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PDP orders panel to beg Wike, drop Okowa, gov’s loyalists insist

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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.”

Okowa’s camp

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.”

PUNCH

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SANWO-OLU PRESENTS SCORECARD AT RE-ELECTION RALLY

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…APC Flags Off Governorship Campaign In Lagos

A mammoth crowd of Lagos State residents, on Saturday, converged on Onikan – a cultured neighbourhood in the heart of Lagos Island – for an All Progressives Congress (APC) rally.

Clad in branded yellow shirts and Ankara brocade, the crowd dominated the city centre with pockets of political carnival. Thousands of ordinary citizens and party stalwarts trooped to Mobolaji Johnson Pavilion, the venue of the inaugural rally flagging off the party’s governorship campaign in Lagos.

The 10,000-capacity stadium brimmed with APC supporters. They carried banners and chanted slogans to receive the party chieftains and members of the Governorship Campaign Council.

APC standard bearer, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, made a grand entry into the venue, animating the crowd, which chorused: “Greater Lagos Rising” – the Governor’s re-election campaign slogan.

Reacting to the massive turnout, Sanwo-Olu said the vast attendance further confirmed the strength of APC as the only party of choice in Lagos.

The Governor mounted the rostrum to seek the mandate of Lagosians for another term in office, saying the “Greater Lagos” he promised at the inception of his government could now be visualised, given the achievements recorded during his first term.

Sanwo-Olu said the last three and half years had been challenging for his administration, pointing out that his Government traversed difficult terrains to deliver on its development objectives.

He said: “It has been an interesting and challenging journey for us in the last three and half years. Our administration has traversed difficult terrains and witnessed major disruption occasioned by global pandemic. Lagos had its fair share in the attendant socio-economic meltdown, but we provided strong leadership that protected the people and made the State come out better and stronger.

“Now, we can say ‘Greater Lagos Rising’ because our State is rising on all of our modest achievements through the THEMES agenda. In Transportation and Traffic Management, Lagosians are now living with the reality of the delivery of two intracity Rail Mass Transit projects that are on the verge of completion. These projects will be handed over in the coming weeks.

“We have also scaled up infrastructure in public transportation services by improving BRT services, injecting new taxi scheme and energizing traffic management agency for efficiency. People have seen the construction and commission of Lekki Deep Seaport, and massive road construction projects in the Eti Osa and Epe corridors. We have delivered and are still constructing more new roads in Ikorodu, Victoria Island, Ikoyi, Alimosho, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Somolu and other areas.”

Sanwo-Olu said activities of his administration, since inception, had been about purposeful governance. He added that his Government had delivered new hospitals in Badagry, Epe, and Eti-Osa, pointing out that construction of new hospitals were currently being undertaken in Ikorodu, Ojo and Lagos Island.

In the environment, the Governor said the State was currently constructing 210 new drainage channels to address the issue of flooding in vulnerable communities. He said his Government had also raised the level of infrastructure in emergency response agencies, mentioning the recently completed four fire stations, recruitment of new fire fighters and provision of fire fighting equipment.

The Governor said: “Lagosians can testify to our feats in education. Over 1,000 new classrooms have been added to public schools and we completed over 1,097 projects in schools. We trained our teachers in modern teaching techniques through Eko EXCEL and handed over tablets to them for teaching. Overall performance of Lagos students in WAEC has improved from 42 per cent to over 83 per cent.”

Sanwo-Olu said there had been laudable progress recorded across his Government’s development blueprint, noting that the State had become a model for good governance and development.

The Governor thanked residents for standing by his administration, pledging that he would not take their support for granted.

He urged party members to take back the Government’s achievements back to their communities and engage in door-to-door campaign to ensure APC candidates are elected in the general elections.

Director General of Lagos APC Campaign Council, Sen. Ganiyu Solomon, said the party would have no problem taking its campaign to the electorate, given the “exceptional” performance of the party’s governorship candidate.

Solomon said the second coming of Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat would bring the State to new heights of development and prosperity.

Leader of the Governance Advisory Council (GAC), Prince Tajudeen Olusi, said: “The combination of Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat are the best a democratic society can get in delivering results of good governance. Anyone who wants the development of Lagos to continue, Sanwo-Olu must be allowed to continue the good work he started.”

Sanwo-Olu, assisted by APC chairman, Hon. Cornelius Ojelabi, presented flags to party candidates running for legislative seats in the House of Assembly and National Assembly.

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Osun Tribunal Admits Adeleke’s Certificates as Exhibits

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Ademola Adeleke

— As Oyetola, APC Close Case

The Osun State Election Petition Tribunal on Saturday admitted in evidence the file with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) containing the secondary school certificate and testimonial of Governor Ademola Adeleke of the State.

This is just as the Petitioners, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola and the All Progressives Congress (APC), closed the prosecution of the matter, leaving respondents to state their defence.

The admission of the documents followed the appearance of INEC representative, Mrs. Joan Arabs, who brought Adeleke’s original files containing the certificate he submitted to the Commission in 2018.

It will be recalled that during the last sitting of the panel, the Commission had submitted blank document as the secondary school certificate of the governor, a situation that compelled the panel to order that the original file be brought, and to threaten to invoke Coercive Power if it fails to do so.

At the resumed hearing of the petition on Saturday, Counsel for Oyetola, Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), said the hearing for the day was basically meant for the appearance of INEC representative to produce the Adeleke’s file in line with the court order.

Counsel for INEC, in his response, said that INEC representative was already in court with the files containing a clearer and legible certificate and testimonial in question, saying he would be willing to apply for the return of the documents to INEC, when the tribunal is done looking at it.

After the production of the documents, the tribunal, while discharging the INEC official, said, “You can now go if you wish to. No policeman will accost you again.”

Subsequently, Oyetola’s counsel sought to tender the documents which contain form CFO01 and its attachments, including Adeleke’s credentials, saying the original file brought to court is a primary evidence and he was comfortable with it.

Counsel for INEC, Chief Henry Agunedo (SAN), said he would be objecting to the admissibility of the documents on the ground that the basis for the production of the whole file was because only two pages of the earlier-produced Certified True Copies were in contention, saying tendering the whole documents was out of place.

Counsel for Adeleke and PDP, Niyi Owolade and Alex Izinyon (SAN) respectively, said they have objection to the tendering of the said documents, but they would reserve their objections till final address stage.

Izinyon also observed that the only documents in contention were only two pages which are Adeleke’s certificate and testimonial, saying the CTC earlier produced has not been tendered before the court.

Responding, Fagbemi said the practice everywhere is that INEC can only apply and get back the files after the dispensation of the cases, saying, “We asked for CTC and now that they brought this. We are fine, we will take it”.

Ruling on the documents tendered, the tribunal led by Tertsea Kume admitted the credentials and the Adeleke’s nomination form as exhibit ‘FILE D’ and taken as read.

It was after the tribunal admitted the documents that Fagbemi informed the panel that he had decided to close his case, saying, “My Lord, we rest our case”.

When the tribunal asked INEC to open his defence, Chief Agunedo said, it would be difficult for him to open his case on Monday, saying non-availability of his witnesses would make it practically impossible.

The panel then asked the counsel to meet and agree on adjournment date after which Counsel for INEC briefed the panel the outcome of the meeting.

Subsequently, the tribunal adjourned the case till December 20 for the respondents to open their defence, saying the adjournment was based on another engagement by the tribunal somewhere else between 12th and 19th December 2022.

Earlier, Oyetola’s counsel had informed the panel that the Court of Appeal in Abuja had reverted the judgement of a Federal High Court which disqualified Oyetola from contesting the election.

Meanwhile, the outcome of the sitting excited the members of the APC who witnessed the hearing, as jubilations erupted after the sitting of the panel. They chanted songs to eulogise Oyetola and the APC.

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TINUBU WON’T SUCCUMB TO ARISE NEWS BLACKMAIL

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We find it shocking and downright anomalous that Arise News continues to broadcast the participation of All Progressives Congress Presidential Candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in its Presidential Town Hall meeting scheduled to hold on 4 December, 2022 despite our earlier statement that our candidate will not be available.

We noticed that Arise News has also been running a campaign on the so-called constitutional duty of the presidential candidates to participate in its debate by dubiously citing section 22 of the Constitution of Nigeria on the obligation of the Mass Media.

While it is trite that the media has clear constitutional duty to hold public office holders accountable to the citizens and its role as the watchdog of the society, there is no part of the Constitution and the section 22 that says a presidential candidate of any political party and least of all, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu must participate in Arise News Town Hall event or any media organised event at all.

The same Constitution grants all citizens of Nigeria including, Asiwaju Tinubu the right and freedom of choice and association. The APC Presidential candidate has a right to decide where he goes and events to participate in as he seeks the mandate of Nigerians to be elected as the next President of our country.

We want to make it abundantly clear again that Asiwaju Tinubu will not participate and will not attend the Arise News Town Hall meeting slated for Sunday, 4 December, 2022 and any other ones it may plan before the February 2023 presidential election.

The APC Presidential candidate has his own schedule of campaign activities and other engagements within and outside Nigeria. One of such events is his scheduled event for Monday , December 5, 2022 at Chatham House in London where he will speak on Security, Economy and Foreign Policy.

Asiwaju Tinubu travelled to United Kingdom early today (Saturday) for this earlier scheduled engagement. We want to reiterate for the umpteenth time that no amount of blackmail, intimidation and media bully and innuendos by the owner and management of Arise News will change the position our campaign has taken on this matter.

Bayo Onanuga
Director, Media & Publicity
APC Presidential Campaign Council
December 3, 2022

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