To the casual onlooker, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) appears to be relatively calm, going by the lack of serious crisis at the national level. The party has so far been able to manage its crisis from erupting into the open. There are muffled disagreements among key party chieftains, which have continued to nibble at its unity and cohesion at the national, zonal, and state levels. The party appears to be doing well at papering over the cracks.
But, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike recently reversed the gains made by the party when he took a swipe at the Uche Secondus led National Working Committee (NWC). Governor Wike had in a press statement accused the NWC of widening existing cracks in the party and sowing seeds of discord among governors elected on the platform of the party. The governor had warned that by its actions, the party leadership was jeopardizing the chances of the PDP unseating the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) during the 2023 presidential election.
Apparently venting some deep-seated animosity against the party leadership, Wike accused the NWC of using two unnamed former governors of Imo and Cross River states and another serving senator from Benue State, to create a crisis in the party. Knocking the party leadership further, the governor said the NWC, as presently constituted, was merely interested in retaining the current party structure to enable its members to retain their positions. Wike added: “An opposition party that ought to be united, to work, to take over the affairs of government because people are waiting for this opportunity, but the current leadership of NWC is not prepared for that. Rather, what they have done is to constitute some people to sow a seed of discord among governors for their own selfish interest. And that will boomerang; that will consume them.”
Not surprisingly, the PDP has set the machinery in motion to douse the tension within the fold. The party’s leadership has set up a six-man reconciliation committee to address grievances among members and to reconcile aggrieved members across the six geopolitical zones. The committee, which was inaugurated by the party chairman, is headed by a former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki. In an acceptance speech shortly after the committee was inaugurated, Saraki had cautioned Secondus and other members of the NWC against interfering with the work of the committee. Also in the committee are another former President of the Senate, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim; a former governor of Cross River State, Mr. Liyel Imoke; and a former Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, Mrs. Mulikat Adeola Akande. Others are former Katsina State Governor Ibrahim Shema; and former Gombe State Governor Ibrahim Dankwabo.
Why Wike attacked Secondus
Some party chieftains are of the view that Wike’s attack on the party leadership might not be unconnected with the position taken by Secondus on the eligibility of former President Goodluck Jonathan to seek the PDP presidential ticket for the 2023 election if the former president so desired. Secondus had made the declaration in Abuja a few weeks ago while briefing reporters on the activities of the NWC in the three years it has been in office. The party chairman had made the off-the-cuff statement while answering a reporter’s question seeking to know if Jonathan would be eligible to seek the party’s presidential ticket in 2023. The reporter had asked the question in the backdrop of the growing affinity between Jonathan, a strong pillar in the PDP, with some chieftains of the APC. Secondus’ response: “I believe that whoever that is interested in 2023 (presidential ticket), maybe including the former President, the chances are there, because the PDP is a party for all… Everybody will have that opportunity but in clear terms, we have not taken any decision to give anybody a ticket for now.”
Party sources said the chairman’s position on Jonathan’s eligibility must have rattled a few PDP bigwigs believed to be interested in the party’s 2023 presidential ticket. There has been heightened anxiety in the party over Jonathan’s visibility in the public arena in recent times, particularly in the APC camp.
Key stakeholders, including some governors and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, are said to be ill at ease with the former President’s newfound romance with the APC. Of particular concern to these stakeholders was the visit to Jonathan’s Abuja residence during his recent birthday celebration. The visitors, including some governors and chieftains of the ruling party, led by the APC Caretaker Committee chairman, Mai Mala Buni, had gone to pay the former President a “birthday visit”. Among the APC governors on Buni’s entourage were David Umahi (Ebonyi), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), and Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa). Former Senate President Ken Nnamani was also on the entourage.
The PDP chieftains considered the visit to Jonathan curious for the fact that the former president had never received such august visitors from the APC camp since he lost the election and consequently vacated office in 2015. And coming a few days after the defection of Governor Umahi from