The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is facing fresh challenges in the Southsouth, thus slowing down his campaign ahead of next month’s election.
The Southsouth leg of his campaign which was originally scheduled for flag off on Tuesday, January 8, has been put off to enable the party “organize a bigger rally.”
Party sources however told The Nation that the postponement was brought about by the inability of the PDP governors in the zone to work together on how to drive Atiku’s presidential campaign.
Atiku who had been in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) for some days, returned home yesterday to rejig his campaign against the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
It was also gathered that the party and Atiku are trying to find ways of mending fences in the Southsouth and the Southeast before the PDP campaign train moves to the two zones.
Party sources yesterday spoke of challenges in some states in the Southsouth and Southeast including Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Anambra and Ebonyi.
Some of the knotty issues before Atiku are whether or not he will spend a term in office; and non-committal on power shift to the South-South in 2023.
A top source, who spoke in confidence, said: “Despite Atiku’s personal outreach, there are still some gaps to fill especially lack of trust between old PDP and the defectors from APC.
“Also, some of those who were instrumental to Atiku’s emergence have developed cold feet because of alleged campaign of non-inclusion. One of them just withdrew to himself and relocated to London in the past few weeks.”
Sources cited an alleged cold war between ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Henry Seriake Dickson over fall out of PDP primaries.
One source said:”although Governor Nyesom Wike has pledged to assume duties as the Southsouth coordinator for Atiku-Peter Obi ticket, some governors in the zone do not defer to the Rivers State governor. They are not even ready to take instructions from him.
“Certainly, there are challenges of how to win huge votes in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Anambra and Ebonyi states.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “Atiku is back from Dubai to rejig his campaign against APC. He will complete the fence-mending initiative and launch his campaign in the Southsouth and Southeast.”
Another source, speaking on the postponed campaign flag off in the Southsouth said all is not well with the party’s presidential campaign in the zone.
The source said that apart from the inability of some of the PDP governors to work together on how to drive Atiku’s campaign, there is also the challenge of much needed funds for logistics.
Announcing the Port Harcourt rally postponement, Oraye St Franklin, Wike’s Senior Special Assistant for New Media, said it was caused by “logistical constraints.”
His words: “We wish to inform our teeming supporters from across the Southsouth of the shift in date of the much anticipated PDP Southsouth rally.
“This is to enable us organise a bigger, better and defining rally in the history of Nigerian politics, given that the South-South is the natural home of the Peoples Democratic Party. All logistical constraints are currently being worked out to make it a hitch-free experience for our party faithful from across the region and a truly epoch making event.
“A new date would be announced shortly. The inconvenience on account of the postponement is regretted. Thank you.”
But a top notch member of the campaign committee, speaking on condition of anonymity on the aborted zonal rally, said the Atiku campaign in the Southsouth “is still struggling to take off.”
He added: “aside from the fact that Governor Wike of Rivers State who is supposed to drive the campaign is still not showing much enthusiasm, it has been difficult funding the campaign in the zone.”
Another reliable source said a good number of the PDP governors in the zone are currently battling fierce opposition in their respective home states and consequently, are concentrating on winning re-election during the 2019 polls.
The result of this is that Governor Wike, as the coordinator of the campaign in the Southsouth, is left, almost alone, to push Atiku’s campaign.
“This explains all the logistic issues facing the presidential campaign efforts here in the Southsouth. All the governors are expected to drive the campaign together, but a few are too busy seeking re-election in the various state to put in enough effort for Atiku.
“Take Governors Udom Emmanuel of Akwa-Ibom and Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta for example, they are battling serious opposition back home unlike in their first term.
“The situation is almost the same for Governor Wike himself in Rivers. So, they are all expending a lot of resources, energy and time on their re-election bids, making their contributions to the presidential campaign to suffer. Other chieftains of the party in the zone, especially former public office holders are not providing the much needed support at a crucial time as this.
“And very seriously, not much is being heard from Bayelsa and Cross Rivers governors. These two are also seeking re-election but majority of our party members feel they are not as pressed by the opposition as the others ahead of the 2019 general elections. The aborted rally could have been saved if all the governors got their acts together in good time to work towards its success.”
The Nation learnt that a meeting of stakeholders in the zone has been called by the national leadership of the party with a view to discussing how to move the presidential campaign forward in the Southsouth and also choose a new date for the zonal rally.
The national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, who is from the zone, is reportedly highly embarrassed by the development and is now ready to work with others to correct the mistakes of the past.
It was also gathered that the presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, will be meeting leaders of the party in the zone in the coming week to once again discuss the mounting challenges being faced by his campaign in the zone. A rejig of the zonal campaign team may be on his agenda as he looks forward to the parley, The Nation gathered.
A member of the Atiku Campaign Organisation said some challenges have been identified in the zonal structure.
A few weeks ago, the national caucus of the PDP met in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital to pacify Governor Wike to drop his threat of quitting the party’s 2019 Presidential Campaign Council.
The meeting was considered important ahead of the zonal rally of the party in the Southsouth zone. The PDP had held its zonal rallies in Northwest, Northcentral and Southwest.
Those in attendance at the meeting were Atiku, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Speaker, House of Reps, Yakubu Dogara and governors of Rivers, Abia, Cross River, Kwara, Sokoto and Ebonyi. Others include the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, PDP vice presidential candidate, Peter Obi, former governors Ayo Fayose and Liyel Imoke.
Also in attendance were the party’s National Chairman Uche Secondus, Senator Ben Murray Bruce, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara, Senator Olaka Nwogu, Hassan Saleh and several members of the National Assembly.
Some PDP chieftains in the zone fear that the grievances of the Rivers State governor are yet to be addressed.
“Wike is the pillar of the PDP in the Southsouth today. He is the one who held the party together when many of our leaders here were undecided about what to do. So, unless and until he moves, nothing can happen here. His influence goes beyond his state and those toying with his demands should know better than to ignore him. The PDP presidential campaign needs him in the zone and beyond,” a former Commissioner in the state said.
When contacted, the Special Assistant on Public Communications to Atiku, Mr. Phrank Shuaibu denied knowledge of any difficulty in campaigning in the Southsouth or Southeast.
He said: “The campaign is on course, the timetable was only adjusted.”
Sources in the APC and PDP said President Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku might rev up their campaign this week.
While Buhari will inaugurate the party’s Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) tomorrow, Atiku is expected to address a rally in Lokoja.
“Expect marathon campaigns in the next four weeks,” a top source added.
Jonathan, Dickson feud over election candidates
Sources also alleged a crisis of confidence in Bayelsa PDP between ex-President Jonathan and Governor Dickson.
Jonathan is said to be supporting some candidates in the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Advanced Democratic Party (ADC).
The candidates are a former Chief of Staff to ex-Governor Timipre Sylva and APC House of Representatives candidate for Ogbia Federal Constituency, Samuel Ogboku as well as ADC senatorial candidate for Bayelsa East, Senator Nimi Bariagha Amange.
Jonathan opted to support the two candidates and the House of Assembly candidates in his zone following the humiliation of his preferred nominees at the PDP primaries.
But some leaders and major stakeholders in Bayelsa State have also threatened to work against the presidential candidate of PDP, Atiku Abubakar if the ex-President continues to engage in what they perceive as anti-party activities.
The development is said to have created a wedge between Jonathan and the Bayelsa State PDP leadership.
While the ex-President is out to make PDP fail election to prove a point that he remains the godfather in Bayelsa State, the Governor and the PDP apparatchik of the state are bent on electing all PDP candidates in the state.
A top source said: “All is not well within the PDP family in Bayelsa State because of the backing for APC and ADC candidates by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
“The former President’s favourite aspirants for Ogbia Federal Constituency, George Turner and a Lagos socialite, Albertine Doibo whom Jonathan sponsored for Bayelsa East Senatorial District had lost in the keenly contested PDP primary elections to Fred Azibapu Obua and Blessing Izagara respectively.
“Though both Obua and Izagara are relatives of Jonathan, the former President is unhappy that his anointed candidates in Bayelsa East Senatorial District lost the PDP primaries.
“He has therefore vowed to stop both Obua and Izagara at the polls. Jonathan who is yet to recover from the shock of the defeat is now sponsoring opposition candidates against the PDP candidates ostensibly to spite and undermine the leadership of Governor Seriake Dickson.
“The ex-President wants to make a point that contrary to the governor’s claim that the state is firmly under his control, he is not on ground.
“While Jonathan is fighting the PDP candidates in the home front, he is mobilizing support for Atiku and his running mate, Mr. Peter Obi.
“In fact Jonathan is believed to have nominated Obi for VP.”
But the Bayelsa leaders and stakeholders have also decided to abandon Atiku as “a pay back to the former President for sponsoring opposition candidates against PDP.”
Another source said: “contrary to assumptions, Atiku and PDP may not win Bayelsa State if the ex-President is not called to order.
“Jonathan cannot eat his cake and have it at all, the party should prevail on him to halt his anti-party activities.
“The alternative we have is to sacrifice Atiku–Obi ticket on the altar of political muscle-flexing and ego.”
The governor’s media aides declined to comment on the matter when contacted although they said PDP would win.
However, the media aide to the ex-President, Ikechukwu Eze, said: “It is manifestly dishonest, deceitful and preposterous for anybody to suggest that former President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is working against the interest of the party under which he rose to occupy the highest office in the land.
“As one of the leaders of the party, having served as President under the Peoples Democratic Party, it is obvious that Dr. Jonathan has continued and will continue to work for the success of PDP across the nation.
“He is also a father figure and a statesman whose door is open to all Nigerians desirous of visiting or consulting him on sundry matters, including politics.
” Even then he has always given his support and blessing to his party’s candidates in all elections.
“Those who also push the narrative of a war between him and Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson are either adept at conjuring up a rift where there is none or are lovers of mischief who do not have the interest of Bayelsa State at heart.
” It is instructive to note that those behind this misleading claim always draw blank when challenged to either provide evidence of such disagreement or cite any instance of former President Jonathan making negative comments against the Governor, either in private or public.
“For now, what is important is for all members and lovers of PDP to forge a common front and strong force to help the party win big in the coming elections.
“All efforts should be directed towards uniting and strengthening the party, and not sponsoring negative stories to divide and weaken it.”