The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is facing fresh challenges in the Southsouth, thus slowing down his campaign ahead of next month’s election.
The Southsouth leg of his campaign which was originally scheduled for flag off on Tuesday, January 8, has been put off to enable the party “organize a bigger rally.”
Party sources however told The Nation that the postponement was brought about by the inability of the PDP governors in the zone to work together on how to drive Atiku’s presidential campaign.
Atiku who had been in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) for some days, returned home yesterday to rejig his campaign against the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
It was also gathered that the party and Atiku are trying to find ways of mending fences in the Southsouth and the Southeast before the PDP campaign train moves to the two zones.
Party sources yesterday spoke of challenges in some states in the Southsouth and Southeast including Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Anambra and Ebonyi.
Some of the knotty issues before Atiku are whether or not he will spend a term in office; and non-committal on power shift to the South-South in 2023.
A top source, who spoke in confidence, said: “Despite Atiku’s personal outreach, there are still some gaps to fill especially lack of trust between old PDP and the defectors from APC.
“Also, some of those who were instrumental to Atiku’s emergence have developed cold feet because of alleged campaign of non-inclusion. One of them just withdrew to himself and relocated to London in the past few weeks.”
Sources cited an alleged cold war between ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Henry Seriake Dickson over fall out of PDP primaries.
One source said:”although Governor Nyesom Wike has pledged to assume duties as the Southsouth coordinator for Atiku-Peter Obi ticket, some governors in the zone do not defer to the Rivers State governor. They are not even ready to take instructions from him.
“Certainly, there are challenges of how to win huge votes in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Anambra and Ebonyi states.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “Atiku is back from Dubai to rejig his campaign against APC. He will complete the fence-mending initiative and launch his campaign in the Southsouth and Southeast.”
Another source, speaking on the postponed campaign flag off in the Southsouth said all is not well with the party’s presidential campaign in the zone.
The source said that apart from the inability of some of the PDP governors to work together on how to drive Atiku’s campaign, there is also the challenge of much needed funds for logistics.
Announcing the Port Harcourt rally postponement, Oraye St Franklin, Wike’s Senior Special Assistant for New Media, said it was caused by “logistical constraints.”
His words: “We wish to inform our teeming supporters from across the Southsouth of the shift in date of the much anticipated PDP Southsouth rally.
“This is to enable us organise a bigger, better and defining rally in the history of Nigerian politics, given that the South-South is the natural home of the Peoples Democratic Party. All logistical constraints are currently being worked out to make it a hitch-free experience for our party faithful from across the region and a truly epoch making event.
“A new date would be announced shortly. The inconvenience on account of the postponement is regretted. Thank you.”
But a top notch member of the campaign committee, speaking on condition of anonymity on the aborted zonal rally, said the Atiku campaign in the Southsouth “is still struggling to take off.”
He added: “aside from the fact that Governor Wike of Rivers State who is supposed to drive the campaign is still not showing much enthusiasm, it has been difficult funding the campaign in the zone.”
Another reliable source said a good number of the PDP governors in the zone are currently battling fierce opposition in their respective home states and consequently, are concentrating on winning re-election during the 2019 polls.
The result of this is that Governor Wike, as the coordinator of the campaign in the Southsouth, is left, almost alone, to push Atiku’s campaign.
“This explains all the logistic issues facing the presidential campaign efforts here in the Southsouth. All the governors are expected to drive the campaign together, but a few are too busy seeking re-election in the various state to put in enough effort for Atiku.
“Take Governors Udom Emmanuel of Akwa-Ibom and Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta for example, they are battling serious opposition back home unlike in their first term.
“The situation is almost the same for Governor Wike himself in Rivers. So, they are all expending a lot of resources, energy and time on their re-election bids, making their contributions to the presidential campaign to suffer. Other chieftains of the party in the zone, especially former public office holders are not providing the much needed support at a crucial time as this.
“And very seriously, not much is being heard from Bayelsa and Cross Rivers governors. These two are also seeking re-election but majority of our party members feel they are not as pressed by the opposition as the others ahead of the 2019 general elections. The aborted rally could have been saved if all the governors got their acts together in good time to work towards its success.”
The Nation learnt that a meeting of stakeholders in the zone has been called by the national leadership of the party with a view to discussing how to move the presidential campaign forward in the Southsouth and also choose a new date for the zonal rally.
The national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, who is from the zone, is reportedly highly embarrassed by the development and is now ready to work with others to correct the mistakes of the past.
It was also gathered that the presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, will be meeting leaders of the party in the zone in the coming week to once again discuss the mounting challenges being faced by his campaign in the zone. A rejig of the zonal campaign team may be on his agenda as he looks forward to the parley, The Nation gathered.
A member of the Atiku Campaign Organisation said some challenges have been identified in the zonal structure.
A few weeks ago, the national caucus of the PDP met in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital to pacify Governor Wike to drop his threat of quitting the party’s 2019 Presidential Campaign Council.
The meeting was considered important ahead of the zonal rally of the party in the Southsouth zone. The PDP had held its zonal rallies in Northwest, Northcentral and Southwest.
Those in attendance at the meeting were Atiku, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Speaker, House of Reps, Yakubu Dogara and governors of Rivers, Abia, Cross River, Kwara, Sokoto and Ebonyi. Others include the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, PDP vice presidential candidate, Peter Obi, former governors Ayo Fayose and Liyel Imoke.
Also in attendance were the party’s National Chairman Uche Secondus, Senator Ben Murray Bruce, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara, Senator Olaka Nwogu, Hassan Saleh and several members of the National Assembly.
Some PDP chieftains in the zone fear that the grievances of the Rivers State governor are yet to be addressed.
“Wike is the pillar of the PDP in the Southsouth today. He is the one who held the party together when many of our leaders here were undecided about what to do. So, unless and until he moves, nothing can happen here. His influence goes beyond his state and those toying with his demands should know better than to ignore him. The PDP presidential campaign needs him in the zone and beyond,” a former Commissioner in the state said.
When contacted, the Special Assistant on Public Communications to Atiku, Mr. Phrank Shuaibu denied knowledge of any difficulty in campaigning in the Southsouth or Southeast.
He said: “The campaign is on course, the timetable was only adjusted.”
Sources in the APC and PDP said President Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku might rev up their campaign this week.
While Buhari will inaugurate the party’s Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) tomorrow, Atiku is expected to address a rally in Lokoja.
“Expect marathon campaigns in the next four weeks,” a top source added.
Jonathan, Dickson feud over election candidates
Sources also alleged a crisis of confidence in Bayelsa PDP between ex-President Jonathan and Governor Dickson.
Jonathan is said to be supporting some candidates in the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Advanced Democratic Party (ADC).
The candidates are a former Chief of Staff to ex-Governor Timipre Sylva and APC House of Representatives candidate for Ogbia Federal Constituency, Samuel Ogboku as well as ADC senatorial candidate for Bayelsa East, Senator Nimi Bariagha Amange.
Jonathan opted to support the two candidates and the House of Assembly candidates in his zone following the humiliation of his preferred nominees at the PDP primaries.