The presidential primaries of the opposition PDP scheduled for the 5th of October is already dividing the party, TheScoop can confirm from the account of multiple party insiders.
Why it matters:
The main issue of contention is the perception of bias by the party’s chief enforcer, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state towards one of the presidential candidates, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state.
A number of the aspirants led by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar believe that Wike controls the party machinery having successfully installed his preferred candidate, Uche Secondus as party chairman and his overt support for one of the aspirants would make it difficult to guarantee a level playing field. Wike’s opponents are now fighting back deploying the media and some members of the party’s highest organ, the Board of Trustees.
Consensus Fail: Among the contentious issues was the call for a consensus candidate which a section of the party led by Wike canvassed for. However, that pitch fell flat among the aspirants who prefer to slug it out in a fair primary.
Choice of venue: The choice of venue for the party’s presidential convention appears to be the most divisive issue at the moment. The party’s NWC, state governors and the presidential aspirants met at the Ekiti state Governor’s lodge in Asokoro, Abuja and settled on Port Harcourt as the venue of the primaries. They reportedly favoured Port Harcourt over Uyo and Enugu based on the availability of more hotel options in the state.
Atiku however was more vocal about his opposition to the decision of the group. A report quoted him as saying that he hopes “this is not a predetermined convention since it is going to Port Harcourt.”
Wike’s threat to the party and veiled threat against Atiku: Sequel to the choice of the Port Harcourt venue, a number of manoeuvrings began within the party hierarchy with BOT members calling for a change of the venue, a situation which infuriated Wike who fired warning shots at the party during the visit of his fellow governor and aspirant Ibrahim Dankwambo to his state.
In an unhinged and unrestrained monologue, Wike said: “Nobody should dare Rivers State any longer. Enough is enough. PDP should know that we are not a punching bag. We are not a people you can use and push. We are not harlots. Whenever you want, you come. When you finish, you push us aside. We will retaliate at the appropriate time. When you go, tell your colleagues, the presidential aspirants. We were not interested, but having given it to us, you cannot insult us.”
Making a veiled reference to Atiku, Wike remarked that no presidential candidate worth his salt should be afraid of the venue of a primary since the delegates are essentially the same.
“You come here to deceive us about restructuring. Just that Rivers State is a venue, you fight it. Then, when you are there, what will happen? You think we are fools where you preach restructuring, then when you get the position, you abandon restructuring,” Wike ranted. He has since apologised to the party for his provocative remarks even as the party NWC succumbed and ratified PH as the convention venue.
What we are hearing:
Team Tambuwal: Tambuwal insiders are dismissing the claims that things are rigged towards their candidate. They told TheScoop that they have the support of a lot of the governors in the party and Wike is a convenient target. They are quite infuriated by the media attacks that are allegedly waged against their camp by the Atiku group which is threatening the united position of the Presidential candidates.
According to one of the insiders: “Atiku is always whining when he realises things would not go his way. The PDP presidential aspirants are like a family who have agreed to the outcome but Atiku is trying to claim it is rigged so he can destroy everything like he normally does when things do not go his way. He is trying to sink this ship before it sails.”
Team Atiku: Atiku insiders are saying that they would not accept any outcome that appears to be rigged against them. They claimed that Wike is trying to install Tambuwal to advance his own 2023 political ambitions. However, they sound upbeat about their chances in the primary in spite of the odds against them. According to one of them, they would show everyone that the “PDP is much bigger than Wike.”
The Ibori factor: The ex-convict former Delta Governor and godfather of the state’s politics is seeking to regain control of the party’s machinery which is now firmly in the control of Wike, who is seen as the benefactor of the party and whose structure produced the party’s NWC. Ibori was said to have floated the idea to bring the primaries to Asaba as the alternative venue for the election and is working with a number of unseen hands within the party to uninstall Wike. It is unclear who the ex-convict is supporting in the primaries but he is the closest to Senate President Bukola Saraki, who has been his long time political ally from the time they both served as governors of their respective states.
Bottom line: The party is currently divided as the Atiku team seems to be building a wall of resistance against Wike and his preferred candidate. His narrative has the sympathies of other aspirants like Senate President Bukola Saraki, who is looking to pounce on the opportunity and former Kano state governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso who is courting the support of the party establishment’s disgust with Wike’s overreaching attitude. The PDP has found itself in a catch-22 situation, ganging up against Wike could lead to jeopardy for their most important state while if Wike does have his way, it would be difficult to rally the party’s already divided and aggrieved aspirants.