By Gbade Ogunwale, Abuja and Emmanuel Badejo
The feud between Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar and Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike deepened yesterday.
The Board of Trustees (BoT) rejected Wike’s supporters’ demand for the resignation of the National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu.
The renewed reconciliation brokered by Senator Walid Jibrin-led BoT is being threatened by a lack of compromise between the two camps.
Wike’s camp had premised its demand for Ayu’s ouster on the pre-presidential primary agreement that he would step aside if a Northerner is elected as the presidential candidate.
According to the camp, both the presidential flag bearer and the national chairman cannot come from the same region.
But, a source close to the BoT said the board dismissed the demand as unrealistic, adding that it can only be met if Atiku wins next year’s election.
A crisis had hit the major opposition party following the choice of Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as the running mate of Atiku.
Supporters of Wike, who came second behind the former Vice President, believed that the Rivers governor, and not Okowa, should have been named as running mate following the recommendation of the panel set up on the matter.
Atiku had insisted that he picked Okowa from among the options presented to him.
Wike and his supporters have not given a categorical statement of support for the Atiku/Okowa ticket.
The PDP BoT, during a meeting at the Abuja PDP national secretariat, resolved to set up a committee to reconcile the warring chieftains.
Jibrin said all members of the BoT are members of the committee.
Party stakeholders were said to have agreed that the Deputy National Chairman (South) will replace Ayu, who is from the Northcentral zone.
Wike’s supporters did not attend yesterday’s meeting.
A few of them who attended were said to have drawn the attention of the meeting to the fact that the presidential ticket and two key leadership positions are being held by the North.
“The presidential ticket holder, the national chairman and BoT chairman are all from the North.
“Atiku is from Northeast, Ayu is from Northcentral and the BoT chair is also from Northcentral,” one of them said.
Senator Abdul Ningi told reporters that the rift between Atiku and Wike remained unresolved.
He said: “We discussed the crisis between our presidential candidate and Wike. In getting it resolved, we set up a committee of the whole to urgently interface with the two of them.
“We have set up in this meeting a committee of the BoT to interface between warring factions, particularly the acrimony that is taking place between the presidential candidate and Wike and any other conflict that is taking place in the nation within our party formation.
“The committee is the committee of the whole, that means every BoT member is a member of the committee. I cannot tell you the grievances and the time frame.
“On Ayu stepping down, we have not even discussed any issue of anybody stepping down. What we discussed is what I have told you.”
Ningi, however, said there was no time frame for the committee to conclude its assignment and submit a report.
Ningi’s position was, however, countered by another member of the party, Mr, Adakole Ijoki, who featured on Channels Politics Today yesterday.
He said it would be fair for the party to restructure if truly it was out to amicably settle the internal rift.
According to him, the candidate did not manage Wike well while selecting his running mate.
He said although Atiku has the right to choose his running mate, he mismanaged Wike and the interest of his camp.
He said: “When it comes to the resignation of the chairman of our party, my view is simple.
“When you look at the way the PDP is structured currently, the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum is from the North, Sokoto. The Presidential candidate is from the North, Adamawa.
“The National Chairman of the party is from the North, Benue. The Board of Trustees chairman is from the North, Nasarrawa. These are issues that the PDP will have to resolve.
“The party is thinking about correcting and reinventing itself to win the elections and for inclusion of every member of the party. Talks are currently going on as far as that is concerned.”
According to him, it was unfair to make people believe that the crisis was about Wike.
“To be fair to Nigerians and the PDP, it is good to put things in perspective. It is not just Governor Wike; there are other four or five governors with him.
“We have past governors, senators and other chieftains of the party involved in the struggle.”
He said Wike and his team were yet to meet with either the party or its presidential candidate.
He also said the team was yet to present any condition for settlement to anybody.
“So, when you say Governor Wike, you make the situation look pedestrian. I can say that Governor Wike and his team led by Prof. Jerry Gana have not met with the party not to talk about meeting the presidential candidate. And if they have not met, then, we can’t be talking about giving conditions for the resolution of the impasse.
“I still maintain that the set of demands has not been made public. Whatever you hear is still in the realm of rumour.”
He, however, assured that soonest the warring factions will meet.
“But I can confirm to you that they are going to meet in a couple of days to resolve the rift.”