“Nigerians are looking up to the PDP to deliver them from what we are experiencing with the ruling party as we speak. We are going to meet the national chairman of the party, we will also be meeting our candidate, Atiku Abubakar. We are also meeting the vice-presidential candidate, Ifeanyi Okowa, who will call upon us at any moment.

“We have also met with some of the governors. We started from my state, Okezie Ikpeazu; we moved to Enugu to meet Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and from there we met Seyi Makinde of Oyo. We met with Jerry Gana, we are really digging around to find solutions.

“We are looking for solutions for all of us to come together and win the election in flying colours.”

Reacting to the withdrawal of Wike’s camp from the campaign council, the BoT chairman said they would speak with the Rivers governor on Friday (today).

“After Wike’s address, tomorrow we will speak with him. Wike is a member of the Board of Trustees. We have made an attempt to meet with him but I believe he has been very busy,” he said.

Wike plans fight

Meanwhile, Wike has declared that he will not leave the main opposition party for whatever reason.

The governor stated that he was rather interested in preserving the sanity of the party and would stay back to fight for the enthronement of unity, inclusivity, equity and peace in the PDP.

Wike made the declaration at the Rivers State PDP stakeholders meeting in Government House, Port Harcourt, on Thursday.

The governor described himself as a man of character, ‘’unlike those who cannot keep their word and walked out of the party at the Eagle Square in Abuja in 2014.’’

He said, “One thing I have always told people is if anybody is doing anything to think that we will leave the PDP, foul.

“We will do the fight in the party. We are not like them when in 2014 they walked out from Eagle Square. They’ve forgotten. They walked out and joined the APC. Is it not correct?

“Did they remain to fight inside the party? But we remained, they ran away. Now, there is a fight in the party, we will not run.

“We will fight it in this party. Those who run away from fights are weak people. We will not. So, everybody should know this is the state where we are so that nobody tells you all kinds of stories.”

The governor insisted that the constitution of the party clearly stated that elective and party offices must be zoned which should be respected.

Wike wondered why the former PDP BoT chairman was forced to resign while Ayu was excused from doing what is right.

He said, “You have taken the presidential candidate, you have taken the party chairman, you have also taken the DG (director general) of the campaign. We are talking about party politics. Decisions are made by the presidential candidate, chairman of the party and the DG of the campaign.

“They are telling you; they told the chairman of the BOT to resign. So, you know there is a problem. You said he should go and resign.

“You can put pressure on him (BoT chair) to resign when his tenure hasn’t come to an end, but you cannot put pressure on the chairman to resign. You think at our level you will deceive us; you’ll tell us stories?’’

Wike recalled how in 2015, soldiers on the instruction of the Federal Government allegedly interfered with and even annulled elections, but were resisted.

The governor regretted that despite the risk taken to ensure the victory of some candidates at the polls, ‘’the same people are now in Abuja plotting against me but they won’t succeed because God has blessed me.’’

The Rivers State governor also clarified that he never promised the party governorship ticket to any candidate despite the pressure some leaders mounted on him and the attempts made to divide the state House of Assembly.

He further said though he didn’t clinch the PDP presidential ticket, he gave a good account of himself at the primary.

The governor revealed that the Rivers State PDP campaign team would be unveiled next week, noting that the campaign pattern would be based on each local government’s peculiarity.

He assured that the PDP candidates in the state would be returned elected by Rivers people who he said were satisfied with the performance of his administration.

The governor stated that the Federal Government won’t be able to use the army and the police in the 2023 elections, ‘’because Nigerians will vote for political parties on the basis of their performance.’’

The state PDP Chairman, Amb. Desmond Akawor said the party in the state passed a vote of confidence on Wike for the way he has piloted the affairs of the state.

‘Ayu mustn’t go’

Meanwhile, a chieftain of the PDP, Sani Umar, has said the call for the removal of the party’s chairman is ill-timed, with the 2023 general elections just around the corner.

Umar said this while speaking with Channels TV’s Seun Okinbaloye on Politics Today, on Thursday evening. He said although he didn’t condemn the call for the chairman’s removal, those who made the call were “asking for too much.”

“I think it is not appropriate at this time. I am not saying the call is out of order but it is coming at a very wrong time. The timing for ‘Ayu must Go’ is not the correct timing. One, Ayu has been elected, he is even learning the ropes of running the party, understanding the issues of the party, and trying to move the party forward. There are two ways you can remove him; it is either you lay a complaint to the National Economic Council of our party and say he is guilty of certain offences, or he can resign by himself.’’

He added that those who were making the call for the removal of the party’s chairman were simply asking for too much at an inappropriate time and that heeding the call will negatively affect the PDP.

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