The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, on Wednesday, inaugurated the party ‘s Presidential Campaign Council in line with the 2023 elections timetable of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
However, the PDP’s PCC inauguration which was held at the International Conference Centre, was marked with the launch of three books written in honour of the presidential candidate, Atiku.
The event was attended by PDP governors, ex-governors and top chieftains of the party, among others.
Speaking at the unveiling of three books in honour of Atiku, former Vice-President Namadi Sambo, described the former Customs boss as a man who knew the pathway to rescue Nigeria
“You can’t read this book (Atiku: The Story of Atiku Abubakar) without appreciating him as a political driver, who not only has the experience to drive on the political road but also knows the rule on how to rescue Nigeria.
“It is very important that from today, as the campaign commences, all hands are on deck so that we can work together to get the victory at the end of the day,” he admonished.
Delivering his speech shortly after the inauguration of the campaign council, Atiku lamented that the Nigerian federation is not working, citing the myriad of challenges bedeviling the nation since the PDP handed over power to the ruling All Progressives Congress in 2015.
Alleging that the PDP was cheated out of its electoral victory in 2019, Atiku said the nation had since descended into anarchy since the APC took over power.
He stated, “Since the loss at the polls of 2019 till now, and under the watch of the current APC government, our dear country has witnessed a frightening descent into anarchy.
“Our nation is currently in the throes of a multidimensional crisis encompassing insecurity, economic meltdown, disunity and mutual mistrust, to mention a few.
“To start with, the current government has failed at the very essence of what makes a government: the security of lives and property of its citizens. Our security challenges are legion, and I do not need to bore you by rehashing them here.
“Our economy is in shambles, growth has stagnated, and our people are facing massive existential challenges daily. Hunger is the norm today in our country.
“Our nation is in disarray. The fabric of unity that binds our country is, today, being torn apart by mutual distrust, ethnic and sectarian strife and we are now more disunited than we have ever been in our history, including even when we fought a civil war.’’
He added, ‘’Our system of government is broken. Our current system is unfair, unwieldy, skewed towards favouring the Federal Government at the expense of the other federating units, and has in itself, become a willing tool for underdevelopment.
‘’This kind of system of government is no longer suited to the challenges of a 21st century economy that works for everyone and that is needed to bring development closer to our people.
“But all hope is not lost. We have a plan to address these issues and to arrest the drift of our nation. These plans have been laid out in the document titled, ‘My Covenant with Nigerians’.’’
He equally promised to build a strong and effective democratic government where the safety and security of the people and their property would be the primary and singularly most important responsibility.
The Chairman of the PCC and the governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, said the PDP has all it takes to win the election.
Emmanuel stated, “I want to say here that we must not mind the doomsayers. I read everywhere all those doomsayers saying the PDP here, PDP there, but I want to assure you that the PDP is a solid rock and we know that no matter the wind, it will not move the rock.
“So, irrespective of the wind that you see around the rock, it will not move the rock. The rock remains as solid as ever. Please don’t mind the doomsayers.
“We want to assure you that we are campaigning to win. Nothing is acceptable to the PDP outside victory for the PDP, but this will also require that all of us must also work.
“This time, there is no sitting in Abuja. Everybody will have to work hard and carry the message home. The PDP is not an Abuja party. You win from your unit, your ward and not by sitting in Abuja. The campaign council will take the message to the units.
“If we had made mistakes in the past, we cannot turn back the clock. We cannot recall what passed yesterday but we can move forward in the spirit of oneness, unity and progress.”
On his part, Sokoto State governor and Director-General of the campaign council, Aminu Tambuwal said PDP is the party to beat in the forthcoming election.
‘’It is only for us to work and with God on our side, we shall deliver this victory to our party and to Nigerians. We have the support of Nigerians and we appeal that INEC conduct a free and fair election,’’ he submitted.
Speaking at the programme, the Deputy National Chairman (North), Iliya Damagun, who represented the embattled National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu gave reasons for the latter’s absence.
“I want to give the excuse of my national chairman who is unavoidably absent. He is far away in Europe addressing some health challenges, but he sent his goodwill message to all of you,” he said.
His brief address read in part, “The legacies of our party while in government speak volumes. We can no longer stay by the side and blow our trumpet.
“While we are making every effort to unify all aggrieved individuals or groups arising from the primaries, we know that the PDP is more focused than now.”
True to their decision not to be part of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and his Oyo and Benue counterparts, Seyi Makinde and Samuel Ortom, shunned the inauguration of the campaign council which was held in Abuja.
Others who were conspicuously absent were Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Prof Jerry Gana, ex-Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose and former governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang.
The list of top party chieftains who did not attend the party’s presidential campaign inauguration also includes ex-Cross River State governor, Donald Duke, Chief Bode George, and former Ondo State governor, Olusegun Mimiko.
But on hand to lend support to the party’s presidential candidate were the governors of Adamawa State, Ahmadu Fintiri, Bala Mohammed (Bauchi State); Duoye Diri (Bayelsa State); Godwin Obaseki (Edo State); Darius Ishaku (Taraba State) and the Delta State governor and vice-presidential candidate, Ifeanyi Okowa.
Others include former Senate Presidents, Adolphus Wabara (also the current PDP BoT chairman) and Bukola Saraki; former governors Boni Haruna (Adamawa), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina), Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and a host of other party stalwarts.
Atiku had deployed his special envoy and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki to appeal to the Wike’s group, which penultimate Wednesday pulled out of the campaign council, citing the refusal of the national chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu, to step down.
A member of the NWC had earlier in the week told The PUNCH that Saraki’s intervention was yielding results, attributing Ortom’s decision to back Ayu to Saraki’s reconciliatory efforts.
However, Ortom, a known Wike ally boycotted the event, a development his associates attributed to the treatment allegedly meted out to him by Atiku.
Speaking with our correspondent in confidence, an ally of Governor Ortom said, “The group His Excellency (Ortom) belongs to decided not to attend. He is a team player and they decided they were not going to be part of it. That is it.”
An aide of the Benue State governor, however, linked the development to a purported sour relationship between Atiku and Ortom, saying, “Atiku’s camp didn’t like the reception Ortom gave them when Atiku visited Benue. You know back then, what dominated the news was that Ortom blasted Atiku for not visiting Benue when Fulani herdsmen attacked Benue communities.
“We were made to give wide publicity to that accusation such that it overshadowed everything Atiku visited Benue for. But Atiku felt Ortom was not fair to him. He reportedly gave the governor some funds during the re-run elections when Ortom was financially spent and afraid of the Federal Government’s plans to remove him.
“Then, also when they all left the PDP for the APC in 2014, Atiku allegedly gave the governor some money to support him with his election. Atiku feels Ortom is indebted to him but Ortom doesn’t feel the same. This is the cause of their problem.”
Also giving an insight into the absence of the five governors at the PCC inauguration, a member of the National Working Committee, who chose to speak on condition of anonymity said, “There is no way Wike, Makinde, Ikpeazu and others would have attended that event. Their demand for Ayu’s removal has not been met. Some people think they own the party but they don’t. They would learn their lesson the hard way.”
Asked why Makinde did not attend the PCC event, the Publicity Secretary of the PDP in Oyo State, Mr Akeem Olatunji, said he could not provide an explanation but added that the party was in total support of any step taken by the governor whom he said meant well for the party.
He said, “His Excellency is a man of his word and he has told them his mind and what he said is in the interest of the party, so it is left for them to look at it. We are in support of everything he does because he means well.
“We do not have any presidential candidate apart from Alhaji Atiku Abubakar so they should look at what Governor Makinde said so that we all can rejoice in 2023.”
However, the spokesperson of the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organization, Senator Dino Melaye, dismissed fears that the withdrawal of Wike and his loyalists may threaten Atiku’s chances in the election.
He said, “My reaction is that the campaign has taken off and anyone who didn’t join us at the take-off point should flag us down on the road and we will stop and pick him up. The vehicle has taken off and anyone who didn’t join us will have to flag us down.
“It is not a threat, we are okay. The campaign is going on well. You can see the assembly of people there today. All those prominent individuals and governors are physically present.
“The elections are not about individuals but about collective interests. However, it is not too late for them to join the train.’’
Asked if Atiku was disappointed by the governors’ boycott of the event, the former lawmaker said, “We are not disappointed in anybody. Atiku is a magnanimous character. PDP is their house and they are welcome anytime they are willing to join us but the campaign is focused and Nigerians are happy.”
Meanwhile, a PDP chieftain, Chris Finebone has said the absence of Wike and his allies at the PCC inauguration ceremony did not come as a surprise.
Finebone, who is the immediate past Publicity Secretary of the APC expressed dismay that the calls for the resignation of the PDP chairman was taking too long to handle ‘’because some powers that be were ignoring the need and agitation for balancing the party structure at the national level.’’
On his part, a PDP chieftain and former member of the National Assembly, Chief Ogbonna Nwuke submitted that the boycott of the event by Wike and other party bigwigs showed their disapproval of Atiku’s scheme to promote a Northern agenda.