TrackNews Media looks at the politics of presidential election within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the backdrop of the gains of the outing by the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, asking if it is a sign that the crisis in the oldest national party is coming to an end.
The famous assertion that “Politics is war without bloodshed…,” made by Mao Zedong, Chinese Marxist theorist and leader of the Communist Party, also popularly known as Chairman Mao, rang true in the politics of presidential election in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the presidential candidate of the party and former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, took his campaign to Ibadan, the Oyo State on Thursday.
It is no longer news that the governor of Oyo State, Mr Seyi Makinde, is a key member of the group of five governors of the party also known as the Integrity Group or G-5 governors, claiming to be aggrieved. The governors have been expressing their displeasure about certain developments post-presidential primary where Atiku clinched the ticket.
Many analysts had predicted that Atiku’s rally in Ibadan would be robbed of its expected glitz and glamour on account of the G-5 governors’ posture to Atiku’s presidential campaign since it started late last year.
The five governors had specifically called for the resignation of the national chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu, to allow a southern candidate fill the slot in the interest of equity, justice and fairness, since the presidential candidate is from the North.
But some stakeholders within the party, while reacting to the demand by the five governors have consistently told them that the removal of Dr Ayu as PDP national chairman can only be easy if approved by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party. Besides, if Ayu is removed or resigns, the party’s constitution says only a replacement must come from the same region.
A recent example was the removal of Uche Secondus as national chairman. Secondus, who is from Rivers State, was replaced in acting capacity by the deputy national chairman from the South, Elder Yemi Akinwonmi from Ogun State. He midwifed the convention that produced Ayu.
But the other camp has since rejected such call, saying it is unhealthy for the party as elections have inched closer. The two camps, for months now, have not been able to come to an agreement on how what they have described as “disagreement among family members” can be resolved.
But if events at Atiku’s rally in Ibadan on Thursday are anything to go by, the camp of the G-5 governors and Atiku may be inching closer to an agreement. The faction of Integrity Group appears to be returning to full communion with the party’s national structure under Ayu.
In deference to the group, Governor Makinde though did not grace Atiku’s campaign rally in Ibadan, his presence was felt. Makinde directed the party’s senatorial and House of Representatives candidates as well the party structure in the state to mobilise and work for the success of the rally.
Priority to the rally, he had appointed a committee of three comprising the party’s senatorial candidate for Oyo South, Joseph Tegbe, a serving two-term member of the House of Representatives from Ibarapa East/Ido Federal Constituency, Honourable Yemi Taiwo and a former senator, Gbenga Babalola, to interface with the national body of the party and the presidential campaign council in the planning and preparations for the rally.
While a key member of the G-5 and River State governor, Nyesom Wike, refused to send nominees for inclusion in the Atiku’s presidential campaign council, Makinde not only sent his own nominees, he also has never stopped them from going to meetings of the council which is working with other stakeholders across the country success of Atiku at the polls.
The Atiku Walk as Icebreaker?
While the battle of wits between the G-5 and Atiku/Ayu rages, no group or body loyal to the governor in the state could come out to identify with Atiku, let alone campaign for him. All the candidates, including the National Assembly candidates, whose election holds the same day as that of Atiku were studying the body language of their leader, Makinde.
But while all this was going on, a group of leaders in the party, including a former Minister of State for FCT, Chief Jumoke Akinjide, former Minister of Mines and Steel, Elder Wole Oyelese and former deputy governor of the state, Alhaji Hazeem Gbolarumi and others, had trudged on, daring to take the Atiku project on without waiting for the Oyo State governor.
The tone for the success of Thursday’s rally was set on January 4, when some of the leaders in the party in the state, including a former Minister of State for FCT, Akinjide; former Minister of Mines and Steel, Elder Oyelese and former deputy governor of the state, Alhaji Gbolarumi; Babalola (Jogor) and others, organised a rally called Atiku Freedom Walk in Ibadan.
The rally, which was held on the eve of G-5 governors’ visit to Ibadan where they attended the flag-off of Governor Makinde’s reelection, was in every aspect successful. A large crowd of party faithful and supporters of Atiku trooped out to express their support for his presidential aspiration.
Speaking at the rally, Akinjide, Oyelese, Gbolarumi, among others, charged the PDP supporters to continue to mobilise for Atiku at the grass roots, adding that those who were yet to join the campaign train for Atiku would join them soon.
Akinjide, while lauding Makinde for representing the PDP well by performing and putting people at the centre of his policies, urged the crowd at the rally to ignore “strange visitors” who would join Makinde at the his campaign the following day.
“If they ask you not to vote for Atiku, tell them ‘no’, that you are going to support and vote for Atiku because he is a unifier and the most experienced candidate to lead the country out of the woods that APC has thrown it,” she said.
Unknown to her, she had sown a seed in the minds of the PDP faithful who were at the rally with her charge. The PDP supporters, during Makinde’s reelection commencement of Makinde’s reelection campaign the day after, chanted “Atiku, Atiku,” when two of the G-5 governors canvassed for votes for PDP National Assembly candidates in the state, but left out the name of Atiku.
The Stakeholders’ Meet at Govt House
On the day the group of leaders under the aegis of the National Mandate Group rallied with party faithful for Atiku in Ibadan, Sunday Tribune gathered that Governor Makinde summoned a meeting of all candidates, party leaders and elders for the Government House.
The issue of why Governor Makinde should break ranks with his brothers in the Integrity Group and declare support for Atiku echoed throughout the meeting. When Makinde called on elders from the various divisions of the state to speak, they all were in one accord: that the governor should allow the candidates to canvass for Atiku as all signs point to him as the next president.
Some of the leaders reported their interactions with the various Fulani and Hausa groups in the state and how these people have told them they are working for Atiku and also urged the PDP faithful in the state to support their son.
At the meeting, Governor Makinde was said to have reiterated his position that he had nothing against Atiku or the outcome of the presidential primary. He said their stance was informed by the need to ensure the South is not short-changed in the scheme of things.
Atiku campaign rally
On account of the back and forth over when the issue with the Integrity Group will be resolved, the date for Atiku’s campaign in Ibadan was shifted three times. Originally scheduled to hold last month, the rally was pushed to January 23. It was later shifted to last Thursday, January 19.
While the first shift was attributed to the delay in finding a resolution to the G-5 matter, bringing the date back from January 23 to 19 was not explained. Observers argue a change in the schedule of Atiku’s itinerary or the need to sustain the salutary effects gained at Makinde’s rally could be responsible.
TrackNews Media gathered that logistic for mobilisation for the rally was deployed to the party structure as well as the other group. In fact, Governor Makinde was said to have supported the party with more funds to ensure the rally was hitch-free.
Speaker after speaker, at the rally, praised the Oyo State governor for his politics without bitterness posture. Observers say had Makinde moved to frustrate the rally, the negative consequences would have been felt greatly. Almost all the National Assembly candidates of the party were at the airport to receive Atiku. They also mobilised their supporters who brandished various campaign materials welcoming Atiku to the state.
The state chairman of the party, Honourable Dayo Ogungbenro, told the gathering that Governor Makinde, prior to the rally, had sent people to all the zones in the state to canvass votes for all the PDP candidates.
“We have been going round from one zone to the other in a manner similar to the biblical maxim: go a-fishing. We have succeeded in doing that and we have started our campaign in Oyo State and the gospel is vote PDP from up the ticket down. Come February 25, we will rejoice in PDP. I would like to assure our leaders here present that Oyo State is PDP and PDP is Oyo State.
“On a final note, let me appeal strongly too that whatever is good needs prayer and vice versa. Just like I challenged Alhaji Atiku when he was in my office, I said you are the father of all. It will be very glorious and better for us to go to this battle with a full house, a concerted united and I am very sure victory will be ours at the end of the day,” Ogungbenro said in his goodwill message at the rally.
In his message, one of the closest allies of Makinde and one time senator for Oyo North, Senator Hosea Agboola, popularly called Halleluyah, said, “Sincerely, the people of Oyo State will vote for Atiku/Okowa. The eight years of APC brought untold hardship and suffering on Nigerians.
“So, on the day of presidential election, come out en masse to vote for our father, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and all PDP National Assembly candidates. Equally, on March 11, vote for Governor Seyi Makinde and other 32 House of Assembly candidates,”
Also speaking, Akinjide: “I am happy that those of us who were here when Governor Makinde flagged off his campaign are also here today to welcome our president, Alhaji Atiku. I have been telling you to take the gospel to every part of the state people should vote for PDP from top to bottom. Only PDP can save Nigerians from the evil called APC.”
Trinity cord connects Atiku, Makinde, PDP —Dino Melaye
A former kogi West Senator, Dino Melyae, said, “We have to specially appreciate Governor Makinde for creating an enabling environment for this campaign to take place. The chairman of the party is here. The PDP state executive members are here, all the three senatorial, 14 House of Reps, all the 32 House of Assembly candidates are here. Atiku has won.
“The issue between Makinde and Atiku is a matter between father and son. It is like the issue of Trinity in the Bible and nobody can separate them because God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are one. We must thank Governor Makinde for mobilising here today.
Osun State governor, who thrilled the crowd by demonstrating his dancing skills, called for support for Atiku and Makinde, saying, “I am happy with what is happening here today. When it is time for election, please vote for Governor Makinde before then, you should vote for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and all PDP candidates. PDP is dominant in the South-West.
PDP will make strong showing in South-West —Tambuwal
The Director General of Atiku’s campaign and Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, gave a summary of the outing of Atiku in the South-West, saying the PDP and Atiku would do well in the zone.
“We are in a new dawn in the political history of the country. We know the position of Oyo State in Nigerian politics. Oyo has been a melting pot of the South-West politics. We are therefore, not surprised with what we are seeing playing here today. Let me commend my younger brother and friend, Governor Makinde, for allowing his democratic spirit to play out by allowing each and every member of the PDP to participate in the campaign. This is very commendable and very democratic. I expect no less from him.
“The PDP is in play in the South-West. We are in a very strong competition in the South-West and by the grace of God, we are determined to first win the South-West before any other zone in Nigeria.
Nigerians can’t bear this suffering any longer —Okowa
The vice presidential candidate and governor of Delta State, Dr Ifenayi Okowa, urged the electorate to vote out APC with their thumbs and enthrone a PDP government that will rebuild the country from the ruins of APC’s misrule.
“Coming through the streets and going through the markets, we have seen a very happy people. We have seen people turn out in large numbers to welcome us. And here in Mapo, we have met a very happy crowd.
“I know Oyo State is the seat of politics in the South-West. Thank God I went to the University of Ibadan which I left in 1981 as a medical doctor and I am proud to come home to Ibadan today.
“I thank my colleague, Governor Makinde for what he has done. I am really very happy with him. There is no doubt that we have continued to suffer as a nation in the last eight years. The suffering is too much and we can’t bear it anymore. And the only way to express this is to ensure that we use our PVCs on February 25 to show the APC that we are not happy with what they have done with Nigeria in the last eight years because this is not the Nigeria of our dream.
“Our youths are getting frustrated. They are hungry and angry. Even our mothers and fathers are getting poorer and poorer every day. They go to bed hungry. There is insecurity in every part of the country. This is not the Nigeria that PDP left in 2015. The APC government has destroyed the nation.
“But there is hope for tomorrow. The hope lies in you and in your hands. With your votes, make sure you vote PDP back to power with Atiku leading as president and I your brother who finished from the University of Ibadan working with him. We will begin the rebuilding back the country,” he said.
Echoes of restructuring as Atiku mounts podium
When Atiku took the podium, he knew what is dear to the people of the South-West as far as their lot within the Nigerian federation is concerned. He pitched his message accordingly, promising the South West voters that restructuring will be one of the pillars of his administration when he becomes president.
“The region of the South-West has been known to agitate for restructuring. By restructuring we mean, giving more autonomy, more money to the states. This is one of the five pillars of our programme. We will make sure we implement restructuring, meaning that we give you resources and more powers so that you can develop your respective zones, states, and local government areas.
“Again, we are committed to making sure that there are no more strikes in our universities, meaning we will fund our universities and pay our teachers on time so that we don’t have any disruptions to our academic activities.
“South-West is also known to be a business hub; that is why in our economic programme, we are committed to making sure that industrialisation of the South-West is achieved and has the support of the federal government.
“We must make sure that there is inclusion; every part of this country will be represented in our government not like what the APC government is doing. We also commit to make sure that we take control of our security situation so that there is peace, law and order in every part of this country. This is our commitment.
“It is unlike the commitment of the APC in the last seven to eight years. Everything they have committed to, they have failed to implement. You are living witnesses. Therefore, if you are living witnesses, this is an opportunity for you to vote out APC.
“Vote them out completely from top to bottom and re- place them with PDP from top to bottom. Support PDP all the way and together we can march into victory and prog- ress for our great country.”
The party’s national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, promised that a PDP government at the federal level will ensure improvement of the quality of life of Nigerians. He tasked Nigerians to vote the PDP across all levels, asserting that the APC will be kicked out of existence in Nigeria.
“Eight years ago, some people came with lies, propaganda and deceived you, and that they will give you change. Are you enjoying the change? How much are you buying a bag of rice today?
“After the election, there will be no APC in Nigeria. They will disappear from the surface of the Nigerian earth; they will go back to the small parties that they were,” he said.
Wike’s green light for Atiku in Rivers
Just as the echoes from the gains for Atiku in Oyo State were still reverberating, Nyesom Wike of Rivers State gave approval for the use of Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt for Atiku’s campaign. The rally had earlier been slated for Port Harcourt Polo Club following the unwillingness of Wike to release the stadium for the rally.
Not only did Wike release the stadium, he also waived the N5m fee charged for the use of the facility in deference to demonstrate that the ‘war’ over presidential politics in the party should not lead to ‘bloodshed’.
With this development, the ice over Wike’s relationship or by extension, the G’5 governors’ relationship with Atiku may have begun to defrost.
The last word
Atiku’s visit to Ibadan, Oyo State, is the first to any of the G-5 governors’ states. The questions to ask are many: has Makinde set the template he and his colleagues will use when Atiku goes to their states? Is it a template agreed to by all of them? Or is it local peculiarities that will determine events in other states? Did the realisation that he is the only governor needing a second term inform his positive attitude towards Atiku’s campaign? Are these signs that the G-5 governors may be heading back home? Is it a case of he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day? Or have they resolved to sheathe their sword to ensure victory at the polls before returning to their agitation? Too many questions that only the stakeholders can answer. The next four weeks will tell.
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