Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike has said that the actions of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar, and the National Chairman of the party, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, are raising doubts in voters about the party ahead of the 2023 presidential election.
The Rivers governor, who spent about two hours in a live media chat in Government House, Port Harcourt on the crisis rocking the PDP, insisted that the refusal of Atiku and Ayu to fulfill their promises has portrayed them as untrustworthy characters in the eyes of Nigerians.
Wike said the party laid the foundation for the current crisis when it jettisoned its zoning principle of elective offices to pave the way for a northerner instead of a Southern presidential candidate.
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He said: “The constitution of our party provides that there shall be zoning of party and elective offices. It is clear. Not ambiguous. But people will always try to manipulate the system to suit them.
“They slant stories in such a way as to deceive the public. The founding fathers know the complexity of this country. They did it in a such a way as not to have problems”.
The Governor recalled various meetings held by Southern Governors and their resolution that power must shift to the south but lamented that while the All Progressives Congress (APC) despite being in power adhered to the rotational principle in the spirit of the country’s unity, the PDP arrogantly rejected zoning.
He said PDP having boxed itself in the corner was being hunted by the singular decision and must be restructured to give the South a sense of belonging.
He recalled that shortly after his emergence as the party’s flag bearer, Atiku visited him and told him that Ayu must vacate his office to address the structural imbalance in the party.
Wike further remembered Ayu before he was elected as chairman promised to resign his position if a presidential candidate from the northern extraction emerged at the convention.
The Governor further disclosed the outcome of their London meeting with Atiku saying the candidate vowed to ensure the exit of Ayu and pleaded with them to give him a week to work out the modalities.
He, however, said they were surprised that Atiku treated them with disrespect when instead of giving them feedback went to an event and announced that any attempt to remove Ayu would cause a constitutional crisis.
On how Atiku and former Senate President Bukola Saraki humiliated former President Goodluck Jonathan, Wike said: “The founding fathers of our party never made a mistake, they knew the complexity of this country and therefore they arranged it in a such a way we do not have problems in our party.
“People should not forget history. It may not be favourable to you but for the sake of the society and the country, you must remember. In 2014, there was this issue of the presidential candidate of the party. Jonathan emerged as the presidential candidate.
“You also remembered that many people walked out of that convention. People like the candidate of our party today, Alh. Atiku Abubakar, Aminu Tanbuwal was one of them, the former Senate President, Saraki was one of them. They all walked out saying that the presidency must come to the north.
“Of course President Jonathan, a sitting president, did everything to talk to them to come back to the party. Jonathan was rebuffed as a sitting President. I even remembered there was a time he travelled to London to see Atiku, he rebuffed Jonathan, who was a sitting President.
“We decided to remain in the party. You heard when the former Niger State Governor, Aliyu Babangida came out and said they all agreed to work against the candidate of our party.
“But what is important is that some members of our party played anti-party activities because they believed that the presidential candidate should come from the north”.
On why the current structure in PDP cannot stand, Wike said: “We have had our primary and the Presidential Candidate emerged. But before the candidate emerged, there was the issue of where will the chairmanship go to because in our party the chairman comes from south and the candidate comes from north and vice versa.
“The intention of the founding fathers is to allow for inclusiveness, for everybody to participate in the hierarchy of decision making. As it is today three major persons make decision for the party. One is the national chairman, the presidential candidate or the President if you are in power and then the Director-Geeneral of the campaign.”
Narrating how PDP governors from the South betrayed the collective decision that power must shift to the south, the Governor said: “We from the South, before, now we have met and said the presidency must come to the south. The APC and PDP met.
“When this idea was mooted, they met and agreed that the conveners of these meetings will be the Governor of Ondo, Akeredolu, the Governor of Ebonyi, Umahi and the Governor of Delta, Okowa. They became the chief Convener of the southern governors forum.
“The first meeting was held in Asaba. It was agreed that President Muhammadu Buhari coming from the north had done eight years and therefore, the next should come from the South. The next meeting was held in Lagos and it was stated clearly that this is what they must pursue.
“The final meeting was held in Enugu. I don’t want to say certain statements made by some governors at that meeting. I remembered that one of the governors said, ‘how will I tell my children that I cannot be a president because I do not come from a particular section of the country’.
“At the appropriate time I will let you know the governor. We said that Secondus was already rounding off his term and cannot go back since the presidency is coming to the south. It was not a personal thing.
“We went to the party and there were arguments and counter arguments started. I was even surprised at the behavior of some of the governors, who were even the conveners of the forum.
“Luckily the party set up a committee. At that committee, the governor of Benue State, governor Ortom was the chairman of the zoning committee. They cleverly came up with the idea that only party offices should be zoned not the elective offices.
“Some people believed they are more intelligent than others. Some of us said that, this at the end of the day, will cause crisis for us. The chairmanship was now zoned to the north and that was why no southerner contested the position.
“When we lost election in 2015, the party sat down, formed a committee under Ekweremadu. The committee came out and said we should zone the presidency to the north. That was why in 2018 convention, there was nobody from the South who contested that position.
“All the presidential aspirants came from the north and everybody would remember. We gave Atiku all the support. No state contributed more than Rivers.
“Those of them who claim they are highly connected and that they are the founding fathers of the party, now said there should be no zoning of the presidential ticket, ‘leave it open let the best candidate emerge because they think they have the number’.”
On how Ayu allegedly manipulated processs in Atiku’s favour, the Governor gave a detailed account of the circumstances that surrounded his participation at the party’s primaries and how Ayu manipulated the process to favour Atiku.
Wike said the only regrets he had was not having the opportunity to fight bandits and oil thieves as he had earlier planned if elected a president.
He said: “We have jettisoned our constitution knowing that we are laying a foundation, a seed of discord in future. But before the primary, Ayu emerged as the chairman. I stand to challenge anybody, Ayu kept thanking me and promising to unite the party. They started selling forms. And people bought forms and said there is no need to zone. I see fraud and manipulation.
“But some of us came out to say we want to run. The only thing is can tell you today I feel pained is that I don’t have the opportunity to fight bandits and oil theft. The two things I told myself I was going to do was to take on insecurity head-on and the issue of oil theft affecting our economy today. But it is God that gives power.
“We campaigned seriously. They were shocked at the modus of our campaign. There were meetings upon meetings. A whole national chairman threatened some of the presidential candidates at that time that if Wike wins he was going to resign.
“In fact, he was calling aspirants to withdraw for Atiku Abubakar. Bala Mohammed is there. Saraki is there. Tambuwal is there. Meetings were called upon. ‘you must withdraw if not we will lose, Wike will win’.
“This is a national chairman of a party who is supposed to be the chief umpire. Even at the primary. That was why we started the primary very late. Meetings were going on asking people to step down. Some of the top retired generals were involved. Some of the meetings were held in their houses.
“But even in the committee for the convention, when we met in Benue Governor’s Lodge with the national working committee, I told the National Chairman that the people he was fronting as the chairmen of the committees were all supporters of Atiku Abubakar. He said no.
“I told him we didn’t want the party to be in crisis and challenged him to do the right thing so that at the end of the day all of us will be he happy. We are opposition party not the ruling party and we must conduct ourselves in such a way to avoid internal crisis.
“But there was nothing Ayu didn’t do, manipulation of delegate list. Unfortunately to them, the numbers were not adding up. There was nothing they didn’t do to ensure Wike did not emerge. We went to the convenrion.
“You remember I spoke last. When I came out to speak, there was danger. The ovation was thunderous. It became a problem to them. I was highly disappointed by the former Senate President. It has never happened in the history of elections. In fact, when you are speaking whatever thing you want to do you say it at that point.
“When everybody had spoken for them to commence, a whole chairman of the national convention planning committee said there was an announcement. It has never happened anywhere. People were thinking it was for security reasons.
“But he gave back the microphone to Tambuwal to come again and speak after everybody had spoken to say he want to withdraw. He now went ahead to say people should vote for Atiku Abubakar.
“At that point if not for the love of the party, that convention wouldn’t have held. There would have been crisis in that convention. But we decided to go ahead for peace to reign. We decided to avoid anything that would cause problem. I would have said the convention would not hold and if heaven was going to come down we would have allowed heaven to come down that day.
“After you have done all you have done, you now went to Tambuwal to say he was the hero of the convention, a national chairman. We taught it was over and there would be reconciliation”.
The governor said there was no time he lobbied anybody including members of the committee set up to nominate the vice-presidential candidate of the party.
He said Atiku offered him the position but he reminded the candidate he had already promised the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, same position.
He said: “I have never run for presidential primary to be a Vice-President, never. If I tell you the number of Nigerians that called me and said I should take the offer of the vice-president, but I said no. I said I don’t trust these people, I know them too well.
“The pressure was too much, I said let it not look as if it is personal thing. After the convention Saturday, Sunday, the candidate wanted to see me. Immediately we sat down, he said, ‘governor look Ayu must go’. He said we have never had the presidential candidate and the chairman from the same zone. Atiku told me this. Let him said he never said so.
“The next he said was that he wanted us to work together. I said how? He said I should take the vice-president. I said no. You have already promised the governor of Delta. I told him I would discuss with my people. Integrity matters a lot. People don’t trust our leaders again.
“He said one of the retired generals wrote three names, Okowa, myself and the governor of Akwa Ibom. He was asked to write a letter asking the party to nominate the presidential candidate, that he didn’t want to make a mistake he made before when people accused him of nominating Obi without consulting the party.
“I challenged them to show the letter he wrote to the party that made the party to constitute a high powered delegation, five members of the national working committee led by the deputy national chairman, north, national Secretary, National Woman leader, zonal chairman of north central; three serving governors, chairman of governors’ forum, Aliyu Tambuwal, Bala Mohammed and Ortom; four former governors, Sule Lamido, Aliyu Babangida, Liyel Imoke, Olusegun Mimiko; three BoT and two members of the national assembly members.
“Let any of them say they either saw me or I either came to them to speak to any of them. I challenged any of them to say I lobbied for nomination. The national chairman made sure they did not recommend anybody.
“They tried to do all permutations and they wrote there in order of preference. The national chairman went to the candidate in the midnight and asked him to pick anybody. I saw him and told him why do you have to make it look as if, look at the crisis you have caused for the party”.
Speaking on London meeting with Atiku, Wike said: “We were invited to a meeting in London, Adamawa, Ortom, Makinde, Ikpeazu. Atiku said he had confronted Ayu on this statement and Ayu said yes.
“We sat down and he agreed with us that Ayu had to go. He said we should give him one week, that we would work out the modalities. This is what we must do to move forward. You are the presidential candidate, give the chairmanship to the south. If he respects us what stops him from calling us to tell us there are constitutional issues”.
Wike, however, said it was deceitful for people, who never respected the constitutional provision of the party to cite constitution as the reason why Ayu should not resign.
He said persons advising Atiku had nothing to offer the party electorally and suggested that following the exigency of the matter the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party could be convened to restructure the party and rectify such decision in a convention after the election
He said: “These people have nothing to offer this party electorally. You didn’t remember the party recommended zoning of elective positions. The presidency ought to have been zoned to the south. You can’t rely on the same provision to stay in the office.
“NEC can meet and take the decision and meet again to rectify it in a convention. All we want is now you have given presidency to the north, give us our chairmanship. The problem is that we have not won election but we are too arrogant. We are telling Nigerians that we can’t be trusted. You can’t do without me in my state”.
The governor added: “I think you should praise some of us who stood firmly to say that power must shift to the south. For the unity of this country, we have not reached the level where you undermine this issue. If APC as ruling party can come out categorically to say we are zoning this to south. We have accepted our fate, but we are asking you to give us this but you are saying no.
“I say they believe that the presidency is supporting them. No party that wants to win election can be this arrogant. I know what APC can do. As an opposition party, you must show humility.
“It has nothing to do with the treatment of Wike. I am fighting for justice, fairness and equity. It is not about me. But as a party, we must show to Nigerians that we are trustworthy. The only way Nigerians can take it is when you start from this one.
“If you can’t do this now, you are making Nigerians to be afraid. If you say Nigerians are not happy with APC and then you don’t want to do the right things because of that. With what you are doing, you are scaring Nigerians.
“If we take advantage of the feelings of Nigerians by doing the right thing. If we remain like this till the election, Nigerians we have doubt about us. Who will suspend me? Look at the problem they are already having. Those who ran away from the party cannot suspend me. I am begging them to immediately suspend me. Anything you see you will take it”