Leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are doing their utmost not to further inflame passions arising from the pre-election activities of its members. Still unable to return to power after eight years out, it is starting to show servile obedience and eagerness to please rebels within its ranks as it tries to figure out a route to rebound. Therefore, no matter how pugnacious or irritable some members may have been towards the common interest of the main opposition party, its national leadership seems to have resigned to accept them the way they are and thus, endure a difficult and unpleasant situation. This has become the approach to the G5 led by former Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike which is the imbroglio at the heart of the present dilemma bedevilling the PDP.
Unable to have its way in the immutable determination to oust Iyorchia Ayu as the national chairman of the party, the group pitched its tent against the party in the 2023 presidential election and helped Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to power. Though PDP stakeholders see that as a stab in the back, they are now careful to manage the disparate sentiments that rule the egos of the critical players.
At a recent meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) and select elders of the party, this was the new template set for reconciliation. Though the meeting was attended by over 180 invited party chieftains, the main protagonists in the pre-election feud, including Atiku and the G5 members were absent.
Before the Abuja meeting, there had been several sessions at the levels of the national ex-officio members, state chairmen, select members of the Board of Trustees (BoT) and members of the National Assembly, all part of the efforts to soften grounds for the main engagements.
The PDP acting national chairman, Iliya Damagum, who presided, had implored participants to be mindful of their utterances during their contributions in order not to aggravate already frayed nerves. “Anybody that is in this hall today is here by the virtue of the fact that he or she meant well for this party. I want to enjoin us to contribute in a manner that will not hurt the sensibilities of others. We are one family and so we shall remain,” he added.
Umar Bature, the national organizing secretary of the party, was even more forthcoming in the advocacy of letting old things pass away to begin anew as he insisted that despite what was perceived as the utterly detestable behaviour of the internal opposition led by Wike, tension must be doused. He totally dismissed suggestions to suspend erring members as he noted that such disciplinary measures were not the way to resolve the crisis. Observers say his position is understandable because many in the party had started to associate him, with the group accused of betraying the party upon whom they wanted sanctions to be applied.
Umar did surprise many in the PDP when he, along with some other supporters of the presidential candidate of the party in the 2023 elections, Atiku Abubakar, graced Wike’s thanksgiving service in Port Harcourt, at a time the party was struggling to fully take in the hurt blamed on the former Rivers governor.
But the national organising secretary posited: “We carefully and deliberately called for this meeting to, in a way, douse the pressure or tension within the party as a result of the aftermath of the 2023 elections. Let me acknowledge that this meeting is not a NEC meeting but an interactive meeting with the aim to jump start a reconciliation process.
“We are here today and everyone knows what happened in 2023. We contributed both individually and collectively. If you rise to speak, I beg you to spell out your own role in 2023 elections, either positive or negative, before you jump to accuse someone else, either negative or positive. Everybody had a role to play. When you rise to speak, please, tell us the role you played.
“You cannot accuse anybody here for playing pro or anti party activities. The aim is when we are through (with the meeting), we will have an idea of what to do with the party before we move to other organs like the national caucus, NEC for the way forward for the party. There is hope for the party because our membership is still very strong.
“We are conscious of the issues because we went to Port Harcourt and I am sure, that will come up here. I will explain why we went to Port Harcourt. We believe there are people here who will accuse some of our elders of certain roles they played.
“In my state, somebody suggested that we should suspend a member, but I said no. He is free to go to anywhere he wants. Suspending him means you are acknowledging that he has done something bad to the party. Suspension is not an answer to a bad behaviour towards the party,” he further admonished.
Former president of the Senate and chairman of PDP BoT, Adolphus Wabara, had also counselled members to watch their words, saying: “Let us watch how we attack ourselves. There will be time for that. The BOT waits to take some advisory decisions but then this is not the time.
“Frankly speaking, I didn’t expect that we still have this number in our party. I want to congratulate all of us for this having faith in this party. This is what will make us strong to clinch our stolen victory. We should not despair. We are in politics,” he added.
However, in as much as the PDP hierarchy is trying not to further rock the boat, its reconciliation effort is becoming more complicated due to President Bola Tinubu’s perceived desire to form a broad-based government that may include some of those considered as rebels in the PDP. Wike is widely tipped to be named a minister in the government and had indeed been a regular face in the presidential villa since Tinubu’s inauguration.
A few other PDP members who hope to be considered for appointments in the new administration are also thought to be wary of overt involvement in the reconciliation process in order not to hamper their chances of selection.
Wike’s handpicked successor in the Rivers State Government House, Simi Fubara, even though he is the deputy chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, shunned its inaugural meeting. He is yet to assume his position in the body, suggesting that he may still be under his former boss’ manipulation as far as the forum is concerned. All these have put a wedge in the reconciliation process in the party, causing it to grind slowly.
But the chairman of the PDP governors forum and governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, is confident that it can work in unity in the interest of their states and the party. The PDP national publicity secretary, Debo Ologunagba, also affirmed to Midweek Politics that, as it expects a favourable judgement, in its challenge of Tinubu’s declaration as president, the party is determined to achieve complete reconciliation and emerge stronger and better.