The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in turmoil. Cracks have appeared on the wall, following the presidential primary. They are now widening. No conscious effort is made to mend fences. Would things fall apart?
Yesterday, pro-Wike forces appeared to have sounded the last note of warning to presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar. They demanded National Chairman Iyorchia Ayu’s resignation. If he fails to step aside, they warned that it would have a dire consequence. ‘Count us out of the campaign,’ they fumed.
The chieftains appeared to be in one accord. They are not pushovers in their respective states. They have held on to the principle of inclusion as against the lopsided distribution of positions in the main opposition party.
Their grouse is that the three key positions-presidential standard bearer, national chairman and national campaign director are from one bloc zone, the North.
The protesters-former Governors Jonah Jang(Plateau), Segun Mimiko (Ondo),Ayo Fayose (Ekiti), Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe) and Donald Duke(Cross River); former Ministers Jerry Gana and Mohammed Adoke; Chief Bode George and Chief Dan Orbih-are calling for the redress of inequality and injustice.
Atiku, a veteran of some political wars, appeared unperturbed. The Waziri Adamawa is full of bravado. He fired back at aggrieved stalwarts barking at him, saying that Ayu will not go. He maintained that if the chairman is to leave, the PDP constitution should be strictly followed.
Ayu is the main issue, or put succinctly, a divisive factor. But, supporters of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike even perceive him now as a destabilising factor. It is debatable.
The only concession being proposed by Atiku/Ayu camp is that the chairman can only abdicate after next year’s election. Wike and his supporters do not see hope in the future, if their demands are not met before the polls.
The lesson is instructive. Party leaders should reflect deeply and spare thoughts for tomorrow. They should consider the implications of their current actions for an unexpected future.
Southern PDP leaders had expressed worry over the possibility of Atiku’s emergence as candidate when the North had already produced the national chairman. But, Ayu rose swiftly to douse the tension, promising to resign if a northerner was picked as flagbearer.
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Those calling for Ayu’s resignation were pacified by his assurance. They trusted him, being a party elder and founding father.
The chairman has not denied making the promise. But, he is not in a hurry to resign. Power, even at party level, is sweet. It is hard to surrender it and regress into the cold.
However, to the protesters, honour and integrity are at stake, if a promise voluntarily made is not kept.
During the primary, the North, unlike the South, quickly put its house in order. Its leaders, inspired by some Generals, asked another presidential aspirant, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal, who is now campaign director for Atiku, to step down. The trick worked. Hailing Tambuwal, the national chairman described him as the hero of the primary. The seed of division, which has started growing, was watered.
Atiku crossed the primary hurdle. But, the platform subsequently ran into turbulence as attention shifted to the choice of the running mate. An impression was created that Wike would be picked. But, the calculation changed. Atiku, a strong man in his own right, is a former vice president. Would it not be suicidal to pick a strong man and governor of a rich state as running mate?
But, what also compounded -primary crisis was the remark by Atiku that he opted for Wike’s colleague from the Southsouth, Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, because he has presidential attributes.
The camp of Wike misunderstood it as a salvo to the combative and fork-tongued Rivers governor, who has become the internal opposition leader in the party.
Neither has Ayu’s management of the crisis reflected a depth of experience. In reaction to criticism by the ‘Ayu must go’ campaigners, the chairman dismissed it as the antics of latter-day power brokers in PDP who were children when he and other founding fathers were putting heads together to form the party.
Wike returned the insult, describing Ayu and his co-travellers as prodigal fathers. Echoing him, George, former deputy national chairman, said elders should know that ‘the young shall grow.’
Last week, Southwest leaders, including Governor Seyi Makinde and George, said Ayu’s ouster was an irreducible condition for peace, unity and cohesion.
Now, supporters of Wike are threatening that they will not join the Atiku campaign train, unless Ayu vacates the chair. The campaign kicks off next week.
Can Ayu do away with these committed party leaders challenging him to a duel? Is keeping Ayu in office more important than eliciting the trust, cooperation and solidarity of anti-Ayu forces?
It is not the best of times for PDP. Atiku is insisting on law, the regulator of human relationship and the cornerstone of the party. He treasures Ayu’s loyalty and friendship. Their paths crossed in the Third Republic Social Democratic Party (SDP) and they were companions when former President Olusegun Obasanjo put the heat on them in the PDP.
But, Wike and his men are on the side of convention because the constitution cannot resolve the logjam it never anticipated.
If the constitution is followed, the Deputy National Chairman (North) should replace Ayu, if he steps aside. This is not acceptable to Wike’s group.
The route to solution would have been an emergency convention for choosing a new chairman. This is not plausible due to time constraints.
If Ayu agrees to do so, after much persuasionor pressure, history merely repeats itself. It would imply that the eminent scholar, who had the honour of rising to stardom on three occasions as Senate President, three-time minister and national chairman, was fated to leave those prestigious positions without completing his tenure.
Yet, asking a Southerner to replace Ayu has its challenges. There is mistrust in PDP, which, as George warned, has been polarised into the Northern PDP and Southern PDP.
If the party accede to the wish of Wike’s group, there are two possibilities. PDP may borrow the formula adopted when Alhaji Bamanga Tukur was shoved aside as chairman and Alhaji Adamu Muazu filled the void. The difference was that both were from the same zone.
The second option is that Deputy National Chairman (South) Taofeek Arapaja would be catapulted to the number one position. He is Makinde’s candidate, and the Oyo governor is a staunch supporter of Wike.
What is the way out? Will Ayu leave? Either he stays on or he resigns, the party must brace for the challenges of either options.
PDP gladiators should elevate the interest of the party above personal interests. They can either win together or sink together. They should make sacrifice for the platform to survive.