…We’re still engaging with Wike – Campaign spokesperson
‘…After the elections, the party may decide’
The special adviser to the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on media and communication, Simon Imobo-Tswam, has said his principal, Prof. Iyorchia Ayu, would not resign his position as the party’s helmsman in order not throw up a constructional crisis.
Speaking exclusively to Blueprint Weekend in Makurdi, the Benue state capital, Imobo-Tswam said the question of whether or not the national chairman was willing to resign “does not even arise.”
When reminded that there was an agreement that should a Northerner emerge as the party’s presidential flag-bearer at the primary, his boss should resign, Imobo-Tswam said, “It is not a question of whether or not he will be willing to resign. I mean why should he resign? Why are they saying he should resign? People don’t understand the whole thing. Why does a man elected for a four-year tenure and has not done one year should be asked to resign?
“Have you seen the agreement? We are intelligent people. We are not in the Stone Age. They say there was an agreement; where did he sign it and with whom? At what time? People just say it in the media and in the streets. What I know he said, because I have seen the video, is that Dr. Iyorchia Ayu said two things. Prior to his emergence as national chairman of PDP, in an interview on Channels TV to the effect that the journalist asked him that if a candidate emerged from the North what would you do given that you are from the North-central? And Ayu said luckily for me, PDP has not married party positions with party executive positions.”
Speaking further, he said, “He said something very pivotal. He said if a candidate emerged from the North and the party said he should step down in the interest of balance, he would step down. But the question is, has the party spoken? Rather, the party at the last NEC meeting gave him and other executives an overwhelming vote of confidence. So, why did the party not ask him to step aside following the emergence of Atiku who is from the North-east? The party knows that if Ayu resigns now, it will throw the party into a constitutional crisis. If he resigns now, he will have to hand over to the deputy chairman (North) who is from Yobe state, Alhaji Ambassador Illya Damagu.
“So, if you say Ayu should step down because he is from the North- central and Atiku from the North-east and Damagu is from the North-east, what would you do with the North-west and the North-central? If he leaves, NEC will meet to appoint an acting chairman. But by the Constitution of the party, NEC will appoint his successor from the same zone to replace him. If you say Ayu should resign because he is from the North, it doesn’t change anything. And we are saying that the party is a constitutional creation. That is why when they asked Atiku in Lagos, he said the only way this can be resolved is if the Constitution of the party is changed.”
According to the special adviser, “The only way Ayu can go and the North will lose the chairmanship is if the party holds another convention outside an amendment to the Constitution.”
He said, “We have six months to the election; we should be talking about winning the elections and not about forming a convention committee. The party holds that it is not feasible right now. So, the party is quiet. After the elections, the party may decide. People who are saying that he should resign, but what if the candidate loses the election? It is another point we are not factoring in. People who say these things do so because they are not mindful of history.
“In 2006, the national chairman was Ahmadu Ali and Yar’Adua was the presidential candidate. He later won his election and Ahmadu Ali remained in office. Throughout 2007, he was in office. It was in 2008 that the party held a convention and replaced him. In 2009, Yar’Adua died and Goodluck Jonathan took over, and the party chairman then was Vincent Ogbulafor from the South-east. He was in office until he had issues with the Presidency; he was taken to court and ICPC and he had to resign. Who succeeded him after that? It was Nwodu from the same South-east. So, that is the tradition; if Ayu leaves, the person who will succeed him will be from the North-central. Nobody asked Ogbulafor to resign because he was from the same zone.”
Lost between Ayu and Gov Ortom
On whether there was love lost between his boss and the Benue state governor, Samuel Ortom, the special adviser said, “There is no issue between the chairman and his governor; both of them are united in displacing the APC from power so that PDP will come back to office on a rescue mission. If there is any problem between the two you will know.”
His scorecard so far
Imobo-Swam said, “When the chairman, Senator (Dr.) Ayu, came into office, the PDP was in a state of near collapse. There were crises at multi-levels of the party. So, the first task he had to do was to unify the party. Coming from that broad consensus, it was easier for him to hit the ground running. He unified the party at the national level, zonal level, state level and the local government level. This is because without unity you can’t achieve anything; that was the first task.
“When he took over, he started the rescue and restoration status of the party. As a result of the unifying efforts he spearheaded as chairman of the party and head of NWC of the party, PDP was able to do very well in the subsequent elections that followed. Before he came, PDP was on the losing side, but because of the reconciliation and the unifying process he embarked upon we did very well in the elections that followed. In the FCT, we cleared those elections. If you are an outsider you will think it was a split between the PDP and the APC, but no, it wasn’t. We have issues with the initial outcome, but if you look at Abuja as it is, PDP won in all the metropolitan centres and that is where you have the whole country, from the North and the South congregating.”
He said further that, “We won decisively in all positions in the metropolitan centres. We cleared all the seats in the area councils. We got almost eighty per cent of the number of councillors. And APC was able to produce three chairmanships. So, the question now is how did they get that, where did the votes come from? The people can’t separate the chairman from the councillors. Hence, if you look at the whole thing, we cleared everything.
“We believed that if everything was well, PDP would have cleared the seats and would have been declared winner in all the six area councils. We went ahead and did very well in all the elections that followed in the North and South. But the climax was in Osun state. We won that election so decisively that even the incumbent governor and his party were stunned. They didn’t see it coming. If they are in court today, it is just because somebody must be in court. All these are what the party has been able to do and what the able leadership of Dr. Ayu has been providing. And where we stand today, Nigerians are seeing PDP as the next party in the government. So, when you see the poster of our candidate, Atiku Abubakar, you are seeing the incoming president. We are prepared and ready and our message to Nigerians is, keep hope, and be alive, PDP is coming.”
Has the party settled with Wike?
Likewise, the spokesperson for the Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign, Daniel Bawa, while featuring on Arise TV’s programme, The Morning Show, on Friday, monitored by Blueprint Weekend, who was asked to say if the party had settled its rift with the Rivers state governor, Nysom Wike, said, “We have moved on with our campaigns. That is why two Tuesdays that passed, we had engagements in Enugu, where we engaged with the South-east stakeholders. We had a massive reception and welcome. We got the assurances of the people of the South-east that they are supporting the party. Then this last Wednesday, we had a meeting with stakeholders in the North-east. So, we have moved on with our campaigns. To me, it will be a little bit strange if we are forced to believe that we have not moved on. Are we engaging with Wike?”
He added, “Yes, as a political party, you don’t assume that everything is over until it is surely over. And those people tasked with the responsibility of engaging them from the BoT are sure that there is marked progress. His last public outing was a press meeting with the world. Since then, there is no official statement by Wike that suggests that he is still angry. Rather, what we have seen is that the candidate of the party visited him last week. Even the BoT visited him sometime last week or so. We have also seen that they went to Enugu to engage with his friends and we have also seen that appreciable progress was made in that regard. As far as I am concerned, based on our manifesto and agenda, we have engaged very well in the party. It is a celebrated progress.”
Campaigns beginning in Akwa Ibom
On why the campaigns are taking off from Akwa Ibom state, “We have the kick-off of the campaigns in Akwa Ibom state. This is because Akwa Ibom is in the South- south. We have had stakeholders’ engagement in the South-east and the North- east and got their support. So, we intend to commence campaigns in Akwa Ibom in the South-south. The stakeholders in the South-south are overwhelmingly supporting and preparing for this kick-off. The South-south is the Camp David of PDP. The South-south has the highest number of PDP governors in Nigeria. It has produced the vice-presidential candidate of the party. It has always delivered for the PDP, and it is set to deliver even more. Our message is for people to listen to what Atiku Abubakar has to say and our approach is known to be peaceful.
“We are willing to engage them, listen to their criticisms and questions, and see how we can send this message that Nigeria is first of all in the doldrums. Nigeria is in trouble and everybody in Nigeria is asking how do we get out of the problem? We are coming to Nigeria with a better agenda in our own view and experts have judged that our plans for Nigerians are more realistic, down to earth and have appreciable relations. This is what is going to guide our engagement whether in Akwa Ibom, Katsina or the rest of Nigeria.”
When asked to say whether or not Atiku would participate in another debate after disappointing Nigerians in 2019, Bwala said, “Let me apologise on behalf of Atiku Abubakar even though I don’t know his reasons. Once you are called for a debate and the debate is fair, you would want to participate. The attitude and conduct of Atiku Abubakar since the commencement of the 2023 campaigns has shown that he has been leading in the charge for engagement with Nigerians. That is why he is the first to roll out his plans for the Nigerian people. He has appeared at the NBA event by himself. He has appeared before the Chambers of Commerce, where he was thoroughly interrogated on his economic policies. He has happily been receiving the feedback and giving them the responses required. He has participated in a number of television programmes and is willing to appear more. He is predisposed to appear in any debate that is organised by any respected committee. It is other political parties, especially the ruling party; that the presidential candidate will run when it is time for signing. He will dodge when he is to appear in the NBA. Even when the press asked for a live interview, he looked at the person in the face and said he does not owe any person any responsibility.
Stressing the former vice-president’s plans for the education sector, the campaign spokesperson said, “With regards to education, our approach will be to revamp the education sector, to provoke the reform that will see certain parts of the state develop. That is what used to be before the federal government took over the management of regional universities. We will now go back to that arrangement where the federating units will have a consolidated arrangement with the federal government. We will look at areas like science and technology; we will look at medicine and other areas that will boost our economy. Our policy is private participation and free market economy. So, we are going to encourage Nigerian investors to invest in private universities, beef it up with all the facilities stated.
“When we generate revenues from the subsidies we intend to put up, we are going to give scholarships to the Nigerian people and our universities will compete with the rest of the world. With regards to security, our approach is to increase the number of our soldiers and police at the federal government level. This is because we are proposing restructuring even with state police. We are proposing for the federal government to have a blueprint of a multiple layer policing system and we believe that with that we will be able to checkmate some of this policing system at the local level. But beyond that, Atiku is going to motivate those who work.
“There is a video in circulation where soldiers are complaining of being neglected. Did you know that in the last seven years, the federal government has spent N9.3 trillion in defence and we have done everything conceivable under the heavens from Tucano to everything? Yet, we are losing the war because of leadership. So, we are going to look at which way that will work. We believe state police will solve that. In the area of uniting Nigeria, we believe that this restiveness we find in the South-east and the South-south is because some parts of the country believe that they are not part of the government. They are not incorporated in governance and affairs. Our policy will make sure everybody in Nigeria is part of us.”