By ANTHONY NWOSU
It has become clear, from all indications, that Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is a victim of circumstance. He is not to blame for the crisis rocking the party at the moment. Yet, he is, unfortunately, the most exasperated in the ongoing battle of wills.
The problem with PDP is straightforward. After losing the presidential primary of the party to Atiku Abubakar, Nyesom Wike, the Governor of Rivers State, expected that he would emerge as Atiku’s running mate. That did not happen.
Unable to come to terms with his rejection by Atiku, Wike began to flex muscles. He suddenly remembered that the top echelon of the party was dominated by the North. Since he could not undo Atiku’s emergence as presidential candidate, he had to find a straw to latch on.
This was how he discovered Iyorchia Ayu, the party’s national chairman. Wike demanded the resignation of Ayu from his position. His argument was that both the presidential candidate and the national chairman of the party cannot come from the same region of the country. This is the crux of the matter. That is at the root of the crisis rocking the party.
On the face of it, Wike may have a point. The arrangement in political party circles makes allowance for regional balance. One of the ways in which this is assured is to ensure that the presidential candidate of a party and the national chairmanship position are shared between the north and south of the country.
But expediency does not make this arrangement workable in PDP at this moment. Removing the national chairman of the party a few months to the presidential election will be tactless on the part of the PDP. Such a situation could weaken the chances of the parry to compete in the election. This was the position the leadership of the party canvassed and they expected Wike to make sense out of it. The party’s position is that if Atiku wins the presidency, the chairmanship of the party will automatically go to the south. Unfortunately, Wike and his group have refused to appreciate this well considered position of the party.
To demonstrate further that it is interested in equity and justice in the party, the leadership of the PDP quickly ceded the position of chairman, Board of Trustees being held by a northerner to the south. The whole idea was to gradually begin to institute north-south balance within the party. Yet, Wike and his supporters were not assuaged by this concession.
As efforts are being made to resolve the impasse, some uninformed critics have had to blame Atiku for the seemingly intractable crisis. Some have argued that Atiku has every responsibility to resolve the crisis. While we agree that Atiku has a big role to play in this matter, the point must be made that he has done what many did not even know he could do. A few days ago, he disclosed to the bewildered public that he had met with Wike five times in the bid to deal with the issue at stake . Wike has not denied this claim. This goes to show that Atiku stated the fact. Not a few are surprised at this disclosure. They are happy to know that Atiku has not been resting on his oars. If anything, he has, as a mature and experienced politician, been working behind the scene. This is most statesmanly and fatherly of Atiku. It shows that he does not want to run a presidency where a person or group of persons will feel left out.
It must be emphasised at this point that Atiku is a man with courage. He is not one to be swayed by the howl and grandstanding of noisemakers. When the presidential primary of the PDP held and Atiku carried the day, some people thought that they would railroad him into a path they chose for him. They thought that they would decide for him who his vice presidential candidate would be. It was this thinking that made some vested interests to begin to make a case for Wike. They even held a mock election where Wike emerged tops.
Interestingly, Atiku was not swayed by these shenanigans. He knew what he wanted. He also knew what would be good for the party. And so, after all the acrobatics, Atiku came up with a choice that many could not fault. So far, Atiku and his running mate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, have proven to be a good match. One complements the other. They look promising to run a rancour- free Presidency if they are elected into office next year.
Atiku’s disclosure about his meetings with Wike is very humbling. Who would have thought that
Atiku would have the grace and candour to be talking to Wike and seeking a peaceful resolution of the crisis in the face of Wike’s ceaseless insults to and assaults on the party and even the personality of the PDP candidate. Atiku’s mature disposition towards Wike’s tantrums shows that he is a statesman par excellence. Fatherliness cannot be made of a better stuff than what we see in Atiku.
If there is anybody to blame in the ongoing crisis in PDP, Atiku should not be the one. He has done his bit and is still doing more to ensure that the PDP goes to the polls as a united and formidable party.
The real culprit in this ugly drama is Nyesom Wike. He has, in words and in action, provoked the leadership of the PDP beyond tolerable levels. He has abused, insulted and cajoled leaders of the party. He has thrown caution to the winds in his determination to engage the party in a drag-out fight. But it is remarkable that the party has refused to be dragged down by Wike and his co-travelers. As a party determined to win the forthcoming presidential elections, the leadership of the party is looking beyond Wike. They see his action for what it is: a normal misunderstanding among party faithful. With this disposition, the party is still determined to reconcile with Wike and his group so that, together, the party will achieve its desired objective in the forthcoming general elections.
•Nwosu, a grassroots politician, contributed this piece from Lagos.