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Atiku, Wike Battle for PDP Intensifies Ahead of NEC Meeting

Tension brews as PDP’s NEC meeting nears, with Atiku and Wike camps vying for control of the party’s NWC

Ahead of the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scheduled for April 18, there is palpable tension over the battle for the control of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) by the camps of the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, investigation has revealed.

The tension emanated from revelations that Wike will remain in the PDP and work for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2027 presidential election, while Atiku will contest for the PDP’s presidential ticket.

The North-central is expected to present its anointed candidate for the position of the party’s National Chairman to NEC on April 18.

Former Governor of Benue State, Senator Gabriel Suswam and former Minister of Police Affairs, Humphrey Abba, have indicated an interest in succeeding the sacked substantive National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu.

However, the two contenders, who are also from Benue State where Ayu hails from, have refused to publicly align with Atiku or Wike’s camp for strategic reasons as such move may backfire and cost any of them the position.

THISDAY gathered that with Wike’s body language, which indicates that he will likely work for the APC in the 2027 presidential election, stakeholders in the PDP are concerned that if the party’s structure slips into his hands, he will weaken the party to pave the way for the victory of the APC.

Wike had said severally that he would not contest against President Bola Tinubu in 2027 which implied that he would work for the re-election of the president against his party’s presidential candidate as he did in the 2023 general election.  

His critics believe his strategy is to seize the PDP’s structure and further weaken the party to ensure an easy ride for the APC presidential candidate in 2027.

“Wike claims to be in PDP; he has refused to resign officially. But he is working for APC administration. If he is handed over the party’s structure, he will weaken it for the APC to retain power in 2027.

“It is for this reason that there is palpable tension in the party over who will have the upper hand in the battle to control the soul of the party by both camps,” a member of NEC said.

Newsmen gathered that the NWC led by the acting National Chairman of the party, Ambassador Iliya Damagun, had been reluctant to summon the NEC meeting due to the continued intrigues between Atiku and Wike’s camps.

The rivalry between the presidential candidate of the party in the 2023 election and the former Rivers State governor was a fallout of the party’s presidential primary and the subsequent selection of the presidential running mate of the party.

Atiku’s refusal to pick Wike as the vice-presidential candidate after defeating him in the presidential primary drove a wedge into their relationship and created cracks in the PDP.

Wike consequently worked against the election of the former vice president by throwing his support behind the then-candidate of the APC, Tinubu.

Wike is strongly believed to be nursing the ambition of controlling the party’s affairs despite working for the APC administration.

The former Rivers State governor still retains the loyalty of key members of the NEC and the NWC who are likely to do his bidding.

For instance, it was gathered that the National Secretary of the party, Senator Sam Anyanwu; the party’s National Vice Chairman (South), Dan Orbih; the Deputy National Chairman, South, Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja, among others, are perceived as Wike loyalists.

The governor of Oyo State, Mr. Seyi Makinde, who is also a member of the party’s NEC, is also a close ally of the FCT minister.

It was learnt that the presence of Wike’s supporters in the strategic decision-making organs of the PDP was one of the reasons the NWC has been unable to act on his alleged anti-party activities, which the NEC is likely going to consider.

There were indications that pressure was mounting on the NWC not to call the NEC meeting earlier because of the fear that it could play into the hands of Wike.

Atiku, who has been out of the country, has now returned ostensibly to prepare for the showdown ahead of the NEC meeting.

One of the issues being raised by Atiku’s camp against the FCT minister was his alleged anti-party activities.

They view his role in the PDP as very suspicious and is also being perceived by his critics in the party as a mole.

Wike has severally claimed that he accepted the ministerial position in the APC government with the knowledge of the members of the NWC of the PDP.

The Atiku’s camp, it was learnt, may call for the suspension of Wike and members of his G-5 governors for alleged anti-party activities.

But THISDAY was told that another group is opposed to the suspension of the FCT minister and his allies on the grounds that any disciplinary action will further polarise and weaken the PDP.  

However, it is not certain if Wike will be attending the NEC meeting.

The FCT minister is also engaged in a battle of supremacy with his successor, Governor Sim Fubara over the control of the recently dissolved party’s structure in the state.

The FCT minister’s loyalist, Tony Okocha is the acting Chairman of the Rivers State APC and the minister also wants to control the caretaker committee of the PDP in the state. 

But Fubara is said to have vowed that he would resist Wike’s attempt to also control the PDP structure in the state.

In all the PDP states, like in other states, the control of the party structures at the state level is vested in the governors.

It was gathered that the NEC may also look into the situation in Rivers State where 25 members of the state House of Assembly elected on the platform of the PDP defected to the APC allegedly under the instruction of Wike.

The committee will also deliberate on the issue of the next substantive chairman of the party who will replace Ayu.

Ayu resigned in March last year following sustained pressure from the G-5.

Chuks Okocha

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