BusinessDay

How PDP internal wrangling may affect party’s chances in Osun guber poll

All appears not well with Nigeria’s main opposition party ahead of the beginning of campaigns for the 2023 general election.

The situation is particularly worrisome considering that it is just less than two weeks to the Osun State gubernatorial election slated for July 16, in which the party’s candidate, Ademola Adeleke, ordinarily, has a bright chance of performing well.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is facing internal wrangling just one month after the presidential primary, and it is primarily because Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa was picked by the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar as his running mate. The situation has escalated in recent days.

The thinking is that the performance of the PDP in the coming off-season gubernatorial election would go a long way in determining how ready the party is for the 2023 general election.

Within PDP and beyond, the choice of Okowa as Atiku’s running mate has continued to generate debates, with many thinking that perhaps, Atiku should have followed the recommendation of the party.

Some pundits, however, think Atiku has a brighter chance of performing better in the presidential election with Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers State, as his running mate, considering Wike’s political influence, financial strength, popularity and outspokenness.

In the last few days, some leaders of the PDP have on different platforms expressed their displeasure on the choice of the party’s presidential candidate.

While another leader also criticised Atiku’s decision to ignore the party leader’s recommendation on his running mate.

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom said Atiku’s decision to choose Okowa was wrong and was against the overwhelming recommendation by a 17-member advisory committee of the party.

Ortom, who spoke in an interview on Arise TV, accused the candidate of failing to honour the democratic choice in the selection of his running mate.

The Governor noted that he was among the 17-member committee set up by Atiku and 14 of them in the committee said the person should be Wike.

“Unfortunately, Atiku picked Okowa, that is his wisdom. You cannot ignore the decision of a committee you set up by yourself and expect people to be happy. For now, I have gone into hibernation,” Ortom said.

Similarly, Fayose, former governor of Ekiti State, through his verified Twitter handle on the same day, stated that it was important for power to return to the South after the eight-year rule of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is from Katsina State in the North-west geopolitical zone.

Fayose added that the PDP’s constitution provides for a rotational presidency.

Read also: 2023: How APC primaries draw negative ripple effects

According to him, Section 3(c) provides that the party shall pursue its aims and objectives by “adhering to the policy of the rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice and fairness.”

He added: “The current President of Nigeria is a 2-term Northern Presidency, thus implying that it MUST be a Southern Presidency in 2023 or NOTHING. Awa ‘South’ lo kan’. Nigerians should await details soon.”

This is just as, most governors elected on the platform of the party boycotted the inauguration of the gubernatorial national campaign council for Osun State governorship election.

PDP had named a 128-member national campaign council, which included 12 incumbent governors.

But at the inauguration on Wednesday, eleven of the party’s governors were absent including the Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri who was named as chairman of the campaign council.

The two governors present were Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State and Dairus Ishaku of Taraba. Okowa is not a member of the council but was there apparently as the vice presidential candidate.

Reports say the governors were not happy and were protesting the choice of Okowa by Atiku as his running mate, after he failed to honour the party’s shortlist for the position.

Atiku had after announcing Okowa as his running mate clarified that he picked the Delta Governor because he had the qualities to be a President, adding that he is a president-in-waiting.

Atiku said: “In arriving at the decision, I held wide consultations with various stakeholders in our party including our governors, the national working committee, board of trustees, and other leaders to seek their inputs and their wisdom.”

“In these consultations, I made clear that my running mate would have the potential to succeed me at a moment’s notice, that is, a president-in-waiting.”

The current situation, which is coming shortly after the party performed woefully in the recently-held Ekiti gubernatorial election, has become a source of concern to party members, supporters and stakeholders across the country.

For now, there are fears among the party sympathisers that the current internal wrangling may affect the party’s chances in the Osun gubernatorial poll if the party does not put its house in order in the coming days.

“The crisis bedevilling the major opposition party, PDP, if not put into check may destroy the party completely. It is obvious that the party lacks a crisis management mechanism which is needed for party cohesion in a democratic setting,” Kunle Okunade, a political analyst, said.

According to Okunade, “This was evident in the inauguration ceremony of the national campaign council put up by the party where some of the appointees did not show up for the inauguration. This is a form of protest against the establishment in the party. ”

Similarly, observers have raised their concerns, especially on the seeming silence of the party chairman on the way forward.

They say the party could not afford to perform abyssmally again in the Osun State gubernatorial election, just like it did in the Ekiti election, where the PDP’s candidate Bisi Kolawole placed third, behind the winner Biodun Oyebanji of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Segun Oni of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Pundits predict that the Osun governorship election may be a price the PDP may pay for the massive crisis in the party now; as many of those who are loyalists of the Wike group in the state may not work for the success of the party at the poll.

They also pointed to the defection of the running mate of Adeleke in 2018 gubernatorial election, and that of the factional state chairman to the PDP, saying that it would definitely affect the chances of the party at the poll.

Meanwhile, Atiku in response to comment by Ortom and Fayose said actions were being taken to unite the party and calm all aggrieved members after the fallout that greeted the choice of his running mate.

Speaking in a series of tweets on Thursday, Atiku, who is Nigeria’s former vice president, said the party would remain united despite the disagreement.

“The #OfficialPDPNig will remain united. Focus on our actions. We are taking action to address the feelings of all party members. The unity in our community is my priority. Our resolve to unify Nigeria starts in our party and moves to the community, then on to society.

“Every governor, legislator, and other elected officials produced by our party, and party members and loyalists, are much loved and respected by me.

“When they speak, I listen. I do not only listen. Appropriate actions have been taken, are being taken, and will continue to be advanced,” he tweeted.

But Rahman Owokoniran, secretary of the party in the Southwest, told BusinessDay Sunday in an interview, that the current anger among some leaders is a message to the party leadership that they are not happy with the choice of Okowa as Atiku’s running mate.

Owokoniran, however, added that regardless of who Atiku picks as his running mate, some people would still be unhappy.

According to him, “I don’t think the issue would cause problems for us, but regardless of who Atiku picks, there would be disaffection, it is a normal occurrence.

“But majority of the people in the party believes that Wike has contributed a lot and cannot be ignored.

“All the other contenders to be Atiku’s running mate have also contributed a lot to the party. But it is also a message that the party should put its house in order.

“The hunger is for them to do the right thing. Everybody should be taken care of. It is a message to the leadership that you have work to do.”

The PDP ruled Nigeria at the federal level for 16 years, from 1999 when the country returned to democratic rule, until 2015, when it was defeated by the then newly formed APC in the general election.

The party presidential candidate and then incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan lost to Muhammadu Buhari.

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