By Ehichioya Ezomon
Twenty-seven days to the February 25 presidential election, the Peoples Democratic Party hasn’t found a common ground with its five governors opposed to the National Chairman Iyiorcha Ayu.
The PDP-G5 – chaired by Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, and headed by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike – have made Ayu’s resignation a condition for joining the Presidential Campaign Council, to canvass votes for candidate Atiku Abubakar and running mate Ifeanyi Okowa at the poll.
Even as the Atiku-Okowa campaign has “moved on” with the electioneering, the absence of the PDP-G5 in the process is glaring.
They’ve abstained from the Atiku-Okowa campain trail nationwide, and at rallies held in their states.
And Wike’s sustained a rhetoric of running down, and predicting poll defeat for the Atiku-Okowa ticket without his rebel group’s backing.
On October 14, 2022, Wike stated that the PDP had won some states in general and off-season polls due to his financial support.
“I have supported many states, financially, to win elections in the past, including Plateau, Ondo and Cross River, and they cannot deny it,” Wike said at a press conference in Port Harcourt, Rivers capital. city.
“If I leave the party today, the PDP cannot win the (general) election. If the five PDP governors say they are leaving today… we are not just ordinary governors, we are very committed and strong,” Wike said.
“There is nobody that wants to win an election and still continues the way they (PDP leadership) are doing,” Wike added.
Wike and Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Benue Governor Ortom, Enugu Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Oyo Governor Seyi Makinde have excluded the Atiku-Okowa ticket in the campaigns for candidates for governor and federal and state legislative seats in their respective states.
Ortom’s even raised the bar by adopting the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi and his joint ticket holder, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, for the presidential poll.
Although Ortom’s said he couldn’t join the Obi-Datti campaign train because he’s a member of the PDP, he’s used every opportune moment to recommend the LP ticket.
Ortom was quick to back former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s adoption of the Obi-Datti ticket in a viral letter to Nigerian youths on New Year Day.
Other PDP-G5 governors haven’t gone the Ortom route, but Wike’s put the PDP and the Atiku-Okowa campaign on tenterhooks, as he blows hot and cold – that the time is running out for the party.
Arguably, both sides – the PDP and Atiku-Okowa campaign versus the PDP-5G – are in a fix, and that’s why a blistering and blustering Wike and others are hesitant to even go half as Ortom’s done.
The governors can’t go for broke and adopt Obi, the All Progressives Congress candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu or the New Nigeria Peoples Party candidate, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, to avoid disruption of elections in their states.
If Wike adopts Obi, Tinubu or Kwankwaso, and their party wins the presidential poll in Rivers, won’t a bandwagon effect occur in the March 11 governorship and House of Assembly election in Rivers?
Will Wike – spoiling for a fight to install his successor – be able to swing election for his candidates on the platform of the PDP?
A similar scenario may play out in the four states of Abia, Benue, Enugu and Oyo if the governors were to back Obi, Tinubu or Kwankwaso, with dire outcomes for their own candidacies.
Makinde bids for re-election as governor, while the trio of Ikpeazu, Ugwuanyi and Ortom vie for senate seats in the National Assembly.
Backing a ticket other than the Atiku-Okowa ticket isn’t a wise decision unless the PDP-5G are certain that voters can split votes for president and other positions on the same or different platforms.
This dilemma is pronounced in Rivers and Oyo where prominent members of the PDP are opposed to Wike and Makinde’s stand against the Atiku-Okowa ticket.
The “opposition” figures within the PDP in the two states have vowed to stand by and vote for the Atiku-Okowa ticket on February 25.
Yet, the PDP and Atiku-Okowa campaign walk a thin line, as they hope for a last-minute change of mind by the rebellious governors.
That accounts for the reported scheduling and/or rescheduling of the PDP campaigns in Benue and Rivers, to enable the governors to host and join in the campaigns.
Meanwhile, unless the North has decided to vote its own in former Vice President Abubakar, it may be difficult, if not impossible, for the Atiku-Okowa ticket to triumph over a resurgent Tinubu-Kashim Shettima ticket.
The new spirit in the Tinubu-Shettima ticket is infused by President Muhammadu Buhari’s restated resolve to campagn for all the APC candidates, to secure victory at the general election.
Within one week of that avowal, Buhari’s rallied in Adamawa (Atiku’s home state), Yobe and Bauchi – all in the North-East considered as Atiku’s political turf.
If the the President – also expected to campaign in Katsina, Zamfara and Kebbi – keeps the schedule and galvanises similar crowds as witnessed in Adamawa, Yobe, Bauchi and Plateau State, the PDP boast of owning majority votes in the North may become a mirage.
Hence the PDP and Atiku-Okowa ticket need massive votes from Abia, Benue, Enugu, Rivers and Oyo to counter APC’s votes in the North.
It’s a dicey situation in which Wike and his colleagues seem to hold the aces over an expectant Atiku-Okowa ticket that wants to roll over the rival Tinubu-Shettima, Obi-Datti and Kwankwaso-Isaac Idahosa tickets on February 25.
* Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.