The leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in a fix on how to handle Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State who they believe is currently a threat to the party’s unity.
Party sources cited the governor’s action which forced it to hold its National Convention last year in Port Harcourt as against its initial plan to hold it in Abuja; his recent criticism of the panel set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the emergence of Mr. Ndidi Elumelu as the PDP minority leader in the House of Representatives ahead of the governor’s personal choice, Mr Kingsley Chinda; and the governor’s congratulatory message to President Muhammadu Buhari following the verdict of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal which upheld the outcome of the February election.
The party and its candidate are displeased with the verdict and have vowed to go to the Supreme Court to seek redress.
Party sources yesterday described Wike’s actions as conflicting with PDP’s interests.
They said his actions were threats to the unity and cohesion of the PDP.
One source said although the governor has bailed the party out of many financial difficulties, he seems to be setting out on a collision course with the party or sees himself as untouchable with some of his recent utterances.
Party sources admitted that though some of the governor’s utterances were indeed not in the best interest of the party, it was imperative to manage the situation with all the necessary tact so as not to rock the boat and in view of the strategic importance of Rivers State to the party.
Sources recalled how Wike pressurised the party leadership to concede the position of House of Reps minority leader to his candidate as compensation for his contributions and the loss of his candidate in the presidential primaries, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal.
However, Elumelu outsmarted both Wike and the party to get the position.
Bid to appease Wike fails
To appease the governor’s feelings, the PDP had summoned Elumelu and some of his loyalists in the House for explanations on why they went against the party’s directive, but they spurned the summons and were subsequently suspended for one month.
Also affected by the suspension order were Lynda Ikpeazu, Wole Oke, Anayo Edwin, Gideon Gwadi, Toby Okechukwu and Adekoya Abdul-Majid.
While the controversy raged, the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), on July 9, raised a five-man committee to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the Reps’ act of “recalcitrance”, with the committee given three weeks to submit its report.
A former President of the Senate, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, was chairman of the committee.
Other members were Senator David Mark, Senator Adolphus Wabara, Senator Ibrahim Mantu and a former Deputy Reps Speaker, Austin Opara who served as secretary to the committee. However, Opara resigned from the committee before it concluded its assignment.
But while the report of the committee was being awaited, Governor Wike openly accused members of the committee of corruption, saying they had compromised their integrity.
“The Committee set up by the PDP on the illegal emergence of Ndudi Elumelu is the most corrupt committee ever set up by the party,” he said.
“We thank our worthy son, Rt Hon Austin Opara, for withdrawing from that committee, so that he is not entangled in the illegal activities of the tainted committee.”
He warned the PDP not to toy with Rivers State, saying it was not in the interest of the party to do so.
“We are warning PDP to be careful not to toy with Rivers State. Rivers State has all it takes to withstand the PDP and fight the party to a standstill.
“The Rivers State Governor is not one of those governors that anyone can cajole. The Rivers State governor is not one of those governors that will kowtow to their illicit activities,” Wike had declared.
A jolted Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party quickly responded to the governor’s outburst by calling several meetings to deliberate on the report of the Ayu committee.
Confusion over Ayu committee’s report
What followed its last meeting held at the party’s Abuja secretariat on Thursday was a drama that put the entire BoT and the NWC in a fix.
At a joint press briefing shortly after the meeting, the chairman of the BoT, Senator Walid Jubrin, and the Secretary, Wabara, openly disagreed over the status of the committee’s report on Elumelu.
While Jubrin said that the BoT had received the Ayu committee report but was yet to submit same to the party’s NWC, Wabara countered him, saying: “We have considered the report and we have submitted the report on Elumelu to the NWC.”
The foregoing was followed by muffled disagreement between the two elderly party chieftains, with the BoT chair raising objection to the Secretary’s statement even as the latter stood his ground.
Although their verbal exchange was in hushed tones, it was audible enough for journalists to hear their voices.
The disagreement dragged till the end of the press briefing, with the two board members frowning and mumbling at each other as they left the venue and walked through the drizzling rain into their waiting cars.
It was gathered that Elumelu was able to impress it on the Ayu committee that it would be unfair and unjust for Wike to impose the national chairman on the party and also impose the Minority Leader from the same state.
Curiously, while the BoT meeting was still ongoing, earlier in the day, the leadership of the party issued a statement regarding the disputed report.
Spokesman for the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the NWC had not received the said report from the BoT.
The statement reads in full: “In the light of public enquiries and conflicting reports on the position of the leadership of our great party on issues related to the minority leadership of the House of Representatives;
“The National Working Committee (NWC) hereby clarifies that it has not yet received any report from the Board of Trustees (BoT) concerning the outcome of the five-member committee it set up to intervene on the contentious matter.
“Consequently, the NWC maintains that it has not taken any decision to review its subsisting stance on the minority leadership of the House of Representatives.
“The NWC therefore urges critical stakeholders, party members and the general public to completely disregard any report to the contrary.”
Party silent on Wike’s bombshell
The party and its National chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, who was sponsored for the position by Wike, have also been silent on Wike’s allegation that some PDP governors routinely pay homage to Buhari at night at the Presidential Villa.
He was responding to criticism after he congratulated Buhari on the verdict of the tribunal.
Some party members believe that Secondus does not want to offend Wike, his benefactor.
But Secondus dismissed the insinuation, saying that there was nothing on ground to suggest that he was being influenced by the Rivers State governor.
His media adviser, Ike Abonyi, who spoke with our correspondent yesterday, said there is the tendency for people to see the chairman in that light for the simple reason that Secondus and Wike are both from Rivers State.
Regarding the governor’s congratulatory message to President Buhari and the chairman’s silence, Abonyi said the national leadership of the party had stated its position on the tribunal’s judgment and that the party’s position remained supreme.
Asked to comment on what stakeholders described as disturbing trends in the PDP fold, Ologbondiyan had said: “It’s internal affairs of our party and we are resolving it.”