Any hope of the group of five governors (G5) of the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) reconciling with the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, was dimmed, yesterday, as the group vowed to increase attacks against him for backing the National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu.
“To hell with Atiku and any one supporting him,” Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, thundered in his opening remarks at the cocktail organised for the G5.
Members of the group, Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu) were hosted by Ortom ahead of the launch of governorship and legislative election campaigns.
Ortom said: “Some people are blackmailing me for calling on Ayu to resign. Yes, because I can’t betray Governor Wike. He was the one who supported Ayu to emerge as the National Chairman. So, it would amount to betrayal if Ayu reneges on his promise and expects me to support him because he is a Benue man like me.”
Ortom stressed that Wike has no problem with Benue people and is only fighting for equity and justice. He said 18 people were killed in Guma Council last week by herdsmen trying to take over Benue land, yet some people want him to keep quiet.
“At 62, I am ready to die. I have written my will. God has been good to me. My age mates are long dead. So, nobody should blackmail me with my Senate run. Senate or no Senate, to hell with Atiku and anyone supporting him! They should go and tell him. You want me to be a slave to a Fulani. It is better I die. Anybody supporting Atiku is an enemy of Benue.”
The G5 also resolved to woo more aggrieved PDP members to their column from the six zones to give their onslaught a national outlook, and to mobilise to resist the ‘divide and rule tactics’ purportedly employed by Atiku to destabilise their state structures.
The five governors, yesterday, stormed the IBB Square, Makurdi, the Benue capital, for the commissioning of some projects completed by Ortom. Ortom named a road leading to Ayu’s house as Governor Nyesom Wike Road. The road, which is behind the Commissioner’s Quarters in Makurdi, was inaugurated by former Benue governor, Gabriel Suswam.
Recall that the five governors have been consistent in their demand that Ayu steps down, saying Northerners should not be the party’s national chairman and presidential candidate.
However, Ayu, a Benue indigene, has insisted that he won’t step down till the end of his four-year tenure, even as the G5 press for his resignation as a precondition to support Adamawa-born Atiku’s presidential ambition.
Before the inauguration, the G5 took time to address PDP supporters at a rally organised to drum support for all PDP candidates in Benue, including the Speaker of the House of Assembly and PDP governorship candidate in the state, Titus Uba.
Last night, Wike said the PDP G5 are bonded to save Nigeria and nobody can break their ranks in their continued insistence that Ayu should resign.
“People have tried to see how they can break us, you cannot. We are bonded to save Nigeria. That is why when you see all of us, we are impenetrable. Nobody can divide us. They have tried everything in this world to divide us, but no way.”
Ayu was conspicuously absent, though he sent the Deputy National Chairman (North), Umar Damagun, to represent him at the event. It was gathered that Damagun was not given any opportunity to speak to the crowd or deliver the National Chairman’s message.
In their separate speeches at the event, all the senators representing the three senatorial districts of the state, Gabriel Suswam, Emmanuel Orker-Jev and Abba Moro, agreed that the crisis rocking the party and its governors would be put to rest before the general elections.
In placatory tones, Orker-Jev re-echoed Moro’s speech, referring to the crisis as “family troubles” that would be resolved “before the elections.” Suswam also maintained: “PDP has an internal conflict resolution mechanism for sorting out itself.”
But in their separate speeches, all the G5 governors spurned the overtures of Suswam and his colleagues for a truce. While they all urged support for Ortom’s senatorial ambition and all PDP candidates in the state, they remained silent on the presidency.
Former Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, said PDP is waiting to witness what he described as more serious turbulence. Fayose made this assertion in a tweet yesterday.
According to Fayose, the crisis rocking the PDP may get “messier” if the contending issues are not quickly resolved.
“I see more serious turbulence for PDP more than ever before. I have been silent all this while hoping that things will get better. I advise we do more than we are doing now to resolve this crisis as events in days/weeks ahead may likely get messier. I pray this advice is not ignored,” Fayose tweeted.
MEANWHILE, Abraham Chila, the leader of Ward2Ward4Atiku, a political support group for Atiku, said despite Ortom’s negative utterances, the state would vote for Atiku and PDP. He maintained that Ortom was merely trying to cajole his Rivers counterpart by de-marketing Atiku.
Chila contended that after eight years of destructive policies and programmes from President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC), the country needs the experience and courage of Atiku to return to stability, security and economic prosperity.
Prince Ned Nwoko has lambasted Wike, describing him as a nuisance to PDP. Nwoko, PDP Delta North senatorial candidate, made the remark on Monday at the Asaba airport on his way from Abuja.
According to him, the Rivers governor has done enough damage to the party and should be shown the way out. He said: “Wike is a nuisance, quote me anywhere. If I were in the leadership of the party, I would have acted differently. I would have done things differently. He has done a lot of damage to the PDP and I don’t know what they are waiting for to show him the way out,” he said.
On his Senatorial ambition, Nwoko boasted that he would roundly defeat his main opponent, Peter Nwaoboshi of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He further said that should he win the election, his performance in the Senate will be better than that of the House of Representatives, noting that a good lawmaker gets things done through effective lobbying.
As far as members of the Rivers State Democracy Sustainable Group (RSDSG) are concerned, the ongoing machinations of Wike cannot affect the fortunes of Atiku in the 2023 poll. Convener of the group, Justin Chibuike, in a statement, alleged that they are privy to information that Wike is working towards ensuring APC emerges victorious at the poll.
The group challenged Wike to render account of monies expended on the G5 governors and several giveaways to his loyalists across the country.
The group noted: “Rivers people and Nigerians daily have seen that the self-centred gimmicks of Wike are only to grant easy access to an APC presidency with his constant attempt to demean Atiku. However, Atiku has continued to enjoy public support based on the unjustifiable excesses of Wike.
“Public opinions in the various states of those following the Rivers governor show that Atiku is leading every other candidate as the general elections get closer. His wide acceptance has been censored and his presidency is now a reality.”
In another development, the PDP Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) in Rivers has demanded a probe into the attack on Atiku supporters on Sunday.
Spokesman of the PCC in Rivers, Leloonu Nwibubasa, condemned the attack and called on the police to immediately commence an investigation to arrest those behind the incident. Some of Atiku’s supporters were reportedly attacked in Omuma Council on Sunday.
“The life of Udochukwu Nwakwala is presently at stake, and we are worried if he will survive the gunshots and machete cuts that were rained on him for simply pasting Atiku’s posters in Omuma. I want to call on the Governor to call the members of the party that are loyal to him and carrying out orders inimical to humanity to order.
“This is a test case for the new Commissioner of Police in the state. He must investigate, arrest and prosecute whoever is responsible for this dastardly act,” he said. It was gathered that one person was shot when suspected political thugs attacked Atiku’s supporters at Eberi, in Omuma.
The PDP presidential campaign director in the area, Nnamdi Nwogu, while confirming the development, yesterday, said over 30 youths with machetes and guns pounced on them while they were pasting Atiku’s campaign poster.
“Three days ago, I gave my boys posters of Atiku to paste in my local government, and yesterday (Sunday), I now called one of my boys, Udochukwu and a friend of mine to join me to see if the posters were pasted the way I had directed.
“When we got to the place, I saw the posters in some areas. But I noticed that the posters were not at the strategic place called Eberi-Omuma. I said okay, since I am around let me ensure it was done. I said come and paste these posters here.
“While I was there inspecting them, I noticed one of the councillors in Ward 1, saw what they were doing. He (councillor) went back and made a telephone call. The next thing, we saw over 30 boys armed with machetes and guns.
“These boys looked at me, they started attacking us. They used machetes on my boy, Udochukwu, and harassed me and my friend with machetes.” He said the matter has been reported to the Eberi-Omuma and Okehi police stations and called on the police and the Federal Government for intervene.