The five aggrieved Peoples Democratic Party governors’ loyalists and the camp of the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, on Monday, quarrelled over moves by the governors to endorse their preferred presidential candidate in January.

The governors had vowed not to campaign for Atiku, hinting that they would reveal the presidential candidate they would support, few weeks to the February 25 presidential poll but the Atiku Campaign Council warned that dumping the PDP standard bearer would mark the end of their political careers.

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 are at loggerheads with Atiku following the refusal of the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu to resign on account of the lopsided leadership of the party.

Though Atiku and the governors held several meetings in Nigeria and London, United Kingdom, Ayu’s refusal to vacate office as demanded by the governors had frustrated the reconciliation moves.

Wike had consistently maintained that in several meetings with Atiku after the party convention, the latter promised to prevail on Ayu to quit; a claim that had been denied by Atiku and his spokespersons.

The governors, who subsequently pulled out of Atiku’s campaign council, have inaugurated their state campaign councils without a word of support for Atiku.

Barring any twist, it was gathered that the governors would in the days ahead begin campaigns against the PDP presidential candidate in their respective states.

It was gathered that issues of trust and loyalty to the party would feature prominently in their campaign against Atiku.

Last week, Wike, the arrowhead of the move against Atiku, told the Rivers State chapter of the PDP to await his January directive on the presidential candidate to vote; a remark that elicited a sharp rebuke from his once trusted ally and immediate past National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus.

Wike, it was also gathered, is disposed to supporting the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu.

An unconfirmed report suggests that the tough-talking governor was not sure of the ability of the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi, to garner sufficient votes across the country.

Sources said the River State governor and his colleagues planned to brand Atiku as a serial defector who cannot be trusted with power by the electorate.

An associate of the Benue State governor, who does not want his name in print, said the five governors “have agreed among themselves to support a presidential candidate from the South.’’

Ortom’s stand

“Governor Ortom is clear about it that it is not right to have another President of Fulani extraction after eight years of a Fulani President. His argument is that when Olusegun Obasanjo was leaving office in 2007, he was against Peter Odili succeeding him because it would have been against the spirit of fairness. That is why he picked and campaigned for Umaru Yar’Adua,’’ the source stated.

According to him, the position of Governor Ortom is that “it is unhealthy to have not just another Northerner but another Fulani man take over from another Fulani man.

‘’From the get-go, he was in the forefront of the move for a Southerner to take over power in 2023. This is the position of the five governors. Some may be working for other candidates and I understand that Nyesom Wike is working with Tinubu.”

Confirming this development, the immediate past Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Diran Odeyemi said Makinde may have a soft spot for Obi but expressed doubts that he would ever make his stand public.

“A lot of political games are going on. In Oyo State, the deputy governor, Bayo Lawal, has been attending events of the Atiku campaign organisation even though his boss is a member of G-5.

“Seyi (Makinde) is not ready to lose his re-election bid and is therefore keeping his choice close to his chest. He may have instructed his foot soldiers on what to do but he would be wise enough to go with the crowd in the end.

‘’Nothing can be ruled out for now and if he thinks working with Atiku can help his cause, he will go for it. Wherever the pendulum swings, he will take the glory,” he said.

Atiku’s challenge

All things considered, Odeyemi noted that Atiku had a mountain to climb should the five governors forge a common front against him in the election.

“There is no doubt that he is a popular candidate but if these governors unite against him, it is going to be a difficult election for him. This is why we are appealing that the party goes into the election as one united family,” he added.

But the spokesman for the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Senator Dino Melaye warned the governors about the fate that would await them should they dump Atiku for an opposition candidate.

Their political careers, he predicted, would come to an end should they ditch the candidate of their party.

He stated, “No blackmail, hate, or outrageous envy will stop Atiku. I pray it is not true (G-5 governors’ imminent endorsement of their preferred candidate).

“Attacking Atiku will cost them their political future. You don’t fight a man who has done nothing to provoke you. Atiku’s only offence is that he won a presidential primary transparently and openly. No man should play God.’’

Sounding confident about the PDP standard bearer’s electoral chances, the former lawmaker said, “It is too late to stop Atiku. They should have a re-think while they can. Atiku will be president because the people have decided.

‘’My advice to the G-5 is ‘don’t end your political career because of an inordinate ambition and capricious manifestation that will yield no result.’ If they take that step, it will be the last kick of a dying horse.”

Another spokesman of the PDP Campaign Council, Daniel Bwala noted that the 12 million Northern votes President, Muhammadu Buhari often garnered at every election he participated in, are now in the bag for Atiku in 2023.

“If you don’t know, Atiku has inherited the 12m votes of Buhari already. When you add his 8m plus the 12m, Atiku is already coming to the election with 20m votes,” he claimed.

He also enumerated several reasons the election is Atiku’s to lose.

Bwalla said, “Haven’t you seen that the PDP was the first to inaugurate a campaign council; the first to commence campaign, the leading party in terms of coverage and impact? And we are presently closing in on all the zones.

“Have you not been reading the wide acceptance of Atiku across board? Look, no one can kill an idea whose time has come; no one! Need I remind you that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System for the election is an election of the people over the big man or big men?

“Have you not seen that in the All Progressives Congress rallies in Niger, Kaduna and elsewhere that when they chanted Nigeria, the crowd replied sai Atiku? Or is it Peter Obi whose Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Rivers and Lagos rallies put together is not up to half of our (PDP) Katsina rally where the President of APC’s party comes from, that can win this election?”

Nwuke faults Melaye

Reacting to Melaye’s statement on the future of the aggrieved governors, a PDP chieftain and Wike’s ally, Chief Ogbonna Nwuke, said he was simply arrogating the powers Atiku doesn’t have to the candidate.

Nwuke, who is the Chairman, Publicity and Communications Committee, Rivers State PDP Campaign Council, said the governors could decide who to support for the plum office.

Nwuke, a former member of the green chamber of the National Assembly representing the Etche-Omuma constituency, stated, “Giving what is playing out, I think they are adults and they will be in a better position to answer that question.

“Except to say that malice may need to be proven by those who say any decision taken that does not support Atiku or any candidate for that matter is something to be seen as anti-party.

“Then, I think it will be proper to wait, go slowly and try to appreciate that position when they take that position. The rest will fall within the realms of speculation if we were to go on without clearly seeing what action they take and how they take them.”

Nwuke said Melaye should be concerned about more fundamental issues.

“Perhaps from Dino Melaye’s perspective, Atiku will then be God. Atiku is not God. He can be Dino’s God, but he cannot be God to others; in this case, the governors. So, I don’t know how one can arrogate to an individual such extensive qualities.

“We are talking about a presidential candidate rising to the occasion, being able to sell himself. We have been seeing results from the polls carried out in this country and you will be worried that candidates are known to be upfront there to be the clear leader of those poll results.

“I think people like Dino should be worried about that, not arrogating to the candidate the powers that he doesn’t have,” the former Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications said.

He added, “In a couple of days from now, it is obvious that the G5 will manifestly say what they want to do. I can assure you that, that will happen.”

Asked if they have agreed on the presidential candidate to support, he said meetings are being held.

“Meetings are taking place. Conversations are going on. At the fullness of time, these gentlemen who are in no way divided will come out with a common position.

“Whatever that common position turns out to be will be what the G5 will pursue going forward. But note that they have made it clear that the issues they are dealing with go beyond the 2023 elections.

 “They have made it clear that the issues are not only of the PDP but issues of great national interest. And because these are matters of national interest, there will be no need to hurry. They will at the fullness of time espouse their position on issues.”

On when the meeting to decide which candidate the G5 governors will be supporting, he said the interest of the media is understandable.

According to him, “I think the media should be interested in the outcome of the meeting. And through their channels via their channels, I’m sure whatever happens you’re going to be among the first to know.

“They will take a common position and amongst them, you know how they operate. One of them will speak to the media and thereafter that common position I believe will be respected by all.”

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