The panel set up to settle the rift between the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, and the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, will meet on Friday.
The PUNCH on Tuesday gathered that Atiku’s delegation and Wike’s team had yet to decide on the venue of the meeting.
While sources in Wike’s team said the meeting would hold in Port Harcourt, a close associate of Atiku insisted that it would take place in Abuja.
A top member of Wike’s team, who spoke to one of our correspondents on Tuesday said the meeting, which was initially scheduled to hold on Monday did not materialise because some stakeholders from Atiku’s camp, who were crucial towards the reconciliation process, were absent.
The source, however, noted that the meeting had been rescheduled to hold on Friday in a bid to settle aggrieved parties in the interest of the PDP.
The source said, “We were ready for the meeting but it was members from the Atiku camp that didn’t show up at the meeting venue. The members said they didn’t show up because they were busy receiving defectors from the All Progressives Congress in Yola.
“We were told that Governor Ahmadu Fintiri, who should have led members of the reconciliation committee in Atiku’s camp to the meeting, was the chief host during the defection of APC members in Yola. But they have indicated interest to show up for the meeting on Friday.”
The source, however, noted that members of the reconciliation committee from Atiku’s camp would not be meeting the Rivers State governor.
“When members of Atiku’s reconciliation committee come to Rivers State for the meeting, they will be meeting members of Wike’s committee. Whatever agreement that we reach would be detailed in a report that would be submitted to both Atiku and Wike.
“After Atiku and Wike review the agreement and accept the conditions therein, another meeting involving Wike and Atiku will be held for the reconciliation to materialise in the interest of the party,” the source said.
A reliable source in Atiku’s camp claimed that members of the reconciliation panel had agreed to hold the meeting in Abuja.
It was gathered that the meeting earlier scheduled for Monday could not take place following a disagreement over the venue.
A source stated, “The meeting was earlier billed to hold on Monday but it was shelved due to disagreement on the choice of venue. While Wike’s representatives on the panel wanted the meeting to hold in Port Harcourt, the representatives of the PDP presidential candidate felt Port Harcourt is not an ideal location. But now, both parties have resolved that Abuja is where the parley should hold and they have agreed to meet this Friday.”
The PUNCH had reported that the rift between Atiku and Wike started after the Rivers State governor’s ambition of becoming the party’s vice-presidential candidate for the 2023 general elections failed following the emergence of the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as Atiku’s running mate.
Wike, on Tuesday, warned that infighting would spell doom for the PDP in the 2023 general elections.
He said the party leaders should be working at the grassroots across the states instead of rushing to Abuja with rumours ‘’to a certain candidate.’’
As part of his conditions for peace, Wike’s loyalists are insisting on the resignation of the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, who, however, vowed to serve out his four-year tenure.
The party had set up a 14-man reconciliation panel to mend fences between Wike and Atiku, but the committee had yet to resolve the crisis.
Speaking during the inauguration of the Government VIP Lounge in Omagwa in the Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state, Wike lamented that some Rivers politicians are currently in Abuja carrying rumours and gossip about him to a certain candidate.
He said they ought to be in the state working ahead of the 2023 general elections while pointing out that those who could deliver their unit, ward, local government area and state would soon be known.
The governor stated that the projects being inaugurated and those being flagged off are what would be used to campaign to the people during the election.
He stated, “These are things we will use to tell the people… see why you should vote for us. It is not gossip. It is not by appearing on Channels television or Arise (tv) that will help you to win an election. It is what you have done, the report card you have that will sell our candidates.
“So, I think a party that needs to win an election cannot on their own cause problems for themselves, carrying rumours when there is nothing. When you wake up, every newspaper says ‘Wike’s camp says this, Wike’s camp did not say this.’ Meanwhile, nobody has met Wike’s camp, if at all Wike has any camp. I’m not a theoretical politician; I’m a practical politician at home.
‘’If I as a governor don’t stay in Abuja, I don’t even sleep there; those who are sleeping there, what are they doing there? Their business is to go home and talk to their people; leave Abuja alone. You cannot be there and direct what will happen. Very soon, we will know who can deliver his unit, ward, local government and state.”
According to a statement issued by the media aide to the governor, Kelvin Ebiri, the governor described as inconsequential the claims of support for Atiku by some politicians ‘’if they are not working to mobilise grassroots voters to secure electoral victory for the PDP.’’
Wike explained that the quantum of individual votes from units, local government and states would determine victory for the presidential candidate of the PDP in 2023 and not rumour peddlers.
He added, “We are busy campaigning with our projects and working on how our party will win elections in the state; other people are busy in Abuja carrying rumours and gossip up and down.
‘’We are busy all day flagging off projects and commissioning projects that will sell our party; others are busy every day in the newspapers (saying) ‘Wike did this, Wike did that,’ then they will call the candidate, ‘you saw what I said about Wike today?’
“Instead of you doing something that will make your party win the 2023 election, you are busy every day saying ‘Wike said this.’ Where you heard from Wike, I don’t know, maybe in your dream. You want to support a candidate but you are not at home, you are in Abuja.’’
Berating the unnamed Rivers politicians further, the governor admonished them to come back to the state and work for the party.
‘’Come home to campaign and work for the party. Stop this Abuja politics of taking rumours to a candidate. Only one person can be a minister from a state. I will not be a minister. I’m not a liability. Rivers State is an asset.
‘’For me, if you don’t want to win elections, it’s your business. I’m not the one running (for) elections. He who wears the shoe knows where it pinches him,’’ he said.
The governor pointed out how his administration had been carrying out various projects that serve as evidence of fulfilled electoral promises, which he said had sustained the trust that the people had for the PDP in the state.
He expressed the belief that it was the services and projects that his administration had done that would sell the PDP to the electorates.
Wike explained that though the Port Harcourt International Airport was owned by the Federal Government, his administration built the VIP lounge in order to offer Rivers people the best.
However, a former Governor of Plateau State and member of the Board of Trustees of the party, Fidelis Tapgun, expressed concern about the lingering feud between Atiku and Wike and called on both parties to sheathe their swords in the interest of the people
He alleged that those who did not wish the PDP well were capitalising on the crisis to pitch the party against Nigerians.
The former governor told journalists in Jos on Tuesday that it was contradictory for a party that was working to “rescue Nigerians from the years of the APC misrule’’ to be seen fighting itself.
Tapgun said, “As you know, some people are happy that there is a crisis in the PDP because of the disagreement between the camps of our presidential candidate and the governor of Rivers State and would not want the crisis not to stop.
“So, they are fueling the crisis but we will not allow anyone to destroy the party using the feud between the two leaders because the PDP is bigger than all of us including the feuding parties.
‘’The PDP is a party formed by the people of Nigeria and the people who gave their all for the party to come on board; a lot of them are not alive today. So we have a responsibility to honour them by keeping the party alive.”
Tapgun faulted the call for the resignation of the national chairman of the party.
He said his resignation would not only worsen the crisis in the party but would also threaten the party’s chances of winning the 2023 elections.
On his part, a PDP presidential aspirant, Sam Ohuabunwa, said the crisis in the party, especially between Wike and Atiku, was the result of its lack of internal conflict resolution capacity.
Ohuabunwa said this when he appeared on Channels television’s Politics Today programme, monitored by our correspondent on Tuesday.
He said, “For me, it shows that we do not have adequate internal conflict resolution capacity. I really don’t know why it should be so. We have the Board of Trustees, we have elders in the party, and we have well-meaning people.’’
According to him, if he were the PDP chairman or presidential candidate, he would not sleep until the crisis in the party was resolved.
Also, a PDP stalwart, Chief Bode George said a meeting of the National Executive Council of the party should be convened to address pressing issues affecting the party, including the facilitation of the resignation of the PDP chairman.
George made the statement amid calls for Ayu’s resignation and with the latter stressing that he was mandated to serve as the national chairman of the PDP for four years.
George said, “I think the leaders and the elders of the party need to meet as quickly as possible. It looks as if some kind of devil is trying to divide this party. Ayu was the assistant secretary to the founding committee, so he knows the details of how the party came together.
“For him to make that claim, I do not believe he said it, but if he said it, it is very unfortunate. How can you have your own personal ambition higher than the ambition of the party? Does he really want this party to win the election? Ethnicity is a major issue for consideration in our party.”
Reacting to Wike’s statement, the PDP spokesman, Debo Ologunagba said the governor spoke like a true party man.
‘’Wike, as a party man, said we should work for the victory of the party at the grassroots level. What is wrong with that? You (media) want us to fight, but we won’t,’’ he said.
In a related development, the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom on Tuesday said as a politician, he would welcome every presidential candidate.
Fielding questions from journalists on his return from Port Harcourt, the governor said that people were only reading unnecessary interpretations to the trending picture of him and the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi.
Ortom said the challenges facing the country transcended partisan politics.