LEON USIGBE writes about the ongoing schism between Atiku Abubakar, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, and Nyesom Wike, the party’s second in the party’s primaries.

The drama is undiminished, the tension intense and the intrigue more complicated by the minute. All indications are that things will remain the same, at least for now, in the extraordinary conflict between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate and his main rival for the ticket, Rivers State Governor NyesomWike. The springboard for the existing debilitating crisis in the main opposition party has gone through several twists and turns, creating fear among the party and outsiders watching the unfolding events that it is about to squander its best chance at returning to power. at the center after its spectacular fall from favor in 2015. When efforts to reach consensus seem to be yielding results, new grouse, accusations and demands seem to be surfacing, sending everything back to the drawing board.

Political observers think the party is losing time. While the embargo on political campaigns is to be lifted next month, it cannot raise its presidential campaign council, ostensibly because there is no inherent unanimity on the target. So instead of being deeply involved in developing campaign strategy, critics note, it becomes bogged down in thoughts of what Wike’s brinkmanship might evoke next.

Despite the apparent play of hide-and-seek, both Atiku and Wike recently agreed to meet by proxy on a committee and discuss their differences. The reconciliation committee is headed by Adamawa state governor Fintiri, a core supporter of the former vice president. Nominated with him on the side of Atiku his former minister, AdamuWaziri; former PDP governor candidate in Ekiti State, EyitayoJegede; former Governor of Cross River State, LiyelImoke, and JideAdeniji. To push for Wike’s interest in the commission are former Federation Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Bello Adoke; former Secretary of Information, Prof Jerry Gana; former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke; Former Governor of Ondo State, OlusegunMimiko, and Former Governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dancomebo.

The committee’s inaugural meeting was scheduled for Monday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, but had to be aborted because Atiku representatives failed to show up in Rivers State’s capital. They did not travel to Port Harcourt in protest at Wike’s insistence that the meeting be held there. Instead, the Atiku camp demanded a change of location, arguing that such a meeting would necessarily have to be held in the country’s capital. However, both sides later agreed to meet in Abuja between the following Friday and Monday in the hopes that the desired atmosphere can be created to further the reconciliation effort.

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This happened against the backdrop of Wike’s urgent trip to France and four of the PDP governors who supported him last week to fine-tune their strategy in hopes of extracting concessions from Atiku before a solution to the ongoing crisis can be reached. . The governors who accompanied him are Sam Ortom (Benue), SeyiMakinde (Oyo), IfeanyiUguanyi (Enugu), and OkezieIkpeazu (Abia). They returned to Port Harcourt on Monday in time to monitor the aborted meeting. So far, all have withheld their support for Atiku after the alleged humiliation that Wike would have suffered at the hands of the former vice president who bypassed him to elect his Delta State colleague, IfeanyiOkowa, despite the committee’s recommendation. which is established to allow the presidential candidate to arrive at a suitable running mate.

Even while supporting the reconciliation committee led by Fintiri, Wike continued to express his dismay at the vibes emanating from the presidential candidate’s camp, especially his perception that Atiku had invaded his camp to poach some of his most loyal supporters in Rivers State. Some PDP leaders in the state who were seen as the governor’s main loyalists, including former Speaker of the House Austin Okpara and former Senator who represented Rivers East, Lee Maeba, have now joined Atiku against their state governor, and arouse his wrath. This has given a new twist to the feud with Atiku’s camp, even as the former vice president remains convinced of the differences being resolved. “Wike is angry that some of his men came to join Atiku without his permission,” a top party source revealed to the Nigerian Tribune, but assured the issue will be resolved.

To his credit, as also confirmed by party sources, the Governor of Rivers State, despite his outward attitude, has made no demands on the presidential candidate. But this causes Atiku’s camp to be gripped with guessing how to calm him down. The spokesman for the Atiku campaign, Dino Melaye, is convinced that progress has been made in reconciliation, regardless of the apparent back and forth. “We are making tremendous progress. There is no cause for alarm. In a few days everything will be fine,” he told the Nigerian Tribune. This is a position echoed by the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, who assured that any problem about Wike will be resolved soon.

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While denying that the spat between the Rivers State governor and the presidential candidate is responsible for the delay in forming the presidential campaign organization, the party megaphone told the Nigerian Tribune: “Reconciliation is not a hundred-yard sprint. It’s a continuous process. We are making progress; we are confident and confident in the progress we are making. And to that extent, every aspect of the levels of the organs of the party involved… I know that at the end of the day and very soon we will be ready for the campaign. What is more important for every member of the party is the fact that the party is supported to rebuild a great Nigeria. Every stakeholder, every member of the party has responded to that objective. So it will not be difficult to have atonement. Again, I repeat, reconciliation is not a hundred meter sprint. It takes a process and we are going through the process, we are sure of what we are doing and we know and are confident that at the end of it all we will be united, we will be stronger together because the Nigerian people look up to us. We understand the expectations of the Nigerian people and we are committed to them and we know that ultimately the party, the PDP, is united as one family together.”

While Wike is not known to have openly made demands, his character suggests he definitely wants something, some sort of concession to put weight on the PDP’s presidential ticket. Governor Ortom had consistently insisted that Atiku calm him down. Some reports have indicated that he is pushing for the removal of the PDP’s national chairman, Dr. IyorchiaAyu, and to be replaced by a candidate of his choice to give him a lasting foothold in the party structure. But observers doubt this will help, as Ayu’s resignation paves the way for PDP (North) National Vice-Chairman Amb. Umar IliyaDamagun, to assume the leadership of the party in accordance with the party’s constitution which states that if an officer leaves his office, he will be replaced by another from the same zone.

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There has also been speculation that Ayu based his possible resignation on the large-scale swap of the current party offices between north and south, which would require the approval of another elective national convention. This is a long deficit, not only because of the amount of distraction it will create for the party with just months before the general election, but it will be fraught with further internal disputes that could take control away from it.

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