G-5: Atiku’s men adopt new strategies
Barely a month to the presidential election, the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party is facing an uphill task to convince five of its elected governors to campaign for its flag bearer, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Governors Nyesom Wike, Okezie Ikpeazu, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Seyi Makinde and Samuel Ortom of Rivers, Abia, Enugu, Oyo and Benue states respectively, had renounced their membership of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council in September 2022, demanding, among others, the resignation of the party’s National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, to pave the way for a southern successor.
Although the governors are believed to be working for two rival candidates, the intensity with which they attack the Ayu-led National Working Committee in the past few months appears to be waning.
It was gathered that the inability of the governors to agree on which particular candidate to support is partly responsible for the low spate activities in their ranks in recent times.
This reporter learnt that in Benue State, loyalists to the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, were busy reaching out to party faithful in their strongholds to drum up support for him.
A former governor of the state, Gabriel Suswam, The PUNCH gathered, has been convening a series of stakeholders’ meetings in the Benue North-East Senatorial District, urging eligible voters to pitch tent with Atiku in spite of Governor Ortom’s opposition.
An associate of the governor, who pleaded anonymity, said Suswam and playwright, Professor Iyorwuese Hagher, had been doing a lot for Atiku since Ortom made his position clear that he was not going to support the PDP presidential standard bearer if Ayu failed to go.
“Suswam addressed stakeholders from Zone A recently and Iyorwuese has been talking with his kinsmen. They are doing it in such a way as not to offend Ortom. They are friends with the governor but they are also careful not to overdo things. As a result, there is a lack of statewide coordination,” he said.
He further noted that while Ortom had not openly endorsed a particular candidate, he had called on his foot soldiers to embrace Peter Obi of the Labour Party.
He continued, “Governor Ortom has already inaugurated an Obi team using his most trusted aides and allies. Former governorship aspirant, Prof Dennis Tyavyar, is chairman of the group. He was Commissioner for Education under Ortom before he stepped down to contest the governorship election.”
In Rivers State, a former PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, is leading the pro-Atiku support base. Alongside a former governor of the state, Celestine Omehia, ex-Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara, and an erstwhile federal lawmaker, Lee Maeba, Secondus is playing the good party man in defiance of Wike’s anti-Atiku’s posture.
Expectedly, Governors Ikpeazu and Ugwuanyi are rooting for Obi, using their foot soldiers to avoid the wrath of the PDP for anti-party activities.
Speaking exclusively with our correspondent, the Director General of ‘House to House Campaign for Atiku Abubakar and Ifeanyi Okowa’ in Borno State, Mustapha Shehu, said the initiative would be replicated in the five states.
“The House to House campaign will definitely break not only the G-5 governors’ hold on their states, but will also pose a significant threat to incumbent non-PDP governors. The Borno House to House has proved to be a check on the Wike-sponsored PDP stalwarts, including some in the state Executive. It has also positioned Atiku as the candidate to beat in the state despite the APC governor and the APC presidential running mate, Kashim Shettima,” Shehu said.
Wike had promised to reveal the preferred presidential candidate of the aggrieved governors in January; a pledge that he is yet to fulfil.