Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike, has said that the actions of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar, and the National Chairman of the party, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, are raising doubts in voters about the party ahead of the 2023 presidential election.
The Rivers governor, who spent about two hours in a live media chat in Government House, Port Harcourt on the crisis rocking the PDP, insisted that the refusal of Atiku and Ayu to fulfill their promises has portrayed them as untrustworthy characters in the eyes of Nigerians.
Wike said the party laid the foundation for the current crisis when it jettisoned its zoning principle of elective offices to pave the way for a northerner instead of a Southern presidential candidate.
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He said: “The constitution of our party provides that there shall be zoning of party and elective offices. It is clear. Not ambiguous. But people will always try to manipulate the system to suit them.
“They slant stories in such a way as to deceive the public. The founding fathers know the complexity of this country. They did it in a such a way as not to have problems”.
The Governor recalled various meetings held by Southern Governors and their resolution that power must shift to the south but lamented that while the All Progressives Congress (APC) despite being in power adhered to the rotational principle in the spirit of the country’s unity, the PDP arrogantly rejected zoning.
He said PDP having boxed itself in the corner was being hunted by the singular decision and must be restructured to give the South a sense of belonging.
He recalled that shortly after his emergence as the party’s flag bearer, Atiku visited him and told him that Ayu must vacate his office to address the structural imbalance in the party.
Wike further remembered Ayu before he was elected as chairman promised to resign his position if a presidential candidate from the northern extraction emerged at the convention.
The Governor further disclosed the outcome of their London meeting with Atiku saying the candidate vowed to ensure the exit of Ayu and pleaded with them to give him a week to work out the modalities.
He, however, said they were surprised that Atiku treated them with disrespect when instead of giving them feedback went to an event and announced that any attempt to remove Ayu would cause a constitutional crisis.
On how Atiku and former Senate President Bukola Saraki humiliated former President Goodluck Jonathan, Wike said: “The founding fathers of our party never made a mistake, they knew the complexity of this country and therefore they arranged it in a such a way we do not have problems in our party.
“People should not forget history. It may not be favourable to you but for the sake of the society and the country, you must remember. In 2014, there was this issue of the presidential candidate of the party. Jonathan emerged as the presidential candidate.
“You also remembered that many people walked out of that convention. People like the candidate of our party today, Alh. Atiku Abubakar, Aminu Tanbuwal was one of them, the former Senate President, Saraki was one of them. They all walked out saying that the presidency must come to the north.
“Of course President Jonathan, a sitting president, did everything to talk to them to come back to the party. Jonathan was rebuffed as a sitting President. I even remembered there was a time he travelled to London to see Atiku, he rebuffed Jonathan, who was a sitting President.
“We decided to remain in the party. You heard when the former Niger State Governor, Aliyu Babangida came out and said they all agreed to work against the candidate of our party.
“But what is important is that some members of our party played anti-party activities because they believed that the presidential candidate should come from the north”.
On why the current structure in PDP cannot stand, Wike said: “We have had our primary and the Presidential Candidate emerged. But before the candidate emerged, there was the issue of where will the chairmanship go to because in our party the chairman comes from south and the candidate comes from north and vice versa.
“The intention of the founding fathers is to allow for inclusiveness, for everybody to participate in the hierarchy of decision making. As it is today three major persons make decision for the party. One is the national chairman, the presidential candidate or the President if you are in power and then the Director-Geeneral of the campaign.”
Narrating how PDP governors from the South betrayed the collective decision that power must shift to the south, the Governor said: “We from the South, before, now we have met and said the presidency must come to the south. The APC and PDP met.
“When this idea was mooted, they met and agreed that the conveners of these meetings will be the Governor of Ondo, Akeredolu, the Governor of Ebonyi, Umahi and the Governor of Delta, Okowa. They became the chief Convener of the southern governors forum.
“The first meeting was held in Asaba. It was agreed that President Muhammadu Buhari coming from the north had done eight years and therefore, the next should come from the South. The next meeting was held in Lagos and it was stated clearly that this is what they must pursue.
“The final meeting was held in Enugu. I don’t want to say certain statements made by some governors at that meeting. I remembered that one of the governors said, ‘how will I tell my children that I cannot be a president because I do not come from a particular section of the country’.
“At the appropriate time I will let you know the governor. We said that Secondus was already rounding off his term and cannot go back since the presidency is coming to the south. It was not a personal thing.
“We went to the party and there were arguments and counter arguments started. I was even surprised at the behavior of some of the governors, who were even the conveners of the forum.
“Luckily the party set up a committee. At that committee, the governor of Benue State, governor Ortom was the chairman of the zoning committee. They cleverly came up with the idea that only party offices should be zoned not the elective offices.
“Some people believed they are more intelligent than others. Some of us said that, this at the end of the day, will cause crisis for us. The chairmanship was now zoned to the north and that was why no southerner contested the position.
“When we lost election in 2015, the party sat down, formed a committee under Ekweremadu. The committee came out and said we should zone the presidency to the north. That was why in 2018 convention, there was nobody from the South who contested that position.
“All the presidential aspirants came from the north and everybody would remember. We gave Atiku all the support. No state contributed more than Rivers.
“Those of them who claim they are highly connected and that they are the founding fathers of the party, now said there should be no zoning of the presidential ticket, ‘leave it open let the best candidate emerge because they think they have the number’.”
On how Ayu allegedly manipulated processs in Atiku’s favour, the Governor gave a detailed account of the circumstances that surrounded his participation at the party’s primaries and how Ayu manipulated the process to favour Atiku.
Wike said the only regrets he had was not having the opportunity to fight bandits and oil thieves as he had earlier planned if elected a president.