Though the members of the Integrity Group in the People’s Democratic Party have constantly expressed their readiness for reconciliation, their unguarded utterances and anti-party activities suggest otherwise, writes Chuks Okocha
If you ask any member of the group of five governors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) popularly known as G-5 on a possible reconciliation with other members of the party, the obvious answer is ‘yes’. But their actions and utterances suggest otherwise. The group in the past six months have been consistent in their call for the resignation of the PDP’s National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, as their minimum condition for peace to return to the party and to join the presidential campaign council.
Their pick on Ayu can be traced to the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who is the leader of the quartet. It is believed that Wike refused to accept his defeat at the party’s presidential primary which saw former Vice President Atiku Abubakar emerge as the party’s presidential candidate for the 2023 elections. As a result, Wike, with enormous resources, mobilised four other governors to fight his cause, which has created a crisis in the party. The aggrieved governors have insisted that it is unfair for the party to have the national chairman and presidential candidate from the North.
The G-5 endeavours make their voices heard in each of the states they visited, sometimes to the extent of rubbishing the party’s presidential candidate as they attempted to do at their recent meeting in Lagos. Of course, things didn’t go as planned for them as they were interrupted by PDP faithful in the state, who sang songs in support of Atiku.
The state PDP members exposed the group’s alleged plan to undermine the presidential aspiration of the party’s candidate and insisted that Atiku was their choice candidate for 2023.
One of the PDP members at the meeting, Kunle Folorunsho, who narrated what happened in a video clip that went viral, said the meeting, which was at the instance of Chief Olabode George, commenced with the former deputy national chairman of the PDP revealing a plot to undermine his party.
Folorunsho said George had told the meeting that they would only vote for Senate and House of Representatives candidates of the party and would have nothing to do with the presidential and governorship elections. He said it was at this point that he raised an objection that the party had a presidential candidate in the person of Atiku and that he was the one they would vote for. But he had hardly finished expressing his thoughts when supporters of George, sporting bespoke t-shirts, descended on him and tore his clothes. He was however rescued by other loyalists of Atiku who equally fought back.
As the governors, also called Integrity Group, and the others made to leave in their vehicles, according to Folorunsho, the crowd outside the venue of the meeting held at George’s office on Lugard Avenue, Ikoyi, started chanting “Atiku…Atiku…Atiku”, a clear message to George and the governors that Lagos might be impenetrable for their anti-party activities.
The Integrity Group members at the meeting included Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers State; Seyi Makinde of Oyo State; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State; Samuel Ortom of Benue State; and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State.
Former Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang, who read the communique of the group after its deliberations, maintained that they would not participate in the presidential campaign unless their demands are met. He, however, expressed their readiness for reconciliation with the party leadership if their conditions for a truce are met.
“We are still standing with the decision in our last meeting in Port Harcourt, where we declared that we are still open to reconciliation,” Jang said.
Before coming to Lagos, the group had gathered at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt during the inauguration of the PDP state-level campaign in Port Harcourt, where they expressed their unrelenting opposition to Atiku’s aspiration. For instance, Benue State Governor, Dr. Samuel Ortom, who fired the first salvo, insisted that only a southerner should succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.
He noted that he was the first governor from the North to back the southern presidency, which he said is in the interest of fairness and justice.
“Nigerians, for the sake of equity, fairness and justice, expect that after eight years of President Buhari, the next President should go to the South irrespective of political affiliation and that is the right thing to do. We are Nigerians and we must ensure that all of us work together,” Ortom said.
He added that Wike was the right candidate to succeed Buhari, but “enemies of progress” ensured he didn’t win the party’s presidential primary in May.
Stressing that the enemies of progress also denied Wike the running mate ticket, the Benue State governor, however, urged the party’s supporters in the state to work with him and ensure victory for all PDP National Assembly, state assembly and governorship candidates in Rivers.
On his part, Wike said there was no going back in his clamour for equity, fairness and justice in the party. He added that rather than promising Nigerians a government of inclusion and national unity if elected president in Atiku should start from the PDP.
The Rivers governor argued that if Atiku believed in restructuring, and devolution of power and that President Buhari appointed 17 northerners as heads of security chiefs, he should correct it from the party by asking Ayu to step down as National Chairman of PDP for a southerner.
He boasted that none of the G-5 governors would lose their governorship. “Not one of the states of PDP integrity governors will lose their governorship. Not one. No amount of gang-up will make us lose Abia, Enugu, Benue and Oyo states and who is that that will come and win Rivers State? I do not understand human beings; some people want to be governor of Rivers State from 2003 till now.”
Wike said he is unfazed by threats of being sacked by the PDP and dared the party to carry out the threat, stating he would respond appropriately.
The governor insisted that his state would no longer work for anybody, who refuses to embrace justice, fairness and equity. He added that he was only committed to working for PDP, Rivers State chapter, adding that all his candidates in the state would win their elections.
“What have we done? We say by our party’s constitution, the President should go here and the chairman should go here. But you say no you will take everything, we also say no we won’t allow that. History will be on our side that we are saying the truth and nothing but the truth,” Wike added.
The governor maintained that their resolve to ensure that elective offices are shared equally between the North and the South in the PDP ahead of the 2023 general election remained sacrosanct. He stressed that he and his group would only accept reconciliation that is based on equity, fairness and justice.
Wike urged Nigerian leaders to strive to have integrity in order to be able to keep their promises to the people. He said he would not accept the argument that failure to keep promises was a familiar trait among politicians.
By the time he hosted the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, who was in the state to inaugurate projects, Wike openly assured him of logistics and other support anytime Obi comes to campaign in Rivers. He emphasized he had no regret while promising to release vehicles and security for Obi’s campaign in Rivers.
With these actions and utterances, it is difficult to decipher where the G-5 governors really stand. In one breath, they are expressing their readiness for reconciliation with the party leadership if their conditions for a truce are met. In another, they are sustaining their anti-Atiku moves ahead of the general election.
Despite their constant attack on his personality, Atiku had directed his spokespersons not to attack Wike or any member of the G-5 governors.
“How do you sit down for reconciliation with people who are daily attacking, mocking, abusing and taunting you? There is no day these G-5 governors won’t say something that will cause the Atiku campaign or the party embarrassment. Don’t forget at the beginning of their agitation, Atiku directed his spokesmen not to attack Wike or any member of the G-5 governors, but every day the group will be hauling attacks on the PDP presidential candidate. They also openly flaunt their anti-party activities. Is that fair? And they claim that they are open to reconciliation? Who does that? Can’t they show maturity?” a member of the party asked, rhetorically.