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PDP CRISIS: BOT CONVENES EMERGENCY MEETING TO RESCUE ATIKU’S CAMPAIGN

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Atiku Abubakar and Iyorchia Ayu

Barring any last-minute change of mind, the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party will this week meet to deliberate on the crisis rocking the party.

This is part of a larger plan to rescue the campaign of the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, following the boycott of its campaign by some aggrieved governors of the party.

The PUNCH learnt the advisory body is worried by the growing feud between the party and loyalists of the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and may ask the party’s National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu to resign.

Although details of the meeting and date were sketchy as of the time of filing this report, the immediate past BoT chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, disclosed to The PUNCH on Monday that members of the board were truly disturbed as the crisis showed no sign of abating.

He said, “There is a (BoT) meeting this week but I don’t know the date yet. What we are interested in is that we must speak with one voice and stay with the party’s plans and objectives to enable us to win the elections in 2023. We must encourage our members to rally other Nigerians to come out and vote for Atiku Abubakar and Ifeanyi Okowa.”

Against the backdrop of calls for Ayu to resign, the BoT is expected to take a categorical stand on the matter, including possible demand for Ayu’s removal in the interest of the party.

Speaking exclusively to The PUNCH, Jibrin enjoined party organs to remain united even as he took a swipe at the National Working Committee over what he called the “division” in its fold.

“We must not allow division like we are now witnessing in the NWC. All other organs must understand that the party constitution is supreme,” he said, warning that “Once the NWC members accommodate loopholes in the administration of the party, the PDP is finished.”

Jibrin’s diplomatic stance, however, contrasts with his fellow BoT member and former Minister in the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

The ex-minister who does not want his name in print so “as not to preempt the outcome of the meeting” said, “We will look at the bigger picture and that picture is what is good for the party. We can’t be going into a major election with our house in disarray. Whatever sacrifice is needed for us to move forward, we will do it but I can’t be categorical so as not to preempt the outcome of the meeting.

“We must not be afraid to speak the truth. We must speak truth to power, though not everybody will like it. Whatever will affect our chances of winning the elections must give way.”

Speaking in the same vein, a former principal officer in the National Assembly wants the BoT to be guided in its deliberations by “those things that matter including justice, fair play and equity.”

Pleading for his name not to be mentioned, he stressed, “Treat the South as equal partners in this project. Interpret or process this and draw your conclusion on whether I want Ayu to go or remain in office.

“I have just an issue to emphasise here. If the chairman is quoted as making a promise that if a northerner emerged as the party’s presidential candidate that he will quit, what are we still talking about here?”

Although Ayu enjoys the support of over two-thirds of the members of the NWC as of now, there are chances things may change in the weeks ahead as five of the governors elected on its platform have vowed not to have anything to do with the Presidential Campaign Council unless Ayu is removed from office.

The governors; Nyesom Wike, Okezie Ikpeazu, Seyi Makinde, Samuel Ortom and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Rivers, Abia, Oyo, Benue and Enugu states have since turned their backs on Atiku, insisting on the resignation of Ayu and his replacement with a southerner.

BoT meets Atiku

In a related development, the Wabara-led BoT committee on Sunday met the presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar over the crisis rocking the party and the way forward for the party.

The BoT committee, it was learnt, met Atiku in Abuja where discussions were held on how the crisis of confidence threatening to bring down the party was discussed.

The BoT, which is due to meet the Rivers State governor on Tuesday, emphasised the need to resolve the crisis facing the party ahead of the poll. They also discussed the various options the party could explore to resolve the crisis and placate the Wike-led aggrieved governors as soon as possible and begin campaigns for the 2023 poll.

A top PDP chieftain privy to discussions at the meeting said, “The BoT members met Atiku in Abuja on Sunday. Remember they had met the vice presidential candidate, Ifeanyi Okowa on Saturday. The meeting with Atiku was important because they needed to know the presidential candidate’s mind ahead of the meeting with Wike in Port Harcourt on Tuesday.“During the meeting, they discussed how the crisis could be resolved and how the party can placate the aggrieved governors before the campaign begins in earnest. But as usual, the presidential candidate said he was ready to work with the aggrieved governors. Remember he also had met with Wike on Thursday. So, he explained the challenges the party is having about asking Ayu to go, especially the constitutional crisis it may create. However, they also held some private discussions on what to do to placate the Wike faction.”

Also, it was learnt that the Special Reconciliatory Committee of the PDP would meet with Wike on Tuesday, (today).

The Chairman of the PDP BoT and former Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, made the disclosure in an interview with The PUNCH on Monday night.

He also dismissed speculations that the five PDP governors who met in Enugu on Sunday were plotting to quit the party and work against its interest in the 2023 election, saying “nobody is leaving the umbrella.”

When asked to give details of his meeting with the presidential candidate of PDP, Atiku, he said, “We should exercise some patience because the Special Reconciliation Committee is completing its assignment now. That is why we visited our principal (Atiku) on Sunday; He is our President in waiting and that is the major reason why we have these problems going on in the party.

He added, ‘’But as I will always say, we will get to resolve all these problems. The PDP is a party and we have problems here and there and no family would want to disintegrate. We are on course.”

Asked when the report of the reconciliation meeting would be ready for submission, he said, “The fact that I am the party chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP does not make me a dictator. I am only first among equals.

“There will always be a chairman and in this case, I am only acting. I do not think I have any authority to state the decision of the BoT. I belong to a larger camp. It is really going to be a win-win situation; we want to win the 2023 election. Nigerians want us in the Aso Villa.”

The BoT chair also gave the assurance that the aggrieved governors would not defect from the party.

Wabara said, “The election is about four months away and we should exercise some patience. It is not yet Uhuru, but we will get there. The five governors are meeting to find solutions to the PDP problem.

“Nobody is leaving the umbrella. The governors have said repeatedly that they will remain in the party. That already is a victory for the party. But for them to remain, there could be some constitutionality, frayed nerves will be pacified, which is what they are doing now.

“As I said, the BoT will make its report known. the Special Reconciliation Committee led by me would be meeting with Governor Wike on Tuesday (today) and we pray and hope that the meeting will be successful and further guide the BoT on what decisions to take.”

Meanwhile, Wike has insisted there will be no peace deal until Ayu resigns his position.

The party has been plunged into crisis since its presidential primary in May. Wike, who lost to Atiku, had expressed dissatisfaction with the exercise, stating that he was unfairly treated by the PDP and was not carried along.

Reports said he was further dissatisfied with the emergence of Governor Okowa of Delta State as Atiku’s running mate.

Wike had insisted that Ayu must resign if his camp must reach a truce with the candidate but Atiku had said he had no powers to remove the chairman.

Atiku also said if the chairman must be removed, due process must be followed by the party’s constitution.

After a series of meetings between them and their representatives failed to address the crisis, Wike and some of his colleagues and allies boycotted the inauguration of the party’s presidential campaign council on September 28.

Others who also boycotted the event were Prof Jerry Gana; and former governors Ayo Fayose, Jonah Jang, Donald Duke and Olusegun Mimiko. A former deputy national chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, was also absent.

NWC addresses crisis

Meanwhile, the National Working Committee of the PDP will today (Tuesday) meet to discuss the crisis threatening its Ogun State chapter.

Recall that a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, last week nullified all the primary elections held by the party in the state even as it ordered fresh primaries within two weeks.

This was based on a suit filed by one Segun Seriki and others who claimed to have emerged from the primaries conducted by a faction of the party.

In another suit instituted by one Taiwo Olabode and others on behalf of over 380 ad-hoc delegates who alleged disenfranchisement at the governorship primary election held on the 25th of May, 2022, the same court nullified the governorship primary election and ordered the party to conduct a fresh exercise within 14 days, using the delegates list certified by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as duly elected – in line with Section 84 (8) of the Electoral Act, 2022.

Party officials said the national leadership had earlier fixed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for the court-ordered primary elections but Ayu who returned from a medical trip abroad days ago stopped the plan, opting rather for the NWC to wade in.

“Most of the NWC members are in support of the rerun to fulfill all righteousness and cure whatever wrong that made the court make such sweeping decisions. We have to be careful not to fall into the risk of what happened to the All Progressives Congress in Zamfara and Rivers states.

“On this Ogun State PDP issue, I recall that one of those sent to conduct the ward congress in April warned in his report that if the right thing was not done, we might have the Zamfara and Rivers scenario in Ogun State.

“Already, there are talks within the political circle in Ogun State that those who instituted the suit that led to the nullification of all the party primaries were being used by the APC administration in the state to frustrate the PDP from fielding candidates in the 2023 general election,” a party official disclosed.

Another PDP source said, “While it is within the personal rights of the parties to appeal the judgment and no one can foreclose that, it is in the overriding interest of the party and its teeming members to comply with the order of the court. Any aspirant that is not pleased with the court judgment and the decision of the party can still pursue their appeals while the party goes on with the campaigns.

 “For any aspirant who may still wish to go on appeal, if the appellate courts rule in his favour, he would replace whoever has emerged. It is better than not fielding candidates at all or waiting till when the Supreme Court will determine the matter. By then, it is either the campaign would have ended or it would be too close to the elections like it happened to our party in Ogun State in 2019.”

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BABA-AHMED HAILS SHETTIMA’S ‘IMPROVED DRESS SENSE’

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LP Vice Presidential Candidate, Datti Baba-Ahmed and APC Vice Presidential Candidate of Senator Kashim Shettima

The vice presidential candidate of Labour Party, Datti Baba-Ahmed, has sarcastically applauded his counterpart in the ruling All Progressives Congress, Senator Kashim Shettima, over his “improved dress sense” to public functions.

The APC vice presidential candidate, who stood in for his principal, Bola Tinubu, was mocked on August 22 for dressing in an oversized suit-and-sneakers combo at the Nigeria Bar Association conference in Lagos.

The development led to a backlash, especially on Twitter where #ShettimaChallenge trended with tweeps making different posts mimicking the senator’s dress sense.

Although Shettima defended his position saying that he deliberately wore the sneakers to shame his critics, his excuse was not enough to dissuade social media critics from dragging him on the blue bird app.

But in a conference held in Abuja on Thursday, Baba-Ahmed, a running mate to the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, observed that Shettima had seemingly improved in his dressing lately.

While accusing him of having a penchant for belittling his political opponents urged the former governor to improve on his public composure and discipline.

He said, “We congratulate Mr. Shettima on having improved his dressing, but equally remind him that he needs to improve on his public composure and discipline in communication.

“Shettima is called upon to speak kindly and more responsibly about all personalities if only to uphold long-established standards. Little wonder he has consistently put to shame the noble heritage of the great Bornu Empire, in his unguarded and uncultured public pronouncements, which expose his intellectual laziness and discomfort with empirical facts and arguments.

“Regular insults which have now become his trademark, have not spared the current Vice President whom he directed to go and sell ice cream, nor the former vice president whom he described as a pure water seller, a noble venture which serves the populace better than a certain white substance.

“It is pertinent to recall how Mr. Shettima at a recent public event belittled Atiku Abubakar’s educational qualification as well as the modest lifestyle of Peter Obi. Clearly Mr. Shettima is out of touch with reality and cannot understand that people like Peter Obi who have reached the heights in business and material achievement have long transcended the need for ostentatious display of wealth.”

A livid Baba-Ahmed stated that the ruling party’s strategy against Obi now appeared clearly centered on promoting falsehood, in addition to derogatory personal attacks, because they can find no contentious points of negativity to push.

The LP vice presidential candidate did not also spare the presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, who he described as introducing unethical standard into his campaign.

He stated, “It is important to underline that oaths of office do not expire with tenure, and hence the comment that the Northern electorate do not need a Yoruba or Igbo leader is greatly at variance with the oaths of office taken in 1999 and 2003 respectively, and the Peace Accord of 2022.

“This is to call upon the owner of the statement to respectfully retract same in order to be readmitted to the honour list of esteemed presidential candidates. Truth of the matter is that every Nigerian from anywhere needs a credible and competent president.”

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‘APC PLANS TO DISUNITE NIGERIANS WITH MUSLIM/MUSLIM TICKET’

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Senator Walid Jibrin, a former Board of Trustees Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party

A former Board of Trustees Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Walid Jibrin, has accused the All Progressives Congress of planning to disunite Nigerians with its Muslim/Muslim Ticket ahead of the 2023 general elections.

Jibrin who is the Chairman of the PDP presidential and governorship campaign council in Nasarawa State made the accusation in the Awe Local Government Area of the state during his party’s zonal campaign rally on Thursday.

Our correspondent reports that the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, a Muslim, had picked the former governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, who is also a Muslim as his running mate ahead of the poll.

The development caused discontent along religious lines as many Christian faithful protested what they referred to as an attempt to “Islamise” the country.

The action of the APC also forced some stakeholders of the Christian faith out of the party.

Senator Jibrin said, “That singular unpatriotic gesture, coming at a time of rising security challenges confronting the nation is never a welcome development.

“The apparent late excuses by Tinubu to justify what is clearly an anomaly, that his wife is a Pentecostal pastor, are lame and insulting to the sensibility of Nigerians.

“And with what the APC and its presidential candidate have done, it is obvious that Nigeria cannot be safe in the hands of the former governor of Lagos State whose decisions and actions could plunge the country into chaos.”

Jibrin, however, said the country will be safer in the hands of the PDP, adding that the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and the Nasarawa state governorship candidate, David Ombugadu, are men of high intellect and composure who would ensure steady growth and development of the nation.

He appealed to residents of the state to vote for all PDP candidates in the 2023 elections, promising that the party would tackle the numerous challenges confronting the nation by providing the dividends of democracy to the people.

On the current disagreement between the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and the Governor of Rivers state, Nyesom Wike, the former Board of Trustees Chairman said leaders of the party were making frantic efforts to settle the disputes before the commencement of the 2023 elections.

“What is happening now in the PDP is a family matter. Alhaji Atiku and Governor Wike are brothers. As leaders, we are making efforts to address the issues, and we are hopeful that they will be resolved before the February 2023 elections.

“I stepped down from my position as BoT chairman to allow peace to reign in the party and pave way for other party stakeholders who had never occupied my former position to do so.

“I am confident that the PDP will retake the presidency and win many states during the forthcoming elections, so I am urging our party members and supporters to remain resolute in the struggle,” Walid Jibrin added.

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NO GOV HAS POWER TO STOP OPPONENTS FROM CAMPAIGNING –IGP

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Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba

•Uzodimma, Anyim, others outline impediments to free, fair election

The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba, has directed police commissioners in the 36 states to dismantle campaign bottlenecks put in place by governors to frustrate their opponents.

This is even as the IGP and the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, vowed to arrest and prosecute touts obstructing campaigns by opposition political parties and politicians indulging in vote-buying during the 2023 poll.

The IGP specifically noted that all commissioners of police must provide security for political parties embarking on electioneering in all the nook and cranny of any state.

Speaking at the 2022 political parties’ summit organised by the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), yesterday in Abuja, he said any commissioner who fails to carry out his responsibility within the ambit of the law and decide to dance to the tunes of governors would be removed.

Represented by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Operations, Dandaura Mustapha, he said: “We have been receiving a lot of complains from political parties. It is unfortunate of what is happening this period. All the political parties are complaining. It is not only APC or PDP or Labour Party or APGA. Unfortunately, some of our governors as stated by the IG during a meeting with the political parties that they are not helping matters.

“They have not laid a solid foundation, give other political parties access to campaign programmes. Some try to manipulate the campaign.

“Some even sponsor touts to pursue the opposition, remove their billboards and posters and destroy their offices.

“Based on this, the Inspector General of Police, has categorically directed all the commissioners of police that on no account should any serving or sitting governor stop other political parties from conducting their campaigns in all the nook and cranny of the state.

“This instruction was very clear both in writing and verbal. We have told all the commissioners of police. When it happens, the commissioners of police have been directed to arrest all the hoodlums no matter where they belong and whoever is sponsoring them we will arrest them and charge them to court.

“So, please, be rest assured that all political parties are free to go about your lawful businesses. You are free to go to any village conduct your campaign freely and we are going to give you enough security. We are encouraging all the aspirants that once you are threatened and you have no access to go round meet the commissioner of police in charge of that state.  They have been directed and warned to provide security for all the aspirants. No matter where they are going, they will attach security.”

EFCC chairman, who was represented by the Chief Superintendent in the Commission, Adukwu Michael, noted that the anti-graft agency had embarked on voters’ education and was working to ensure politicians do not spend beyond the stipulated amount.

“The Commission focus in election management is discouraging the use of money to influence the outcome of election.

“Electoral spending by politicians often lead to voter inducement and vote buying. Parties often induce vote with money because they lack proper and realistic policies to convince the electorate to vote them into power. Whenever one is induced to sell his vote, he automatic loses moral ground to challenge corrupt tendencies of those elected…

“We are working with INEC to determine and to enforce provisions of the Electoral Act as it relates to limit of campaign spending by different categories of office seekers. This is an intelligent driven exercise.”

Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma, said political parties and their candidates must adhere to democratic norms and “collectively intervene to achieve the kind of credible elections that will further deepen democracy.”

The keynote speaker, Senator Pius Anyim, argued that political parties must adhere to the principles of social justice as a means of preventing crisis.

“The rumblings in the PDP and the APC are surely due to perceived social injustice in the management of the affairs of the parties,” he argued.

According to him, the pain of the G-5 governors in the PDP is simply the sidelining of a section of the country in the sharing of party structures.

He, however, called on IPAC to step forward in playing a role to stabilise the democratic environment by ensuring that parties take their rightful position as the bedrock of democracy in Nigeria.

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