The crisis in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) thickened, yesterday, as the Nyesom Wike-led G-5 governors took their fight against the party’s National Chairman, Iyorcha Ayu and the presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, for ‘solidarity and fraternity,’ on a day Atiku took his campaign to Maiduguri, capital of Borno State in the same Northeast.
The meeting amplified speculations that the Bauchi governor has joined the camp of aggrieved governors, particularly, as the governor openly disclosed that there were cases of anti-party activity and mischief by some PDP leaders to undermine him in the state.
At the meeting with the G-5 governors, Mohammed said: “They know I have challenges in Bauchi, challenges of anti-party, of under-cutting and mischief and of course it’s all about politics.”
The atmosphere, however, at the national secretariat in Abuja was not just quiet, but conveyed the uneasy calm in the party since the conclusion of the presidential primary in May 2022.
Few party staff who showed up expressed concerns that the crisis had dragged till date without solution despite series of interventions. The earlier meeting between Atiku and Mohammed on Tuesday in Abuja, it was learnt, did not achieve much success because key issues at stake were never addressed.
Many were worried that Mohammed, who was supposed to be one of the host governors in the Maiduguri rally, did not just stay away but preferred to meet with the Wike camp, despite being the vice chairman of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council (PCC).
Also, the absence of the party’s chair, Ayu, from the Maiduguri rally attracted some concerns. Some secretariat staff confirmed that Ayu was in Abuja, a development they described as strange.
“Our worries emerged from previous speculations that Ayu had been told by influential party leaders to quietly quit as national chairman” a source said.
But Ayu’s media adviser, Simon Imobo-Tswam, in a statement disclosed that “Ayu was held back by other very pressing engagements.
“There is nothing to it at all as the party is ably and powerfully represented at the rally by the Deputy Chairman (North), Umar Damagum”, he stressed.
Ayu was also absent from flag-off of the party’s governorship, state and National Assembly campaign in his home state in Benue, on Monday. Wike has, however, said he and his allies are open to reconciliation with the leadership of the party, adding that they never closed the door of reconciliation.
“I have stated severally that we are here for reconciliation. We have never closed the door for reconciliation. All we are calling for is equity, fairness, and justice. In fact, that is the hallmark that PDP stands for. We have never closed the door and we would not close the door.”
The visit comes on the heels of reports that the Bauchi governor is set to leave the party’s presidential campaign over claims that Atiku’s loyalists were working against his re-election.
Mohammed had addressed a letter to Ayu, threatening to pull out of Atiku’s campaign. He alleged that he had not been carried along in activities of the party as the Vice Chairman of the PCC in-charge of the North.
Mohammed confirmed writing the letter with clear conscience and honesty. He said: “You are aware it’s no longer a secret that I wrote a letter to the National Chairman about my position in Bauchi and that’s why the party invited me to discuss with Atiku, our leader.”
Mohammed also said he felt the pains of the G-5 governors and assured them that he’s “highly connected with each one of them.” Governors in attendance were Wike, Samuel Ortom (Benue), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), while Seyi Makinde of Oyo State was said to be in the United States.
Ortom has apologised to all “those who feel offended” over his statement: “To hell with Atiku Abubakar and those who are supporting Fulani man to become the next president.”
The Benue governor had made the remark on Sunday when he hosted the G-5 governors in Makurdi. He had said: “My people are being killed and you want me to be quiet. My tenure ends in May and you can do whatever you want if you think you have the powers. I have written my will. When I gave it to my wife, she cried all night. Many of my mates have gone long time ago. If I die today, I’m a fulfilled person but let it be recorded that I died resisting the invasion and killing of my people. I will never support a Fulani man to become president.”
But when asked whether he still maintained his position as earlier, Ortom said: “That was not what I meant when I was captured saying that, but all the same, I know it will amount to logical fallacy if people have taken it the way I did. I want to say to those who I have offended by my remarks I don’t mean that, I’m sorry about that.”
MEANWHILE, at least 74 persons were hospitalised while several vehicles were vandalised as hoodlums attacked Atiku’s convoy in Maiduguri yesterday. PDP’s spokesperson, Dino Melaye, disclosed this during the party’s rally in Maiduguri, saying the act was to try to stop their campaign in the state by deploying thugs to attack them.
He said: “They deployed their thugs to attack our convoys with stones, sticks and machetes as we left the Shehu’s palace to come to the Ramat Square, all in an attempt to stop our rally, but we want to assure them that nobody can stop us.”He added that more than 10 vehicles were vandalised around the axis of Bulumkutu.
The PDP has condemned what it called “the cowardly violent attack” on its presidential campaign convoy in Maiduguri, by armed thugs, allegedly sponsored by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The opposition party further claimed that “the attack further confirms APC’s frustration and disconcertedness over the overwhelming popularity of our presidential candidate, Atiku, in Borno, the Northeast and across the country.”
A statement released in Abuja by the party’s national publicity secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said “PDP has information about how agents of certain APC leaders mobilised thugs with the aim to escalate violence in Maiduguri and prevent the party from holding its rally.
“This attack is consistent with APC’s habitual resort to violence in the face of rejection by the people as also witnessed in Kaduna State on October 17.
“APC’s anti-social behaviour is contrary to the Peace Accord it signed on September 28, and constitutes a clear and present danger to democracy, our electoral process and the 2023 general elections,” the statement stressed.
Meanwhile, the Borno police command and APC in the state have debunked attacks on Atiku’s convoy. Denying the attack, the Commissioner of Police, Abdu Umar, said: “The fake news of convoy attack was a mischief.”
He, however, disclosed that a 32-year Danladi Musa Abba, was arrested for throwing a stone at one of the vehicles in the convoy at the main roundabout of Maiduguri, adding that investigation is ongoing to arrest others.
Reacting to the attack, Borno APC Chairman, Ali Bukar Dalori, said there was no incidence of attack on Atiku’s convoy by APC thugs. He said the ruling party in the state is law abiding by providing the Ramat Square for PDP to hold its rally.
Atiku has, however, said he will tackle insecurity with the resumption of oil and gas explorations in the Chad Basin if elected in 2023. According to him, the about eight-year APC administration is led by a continuous rise in poverty and unemployment.