The reconciliation efforts in the Peoples Democratic Party may suffer a delay as the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, whose emergence and choice of running mate has caused disagreements among some party chieftains, has travelled to the United States.
Sunday PUNCH also learnt that on his return, Atiku planned to meet with Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who is said to be aggrieved by the outcome of the party’s presidential primary and his failure to emerge as the running mate.
Some party chieftains, including Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and former Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, have in the last few days expressed displeasure over the state of affairs in the party. While Ortom criticised the way Wike was treated in the run-up to the emergence of a running mate, Fayose, who participated in the party’s presidential primary, said it was southern presidency or nothing.
A former governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, had also expressed reservations over the way Atiku disregarded the recommendations of the committee set up to choose a running mate for him and went ahead to pick Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.
Some sources in the party told Sunday PUNCH that the party leadership was concerned about the developments, but that Atiku’s presence was also necessary for most of the issues to be resolved.
Multiple sources said the former vice-president was advised to take out time to relax, having been consulting since he emerged as the party’s candidate in the February 25, 2023 election.
One of his allies, who first spoke with one of our correspondents on Saturday morning, said the purpose of the trip was for him to rest and strategise on how to placate those aggrieved over Okowa’s emergence.
He was asked by one of our correspondents how the PDP candidate was handling the conflict in the party and if the trip of the former vice-president would not slow down the peace process aimed at placating the angry members of the party.
The source said, “Yes, you are correct. Atiku is in the US. He is expected to brainstorm with some of his allies and find a way of settling the problems in the party.
“Thankfully, there is still ample time to discuss, harmonise and even settle differences. So, nobody should think these politicians don’t know what they are doing.”
Director, Support Group and Events Technical Committee, Atiku Abubakar for President 2023, Oladimeji Fabiyi, also confirmed Atiku’s trip to the United States.
He said the cacophony of voices in the party was not different from any other political party. He said the developments in the PDP, like any other big political party, was normal especially during the election cycle.
He added, “As you can see, even the ruling All Progressives Congress is going through some challenges too. The difference is that PDP is a party of the people owned by the people unlike the APC that is almost a one-man party.
“I make bold to say that there is no crisis in the PDP. Yes, there are dissenting voices which do not signal a crisis that can shake the foundation of the party. As a result, the emergence of Governor Okowa is a welcome development among all the organs of the party. You will recall that the candidate of our party, Atiku Abubakar, made very wide consultations before arriving at the choice of his running mate.
“The leadership of the party and the candidate will reach out to those voices that do not seem comfortable one way or the other because we know that PDP has to be united going into the upcoming election.”
Asked when Atiku would return to the country, he said, “as soon as possible,” adding that “those of us close to him encouraged him to take a break after the rigorous campaigns before the presidential primary. He will return before you know it.”
Fabiyi added, “Atiku will reach out to all critical stakeholders of the party, not just those with complaints. Atiku understands the fact that the party must first be united before we can go into election and no stone will be left unturned in achieving that. The key word here is engagement which Atiku is seriously doing in order to bring everyone together.
“I want to maintain that there is no tension in the party, it is just family differences which are already being attended to by the leadership of the party and the candidate. Even in states where we have pockets of differences they are being resolved by reconciliation committees across board. Like I said, every concerned party man and woman are being consulted.”
In a tweet on Saturday night, Atiku called for concerted efforts to move the country forward. He wrote, “Getting this country back on track will require all hands on deck. And I am excited to go on this journey with my vice-presidential candidate, H.E Dr Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa. Let’s come together as ONE (sic) towards a brighter future for all and for Nigeria.”