Few months to the commencement of electioneering for the 2023 general election, observers have expressed concerns over the lingering internal wrangling in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), saying the situation is capable of hampering the party’s chances at the poll.
With the situation appearing to be getting complicated daily amid recent exchange of words by the gladiators, observers say the current crisis puts the party’s presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar’s dream of succeeding incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in jeopardy.
The crisis in the PDP started shortly after Nyesom Wike, the Rivers State governor, lost the presidential ticket to Atiku.
Wike became bitter with the manner the primary was conducted by the leadership of the party.
He accused Iyorchia Ayu, the national chairman of the PDP, of compromising and working against his interest.
The issue was aggravated when the governor was snubbed by Atiku, preferring to pick Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate.
The decision was in disregard to the recommendation of Wike as running mate by the special PDP selection committee.
With the ensuing controversy and failed attempts at reconciliation, the disagreement has been threatening the unity of the PDP ahead of the presidential election slated for February next year.
Recently, after several failed attempts by his emissaries to resolve the issue, Atiku personally met with Wike and his allies abroad.
Wike has stated his demands for reconciliation, among which is the removal of the national chairman of the party, Ayu.
Other leaders of the PDP in the South had repeatedly protested the emergence of Atiku as the party’s candidate, saying the presidential candidate should emerge from the region.
They have also insisted that Ayu should keep to his promise of resigning as PDP national chairman if a Northerner emerged as the party’s presidential candidate.
They are also said to be bitter that all the major offices in the PDP, including the presidential candidate, are occupied by Northerners.
Attempts by several leaders of the party to mediate and resolve the issue have proved abortive in recent weeks.
Wike and Ayu have intensified their war of words in recent weeks.
Speaking recently, Ayu vowed not to resign his position, insisting that his mandate was for four years, stressing that those who want him out of office are children that were not around when the party was formed.
Ayu added that he was not bothered by the call for his resignation.
He said: “I was voted as PDP Chairman for four-year tenure and I’m yet to complete a year. Atiku’s victory doesn’t affect the chairman’s position. I won my election based on our party’s constitution.
“I didn’t commit any offense, I’m only reforming the party so I’m not bothered with all the noises. I know I’m doing my work and I didn’t steal any money so I see no reason for all these talks.
“When we started PDP, these children were not around. They are children who do not know why we formed the party. We will not allow any individual to destabilise our party.”
The crisis took another dimension last week when the chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), Walid Jibrin, resigned his position.
Jibrin announced his resignation at a meeting of the PDP BoT, at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja.
“I am stepping down as the chairman of BoT. I am stepping down to make it easier for all of us,” he said.
Jibrin has held the position for six years after taking over from Haliru Bello who was removed in 2016.
Also, at the BoT meeting, Southern National Working Committee members also staged a walkout on Ayu, over his refusal to resign.
Few weeks to the commencement of campaign, there is increasing chances that the party would not be united, which could ultimately work in favour of other candidates in the presidential race and the general election at large.
Pundits say the crisis in the PDP is a manifestation of the implication of poor party conflict management in the party system in Nigeria.
They said the challenge with the nation’s political parties is the prevalence of greed, corruption and impunity which is currently playing out in the PDP.
Tade Ademola, a political analyst, said: “The attitude of the political class in making power allocation a winner takes all and circumventing democratic ethos are contributions to the conflict going on in the parties.
“But this is dangerous to the victory of the PDP at the general elections; because there is no way they would work with trust and unity. It is a minus to Atiku.
“Atiku knows what is at stake; if he wants this issue to be resolved within a day, I am sure he can do that. There is no doubt that Ayu is with him.”
But the former party national party’s spokesperson, Debo Ologunagba, said what the PDP is experiencing is differences, not crisis and the happenings at the party will not only be resolved soon, stressing that it will also not affect the party’s focus and preparations for next year’s polls.
“Disagreement between family members is normal; people are allowed to have different opinions. Party is united; PDP is ready for 2023 and is sure of victory and the least convincing of all. Everyone in the party including Wike is on the same page,” he said.
Other observers who spoke with BusinessDay on condition of anonymity said that the party was unnecessarily driving itself into bitter rivalry instead of focusing and channelling all energies to the battle ahead.
“I do not really understand what the party is looking at. Here is a party facing a serious battle and it is busy washing its dirty linen in public. Rather than put its house in order, it is a pity. If you ask me, I would say that Dr. Iyorchia Ayu should step down in the interest of the party. What is he bringing on the table for the party if I may ask? Does he have massive votes to help the party to clinch victory? Some people had been funding the party for crying out loud, why can’t he see reason and do the honourable thing? The internal crisis will affect the party if care is not taken,” a man who described himself a “true Nigerian” said.