Renewed efforts by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, to resolve the lingering crisis between him and the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, failed again as their Thursday meeting could not resolve the crisis.
It was gathered that the governor insisted there that would be no peace deal until the National Chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu, resigned his position.
The party has been plunged into crisis since its presidential primary in May. Wike, who lost to Atiku, had expressed dissatisfaction with the exercise, stating that he was unfairly treated by the PDP and was not carried along. Reports said he was further dissatisfied with the emergence of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as Atiku’s running mate.
Wike had insisted that Ayu must resign if his camp must reach a truce with the candidate, but Atiku had said he had no powers to remove the chairman. Atiku said if the chairman must be removed, due process must be followed in accordance with the party’s constitution.
After a series of meetings between them and their representatives failed to address the crisis, Wike and some of his colleagues and allies boycotted the inauguration of the party’s presidential campaign council on September 28.
Some of his allies absent at the inauguration are governors Seyi Makinde, Samuel Ortom, Okezie Ikpeazu and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Oyo, Benue, Abia and Enugu states, respectively.
Others who also boycotted the event were Prof Jerry Gana; and former governors Ayo Fayose, Jonah Jang, Donald Duke and Olusegun Mimiko. A former deputy national chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, was also absent.
Meanwhile, in a fresh move to placate Wike, especially as the presidential campaigns began on Wednesday, Atiku again met with the governor on Thursday at his private residence in Asokoro, Abuja.
One of Wike’s close allies, who was privy to what was discussed at the meeting, Senator Olaka Wogu, told PUNCH in an interview that during Thursday’s meeting, the governor reiterated his demand to the former vice-president that there was no going back on his demand that Ayu must go.
He affirmed that the meeting between Atiku and Wike ended in a stalemate after the governor stood firm on his demands.
Wogu stated, “I just want to set the record straight that no matter what you have heard, the meeting ended because Wike stood firm that there was no basis for any resolution until Ayu stepped down.
“Every other thing can be discussed, whether it is 2027 or not after the needful has been done. This will put the party in a position where the national chairman can go to every state to campaign for the party. There are some states where Ayu may not be welcomed.”
Wogu, a former lawmaker, dismissed reports that Atiku offered to support Wike for president in 2027, stressing that there was no such discussion between them. “Talks are still ongoing between them and I know that there will be continued talks between them,” he added.
When prodded to speak on the reported agreement between them, Wogu said, “There is nothing like that. I told you that talks are still ongoing between them. I won’t lie to you, but I cannot disclose the content of the meeting; the idea is to find whether they can reach an agreement.
“As you know, Wike has stood his ground that Ayu must leave for a sense of fairness, equity and for what is right. He should go. This was even compounded by the fact that Ayu himself said he would go. So, as a matter of honour, he should go.
“Before now, Atiku had said that there were constitutional challenges to his (Ayu’s) removal. So between pleasure and force, we will explore the option. That was what Atiku said in London. This is like a follow-up; they are talking.”
Wogu also expressed his thoughts on the over N100m housing allowance returned by some National Working Committee members of the PDP.
Some NWC members, including the Deputy National Chairman (South), Taofeek Arapaja; National Woman Leader, Prof Stella Effah-Attoe; and the National Vice Chairman (South-South), Chief Dan Orbih, returned their housing allowance into the party’s coffers.
This came after Ayu was accused by the Rivers State governor of inducing the NWC members with huge sums of money in a bid to conceal his alleged financial recklessness.
Commenting on the development, Wogu said, “What is going on now is that we are shocked by the things that are coming out of the NWC. We have a major election to go to and we must inspire Nigerians and show that we want to get it right. We cannot, like Nero, watch while Rome burns.
“We cannot be on these things while the base of the PDP is being eroded on all fronts. The Labour Party is taking PDP supporters; the NNPP (New Nigeria Peoples Party) is taking PDP’s supporters and we are just wasting our time on these things. If Ayu is good enough for the party, we will reap the reward.
“Nigerians are not fools. What may happen is that people may judge us on those standards and those standards are not good enough for us. Nobody should be able to lead Nigeria with such happenings, no matter how you try to shield it from the public.
“How can we watch our youths speak to us as they are doing through their support for Peter Obi and we still don’t want to listen? We don’t want to hear, we are acting with the same arrogance by which we lost power the other time.”
He said while the APC was not in order, the PDP was not taking advantage of it but was rather engaging in needless issues, adding, “I appeal to the PDP to do the needful. We cannot go to an election in disunity and then expect a positive or desirable outcome. If we cannot unite our party, how can we unite a country?”
Responding to a question on whether Wike would officially declare support for a different presidential candidate other than Atiku, Wogu said the governor would make his intention known at the right time.
The presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, had met with the governor on a few occasions, fuelling insinuations that he might be making moves to enlist Wike’s support.
Wogu added, “Wike has said he would openly declare his stand when we get to that point. He had a meeting with his leaders the other time and took a decision to withdraw from the campaign council. It is not unilateral because all the leaders came, spoke at the meeting and the decision was reached. You can’t do this kind of thing by yourself.
“The group has grown beyond him alone. Everybody will sit, people will give their opinions and the decision will be made.”
Following claims that Ayu may not be welcomed in the South-South during the campaigns, a former Commissioner for Information in Rivers State, Ogbonna Nwuke, said it was an issue of perception.
He said nobody would attack Ayu or inflict any bodily harm on him, but that his presence might remind the southern people that he was unfair to them and that this might be a minus for Atiku.
Nwuke added, “If someone is saying that Ayu will not be welcomed it only means that if Ayu comes for campaign with Atiku, his presence may remind the southern people of his attitude towards them.
“He is a Nigerian and he is free to visit any part of the country. However, he has no right to convince me to do what I don’t want to do.”
Atiku’s aide reacts
Reacting to Wogu’s statement, the Media Adviser to the PDP presidential candidate, Paul Ibe, said, “The question you should have asked Senator Nwogu is why he would want to abridge the rights of Senator Ayu like the rights of every other citizen of the Federal Republic.
“It is a dangerous precedent for anybody to abridge the right of any person and a national chairman of a party who was duly elected at a convention of a party. That amounts to a threat.”
Tribunal: INEC Presents Blurry Adeleke’s Testimonial, Oyetola Kicks
The Election Petition Tribunal hearing case emanating from the July 16 governorship election in Osun State was forced into adjournment on Thursday following presentation of blurry documents used by the Governor Ademola Adeleke for 2018 elections.
The eight-page documents presented by a Deputy Director of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Joan Arabs, included Certified True Copies of the testimonial obtained by Adeleke from Ede Muslim Grammar School, and West Africa Examination Council General Certificate of Education.
The panel had last week Friday ruled that INEC chairman should bring Adeleke’s filings for 2018 poll on its next sitting.
At the day’s proceedings, after checking the documents presented by INEC, counsel to the petitioners, Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, who appeared with Akin Olujinmi, SAN, told the panel that two out of the pages were not clear enough.
Fagbemi said section for scores obtained by the candidate on the GCE result was blank, adding that the address of the school that awarded the testimonial was not also clear enough.
But counsel to INEC, Prof. Paul Ananaba, SAN, said the copies were clear and readable, urging the plaintiffs to allow the documents to be admitted, since they had earlier claimed that they had CTC copies of the documents which could be presented.
He assured not to object to the documents if presented by the plantiffs.
Counsel to Adeleke and Peoples Democratic Party, Onyeachi Ikpeazu, SAN and Dr. Alex Izinyon, SAN, respectively said the documents were clear enough, but admitted some sections were blurry.
They, however, said the documents were still rectifiable and urged the petitioners to call their next witness, while INEC should be made to present a clearer copies, if they have.
Ananaba later called for stand down of the matter to enable him obtain screenshots of the documents from the INEC headquarters in Abuja.
After the panel had reconvened, Ananaba presented both colour and back and white copies made from the screenshots obtained from INEC head office, which he also admitted were not better than the copies earlier presented.
He sought adjournment to enable INEC brought before the panel, the file from which the copies earlier presented were made from.
Fagbemi, however, insisted that the order of the court was that clear documents should be presented, saying the respondents must comply with the directive.
Reading the ruling of the panel, the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Tertse Kume, adjourned the matter till Saturday for the INEC to bring the original file containing the documents.
JUST IN: Labour Party Expels Peter Obi’s DG, Okupe, 10 Others
The Labour Party in Ogun State has expelled the Director-General of the Peter Obi Presidential Campaign Council, Doyin Okupe.
Okupe was sacked alongside 10 others for alleged non-financial membership status, high-handedness and financial recklessness.
The Chairman of the party in Ogun State, Michael Ashade, announced the party’s decision in Abeokuta Thursday, saying the offences were a breach of the Labour Party’s constitution.
Ashade said Okupe has ceased to be a LP member for his “failure to meet the mandatory constitutional requirements to fulfill membership status.”
According to him, Okupe had failed to pay his membership dues since the last six months he joined the Party, saying he has therefore forfeited his membership of the Labour Party and he is no longer fit to act as the Director General of Obi’s campaign council.
He stated that the offenses of Okupe amd and the other 10 are against Article 9(3) sub(iii) and Article 9(3)xi of the LP constitution.
He accused Okupe of mismanaging the funds approved for the LP in Ogun to mobilize members for the rally held last week at Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
While notifying the LP National Chairman, Barr Julius Abure of their decision, they called on Obi to immediately appoint another DG for the PCC from the North.
Okupe could not be reached for his reactions as calls to his mobile phone were unanswered.
He also did not respond to a text message sent to him as of the time of this report.
Okupe is from Ikenne Local Government Area of Ogun State.
Court Strikes Out Fresh Suit Seeking To Sack Rivers APC Guber Candidate
A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, on Wednesday, stuck out a suit by a governorship aspirant in the All Progressives Congress, APC, Benard Mikko, over the party’s primary elections in Rivers State.
The Governorship candidate of the APC, Tonye Cole, the Independent National Electoral Commission and another governorship aspirant of the APC Ojukaye Flagg-Amachree were also joined in the suit.
But the court ruled that the suit was lacking in merit.
Mikko had approached the court to direct INEC to disqualify Tonye Cole from next year’s Governorship election, claiming that the primary election held on 26th of May, 2022, that brought him in as the governorship candidate was marred with irregularities.
He also claimed that the candidate has a questionable character following his indictment in a white paper report by a commission of inquiry set up by the Rivers State government.
Presiding judge, Justice Ayua Phoebe in her judgment said the court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the suit because the plaintiff failed to exhaust all the internal mechanisms of the party before instituting the legal action, adding that the party is supreme.
The judge, while describing the suit as frivolous and abuse of court process, ruled that Mikko also failed to abide by his earlier oath of allegiance sworn to the APC never to institute any legal action against the party and that he will support whoever emerged from the primaries.
While the counsel to the APC, Chinda Chizim commended the judgement, that of the plaintiff, Eli Ojigba said he will consult his client for his next line of action.
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