- …. Plot indirect primaries to pick party’s flagbearer…
… Obasanjo to NWC members: I’ll never return to your party…
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in next year’s election may emerge from the ranks of the party’s 13 state governors as they fine tune their strategy for the polls.
The governors, during preliminary discussions on the matter, have agreed in principle to ensure that one of them flies the party’s flag during the election.
Newly elected national chairman of the PDP, Prof. Iyorchia Ayu, yesterday led other chieftains of the party to Abeokuta to confer with former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Details of their closed door meeting were not immediately known, but Obasanjo told the delegation after their talks that he was not interested in returning to the party come what may.
Ayu had told him not to be “tired of us as we come knocking asking for advice.
Investigation by The Nation revealed that the governors are determined to consolidate on their success at the recent national convention of the party where their favoured candidates emerged as members of the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC).
To achieve their objective of producing the presidential candidate, the governors, party sources said, have also resolved to encourage the party leadership to adopt the indirect mode of primary election to nominate the presidential candidate later in the year.
This, it was learnt, is part of a grand plan to prevent other presidential aspirants, especially former Vice President Abubakar Atiku, from getting the presidential ticket.
A PDP senator said the governors are banking on their current hold on the leadership of the party to achieve their aim.
The source said: “At the just-concluded national elective convention of the PDP in Abuja, majority of the governors elected on the platform of our party, working together, showed their might as they literally hand-picked members of the next National Working Committee (NWC) and other national officers of the party.
“Though a couple of governors appeared left out of the arrangement back then, it appears they have now been appeased as the PDP Governors’ Forum has taken firm charge of the party, and is in a vintage position to decide who will fly the party’s presidential ticket in 2023.
“Attempts by other stakeholders in the party including former Vice-President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, ex-Senate President Bukola Saraki and former Jigawa State Governor Sule Lamido, to wrest control of the party from the governors were unsuccessful as seen in their attempt to install Col. Olagunsoye Oyinlola (rtd) as Deputy National Chairman of the party.
“The governors muscled Taofeek Arapaja into the position with their collective influence and delegates. This is a foretaste of what awaits us all when the contest for the presidential ticket of the PDP finally takes off.”
A member of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) corroborated the view, saying the governors made it clear during the crisis ridden days of the party’s former NEC that they were left with no choice than to take over the leadership of the PDP.
“They are not pretending about what they intend to do,” our source who pleaded anonymity said.
“During the discussions to decide who would lead the party after Secondus, several interests and caucuses attempted to take charge.
“The governors, presidential aspirants, party elders and the National Assembly caucuses; they all struggled for control. But the governors had their way eventually largely because of their number and privileged positions.
“And from day one, nobody was left in doubt about their plans.
“Recently, at a meeting with some BoT members in Abuja, a couple of governors revealed that what is best for PDP in 2023 is for the party to repeat its 2007 model when two governors emerged as presidential candidate and running mate.
“Their argument is that the party needs funds and widespread mobilization for its campaign, and it is only a group like the Governors’ Forum that can marshal such funding and mobilization in the current circumstance.”
The Nation further gathered that the governors are convinced that only a concerted effort on the part of the group can stop the plan by Atiku to pick the PDP ticket again.
Sources said Governor Duoye Diri of Bayelsa and Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa, who were initially not part of the plot executed by their colleagues to take over the party last December, were reconciled to the larger house shortly before and after the convention respectively as part of efforts to ensure unanimity in the actions of the governors going forward.
“PDP governors are all on the same page on these issues as we speak. They are working together,” one of the sources said.
A zonal Vice Chairman of the party in the immediate past NWC told our correspondent in confidence that with the outcome of the last elective convention, the governors have announced themselves as the undisputed owners of the party.
“Presidential aspirants of the party, including Anyim, Atiku, Lamido, Kwankwaso and Saraki, already know what they are in for. They know the governors would have a big say in the 2023 presidential contest.
“What it means is that without the support of the governors, you can’t win a big position in the PDP of today. This is the message I think everyone took home from that convention,” he said.
“It is common knowledge among leaders of the party that the governors are working in that direction since after the convention.
“And one of the plans is to foist indirect mode of primary election on the party for the nomination of the presidential flag-bearer.
“The talks are already on and the leadership of the party that will decide is firmly under the control of the governors.
“But if you ask me, I will say there is nothing wrong in what they are doing because we are all politicians.”
The Nation gathered that the governors are trying to convert more party members to support their plot.
At one of their meetings, it was resolved that governors would move against any consideration of direct primary by the PDP.
To achieve this, members were asked to sensitise NASS members in their various states and get their support for the plot.
“Already, members of the NWC from all the states controlled by the governors are in their kitty and will readily agree to the dictates of the governors.
“The challenges they have now are in states not governed by the PDP.
“To overcome this challenge, they plan to use the zonal leadership of the party to control these states. That explains the fierce political wars in some zones over party positions.
“The Southwest, North-central and the South-south are good examples.
“While the governors can confidently boast of pulling their plot through in the 13 PDP-controlled states, they are working hard to penetrate the other states where they don’t have one of their own in charge.
“These states are the hopes of Atiku and others. But if the governors go into the race united and the other aspirants split the available states, you can guess what will happen.”
Obasanjo to Ayu, others: I’ll never return to your party
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday told the Iyorchia Ayu-led PDP delegation that visited him in Abeokuta that he was through with partisan politics and nothing would take him back to the PDP.
But he said the party would remain part of his history, having been president on its ticket twice.
He said: “I have been with the party right from inception. Whatever I do in my own life, because I became president on the platform PDP, PDP will continue to be part of the history of my life.
“But having said that, the day that my ward decided to tear my PDP card was the day I ceased to be a member of PDP, and that day, I vowed that I would not be a member of any political party again. But I will remain a statesman in Nigeria, in West Africa, in Africa and indeed in the world.
“I retired 14 years ago and I remain retired by the grace of God. But if I retired from partisan politics, if politics is welfare of the people, I must not retire from the welfare and wellbeing of the people whether in my own community, in my own state, in my own country, anywhere in Africa or indeed anywhere in the world.
“I want to emphasise that I’m no longer in partisan politics and there is nothing that will bring me back to partisan politics. But I will always be interested in what is good for Nigeria, and anybody who wants to have my advice, I will give it in the best interest of Nigeria and in the best interest of Africa.”
He prayed that God might help Ayu “carry the load placed on his shoulder” by virtue of his position as PDP national chairman.
PDP will restore Nigeria’s glory —Ayu
Ayu, in his remarks, said the PDP would restore Nigeria’s glory if it wins next year’s elections.
He regretted what he called the huge debts accumulated by the Buhari administration, saying the debt profile would subject generations unborn to servitude.
He hailed Obasanjo for treating all Nigerians as equal during his tenure.
He said: “Over these years that you were in power, you saw every Nigerian as one family; you didn’t discriminate against the South, the East, the West or the North.
“Even though in your first tenure the South West didn’t actually support you, you brought them back on board and they supported you in your second tenure and that was an achievement.
“As the first president in this Republic, your period as president on the platform of PDP is seen as the golden era of the PDP and Nigeria, because not only did you lay the foundation to grow the economy to become the biggest economy in Africa, you were able to remove Nigeria from slavery by negotiating and cancelling so much of our foreign debts that would have made it very difficult to run the country.
“By the time you left office, Nigeria was totally set free. Direct foreign investment was on the increase on a daily basis and we were respected in international community and everywhere we went.
Those on the visit included former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Peter Obi; former governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko; National Secretary of PDP, Senator Sam Anyanwu; Deputy National Chairman, South, Amb. Taofeek Arapaja and former governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke.
Former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, former Police Affairs Minister, Adamu Waziri; National Women Leader of PDP, Prof. Stella Effah-Attoe; Deputy National Chairman (North), Amb. Umar Iliya Damagu; former Minister, Special Duties, Tanimu Kabiru Turaki, SAN; and former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke and National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba were also in the delegation. Source: Nation Newspaper.