The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday took a step forward in finding solution to the post-primary crisis, caused mainly by the choice of Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as running mate.
Although the Presidential candidate Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, is expected back in the country from Dubai this week, to take charge of the reconciliation process, he was emphatic that he will not bow to pressure to zone or share offices before next year’s poll.
Party leaders said the presidential candidate, who will lead the reconciliation team, will be assisted by a steering committee.
Yesterday, PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) Chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, pleaded with Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike not to defect from the main opposition party.
He also proposed that Atiku, Okowa, National Chairman Dr. Iyorcha Ayu, Board of Trustees (BoT) Chairman, and governors should visit the aggrieved governor to iron out differences with him.
Jibrin also suggested that former ministers, representatives of party elders from six zones and selected BoT members should accompany Atiku during the visit.
The crisis had broken out in the PDP following the choice of Okowa as running mate by Atiku.
Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom and former Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose, who have raised eyebrows over the choice, lamented that Wike, who also contested for the party ticket at the primary, should have been picked as running mate instead of Okowa.
Ortom said the committee set up by Atiku recommended Wike, based on some factors, wondering why the recommendation of the panel was rejected by the presidential candidate.
Also, a personality clash had broken out between Wike and former Niger State Governor Babangida Aliyu over the PDP post-primary crisis.
However, a top source, who spoke in confidence, said the choice of Okowa as running mate was not the only cause of tension in the party.
He said the demand for concessions by some party stalwarts contributed to the imbroglio.
The source said the setting up of a search committee by the party for a suitable vice presidential candidate complicated the crisis.
He claimed that the candidate was crossed between compliance with the advisory of the panel and choosing the best person to work with.
The source, who shed light on the intrigues, said before the choice of a running mate, Atiku had a breakfast session with Governors Wike, Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom and Okowa.
The source said during the session, Atiku pleaded for understanding on whoever was chosen and extracted commitment from them to keep the party united.
According to the source, Atiku and his team were shocked that Wike reneged on the gentleman agreement by sticking to the recommendation of the search panel.
The source said based on recent developments, Atiku has made up his mind not to negotiate with anybody or group.
The source added: “Our candidate has ruled out making concessions to anybody or group before the elections. You don’t push the cart before the horse.
“Some supporters of Wike and a few past and serving governors have been making some demands which are too early to consider or accept.
“The preoccupation of Atiku now is how to keep the party united ahead of the 2023 poll.”
Responding to a question, the source said: “As things stand, Atiku will engage in fresh reconciliation talks with Wike, some aggrieved governors and party leaders to clear grey areas.
“We still have about seven months to the general election. Atiku believes PDP can’t afford a divided house.
“Atiku is returning home this week to take direct charge of the reconciliation and healing process in PDP.”
On Okowa’s choice, another source said Atiku was not bound by the recommendation of the panel.
The source said: “During the 1992 presidential primaries of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), Atiku stepped down during the runoff for the late M. K. O. Abiola.
“Although Atiku was promised a vice presidential slot, Abiola preferred Amb. Babagana Kingibe. The PDM Caucus in SDP was hurt but it abided by the decision of Abiola.
“It is not cast in stone that the party must impose a running mate on its presidential candidate.”
However, Senator Jibrin called for peace and unity in the party ahead of the 2023 polls.
He said in a statement on “Current situation of PDP,” that Wike is a valuable party chieftain who should not be allowed to leave the platform.
He also cautioned against inflammatory statements capable of compounding the division.
Jubrin said: “It is very important to note that Governor Wike is very responsible and very obedient member of PDP who assisted tremendously toward building the party to what it is today.
“We must, therefore, encourage him to never leave the party. In the light of the above, I want to appeal to all PDP members and leaders to shun away from unorthodox comments aimed at reducing and running down the party.
“We must come together and unite ourselves as earlier established by our founding fathers.
“We should, therefore, shun any bad comment aimed at dividing us. We must be ready to forget and forgive ourselves by encouraging Nigerians to continue supporting us and our party.
“It is my strong appeal to all current and former governors and former Presidents of Nigeria not to add more fuel into the fire but to always try to quench the fire from spreading.”
Jibrin acknowledged the comments that have trailed Okowa’s choice.
He said the comments are very normal in any political setup, particularly in the PDP, which he described as “the strongest and most prominent party that has all potentials to form Government in 2023.”
Urging caution among chieftains, Jibrin said: “We must come back to our senses.”
The BoT Chairman maintained that it is necessary for Atiku and Ayu to immediately visit Wike, adding that the presidential candidate should head the delegation.
The BoT Chairman thanked past leaders, including General Yakubu Gowon, General Olusegun Obasanjo,
General Ibrahim Babangida, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, General Aliyu Gusau and party leaders for their support for the party.