2023: Anxiety as PDP begins presidential campaign tomorrow amid Atiku/Wike feud

BY JAMES AKINOLA

All is set for the flag off of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential campaign for the 2023 general elections tomorrow in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.

So far, the opposition party appears to have everything in place for a smooth take off of electioneering for the 2023 presidential poll. The 2023 election is the second time the PDP will be trying to regain the Presidency, which it lost in the 2015 general elections.

Incidentally, like in the 2019 elections, where the party made an unsuccessful attempt to unseat the All Progressives Congress (APC), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is still the standard bearer of the opposition party for the poll slated to hold on January 25, next year.

Expectedly, the PDP has made all the preparations to ensure a robust campaign that will make it possible for it to win the next general elections. Already, the party has set up a Presidential Campaign Council led by the Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, as chairman and Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, as director general.

The opposition party also named former governor of Cross Rivers State, Liyel Imoke as deputy director general, Operations; former National Secretary of the party, Prof Adewale Oladipu, as deputy director, Administration; High Chief Raymond Dokpesi as deputy director, Technical and Systems, while Ekwesilieze Nwodo is appointed as deputy director, Research and Strategy of the National Campaign Management Committee.

Other members of the campaign council include former Vice President, Namadi Sambo, former Presidents of the Senate, Anyim Pius Anyim, David Mark and Bukola Saraki, as well as members of the National Assembly, former governors and former ministers.

However, amidst the preparations for the campaign, party stakeholders are apprehensive that the crisis currently rocking the party may throw a spanner in the works.

Frontline Reporters gathered that the prolonged crisis in the opposition party has continued to unsettle a lot of PDP stakeholders; as many fear that it may affect the ability of the opposition party to stage a successful campaign, in some of the states across the country.

A source at the PDP secretariat told Frontline Reporters that the greatest challenge confronting the opposition party as it begins the campaigns for the 2023 polls is the current division in its ranks.

“The 2023 poll is ours to lose. But we cannot afford to go to the election with a divided house. If we do, it may cost us dearly,” she stated.

It would be recalled that  the PDP has been embroiled in crisis in the aftermath of the nomination of Atiku and Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa as presidential and vice presidential candidates respectively. Supporters of the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, who believed that the governor was unfairly treated by the PDP had drawn the battle be line with the opposition party leadership.

Since then, the Wike camp which include Governors Samuel Ortom, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Okezie Ikpeazu and Seyi Makinde of Benue, Enugu, Abia and Oyo states have continued to insist that the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu must be replaced with a Southerner, ahead of the election as a condition for reconciliation in the party.

Other members of the group include former PDP Deputy National Chairman, Chief Olabode George; former Minister of Information, Jerry Gana, as well as some former governors and former members of the  National Assembly, among others.

Recently, supporters of the Rivers State governor announced their withdrawal from the PDP campaign council. The decision of Wike and his men from the campaign council is in protest over the refusal of the opposition party to replace Ayu with a Southerner ahead of the 2023 polls.

Incidentally, while Makinde was named the Vice Chairman (South) for the campaign council, Wike, Ortom, Ugwuanyi and Ikpeazu were named as members of the campaign council.

Segun Sowunmi, who admitted that the situation is a cause for concern, told Sunday Sun that all hope for all party leaders to collaborate to prosecute the 2023 election is not lost.

“All hope is not lost. I still feel that there is a room for all sides to come together in the interest of the bigger picture. And I am sure that the door is not completely shut. It is a bit concerning, because it seems to have dragged on longer than expected,” Sowunmi stated.

He added that  “it will be interesting to see how the citizens, who are made up of more than 80 million registered voters, how they interpret what their own individual role is in terms of determining who will be the next leader of the country. So, all hope is not lost.”

Nevertheless, there have been frantic efforts by the leaders of the party, including the Board of Trustees (BoT) to broker a truce. So far, the many peace initiatives are yet to produce the expected result.

An inside source told Frontline that with the decision of the Wike camp to withdraw from the presidential campaign until Ayu is replaced, it is likely to affect the campaign in their respective states. This is against the backdrop that the PDP has resolved to decentralize its campaigns to the grassroots.

The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, had told journalists, in recent press briefing that the presidential campaign would be decentralized to the states,  local governments, wards and polling unit levels, with the aim of taking the message directly to the voters.

“Clearly, it is a different arrangement. You will recall that INEC commended the PDP as the best digital compliant party. This campaign structure is tilted towards that. You will see more emphasis on communication, in terms of digital communication,” Ologunagba stated.

Frontline Reporters gathered that the stance of the aggrieved governors may be a drawback for the PDP presidential campaign in their respective states.

Inside sources said that the challenge before the party is how it will effectively run its campaigns at the grassroots in affected states without the support of the five governors.

Eddy Olafeso, a former PDP national vice chairman (South), told Sunday Sun that the leaders of the party must bury the hatchet. Olafeso said that it would not serve any useful purpose for the feuding parties in the opposition party to continue to bicker.

According to him, “we don’t have to fight each other. Enough of the ugly mess. And abuses of one another. It will not augur well for anybody to continue to fight at this moment. The only people that we need to fight is the APC that has led  a very backward governance and ruined virtually everything for the country.”

However, there are indications that the opposition party may have decided to move on without the five governors, in the event that they continue to maintain their hardline posture. Already, the party has gone ahead to roll out its timetable for the 2023 campaigns.

A member of the PDP NEC, who is pro-Atiku confirmed to Sunday Sun that the party would move on without the Wike group, as a resort, in the event that it is impossible to win over members of the group.

“We will keep talking to them (Wike group); hoping that they will reconsider their position. But if at the end of the day, they don’t shift ground. The party must will move ahead with and without them and brace up for whatever would happen at the polls,” he stated.

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