- Amendment of party’s constitution crucial to Wike’s demand
- Obi campaign denies deal with former Vice President
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is facing fresh hurdles in the bid to resolve his differences with Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike as the various parties intensify preparations for the commencement of campaigns for the 2023 elections.
The campaigns are due to take off on September 28 according to the time table issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Atiku, credible party sources told The Nation yesterday, is in a fix on how to handle the demands of the Wike camp, chief of which is the resignation of the PDP National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu.
It was gathered that getting Ayu to step aside and replaced by a southerner may require amendment of the party’s constitution for the purpose of legalising the changes being sought.
The former vice president and his camp are also said to have begun to feel jittery about the possibility of losing a large chunk of the votes from the Southeast to the Labour Party presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi.
The zone is considered by the PDP hierarchy as its traditional stronghold.
Besides, Atiku is said to be troubled by the realization that his acceptance of Wike’s demands will translate into he (Atiku) abandoning some of his strong allies from Rivers State who are currently not on the side of their governor.
Atiku fears that except he mends fence with Wike, his campaign runs the risk of running into lack of financial support from the seven state governor allies of Wike.
“If there is no concession from Atiku, the PDP Presidential Campaign Organization may lack the necessary political support and it might be cash strapped to prosecute the 2023 poll.
“Running an election is not a tea party,” one of the sources said.
Continuing, the source said: “The Labour Party presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, may split Atiku’s votes in the Southeast and in the South-South, and the race may be tough for Atiku if he does not agree terms with Wike.
“And in the Southwest, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo is not keen on selling Atiku’s presidential bid. He believes that power should shift to the South in 2023. He has pitched tent with Obi.
“It is also a dilemma for Atiku to abandon some stakeholders like ex-Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Austin Opara, Senator Lee Maeba and others loyal to him.”
Atiku is not yet back in the country following his mid week meeting with Wike in London.
He is expected back in Abuja today.
A source in his camp said: “All the talks with Wike and other stakeholders are normal in an election year. At the end of the day, we will disagree to agree.
“Our candidate is embarking on reconciliation to enable him set up a robust campaign structure. I can tell you that Atiku will survive all these challenges.
“We are expecting him back in Abuja today. He will thereafter rub minds with his team and backers on what transpired in London.
“Wike will also hear from Atiku soon. No one is weak in this game.”
The two sides, during the London meeting, agreed to reconvene within two weeks.
Wike returned to Nigeria on Friday and is expected to consult with his governor allies, party leaders and other stakeholders on the London meeting.
The main demand of his camp is for Ayu to step down for a Southern candidate.
A source privy to the talks between Wike and Atiku said: “The meeting centred on Atiku’s request for Wike’s support and why PDP ought to return to power in 2023.
“The governor insisted on his demand that Ayu must go to pick a Southern candidate to ensure equity and inclusion in the party.
“He said it will be hard to sell Atiku’s candidacy in the South with Northerners in control of vital structures of the party.”
A party leader said: “Atiku is constitutionally hamstrung because PDP’s constitution is explicit that once a national chairman is stepping down or being forced to leave, he must be succeeded by a new candidate from the same geopolitical zone.
“Strict adherence to the PDP’s constitution in this situation will lead to another Northerner replacing Ayu in the worst case.