Tinubu, Wike’s team intensify talks

By Charles Onyekwere, Abakaliki

  • Groups canvass support for Lagos ex-gov, other APC candidates
  • PDP eyes S’West chieftain to replace Ayu

All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu is intensifying his parleys with the camp of aggrieved Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) henchmen led by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.

The APC torchbearer is said to have met in London with Wike and two other PDP governors, Samuel Ortom (Benue State) and Seyi Makinde (Oyo) to boost his chances in next year’s general election. Tinubu left Nigeria on Monday for Europe on a week’s break and did not attend the NBA conference to which he and other presidential candidates were invited.

“Yes, we left Nigeria to meet with Tinubu on Monday. We initially thought it would hold in France because that was where Tinubu went the last time he left the country. We however got signal close to our time of departure that we should proceed somewhere else.

“Governors Ortom and Makinde who have been supporters of Wike from the beginning were also on the trip,” the source told a newspaper. The source confirmed that the meeting was connected with the APC candidate getting Wike’s support for Tinubu in next year’s election: “Yes, the discussion was centred on the 2023 election.

The Tinubu camp know how important votes from Rivers State are and are looking for how to get Wike to work for them.” While it may the hard for Wike to leave the PDP because of some of his followers who are already contesting for elections in the party, the Tinubu camp is expecting him to use his influence in the state to work for them and deliver Rivers for the APC. Since Wike lost the PDP presidential primaries to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, he has allegedly rebuffed moves by party leaders to placate him.

He has also allegedly threatened members of the PDP in the state who are loyal to Atiku, closing down some businesses owned by them. Efforts to also reconcile with him have become hard, as the meetings between his camp and Atiku’s team ended in deadlock. Tinubu’s government will be fair to all if he wins, according to the Director-General, APC Youth and Students’ Council, Mazi Ezenwa Onyirimba.

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He said this during a sensitisation visit to Connected Development (CODE), on Tuesday in Abuja. He said Nigerian youths should adopt Tinubu as consensus candidate for the 2023 presidential election for youth and national development.

According to him, Tinubu’s antecedents indicate that ran a government that was highly adjudged as inclusive in terms of the demography, the religion and the background of political appointees. “When he (Tinubu) was the governor of Lagos, the greater percentage of his cabinet members were under the age of 40. It was a good development for the youths of Lagos at that time. The structure of his cabinet also showed that he picked people from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds.

At the end of the day, they collectively succeeded,” Onyirimba said. Responding, the Chief Executive of CODE and founder, Follow the Money, Mallam Hamzat Lawal, upbraided the nation’s leaders for embezzling the commonwealth of the people, thus plunging it into deep woes.

“The current script is not working. There is a global campaign by the UN SDGs which talks about flipping the scripts. I think that it should even start from Nigeria. Our current script is not working, if we look at our current challenges which insecurity and unemployment,” Lawal said.

He, therefore, urged all presidential candidates to reserve at least 50 percent of all intended cabinet positions for the youth in the spirit of intergenerational equity and national development. “It is important that as we grow as a people, we must stop the blame-game.

The older generation continues to see the youths as the problem and vice versa. Honestly speaking, Nigerians want a president whose cabinet is made up of under 40’s. Because we are an upwardly mobile and technologically driven generation. “It will only be fair that if we constitute over 50 percent of the eligible voters, we should also make at least 50 percent of the cabinet members,” he said.

Also, Deputy Director General of the visiting body , Alhaji Taoheed Ozigi, said that statistics and INEC register showed that youths were more than half of the nation’s population and were the highest registered group in the voter register.

Ozigi said that the group searched for the candidate to use the numerical strength of youths to support based on their plans for them and found Tinubu qualified. Also, a support group, Patriotic Movement for Asiwaju 2023 (PMA) has kicked off what they described as House-to-House campaigns for Tinubu and all other candidates of the party in Ebonyi State.

Speaking during the flag-off, the National Secretary of the group, Mr Uchechukwu Okafor, noted that the South East zone is very strategic for the realization of Tinubu’s presidential ambition. He noted that the choice of Ebonyi state for the flag off of the event was due to the landmark achievement of the APC led administration in the State.

The group’s National scribe expressed optimism that Tinubu would address all the security challenges confronting the Nation and revamping all the critical sectors in the country. “Today is not a day for long speeches. We have come to flag off House to House campaign for our presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in Ebonyi state.

Where ever you go, tell people about the potentials of having Tinubu as our President in 2023. We have to support him and APC candidates in Ebonyi state”. “Ebonyi state is strategic in National politics especially the emergence of Tinubu’s Presidency.

We are overwhelmed with the achievements of the APC government in Ebonyi and it has become a campaign point in Nigeria”. “The administration of Engr David Umahi in Ebonyi State has marketed the fortunes of APC beyond political campaigns, Okafor said. Ebonyi State Coordinator of the Group, Mr Darlington Okpoto applauded the National Campaign Council of the APC for appointing Governor David Umahi as the Southern Coordinator of Tinubu’s Presidential campaign.

He noted that Tinubu’s aspiration has become a movement in the zone and further assured that he would galvanize support for the emergence of all candidates of the party in the zone. Okpoto who is also the South East Supervisor of the group noted that APC will also capture Abia and Enugu States in 2023.

He further called on leaders of the Party in the zone to close ranks and work harmoniously for the victory of the APC presidential candidate in 2023. Meanwhile, indications are emerging that the PDP’s national chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, may succumb to pressures on him to resign as party officials consider some Southwest candidates as his possible replacement.

Sources within the PDP said that though the issue is yet to be decided, some party leaders are recommending a Southwest person to replace Ayu, emphasizing that the consensus opinion of members is that Ayu should resign.He revealed that party stakeholders are considering whether to empower the National Vice Chairman (South), Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja, to act as national chairman pending a midterm convention or draft former governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko, who is known to be an ally of Wike.

“When the various leadership caucuses meet in the coming week, decision would be taken on the matter. But, for now, it is general opinion of members that Ayu should go in the interest of the party. We have a tradition; so, whether Arapaja is to act or somebody else would come in does not matter. We need to unite and move the party forward,” he said.

This position, however, poses its own crisis as using the party’s Constitution to address this matter may yield nothing, because if Ayu were to go, Ambassador Umar Iliya Damagun, Deputy National Chairman (North), will be the one to step in until a convention is held to properly constitute another executive, according to Section 45 (I and II) of the party’s Constitution. Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin, gave the hint about Ayu’s possible resignation on Sunday, when he appeared on Channels Television programme, Sunday Politics.

While confirming that it was not right for the PDP presidential contender and the party’s national chairman to come from the same Northern region of the country, the BoT chairman revealed that a report on the matter is being awaited by the party’s national leadership.

Expressing his determination to ensure that peace and genuine reconciliation returns to the party, Senator Jibrin announced his readiness to even leave his post to create way for PDP to achieve cohesion to win the forthcoming general elections.

He said that the report on the crisis would be addressed by the leaders next week, stressing that “when we find out that somebody is wrong in what has happened, we will come up openly to tell the party that it is wrong.

“Whatever we can do, we will do it in the interest of the party to make the party remain as PDP. To tell the truth, it will not be fair for the president of Nigeria to be from the north, the chairman of the party from the north and the BoT chairman from the north.”

As the party’s national caucus, BoT and National Executive Committee (NEC) plan to convene any moment from now, it was also gathered that the recommendation of the various reconciliation committees will guide action on the issue. It was also learnt that while the Wike camp made Ayu’s leave their cardinal demand, some members faithful to Atiku Abubakar emphasized that only through a mini convention after the general elections could Ayu be replaced.

Attempts to get Arapaja’s response to the development failed as the National Vice Chairman did not pick calls or reply to SMS sent to his phone line. However, when contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, said he was yet to know.

“Well, I am not aware of this. If it is happening, I will be in a position to know and it would be a decision of the organs of the party. And there is no such thing to my knowledge at this time. “I am sure the NWC (National Working Committee) would have to meet, that is an organ of the party. Most likely, the NEC (National Executive Committee) will meet.

The last meeting of NWC was last Thursday, the next one will be next Thursday and there is nothing like that on the agenda to my knowledge as of now,” Ologunagba said. Barely four days after the Umaru Fintiri-led PDP peace panel met in Port Harcourt to address the two stalwarts of the party, an atmosphere of unease and anxiety has overtaken the party.

The camp of the Rivers governor has not just emphasized that Ayu should resign, it is also requesting to be allowed to produce the next chairman. A check at the PDP national secretariat in Abuja on Monday disclosed that the issue of the peace meeting dominated talks among several groups of party leaders and officials. The Port Harcourt meeting, according to a member of the NWC, is “the beginning of the end” for the rift, because the embattled leaders have laid bare their demands.

“What has also emanated from the meeting is that the speculation about the call for the resignation of Ayu as national chairman has been formally brought forward. “It is now left for the other camp and the entire leadership of the party, including NEC to weigh the pros and cons and take a decision,” he said. It was also gathered that the reconciliation process is being delayed by a new tussle over which camp produces the replacement to Ayu should he resign.

A NEC member revealed that some followers of Atiku prefer a member of their camp to be made chairman if Ayu resigns, but the Wike camp wants to produce the next chairman since the Atiku camp has already produced the presidential and vice presidential candidates. Walid Jibrin emphasized on Monday that Northern domination of the leadership of the party is unfair to other party leaders from the South.

Explaining the statement he made on a television programme on Sunday night, Walid made it clear that it is not right for the PDP to have its presidential candidate, national chairman and BoT chairman from the Northern part of the country.

At the moment, Atiku, Ayu and the BoT Chairman are all from the North. Even the deputy national chairman (North), who is constitutionally empowered to take charge should Ayu resign, is also from Yobe in Northeast.

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