The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has once again weighed in on the internal affairs of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.
In a statement on Sunday, the party decried the seeming influence of Governor Nyesom Wike over the PDP, saying it is ready to welcome freedom lovers in the opposition who are willing to abandon it for the Rivers State governor.
“The PDP to all intents and purposes has become the theatre of the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike,” APC’s spokesperson, Yekini Nabena, said. “Since assuming office after the disputed 2015 Rivers Governorship election, Wike has assumed the role of de facto PDP National Chairman, sole administration, spokesman, organising secretary and BoT Chairman.”
The statement weighed in on the recent controversy over the venue of the party’s national convention where its presidential candidate would be chosen. Mr Wike insisted that the convention must be moved to Port-Harcourt, saying holding such a high-profile event in his state would bring tremendous economic benefits.
But not all the presidential aspirants were comfortable with Port Harcourt, although they did not openly express their reservations. But Mr Wike knew that some camps within the PDP were looking for a different town or city to hold the event, and moved to neutralise them earlier this week.
On Wednesday, the governor threatened presidential aspirants to desist from suggesting any other venue outside Port Harcourt, or risk suffering heavy political misfortune at the general election next February.
None of the over a dozen PDP presidential aspirants openly responded to Mr Wike’s comments, but he was eventually made to apologise for it during a PDP National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja on Friday. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was amongst those who did not favour Port-Harcourt, PREMIUM TIMES learnt from sources in his campaign, fearing that Mr Wike would use “a home advantage” to impose Aminu Tambuwal, his Sokoto State counterpart who recently defected to the PDP from the ruling APC.
Mr Wike, reports said, had promised to give Mr Tambuwal the presidential ticket of the PDP. But there are concerns that the Sokoto governor does not have enough political influence to defeat incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
It was at the NEC meeting that Port Harcourt was announced as the venue of the party’s convention on October 6-7, and the message immediately went out that Mr Wike has once again had his way over all other powerful interests within the party.
All the aspirants who spoke publicly after Port Harcourt was chosen said they were comfortable with the arrangement, but critics continue to castigate Mr Wike as exerting too much influence over the party.
“It is surprising that the PDP with its supposed seasoned politicians will sit by and allow Governor Wike use the PDP as his personal property, to determine who gets what, when and how, and where party conventions must be held. What happened to internal party democracy? Of course, this is an alien concept to the PDP,” the APC said.
The APC said it operates a mechanism that enhances internal democratic ethos, urging “PDP members who genuinely believe in our progressive ideologies are encouraged to leave the sinking PDP and join the APC where their voices will be heard and decisions taken collectively.
“They should leave the Wike Autocratic Party (WAP) for the Rivers State Governor and his minions, bent on foisting their unpopular and undemocratic will on the majority,” it said.
A spokesperson for Mr Wike did not immediately return requests for comments Sunday afternoon.
Kola Ologbondiyan, a spokesperson for the PDP, told PREMIUM TIMES the APC’s comments reflect a party completely bereft of ideas on how to engage in crucial national issues heading into general elections.
“We have said it over and again that the APC has nothing new to offer Nigerians,” Mr Ologbondiyan said. “Having spent the last three years lying to Nigerians, the party is now consumed by hate and diversionary tactics.”
“Having created economic doom for all the people of Nigeria, and because they have no achievements upon which they can predicate their general elections campaign, they are propagating nonsense that the largest political party in Africa is a party of one man,” Mr Ologbondiyan said.
He dismissed the APC’s claim that its internal procedures are more effective than the PDP.
“The PDP has internal mechanism to assuage all political interests within the party. We have the capacity to manage issues in our party and emerge as one united entity.
“But what do you make of an entity that is so dysfunctional that it cannot come with one template on how to handle elections. One state is doing direct primaries and another is doing indirect primaries. That is why their factional chairman Adams Oshimohole could be saying the people who are coming to politics should be prepared to suffer rigging,” the PDP spokesperson said.
The APC is holding its primaries in 27 states across the country today, after weeks of emergency postponements. Eighteen states are conducting indirect primaries today, while the remaining nine opted for the direct method.
Mr Oshiomhole recently told a press conference that democracy thrives when people are ready to bear the brunt of rigging. Although the ruling party chairman corrected himself on the spot, critics circulated the video online as further proof that the governorship election in Osun State was rigged as repeatedly alleged by the PDP and independent observers who strongly condemned the exercise in their reports.