Loyalists of the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike have called for the restructuring of the Peoples Democratic Party’s leadership to accommodate more southerners, saying the party as presently constituted, is pro-North.
The governor’s camp complained that the structure of the party was skewed in favour of northerners, stressing that any proposed reconciliation between the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and Wike must address this contentious issue.
Wike’s loyalists stated this in separate interviews with The PUNCH as Atiku met with the governor in Abuja on Thursday.
Regardless of the meeting, the members of Wike’s camp are insisting on the restructuring of the PDP leadership, stating that the northerners cannot occupy the positions of the Board of Trustees, chairman, the national chairman and governors’ forum chairman.
A PDP chieftain and former member of the House of Representatives, Ogbonna Nwuke, said as party loyalists, they would support any genuine decision by the party to ensure peace in the fold.
Nwuke, who represented Etche-Omuma constituency in the green chamber of the national assembly said, “We are party loyalists. It stands to reason that as party men, good party men, we will support any move, any decision, any aspiration made by the party or its leadership to ensure that peace reigns in our midst.”
To lay the foundation for peace in the PDP, the former Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, however, said there must be harmony, respect and understanding.
He added, “We are watching from the sidelines, at least to see what will transpire. The BoT has set up a committee to look into the matter. We understand that they want to start with the standard-bearer, we are waiting. As the standard-bearer, he is the shepherd. It is his responsibility to gather the flock.
“So, if Atiku is sincere and wants unity within the party, peace will return. If he believes he has all it takes to go it alone, if he believes that those who are genuinely aggrieved should be left by the wayside, then we will sit by and watch the masquerade play. “
Asked if he was calling for the restructuring of the party’s leadership to enable Southerners to step into some of the key positions, he said that was the way to go.
Nwuke added, “Yes, basically, that is why I raised those questions. What is the logic in all of that when everything is lopsided? We all belong to the same political party and everything is one sided; that is not what was envisioned by the constitution of the PDP.
“So, certainly restructuring these things would have been the first step forward.”
On what their demands are, Nwuke said, “We demand respect, we demand equity, fairness and justice. We demand adherence to the dictates of the PDP constitution: Its spirit and letters have given a sense of inclusion and balance in past, especially when it comes to sharing positions within the party.’’
He further said, “We cannot have the chairman of Governors Forum in the North, the chairman of the BoT in the North, the Acting Secretary of the BoT in the North, the chairman of the party in the North and the Presidential flag bearer of the party in the North. Where is the fairness in this? Where is the justice in this? Where is the balance in this?
“My leader has said quite clearly that we are moving nowhere. This is maturity in action despite the fact there could be options to choose at this time. But above all things, Wike has spoken the truth and all supporters agree with this posture.’’
On his part, the Chairman of Gokana Local Government Area, Confidence Deko, ‘’My satisfaction will be when he (Governor Wike) will come back to us and say he is satisfied and we should move on. Until then, he is the one to communicate that satisfaction to us.
“I will tell you he is in a better position to handle the issues to the extent that anything that will satisfy him to mean that yes indeed, he has been so reached and spoken to.
“And then for us who are his supporters, the moment he is satisfied, yes; we will join him.”
A chieftain of the party in the state, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “To ensure genuine reconciliation, the PDP must change its leadership structure. It must show that it cares for the South.”
Also a member of the state party executive noted, “If Atiku is serious with reconciliation, (PDP chairman, Iyorchia) Ayu must step down. (Gov Aminu) Tambuwal cannot continue to be the governors’ forum chairman.”
Meanwhile, top sources in the PDP said the meeting between Atiku and Wike was held at the residence of a former Minister of Information and National Orientation, Prof. Jerry Gana, signalling what observers believed, was reconciliatory moves to pacify the governor.
The meeting between the presidential candidate and the governor took place two months after Atiku defeated Wike and others in the party primary in May.
Since then, the opposition party has been rocked by crisis following the choice of the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as Atiku’s running mate.
Wike, Okowa and Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa-Ibom had appeared before the screening panel set up by the PDP to nominate a vice-presidential candidate to the PDP presidential flag-bearer but Okowa was nominated by the Atiku after Wike was reportedly selected by the party advisory committee as the vice-presidential candidate.
To resolve the ensuing crisis, the Board of Trustees on Wednesday set up a reconciliation committee.
Giving an insight into the meeting between Atiku and Wike, a source said, “Atiku and Wike met this (Thursday afternoon) at the residence of Jerry Gana. It was a good meeting, from what I gathered.
“There was an exchange of pleasantries and they have resolved to move the reconciliation to the next stage.”
Asked if it can be taken that Wike and Atiku have reconciled, the source said, “They have started the process; this started with a one-on-one interface. This will lead to a certain level and they can now resolve all the issues.”
The source also said discussions were still ongoing about the choice of the Director-General of Atiku Campaign Organization.
When contacted, Atiku’s Media Adviser, Paul Ibe, declined comment. Also, the media aide to the Rivers State governor, Mr. Kelvin Ebiri, could not be reached for comment as calls to his phone indicated that he was unavailable.
A former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido on Thursday supported the reconciliatory meeting between Wike and Atiku at Gana’s house.
Lamido, in an interview with The PUNCH, recalled how Jerry Gana left the PDP because of Wike but later returned to the party after serious begging by himself, former Senate President, David Mark and PDP national chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu.
He said, “I will be the happiest person because the person in whose house it was held, Jerry Gana, is the surviving founding father of the PDP, all others are dead.
“So, it now means he is becoming consciously disturbed because the party to which he gave his sacrifices, which his colleagues died for, he is now bringing sanity into it.
“Those are my feelings and that is fine because there was one time when Jerry Gana left the PDP because of Wike. It was me, David Mark and Iyorchia Ayu who went and begged him. You see, there is no one in Nigeria that is greater than this party and you cannot leave because of somebody, you can’t do that.
“So, at the end of the day he is now doing what a leader should do. Today, he is now concerned about the state of the PDP and he is going out of his own way, to make sure whatever might have been our differences are now harmonized.
“I thank him for remembering the role he played in the PDP and the legacy of the founding fathers, his fellow brothers like Abubakar Rimi, Bola Ige, Alex Ekwueme, and Adamu Ciroma, who died in the course of this struggle.”
Lamido faulted the call for the sacking of the National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu.
Reacting to the demands of Wike’s loyalists, the PDP’s spokesman, Debo Ologunagba said, “The party is not my constitution, it is the constitution of the party, it has aligned with the constitution of the party. We are a party of law and order. We have consistently followed the constitution of our party. It is a democratic party.”
In a related development, the PDP presidential candidate has appointed Daniel Bwala and Dino Melaye as spokespersons for his presidential campaign.
Paul Ibe, media adviser to Atiku, announced the appointment in a statement on Thursday.
According to Ibe, their appointment takes immediate effect.
“Melaye is a politician and a member of the 8th Senate who represented Kogi West Senatorial district. He hails from Ayetoro Gbede in Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State.
“Bwala, on the other hand, is a legal practitioner, politician and public affairs analyst. He hails from Adamawa State,’’ Ibe stated.
The Independent National Electoral Commission had fixed September 28, 2022 for the commencement of campaign for presidential and national assembly elections, while that of governorship and state houses of assembly will commence on October 12.
Commenting on the peace moves in the party, a university don and public affairs commentator, Prof. Ken Nweke has said the meeting between Atiku and Wike was in the best interest of the party as the 2023 general elections beckoned.
Nweke, a senior lecturer, Department of Political Science at the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Port Harcourt, said, “I see them coming out stronger, more united and more resolute than ever, because I see them as very loyal party members who also have the interest of their parties at heart.’’