G5: Anxiety Within PDP Over Losing Oyo, Benue, Rivers, Others

THERE is increasing apprehension and anxiety within the camps of the embattled five governors of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP) in their prolonged face-off with national leadership of the party. The fear among them is exacerbated by the dilemma over who to endorse among the three leading presidential candidates for the February 25 general election. Coupled with the problem is the uncertainty that could surround the political career of the key gladiators in G5, in the event that their action boomerangs at the poll, due to the less sophistication of the large chunk of Nigerian voters.

Added to the twin issue of  uncertainty and confusion are the postulations by observers that the governors might be sitting on a time bomb, which if allowed to detonate, could lead to dire consequences for their political dynasty, following perceived cracks in their midst. Though there have been spirited attempts by the G5 governors to play down the yawning gap and schism, equivocation among them over the presidential candidate to endorse, has, to an extent lent, lent credence to the gulf. While the governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, who is playing a crucial role in G5, has tried to deny that there is a split among them, his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike, has not glossed over the fact about the schism. The situation is believed to have made it difficult for candidates for governorship elections in the major  parties, including the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC), Labour Party LP) and others from fully embarking on  campaigns. Instead, they concentrating on consultations with certain individuals and groups regarded as potent to market themselves and plans for the citizens. Mostly at the crossroads are candidates for seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives because of fear that whatever direction that the five governors would impactful on their individual ambition.

In the midst of all this, however, have emerged theories surrounding the general implications of the open and behind-in-the scenes activities of the G5. One of the hypothesis is on the rising anxiety among the party members chieftains and supporters that the governors might be wittingly or otherwise be digging in to reenact the scenario that played out in 2003 between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the then Alliance for Democracy (AD) governors in the South-West. As incumbent president, who was desperate to have a reliable  base that would deliver the votes in his re-election bid, Obasanjo had cajoled five out of the six AD governors into a deal that turned out to be a political tradeoff. Under the expedient political arrangement reached then, the AD governors were to mobilise for Obasanjo’s re-election, while the electorate would be pressured to vote AD in the governorship poll and the other elections. Five of the governors bought into the deal, shooting themselves in the foot and burning their fingers in the process, as they were roundly trounced by PDP at the other elections after Obasanjo had explored and capitalised on their political naivety to make hay.

The AD governors included: Chiefs Bisi Akande (Osun), Segun Osoba (Ogun), Adebayo Adefarati (Ondo), Otunba Niyi Adebayo (Ekiti) and Lam Adesina of Oyo, in concert with a few other Afenifere chieftains under the leadership of the late Pa Abraham Adesanya. The only survivor in the raw deal made with Obasanjo  was the then governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu, who, adroitly, refused to be part of the deal and the seemingly Greek Gift from the former military head of State. Osoba later  gave an insight into  the discreet consultations that culminated into the agreement and the fallout. Osoba said: “We were going to court to tackle issues of fiscal responsibilities on police. In my own case, I had Israel Ajao as my commissioner. On the eve of 2003 elections, Obasanjo knew he was going to write figures and Ajao was cooperative with me; letting me know where ‘Area boys’ can disrupt and other things… giving me security report.  What Obasanjo did was that two days before the election he transferred him to Abuja, by road! He was sent to Abuja. I had to go and fight until he was brought back a day after the election. That’s to show you how a president can misuse (the police).”

Another victim of the undercut was Chief Bisi Akande of Osun State. The ex-governor gave a rundown of the contents of the agreement the AD governors struck with Obasanjo, with some of the items bordering on the clamour for restructuring of the country. Akande recalled: “Obasanjo first tried to promote the ego of the Afenifere leaders. When he wanted to talk to us, he got up but as he was about addressing us, we said he should sit down that he was the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian nation. But do you know what Obasanjo did? Obasanjo refused to sit down.  He greased their ego.  Obasanjo said: ‘I cannot sit and talk to Papa Abraham Adesanya; I must stand up; I must respect him.’ That was how Obasanjo started playing up the ego of our leaders. We demanded four things: National Conference; Proper handling of the Census; Restructuring of the country; and Electoral Reforms. Obasanjo agreed intoto… He said all the things we were asking for were very simple things; he said those things were his own ideas, too; he said they were simple things to be done. But deep down in my mind, I knew Obasanjo was deceiving us.”

Peradventure, the G5 governors of the PDP are acting the script of that era as the path traversed by them so far captures some of the pranks of the past. Acting Afenifere leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo had explained what transpired in 2003 between Obasanjo and the AD governors. He was most poignant when he spoke by some revelations made by the former governors later on the said deal. The octogenarian had remarked:  “Osoba and the rest made an agreement with Obasanjo behind us to despise the leaders of Afenifere because we were claiming that we were responsible for their election. And they wanted to say that they can win election without us. So, they made a deal behind us with Obasanjo and at the end of the day, Obasanjo kicked them out. They got the result of treachery. They were thinking that the man will keep to his word and they will claim to have won election without the support of leaders of Afenifere. That was what took them to that disaster.

So, it is a business between them and Obasanjo and not between them and Afenifere because it was an act of betrayal. They thought that they could get rid of the leaders of Afenifere and can then claim to have won election on their own. And Obasanjo tricked them. That was why, after the election, Osoba was interviewed and he said: ‘Oh! Obasanjo betrayed an agreement.’ What does he mean betraying an agreement? What agreement did they make with him? So, it is an act of betrayal. They wanted to be in power willy-nilly at the expense of philosophy, principle and at the expense of the truth and at the expense of the interest of the Yoruba people. And they are getting the result.”

For months, the G5 have engaged the leadership of PDP in an unending controversy over Senator Iyorchia Ayu retaining his seat after former Vice President  Atiku Abubakar, emerged as the standard-bearer of the party for the February 25, 2023 presidential election. Both sides have met at different times, with members of G5 electing to hold most of their meetings in London and other places outside the African continent. Those meetings have not in any way paved the way for the resolution to the rift; rather, the issues have degenerated into claims and counter-claims, as well as subtle threats. So, the governors are confronted by issues that threaten their base and political relationship across board.

Okezie Ikpeazu

He is believed to be walking on a tight rope. The ex-university Abia State University lecturer had risen to Government House, on a popular sentiment; alleged marginalisation of his area by successive administrations in the state. The Ngwa people had persistently decried that they were neglected and not carried along in the scheme of things. The allegation was widespread such that each election year, the issue became more pronounced and tended to dominate campaign and horse-trading. Former top military brass and powerful politicians from the area and other sections of the state were not left in the campaign on the need to address the injustice. But the lamentations still subsist such that the governor has had to plead with his kinsmen to give his candidate for the governorship election this year, the chance to continue from when he quits at the end of his two terms of eight years in May 29, 2023.

The issues he has created have become a serious burden for PDP candidate in the state, Professor Eleazar Uchenna Ikonne and there is increasing popular sentiment for Alex Oti, the standard-bearer of the Labour Party. Indeed, an opinion poll commissioned by ANAP Foundation put him ahead of other contestants, with only nine percent cast for PD candidate, who is a former vice chancellor of the Abia State University.  Ikpeazu said the choice of the don from Abia Isiala Ngwa North Local Government Area was to guarantee justice, equity and political stability in the state in 2023. . he added that the choice was in the spirit of the Abia Charter of equity entered into in 1981.. Yet, the outgoing governor is keen on going to the Senate on PDP platform, which he has been accused of trying to weaken and sabotage ahead the 2023 general election.  Most indigenes of Abia have also expressed strong reservations about the impact of the Ikpeazu government generally and wondered if indeed, the state is under a spell to have inept and visionless leadership over the years.

Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi

He has got serious issues confronting his future political endeavours at the end of his tenure in June next year. His dilemma stems from his plan to run on the ticket of PDP for s seat in the Senate in the next political dispensation, despite his tough stance against the authorities of the PDP at the centre. Inspite of the initial move to impose his preferred choice as PDP governorship candidate, he has buckled to identify with Dr Peter Mba as the popular choice of the party as standard-bearer. Secondly, the remaining among the founding fathers of PDP from Enugu State have been leading the campaign for the election of Mba, ostensibly to prove that PDP remained intact and formidable in the state despite the ongoing the political abracadabra of the incumbent Governor Ugwuanyi.

Samuel Ortom

He is believed to have more rivers to cross than the other three governors in G-5 whose tenure ends in June. His bid to go to the Senate is facing stiff challenge from the candidates of the opposition parties whose track records are intimidating. They are popular among the people and have had stints at the corridors of power and the top hierarchy of their parties. Also listed against Ortom is alleged underperformance by his administration. He is accused of exaggerating his scorecard, with some Benue stakeholders claiming he does not understand what real governance is all about. The shortcomings of his administration are considered as a major liability for the PDP governorship candidate in the state for the general election, Titus Uba, with other committed party buffs, including a former president of the Senate, Senator David Mark going the extra mile to put all Benue candidates in good stead ahead of the elections.  One of his sore points is the emergence of an internally displaced persons camp in his state, due to security issues. They accuse him of having a backlog of unpaid workers’ salaries, just as he is accused of pulling down his hitherto benefactors such as George Akume.  Thus, some critics chastise the governor for being an arrowhead in the rebellion against PDP leadership. Some party leaders in the state accused  Ortom of gloating that he holds the key to PDP in the state. The former governor said Benue is bigger than Ortom and his co-travellers and reveler.  A similar message trailed the claim by Rivers governor, with former PDP national chairman, Prince Uche Seconds telling Wike to stop hallucinating over who controls PDP structures in the state.

Nyesom Wike

He has succeeded in instilling fears into many PDP faithful in Rivers State using incumbency power, deploying state machinery and Gerry-meandering to gain undue advantage over PDP structures. But Wike still has to contend with the challenge coming from the likes of Secondus, Celestine Omeiha, Senator lee Maeba, Dr Precious Abiye Sekibo, and Honourable Chinyere Igwe, among others in the battle for PDP state structures. The governor also has to fend off opposition from his former godfather and predecessor, Honourable Rotimi Amaechi, of the All Progressives congress (APC). A possible compromise among   the opposition in the other parties, including the Social Democratic Party (SDP) could humble and tame Wike if the centre decides to reign in and back such coalition at the most auspicious time and moment. His governorship candidate, Similanayi Fubara

Seyi Makinde

His governorship in 2019 came after two unsuccessful attempts in the past. After he went back to the drawing board, he formed a coalition with other opposition parties in Oyo State to run for the last governorship poll and triumphed over the preferred candidate of the then outgoing governor, the late senator Abiola Ajimobi. That coalition has since collapsed due to irreconcilable differences between the governor and the principal figures in the other parties that forged the alliance about four years ago.  Besides, the Yeoman’s job Makinde is playing in the G5 has cast a pall of uncertainty and lethargy within Oyo PDP such that the programme of action and campaign for the general election is suspect and unpredictable.  Other PDP leaders, among them a former Minister of Special Duties, Chief Wole Oyelese picked up the gauntlet to rekindle hope among distraught PDP members. There is confusion over which way the party faithful and prospective voters should go at the election that is 55 days away. Besides, there is concern on which way to go in the event of the adoption of the Obasanjo/AD governors strategy, which ended in a disastrous outing for five of the then governors of the once vibrant and virile AD that dominated the political space, especially of the South-West from 1999 to 2003.

Effect on PDP, APC, LP

Several posers have since popped up over the political chess being played by G5. Is it a plot to sabotage the aspirations of candidates in PDP, APC and LP that have most candidates for various levels of the 2023 elections? Is it a case of self-interest taking precedent over noble and dignifying considerations, including merit and stability of the political system? Could the entire plot be targeted at a certain candidate believed to have a brighter chance in the coming presidential poll? Other teasers bother on the electoral value of a few of the PDP elders and leaders of thought within the rank of G5. According to some observers, it is doubtful if any of them can win elections in their wards, going by the outcome of past elections held in the country. Some pundits also argue that APC can decide to deploy the power of incumbency to checkmate the G5 once it is established that the interest of the group is at variance to that of the ruling party.

Wike has promised to unveil the preferred presidential candidate this month. His proclamation had coincided with speculations that Ortom had endorsed the candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr Peter Obi, but which he later said it was not true. The G5 has also denied holding any meeting with the standard-bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu in London, with Ortom strongly condemning speculations that the Integrity Group (G5) had reached an agreement with Tinubu on the 2023 election.

The back and forth notwithstanding, the group is gradually getting to its wits end as the campaign for the elections enters the most crucial stage. Whether the members in unison endorse Tinubu or Obi as preferred choice for the presidency will have serious implications for the five governors in the immediate and long term in their chequered political career and future. It is also bound to have either positive impact and dire consequences for their favoured candidates for different elections, just as their action and inaction are capable of putting into jeopardy the delicate balance in the existing power structure and subsisting alliances ahead of the general election.

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