By Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis, Dirisu Yakubu, Victor Ayeni, Damilola Aina, Abuja and El-ameen Ibrahim
The five aggrieved Peoples Democratic Party governors have met with the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu in London, the United Kingdom.
The APC standard bearer was said to have lobbied for the endorsement of the five governors during the marathon meeting which was held on Tuesday.
Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Samuel Ortom (Benue), and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu states and some political heavyweights from the South had vowed not to support the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, over the refusal of the party’s National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, to resign after Atiku obtained the presidential ticket of the party.
But hours after the governors’ meeting with Tinubu, the PDP said it was not aware of their parley with the ruling party’s presidential candidate, noting that as far it was concerned, the governors were in the UK on vacation.
The main opposition party, however, threatened to punish the governors for any anti-party activities, stressing that it had the capacity to discipline the recalcitrant governors.
Shedding light on the London meeting, a source stated, “Tinubu met with the aggrieved governors yesterday (Tuesday) along with a delegation that included (Kayode) Fayemi, (Babajide) Sanwo-Olu, one other governor, and an ex-governor. For now, we are only waiting for the G-5 governors to make the official pronouncement in January.”
On what the demands of the aggrieved governors were, the source declined to speak, saying he wouldn’t want to speculate.
“I don’t have details about that. What I know is that they have met and declared their indication at the meeting that they are not supporting any other candidate,” he stated.
The PUNCH could not independently verify the presence of the Lagos State governor and Fayemi at the meeting.
A source in the Lagos State Government House, stated, “I have received several inquiries on this report of the governor’s supposed travel with Asiwaju (Tinubu) and I can tell you that he is still in Nigeria. In fact, I spoke with him twice today (Wednesday). Even if he were to travel to meet the G-5 Governors outside the country, it is not something he would want to disclose, but he is very much in the country,”
But commenting on the governors’ reported alliance with Tinubu, a member of the PDP National Working Committee, Timothy Osadalor, said the party has what it takes to impose the necessary sanctions on the governors should they make real their threat of dumping the party’s presidential candidate.
PDP threatens sanctions
Osadolor, who is the Deputy National Youth Leader of the party, further dared the governors to endorse their preferred candidate so the party could take appropriate steps against them.
He said, “These governors know the party they belong to; they know what the party can do. Should they take this step they have been working on for a while now and the party will do what is necessary.
“We want to believe that they are in the United Kingdom for vacation and so reacting to speculations is not what we should be doing now. We want to assure Nigerians that if they take that decision and support a candidate other than ours, the PDP will act. Let me put it straight: this party has the capacity to discipline them and any member who tries to undermine its will.’’
When contacted, the PDP spokesman, Debo Ologunagba said the party would apply relevant provisions of its constitution when the need arose. According to him, all members, including the governors are aware of this.
He stated, “The PDP is a party of constitution, rules and procedures. We don’t react to speculations. In taking decisions, we look at the our party constitution in relation to issues. Whatever happens, it is the constitution that will guide the action we will take.
“These governors are conversant with the PDP constitution having sworn to uphold it. If they take that action (endorse a rival presidential candidate), we will take a decision in line with the provisions of the constitution.
“They have contributed to the success of the party and they have also benefited immensely from the party. They should know that the provisions of the constitution are applicable to every member of the party.
“Reconciliation is not 100m dash but a marathon. We hope they will realize this and embrace the party for good,” Debo Ologunagba, National Publicity Secretary of the PDP.
Another party chieftain, who confided in The PUNCH said the governors could face sanctions in line with section 58 (1) of the party constitution, which states “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the party shall have power to disciple any member who says or does anything likely to bring the party into disrepute, hatred or contempt, or engages in anti-party activities.”
A PDP chieftain and member of the party’s Board of Trustees, Chief Eddy Olafeso, expressed the conviction that a workable solution can still be found to reconcile the governors with the PDP presidential candidate.
When asked if the party would sanction the governors over their alleged romance with the APC standard bearer, he said, “I cannot act on rumours; there is nothing before the party to consider. We are still thinking that we will be able to have a common ground for this election, but if those things happen, then it will take a position of the issue of discipline. That is when we will be talking about that.”
On his part, the Director of Strategic Communications, National Election Management Committee of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Chief Dele Momodu, said there was nothing new in the governors’ threat to endorse a presidential candidate of their choice.
He, however, urged the Wike-led group to make good its promise to enable the election management committee to react appropriately.
He noted, “There is nothing new in this speculation. The party has done its best to resolve these issues all to no avail. So, what I can say now is that they should make their position official.
“We can’t continue like this. They have been issuing this threat since Governor Wike lost the primary election to Atiku Abubakar. As a party, we did our best to reconcile and forge a way forward. Atiku embraced the peace option but you can’t say the same of the other group.
“Talk of Iyorchia Ayu, the chairman of the party is an old story. Nobody is listening anymore. We are preparing for a major election and we are confident of victory. The PDP is too big to be distracted.
“We can’t respond to ‘ifs’. They should come up with their position on who they are supporting and then, we can address the issue. Let us wait for them and see what they come up with.”
Reacting to Olafeso’s optimism that the reconciliation could still be worked out, a source in Wike’s camp insisted that it was too late for the governors to embrace Atiku.
“It is too late in the day to go back to Atiku. Tinubu’s chances are brighter,’’ he declared, noting that the agreement with the APC flag bearer would be ‘fool-proof.’
Speaking on the reports that the PDP governors favoured his principal, the spokesman for the Tinubu-Shettima presidential campaign council, Festus Keyamo, said there was high expectation in the APC camp.
Keyamo, who is presently vacationing abroad, told our correspondent that the doors of the party are open to the Rivers State governor and other members of the Integrity Group.
Keyamo, who frowned on the manner the G-5 was treated by the PDP’s presidential candidate, stated that the governors were simply fighting to restore geo-political balancing in the country.
He said, “Regarding Wike, the PDP has treated him very badly and every right-thinking person can see that. Even from the opposite side, we can say that what is unjust is unjust. They may say that some people like us are not competent to speak on the internal affairs of that party.
“The truth of the matter is that the struggle of the G-5 governors is not based on the internal issues of the PDP alone. It is based on matters regarding geo-political balancing in the country. So, it goes beyond matters within the PDP. You will agree with me that these are grave matters of national concern.
“They may quickly point to our issue too that might have to do with religion. Let me tell you that in matters of rotation and balancing in the country, what has always existed and been of paramount importance is the geo-political balancing, not religious balancing. The injustice in the PDP is far deeper and more fundamental than anyone can think. So, the struggles of Wike and others are very genuine in our mind and we sympathise with them.”
The Minister of State for Labour also stated that though the APC is focused on consolidating its stronghold, it won’t mind exploiting the festering crisis rocking the opposition PDP.
According to him, politics is all about interests and he is optimistic that the G-5 will almost certainly count their costs before deciding to support any presidential candidate ahead of the 2023 elections.
He added, “On our part, we continue to move forward as a party. Without making a specific comment on whether the G-5 governors will join us or if they are in talks with us, you should know that our party is big enough to accommodate different interests.
“We have proven that before in different states of this country. I don’t think there is any fear at all if Wike decides to extend an olive branch to us and if he decides to make rapprochement or overtures to the APC. The APC is large enough to accommodate and even make him happier that he was when he held sway in the PDP.
“We are not belly-aching or closing our doors against anybody in the APC. Our doors are wide open. The G-5 knows that as proper politicians, what is paramount to them is their interest. That’s why they are looking outside the PDP, knowing that there is no other way than the APC.’’
Dismissing reports that the governors may endorse the Labour Party standard bearer, Peter Obi, Keyamo said, “The Labour Party that you claimed many of these G-5 governors are looking at is untested and cannot be trusted. It has no electoral value for now because it has not been tested.
“It is a known fact that anybody who has been tested has already gone through the ballot box and the LP, as presently constituted, has not done that. As proper politicians, there is no other place to take a chance outside the APC.”
A source in Obi’s camp said the former Anambra State governor was hopeful of securing the support of the governors with the backing of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
PUNCH Nigeria Ltd