The ruling All Progressives Congress, Peoples Democratic Party, Social Democratic Party and 13 other political parties are jostling to produce the next governor of Ekiti State in today’s election. The exercise is scheduled to hold across the 2,445 polling units in the 16 local government areas of the state.
The other parties include Accord Party, African Action Congress, African Democratic Congress, Action Democratic Party, All Progressives Grand Alliance, Allied Peoples Movement, Action Peoples Party, Labour Party, New Nigeria People’s Party, National Rescue Movement, Peoples Redemption Party, Young Progressives Party and Zenith Labour Party.
Meanwhile, in a sequel to the signing into law the Electoral Bill, assented to by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on February 25, 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission says it will begin the electronic transmission of results with the Ekiti governorship election. It’s the first election the commission is conducting since the all-important bill became law.
The Act empowers the commission to transmit election results in a way it determines.
Section 50 of the Act reads, “Subject to section 63 of this Act, voting at an election and transmission of results under this Act shall be in accordance with the procedure determined by the Commission.”
Asked if the commission would commence the much-awaited electronic transmission of result with the election, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, said in an interview with one of our correspondents, “Yes, the Ekiti governorship election results will be transmitted electronically.
“After the election and completion of the result management procedure at the polling unit, the Presiding Officer would transmit a clear image of the Form EC8A for purposes of collation. This image goes to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV).
He however noted that there would still be manual transmission of results to complement the electronic option. He added, “The PO (Presiding Officer) will also deliver by hand, the hard copy of the Form EC8A and the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System to the Registration Area Collation Officer.”
749,065 voters to elect new gov
Meanwhile, only about 749,065 voters will elect the next governor of the state. The figure is the number of registered voters who had, as at Monday, collected their permanent voter cards from INEC. There are 988,923 registered voters in the state.
As part of efforts to ensure a smooth election, the joint team of security agencies deployed for the election for the second day embarked on a show of force round Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, on Friday.
The team which lined up two Armoured Personnel Carriers and 13 trucks conveying personnel of Nigerian Army, police and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, moved from the police headquarters to major streets of Ado Ekiti, thus causing heavy traffic along the routes, just as police helicopters engaged in aerial surveillance.
While the police deployed 17,374 personnel, the Nigeria Civil Defence and Security Corps deployed 9,747 personnel, in addition to the heavy deployment of men of the Nigerian Army. The Federal Fire Service also brought into the state men and fire-fighting trucks for the election.
IGP assures of adequate security, restricts vehicular movement
Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, on Friday ordered the restriction of vehicular movements within the state particularly along the entry and exit points with effect from 12am on Saturday to 6pm.
The IGP, who spoke through the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of the election, Babatunde Kokumo, said, “To this end, operatives of the Nigeria Police Force and the military as well as other security agencies have been deployed across the state borders to enforce the restriction order and ensure criminal-minded individuals do not infiltrate the state and cause mayhem during, before and after the election.
“We are also statutorily charged with the responsibility of securing INEC personnel, electoral materials and other critical assets of the commission as well as the electorate and the local and international observers.
“In carrying out our duties under the Electoral Act, we should be mindful not to abandon our routine, primary mandate of guaranteeing security within the public space so that criminal elements do not feast on our electoral engagement to have space for their heinous crimes.”
Also, NSCDC Acting Deputy Commandant General, Operations, Lawal Haruna, said the corps deployed 9,747 personnel drawn from the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Kogi, Kwara and Edo commands to provide security during the election.
He said some flashpoints had already been identified and that information regarding violence-prone areas had been shared with other security agencies involved in the election. He said two personnel of the corps would be in each polling unit.
NYSC DG seeks security of corps members
Director-General, National Youth Service Corps, Brig. Gen. Muhammad Kakuh Fadah, on Friday solicited adequate protection for corps members participating as ad hoc officials.
Fadah, who spoke during his visit to the headquarters of the security agencies in the state, wondered what Nigeria would be without the NYSC.
The top brass in the military, Department of State Services and the police in the state assured the NYSC DG they would do everything within their powers to ensure that corps members were secured during and after the elections.
On the safety of the ad hoc staff, Oyekanmi said, “The commission has obtained insurance policy for all the ad hoc staff that will be engaged in Ekiti governorship election. The policy, known as Electoral Hazard – a Group Personal Accident Policy, covers death by accident, temporary disability, permanent disability and medical treatment due to an accident. This has been the practice for every election that INEC conducts.”
Mass votes buying most likely – KDI
A non-governmental organisation, the Kimpact Development Initiative, has said there is an indication that there will be massive vote-buying in the election.
Kimpact’s Executive Director, Mr Bukola Idowu, said there was the need for security agencies to be professional to curb the menace. It also asked INEC officials to allow free and fair elections.
Idowu, who spoke in Ado Ekiti, said the organisation’s findings also indicated that there would be violence in some parts of the state during the election, while urging the security agencies to be professional.
Idowu said, “KDI is predicting a ridiculous widespread of vote-buying during the Saturday election particularly in Ekiti Central Senatorial District. INEC and security agents should be up and doing during the election.”
He said the findings of the organisation revealed that kidnappings and fake news might occur in Ekiti North and Ekiti South Senatorial Districts during the election.
CSO sets up Fake News Hub
Meanwhile, an independent capacity building organisation, Centre for Democracy and Development, on Friday set up a Fake News Hub domiciled in the centre’s Election Analysis Centre in Abuja.
Director of the Centre, Idayat Hassan, said the Centre, chaired by Prof Jinadu Adele, and assisted by seasoned governance and election experts, “will be providing accurate and real time analysis of events before, during and post-election period”.
Hassan, represented by a senior programmes officer, Austin Aigbe, said, “The negative effects of fake news include manipulation and distortion of facts that could mislead voters, affect turnout, heighten political tensions to incite electoral violence. Thus, Fake News Hub will spot, identify, investigate and counter fake news during this election.”
Also, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room Co-convener, James Ugochukwu, who hailed INEC for the smooth distribution of sensitive materials from INEC headquarters two days to the election, however, said, “Situation Room will be holding INEC accountable for its commitment and assurances.”
Don’t set Ekiti on fire, Oni warns APC
The governorship candidate of the SDP, Chief Segun Oni, on Friday raised the alarm over the alleged kidnapping of leaders of his party by agents of the APC with the backing of some security agents.
Oni urged INEC to ensure that the election was conducted in strict compliance with the Electoral Act and guidelines to pass the credibility test.
He said, “It has become imperative to alert INEC, security agencies, election observers, the international community and all other stakeholders, on the dire need for all parties in this election to adhere strictly to the electoral laws and stipulated guidelines for free, fair and transparent conduct, devoid of violence.
“Some of those kidnapped escaped from their custody. They should be told to desist from this because what they are doing is illegal. We are still watching; we are not going to resist them. If we resist them, it may lead to loss of lives. We are telling them not to set this state on fire.”
Election’ll be peaceful – APC
The APC Publicity Secretary in the state, Segun Dipe, expressed hope that the election would go on peacefully, saying there would be no cause for voter apathy.
Dipe said, “We have the confidence and assurance that the security operatives will do their jobs very well, that INEC will do its job very well and that all party candidates will compose themselves very well. At this point, we are not considering any mayhem or any crisis. We believe everything will be on course. “However, we are aware of some people, who are in the contest so that they can litigate in the end, are looking for the weaknesses of INEC or the security operatives so that they can go to court. But by and large, we call for peace.”
Victory is sure – Kolawole
Although the PDP candidate, Bisi Kolawole, did not comment on whether he feared there could be violence which could bring about voter apathy, he said, “I am sure of victory in the election. We have worked and we will be victorious.”
Meanwhile, INEC has said it is working with relevant agencies to tackle the menace of vote-buying.
Oyekanmi said in the interview with Saturday PUNCH, “The commission is working with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission and other law enforcement agencies to tackle the menace of vote buying and selling. So, it is not just about what INEC is going to do. Other agencies also have the responsibility of curbing the vice.”
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Northerners won’t back Obi, says Kwankwaso, Labour Party kicks
A former Governor of Kano State and presidential candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, has stated that the electorate in the North won’t vote for the candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, should the latter be the candidate of the proposed NNPP-LP alliance for the 2023 general elections.
Kwankwaso also disclosed that the alleged closeness of Obi, a former Governor of Anambra State, to a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, is frustrating the negotiations of the NNPP and the LP alliance.
Kwankwaso made this known on Sunday while featuring on Sunday Politics, a current affairs programme on Channels Television.
When asked if the former Minister of Defence had agreed with Obi on joining forces to defeat the two dominant parties – opposition PDP and ruling All Progressives Congress, he said the NNPP is discussing with “so many people, individuals, groups and parties,” believing that at the end of the day, it would win elections at all levels.
While Kwankwaso noted that he had yet to meet with Obi for negotiations, a committee set up to negotiate the alliance had met with the ex-Anambra governor and “I believe that it is highly likely that we are going to meet and discuss the issue of coming together as a family.”
On the likelihood of the alliance to happen, the NNPP candidate said, “Yes, I believe that it will happen but we believe also that there are some challenges that we are having especially from the side of the Labour Party itself, because there are so many influences – some on their side, negative and even the positive side. We have a situation today where there are some people who are in other parties, who are also influencing the decision of that party (LP). I believe it is not good for the party.
When asked if he was willing to be Obi’s running mate, Kwankwaso stated, “What I’m telling you is that if anybody from the South-East now, under this circumstance, becomes the presidential candidate of our party or any other party, the implications is that because of the activities and other issues that are really on the ground, northern voters will certainly go for their northern candidate and another party. So, the thinking is not whether I like it or I don’t, the fact remains that everybody will lose. He will lose and I will lose.”
Meanwhile, the National Chairman of LP, Julius Abure, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “The truth of the matter is that it is in his (Kwankwaso’s) own interest for him to take the Vice Presidency. Peter Obi is the man of the moment, he has the credentials and he is the most popular as we speak and not Kwankwaso.
“When you look at fairness and equity, it doesn’t favour Kwankwaso, the mood of the country as it stands does not favour Kwankwaso. The late President Musa Yar’adua was from the North West, the current President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), is from the North West, Nigerians will not accept another person from the North West.
“These are factors that come to play and I don’t think we should be arrogant about it.”
VP slot: APC govs insist on colleague as ‘compensation’
Strong indications emerged, weekend, that governors elected on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, are insisting on a sitting colleague to be picked as vice presidential candidate to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the 2023 election, following the role they played in his emergence as the flagbearer.
Vanguard gathered that the governors are also pushing for Tinubu’s running mate to come from the North-East, particularly from Borno State, and that if on the other hand, it goes to the North-West, it should not be Katsina State.
They were said to have contended that since Katsina produced late President Umaru Yar’Adua and incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, it shouldn’t be considered.
It was also learned that another group in the Progressives Governors camp is pushing for the North-West geo-political zone to produce the vice presidential candidate, while looking in the direction of Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State; Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano, and Governor Atiku Abubakar of Kebbi State.
Tinubu’s push for Shettima
However, the problem at the moment is that Tinubu is said to be insisting on Senator Kashim Shettima, a former governor of Borno State.
A source told Vanguard that the sitting governors want the APC presidential candidate to compensate them for the role they played before the convention where they killed the move by National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, to have a consensus presidential candidate in person of the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, from Yobe State.
According to a source, the stakeholders want the North-East, especially Borno State, to produce the vice president in 2023, against the backdrop of the fact that the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan from Yobe State, North-East, did not get the APC presidential ticket.
The opinion of the leaders from the North-East is that the North West produced late former President Umaru Yar’Adua from Katsina; incumbent President Buhari also from Katsina and former Vice President Namadi Sambo from Kaduna State.
The source said: “The APC governors are pushing that the presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, should pick his vice presidential candidate from among them because of the role they played to stop the action of the APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, who had already settled for the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, as the presidential candidate of the ruling party.
“There are strong feelings that though the governors want one of them, Tinubu wants Senator Kassim Shettima as his vice-presidential candidate.”
From the look of things, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna and Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano, despite the fact that they are strong supporters of Tinubu, are out of the scheming process as it appears that the race for the running mate may have been reduced to just two men.
They are the governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, and his predecessor, Kashim Shettima.
The dilemma at the moment, it was gathered, is that while the governors prefer a sitting governor in person of Babagana Zulum of Borno State, Tinubu is said to have zeroed his search on former governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima, who currently represents Borno Central in the Senate.
A source told Vanguard that Tinubu prefers Shettima because he had been in the forefront of his presidential struggle.
It was gathered that he wants to settle for Shettima because he is politically on ground, a formidable force and well-
accepted in the North-East in order to split the votes from the zone with former Vice President and the presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar, who hails from Adamawa State, also in the North-East.
From the permutation on the ground, if Tinubu settles for either Zulum or Shettima, it will be a Muslim-Muslim ticket and if this fails, the party may also look in the way of former speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, from Bauchi, North-East zone, who is a Christian or Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, North-Central, also a Christian.
Recall that Tinubu, the APC presidential candidate, had submitted the name of Alhaji Kabiru Ibrahim Masari as his running mate for the 2023 presidential election.
Masari, who hails from Masari, a town in Kafur Local Government Area of Katsina State, served as the National Welfare Secretary of APC during Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s tenure as national chairman of the party. The former Edo State governor chaired the APC from 2018 to 2020.
Tinubu’s running mate was a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP during the late President Umaru Yar’Adua and after the death of Yar’Adua in 2010, Masari defected to the defunct Congress for Progressives Change, CPC, the party under which Buhari contested but lost the 2011 election.
Ahead of 2015, CPC collapsed its structure into APC and Masari joined the ruling party.
The APC presidential candidate must substitute the name of Masari with another running on or before the July 15 deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Pick your running mate from N/Central, North-East APC tells Tinubu
Meanwhile, a coalition of stakeholders of the APC North-East has demanded that the party leadership and its presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, pick his running mate from the North-Central, rather than the North-West.
This, according to the stakeholders, will enable the party to win the 2023 presidential elections and position it as a party known for fairness, equity and justice.
The decision was taken at the end of an emergency meeting of the North-East APC Stakeholders Coalition, which held yesterday in Abuja.
Some stakeholders from the North-West had recently clamoured for the position of running mate.
Addressing journalists after the meeting, National Coordinator of North-East APC Stakeholders Coalition, Alhaji Abba Aji Suleiman, faulted the demand of their North Western counterparts, describing it as “not only misplaced, but a gross display of insensitivity to the relevance of other regions in the scheme of things in the party.”
The coalition argued: “The North-West had been within the corridors of power in the last seven years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, and for such demand to be made, indeed, speaks volume of gross insensitivity.
“It is the considered view of stakeholders in the North-East that it would only be fair and just if the vice-presidential slot goes to the North-Central, given the numerous contributions of the region to the growth and development of the party.
“The stakeholders must come to terms with the fact that the North-Central hasn’t had a shot at the highest level of governance since the return of democracy in 1999. This time has presented that unique opportunity that must be utilized in the party’s best interest.
“The North-West APC stakeholders must also realize that the overarching objective of the party is to secure a landslide victory at the polls, and if that is, indeed, the case, would it make any sense if a region that has been represented adequately in the last ten years, would also demand the vice-presidential slot?”
Speaking further, Alhaji Suleiman stressed that “unless the stakeholders of our great party in the North West want us to believe that the North Central is not deserving of producing the vice-presidential candidate, hence the demand for the vice-presidential slot.
“The stakeholders of the APC in the North East wish to use this medium to call on the leadership of our great party to ensure justice and fairness by providing that the vice presidential slot is given to the North Central.’’
He added that the North Central had not had the opportunity to produce either the president or vice president, “despite the array of credible candidates in the region with excellent profiles and broad appeal across the country.’’
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PDP orders panel to beg Wike, drop Okowa, gov’s loyalists insist
The loyalists of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, have listed conditions for the resolution of the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party.
Supporters of the governor, in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Sunday, said it was not late for the PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to revisit the issue of his running mate by dropping the Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okonwa, whom he picked last month.
As the crisis over Atiku’s running mate worsened, the Chairman of the PDP’s Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin, said the party had set up a nine-member committee to beg Wike.
Sequel to his victory at the PDP convention, where he beat Wike and other contenders to the presidential ticket, Atiku had nominated Okowa as his running mate, despite the recommendation of Wike by a 17-man committee set up by the party.
Certain chieftains of the party, including the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, ex-Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang and others, had criticised the choice of Okowa as the party’s vice-presidential candidate.
There were reports on Friday that Wike snubbed a former Minister of Police Affairs and ally of Atiku, Adamu Waziri, who attempted to initiate a peace talk with him in Turkey.
The party, also on Sunday, raised another panel headed by Atiku, to pacify the aggrieved Governor and prevail on him not to leave the party.
The Chairman, Gokana Local Government Area in Rivers State, Confidence Deko, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Port Harcourt, said Wike did not deserve the treatment he got from Atiku and the PDP.
He said, “As far I am concerned, Wike has done so much for the PDP and I don’t think he deserves what the party gave to him. Come to think of it, Atiku Abubakar and the party asked the National Working Committee to find out who becomes the vice-president. A report was submitted and he (Atiku) ignored the report, and then picked Ifeanyi Okowa, the Delta State Governor.
“I am not saying he is not supposed to use somebody, but I am of the view that if he was part of those who asked the NWC to search for who becomes the vice-president to be, and they gave him their recommendation, he would have acted on it.
“But to me, it looks very odd that after submitting the report to him, he went and announced Okowa. I don’t think that Wike deserves what Atiku has done to him.”
The council boss disclosed that Wike supporters were waiting for his decision and political direction ahead of the presidential poll.
On the comments of former Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang, on the chances of the PDP in 2023 due to the festering crisis and if Okowa should be replaced, Deko said the man was not joking.
He added, “He has told you and you have heard the truth from him. If Wike was to be the vice-presidential candidate for Atiku, by now, you know Wike is a very practical person. And he does what his mind ask him to do.”
“The only option is to remove Okowa from there and announce Wike. In 2019, Wike brought the highest number of votes from South-South.”
Speaking in the same vein, some members of the House of Representatives loyal to Wike contended that the PDP was bound to fail with its choice of Okowa as the running mate.
The PDP lawmakers, in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Sunday, also took a swipe at the National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, criticising his role in the crisis that has followed the presidential primary of the opposition party.
When asked if the party should substitute Okowa with Wike, a member of the House from Kogi State, Teejay Yusuf, said it was possible if the presidential candidate could see the value the Rivers governor would add to the PDP ticket.
He said, “That will be the choice of the candidate. It would be his prerogative to do that. It is not for me to suggest that to him. If he sees that Wike will add more value to the ticket and say ‘with the way it is, I can manage the ripple effect of taking Okowa out,’ why not, if not?”
“Okowa is a PDP governor but nobody can deny the fact that Wike has the will and the capacity to make this party stand on its feet.”
The lawmaker, however, dismissed the possibility of Wike, who he described as “a party man,” dumping the PDP for another party or working with another party or presidential candidate through the backdoor.
But he cautioned that the governor’s loyalty should not be abused.
“I know that the standard-bearer is a politician of repute and he knows the dynamics, but he is a human being. So, if he made the wrong decision, I believe that, fortunately, the Electoral Act (2022) gives ample time; we have eight months to the general elections. In politics, one day can be a million days. A lot can be done in one day,” Yusuf noted.
The lawmaker affirmed that the standard-bearer should naturally look for the best way to make the decision while avoiding “a situation that might jeopardise the unity of the party and the collective desire to win the election.”
The lawmaker also condemned Ayu for allegedly taking sides in the crisis, when he should have been neutral as the leader of the party.
Yusuf cited the example of how Ayu met with the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, and called him a hero.
Tambuwal had stepped down for Atiku at the PDP primary, making it possible for the latter to defeat Wike who came second amid protests against the retention of power in the North when it was expected to rotate to the South.
Speaking on the calls on Atiku to reconcile with Wike, he said, “That is a fact and that was what was emphasised by the leaders who spoke of recent, notably Governor Ortom and former governor Jang. I lend my voice to that, that one stoops to conquer. It is the normal thing to be done.”
The lawmaker added, “If the information is true that a committee was set up – that you set up; it was your committee – and they came up with the choice of someone. If you are not taking the person, naturally you should call the person.
“In 2019, I supported Atiku and I was very happy with the way he ran. And I am aware that immediately after the primary, concerted efforts were made and that was how (Senator) Bukola Saraki became the director-general of the campaign.
“In this one, offers were made and people pushed for Governor Wike as the vice-presidential candidate of the party. If you have any reason (not to pick Wike), you call him, and it should not be that he would be reminded by people like us before it is done. It is not too late to do the right thing and I am aware that certain efforts are being made already.”
Another PDP lawmaker from Rivers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also noted that Atiku knew what to do to restore peace in the party.
He asked, “Has he (Wike) not laboured for the party even when the likes of Atiku ran away (to the All Progressives Congress) and went to support this disaster (the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, retd.) that we have on our hands. Was he (Wike) not the one that went to court – up to the Supreme Court – and rescued the party? Has he not supported the party in every way, form and manner? Even God hates injustice.”
On the PDP candidate sending emissaries to Wike, the lawmaker asked, “Does that not tell you something? He knows what to do. If you hurt somebody and you cannot face the person, then it simply means that you are not ready for repentance or reconciliation.”
Speaking on the report that Wike declined to lead Abubakar’s campaign, the lawmaker asked, “If na you, you go gree? (If you were in Wike’s shoes, would you have accepted?).
On his part, a former member of the House of Representatives representing the Etche-Omuma federal constituency, Ogbonna Nwuke, said he agreed with those who said the issue of running mate should be visited.
Nwuke, who was also a former Commissioner for Information and Communications said, “The issue is, quite a lot of people agreed that something was not properly done.”
The media aide to the National Chairman of the PDP, Simon Imobo-Tswam, said Atiku was responsible for the choice of Okowa as his running mate.
He noted, “This question actually ought to be directed at the PDP presidential candidate, His Excellency, Alhaji. Atiku Abubakar. Okowa is not the running mate to Dr Iyorchia Ayu, and neither is it the PDP National Chairman or the NWC that chose him as the running mate to Atiku.
“Of course, the party was involved in the processes leading to the emergence of a running mate, but whatever the party did was only advisory; the choice of who became the candidate’s running mate was ultimately, after all said and done, the decision of the candidate.”
On the ongoing reconciliation process, Imobo-Tswam explained that the party, the national chairman and the candidate were deeply involved in the peace moves at different levels.
The media adviser to Atiku, Paul Ibe, could not be reached on the demand by Wike’s loyalists as his line was unavailable to take calls on Sunday.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, declined to comment on the demands by the Wike’s camp, saying, “I don’t react to speculations.”
However, a highly placed party chieftain and close aide of the PDP standard-bearer argued that replacing Okowa with the Rivers state governor would deepen the crisis in the opposition party.
The source also noted that Atiku chose Okowa due to the similarities in their ideologies.
He reiterated the fact that the party would do everything to ensure that the crisis is resolved.
The source in an interview with one of our correspondents, said, “Replacing Okowa with Wike at this point will further lead to more crises within the party. The candidate has made his choice and while it may not be favourable to everyone, the choice has been made.
“The choice of Okowa was about ideologies, his ideologies align with the candidate and that is why the candidate chose him as running mate. Wike is a party man. He is strong, we recognize his impact and the need to reconcile.”
Reacting to calls that Atiku should drop Okowa, an aide to the governor urged those behind the clamour to channel their energy to how to win the presidency for PDP.
The aide, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Asaba on condition of anonymity, stated, “It is the right of the candidate which is Atiku to choose his running mate and that he has done. So, it is not possible to drop Okowa. The man has made his choice.”
The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Olisa Ifeajika could not be reached for comment as of the time of filing this report as calls and messages sent to his phone were not responded to.
Also, the State Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, declined to comment.
But a former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa blamed the crisis on the party’s leadership.
According to him, it would be dangerous for PDP to ignore Wike ahead of the 2023 elections.
He, therefore, called on the PDP chairman to resign if he cannot solve the crisis in the party.
Bafarawa told journalists that what people see as a crisis would be resolved with the ongoing reconciliation, adding that the 2023 Presidency has moved beyond its presidential candidate to the PDP.
He was responding to the comments by Ortom, who was quoted as saying that Atiku should have placated Wike after the primaries.
Bafarawa said, “This is a very serious issue which nobody can undermine but unfortunately the problem of this crisis is caused by the leadership of the party. What I am trying to say is that the candidate is no more an aspirant. He is a candidate, he is supposed to be controlled by the party.
Berating Ayu, he stated, “I am not blaming anybody; I am blaming the leadership of the party because they are supposed to swing in and bring the matter down. I don’t want the leadership to take it personally. If there is anything between the national leadership of PDP and Wike it is personal.
“But being the national chairman, he should forget; even if there is any difference between him and Wike, he is supposed to take away his personal interest and come and rescue the party because he is the leadership, it is the responsibility given to him. If he cannot solve the problem let him resign. But nobody can undermine Wike and nobody can ignore Wike.”
Asked if what had been done to Wike would be a threat to PDP in 2023, Bafarawa said nobody could ignore a governor.
Atiku allays fears
Meanwhile, Atiku has said that despite the internal conflict within his party, he does not see “a divided house”.
He admonished the party not to lose focus on rescuing Nigeria.
Atiku stated this in a newsletter sent to The PUNCH, in Abuja on Sunday.
He stated, “One of the characteristic attributes of democracy that I admire a lot is that it is a system with an intrinsic asset of crisis management. It becomes even more interesting that, perhaps, the most noteworthy outcome of a democratic process is the greater possibility of conflict generation.
“So, a remarkable lesson that I have learned in politics is that in some instances, conflicts are healthy realities. I know, for instance, that when conflicts arise out of genuine concerns about having an inclusive political process, it signposts the viability of that process and, more importantly, the eagerness of stakeholders to be active participants in the success of such process.
“As leaders and stakeholders in the Peoples Democratic Party, the simmering agitations in our party are a reflection of our credentials as a democratic party.
“Whatever our agitations are, I believe it is borne out of collective concern for the growth of our party and the country. Therefore, I don’t see a divided house in the PDP. I see an opportunity for us to come together stronger and united.”
“As a presidential candidate of the PDP, I shall ensure that I do my all to bring the party together under a formidable umbrella.”
In a move to resolve the crisis, the PDP has announced a nine-member reconciliation committee that would visit the Rivers State helmsman.
Disclosing this on Sunday, the Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin, also cautioned party members against unguarded utterances that could further plug the party into a deeper crisis.
The committee, headed by Atiku, comprises Okowa, Ayu and his National Working Committee, Jibril; BoT members; PDP governors; former governors; ex-PDP minister and some party elders from zones and states.
This was contained in a statement titled, ‘Statement by PDP BOT Chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin on the current situation of PDP.’
It read, “This was in view of great concern and great sense of feeling on the various recent comments coming from some of our PDP members and some prominent Nigerians on the choice of Chief Okowa, the Governor of Delta State as the vice-presidential candidate by the Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of our party, PDP, the biggest party not only in Nigeria but the whole of Africa.
“All the comments and various submissions are very normal in any political set-up in Nigeria today with PDP being the strongest and most prominent party that has all potential to form government in 2023.
“We must come back to our senses by all our members and all most responsible and respectful Nigerians by giving total support to the party to enable it to form government by holding all political positions in Nigeria in 2023.
“It is, therefore, very necessary that when our Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and our National Chairman, Senator Iyochia Ayu return to Nigeria very soon from abroad, the following must be done immediately:
“A very important visit must be undertaken to Governor Wike comprising of the following group: The above committee should be headed by the Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
“It is very important to note that Governor Wike is a 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.”
He described Wike as the pillar of the party. A social commentator and political analyst, Jackson Ojo said in the present situation, sending emissaries to Wike was not the way to go.
“Wike has every right to be angry. But at the same time, this is a period, this is the season for anybody to have a disagreement, alignment and realignment. Let the party’s NWC and the Presidential candidate walk up to Wike and talk with him now that he is back in the country,” he advised.
An analyst, Olaseni Shalom, said that Wike’s efforts to unify the party to contest the presidency would be a waste if he decides to hold the party down.
He also called on Atiku to request a one-on-one and resolve issues, “as the unity of the country was one of the core pillars of his manifesto.”
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