Minority party Senators are spoiling for a showdown with the immediate past governor of Rivers State, Nyesome Wike over what they perceive as manoeuvring to foist his choice on them as the next Senate Minority Leader.
Wike is currently not in the good books of some PDP stakeholders who blame him for the party’s misfortune in the February 25 presidential election.
Party sources told The Nation yesterday that the plan by the anti-Wike forces to get him and other members of the G5 sanctioned is frustrating reconciliation efforts of the PDP acting National Chairman, Umar Damagum.
The PDP, LP, NNPP and YPP senators in a statement in Abuja yesterday alleged a plot to destabilise the minority caucus.
They vowed to resist any plot to foist a one party dictatorship on the Senate.
Their words: “It has come to the notice of the Minority Political Parties in the Senate of an attempt by forces inside and outside the Senate to divide the Minority Parties and foist a pliant and compromised leadership on them.
“We have pledged to work constructively with the new Senate leadership and the Executive branch to deliver good governance to the Nigerian people.
“We consequently hereby advise and caution that they should not aid any group inside or outside the Senate to divide and destabilise the minority parties and the Senate institution.
“Senators of the minority Parties would meet when the Senate reconvenes and, in consultation with our respective political parties, would select its leaders without undue interference from anti-democratic forces within or outside the Senate.
“For the avoidance of doubt, no Senator has yet been endorsed or selected for any Minority position, as this would await due process as agreed by all Minority Parties in their last meeting.
“Attempt to foist a one party dictatorship would be resisted and would fail. We call on all members of the Minority Political Parties to work together in unity to defend the democratic institution of the Senate and Nigeria.”
The statement was signed by Senators Adamu Aliero, Henry Seriake Dickson, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Abdul Ningi and Patrick Abba Moro for the PDP; Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi for LP; Senator Kawu Samaila for NNPP and Senator Ifeanyi Ubah for YPP.
Although the signatories made no mention of anyone in their statement, sources said they had Wike in mind.
It was gathered that the signatories were already concerned that Wike succeeded in getting his ally, Kingsley Chinda, endorsed by the Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives as the next Minority Leader of the House.
They were also said to be unhappy with him for mobilising support for Senate President Godswill Akpabio against Senator AbdulAziz Yari who was their choice for the office.
Wike met with Akpabio on Thursday evening at the National Assembly for over two hours.
The former Rivers State governor, who wore a black suit, left the Senate wing of the National Assembly at about 6:30pm in the convoy of Akpabio, Deputy President of the Senate, Barau Jibrin, and other senators like Saliu Mustapha and Isah Jibrin as well as Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Abdullahi Abubakar Gumel.
A source said Wike may be throwing his weight behind Jarigbe Agom-Jarigbe (Cross River North) in the race for the Minority Leader contest
PDP stakeholders press for sanctions against Wike, Makinde, Ortom, others
It was gathered that plan by the Acting National Chairman of the PDP, Ambassador Umar Damagum, to set in motion reconciliation machinery in the party is facing an uphill task from some stakeholders who are insisting on sanctions against Wike, Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde, the immediate past Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, and his counterparts from Enugu and Abia states, Ifeanyi Ugwuayi and Okezie Ikpeazu respectively, for their alleged anti-party activities during the last elections.
Sources said the anti-Wike forces are insisting that punitive measures against the G5 is the only way to restore sanity to the party.
They are determined to stop any of his allies from emerging as the Minority Leader of the 10th Senate.
The PDP, with 36 senators, is expected to produce the next Minority Leader ahead of Labour Party (LP) with eight senators, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) with two senators each and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Young People’s Party (YPP) with one senator each.
The National Organising Secretary of the party, Umar Bature, had said the PDP is now more focused on how to douse tension and kick start reconciliation in the aftermath of the last presidential election than on how to punish people for anti-party activities.
Bature spoke at a meeting of a select committee of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party at the party’s secretariat on Tuesday.
The PDP Organising Secretary specifically said the party would not apportion blame, suspend, expel or accuse anybody of participating in anti-party activities during the last general elections.
“This party believes that Atiku Abubakar won the election. But we are in court, and without prejudice to what the court will decide, we will keep it aside.
“Let me acknowledge that this is not a NEC meeting but an interactive meeting with the aim of jump-starting 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 the 2023 elections, whether positive or negative, before you jump to accuse someone else, whether negative or positive,” he said.
Speaking at the meeting, acting National Chairman of the party, Umar Damagun, said the meeting was in continuation of the NWC’s consultation with critical stakeholders in a bid to chart the way forward for the party after the last election.
“We have had a series of meetings with the members of the National Ex Officio, state Chairmen, select BoT and members of the National Assembly.
This is a continuation of that meeting and it was borne out of what has happened during those meetings and we said there was a need for us to call this one,” he said.
But some other PDP chieftains who spoke at the meeting rejected the plan of the NWC to push for reconciliation without punishing members who they blamed for the party’s poor outing in the February/March elections.
“According to them, it will be wrong for the party to pretend that nothing happened during that period.
Said a source: “Many of our leaders and chieftains, especially those in the camp of Atiku, are opposed to the peace agenda spelt out at the meeting by the Organising Secretary.
“We are sure he spoke the mind of the acting National Chairman, but I can tell you it is not the position of the NWC.
“Many of us in the NWC are insisting there must be punishment for defaulters before we can have peace. Otherwise, we will be rewarding disloyalty in the party and discouraging loyalty.
“If truly we want peace, we must review the past and correct the ills of the past so that they won’t be repeated in future.
“What the leadership of the party is trying to do now will backfire. We will resist it,” a member of the NWC from the Southwest told our correspondent on Saturday, adding that many party leaders shunned the meeting because they were aware of the intentions of the conveners.
The Nation also gathered that at some of the meetings held by the NWC with members of PDP organs, the fate of former governor Wike and others accused of anti-party activities have continued to frustrate reconciliation moves by the leadership of the party.
“We have not been able to agree on what to do with them. So, for some people to now pretend to be moving on as if all have been resolved is unacceptable.
“At the meetings with state chairmen and BoT members, the leadership of the party was told in clear terms by stakeholders that reconciliation will start when those who defied the party and worked against it during the last general election are identified and punished accordingly.
“That was the majority opinion. So how can someone now be saying we have resolved not to apportion blame? What manner of peace are we working towards?” the source queried.
Although The Nation gathered that invitations were extended to all stakeholders of the party ahead of the meeting, the presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, his running mate, Ifeanyi Okowa, as well as aggrieved members of the Integrity group led by former Governor Wike were all absent at the meeting.
It was also gathered that while the PDP may have settled to present Senator Patrick Abba Moro from Benue State as its candidate for the seat, Wike and his allies in the G5 may be pushing for the emergence of Sen. Jarigbe Agom-Jarigbe from Cross Rivers State as the Minority Leader.
The PDP is said to be banking on the cooperation of minority senators to get the seat for its preferred candidate while Wike and his allies are discussing with the leadership of the Senate and other opposition parties with members in the chamber to outwit the PDP in the race for the Minority Leadership.