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Wednesday, May 22, 2024
POLITICS

Battle Lines Drawn: Atiku and Wike Camps Prepare for Political Clash

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• Govs, NASS members mobilise for NWC, BoT meetings

• Ex-Rivers gov’s group breaks 60 lawmakers’ ranks

• Why Acting National Chairman Damagum may survive

Ahead of Thursday’s meeting of the National Executive Committee(NEC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the camp of ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar and  Nyesom Wike/G-5 group have retreated into the trenches over plot to remove the party’s Acting National Chairman, Umar Ilya Damagum.

Although there are indications that Damagum may survive, Atiku’s camp is understood to be poised to fight to the end.

The Wike/G-5 group has thrown its weight behind Damagum.

Most party leaders and NEC members were last night also mobilising for Damagum.  Apart from breaking the ranks of the 60 PDP lawmakers in the House of Representatives, who recently demanded Damagum’s resignation, an aspirant for the office of National Chairman, David Ombugadu from North-Central, has declared his support for Damagum.

These developments have created anxiety in Atiku’s camp which is struggling to sell the “Operation Rescue PDP” agenda to party leaders and members.

Party sources told The Nation that PDP governors and many members are not convinced by Atiku’s camp’s campaign on salvaging the party.

Many of them cite his intermittent shuttles between Nigeria and Dubai.

Many leaders suspect that Atiku’s renewed interest in PDP affairs stems largely from his interest in the party’s presidential ticket for 2027.  But Atiku’s camp is not prepared to give up on seizing PDP from the control of Wike/G-5 group.

A party source said: “It is going to be a battle royale at the NEC meeting.

There are two opposing sides, namely those seeking to maintain the status quo from Wike/G5 Group and Atiku’s camp which wants to rescue PDP and return it to the 1999 era.

“Those sympathetic to Atiku’s agenda are also pushing for a virile opposition.

“But the situation is complicated by the 2027 poll hidden motives of some of the leaders in the two camps.

“All the groups/camps have retreated into the trenches ahead of the meeting. There is intense lobbying going on now. “

At the last count, those who want to unseat Damagum from the North-Central are Senator Gabriel Suswam and Dr. Emmanuel Agbo (Benue State), ex-Minister Humphrey Aba (Kogi State) and the 2023 governorship candidate of PDP in Nasarawa State, David Ombagudu.

There are two opposing sides, namely those seeking to maintain the status quo from Wike/G5 Group and Atiku’s camp which wants to rescue PDP and return it to the 1999 era.

“Those sympathetic to Atiku’s agenda are also pushing for a virile opposition.

“But the situation is complicated by the 2027 poll hidden motives of some of the leaders in the two camps.

“All the groups/camps have retreated into the trenches ahead of the meeting. There is intense lobbying going on now. ” At the last count, those who want to unseat Damagum from the North-Central are Senator Gabriel Suswam and Dr. Emmanuel Agbo (Benue State), ex-Minister Humphrey Aba (Kogi State) and the 2023 governorship candidate of PDP in Nasarawa State, David Ombagudu.

The kingmakers

Findings revealed that those who will determine the fate of Damagum and other aspirants are mostly officers of the party.

Some of the NEC members include PDP governors, the Chairman and Secretary of the Board of Trustees, members of the BOT (who have no voting rights), minority leaders in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, two Senators from each of the six geopolitical zones; the Deputy National Chairman; all National Vice Chairmen; the National Secretary and the Deputy National Secretary; the National Treasurer and the Deputy National Treasurer; the National Financial Secretary and the Deputy National Financial Secretary; all state chairmen of PDP, all former National Chairmen, Deputy National Chairmen, National Secretaries, Chairmen and Secretaries of the BOT who are still members of the party, the National Legal Adviser and the Deputy  National Legal  Adviser, six ex-officio members, among others.

A party source said: “Going by the composition of the NEC, Damagum may survive. Most members are drawn from the National Working Committee and other organs of the party.

“So far, most officers of the party are on the same page with Damagum. Atiku has an uphill task to pull his agenda through.”

Will Damagum allow selection of a new Acting Chairman?

It was confirmed last night that the agenda on the choice of a new Acting National Chairman at the NEC meeting will be determined by Damagum and his team.

“I don’t expect Damagum to come up with an agenda to remove him from office. But Atiku’s camp can invoke some clauses in PDP’s constitution at the meeting to amend the agenda,” a member of the National Working Committee said.

When contacted on the intrigues ahead of the NEC meeting, Damagum simply wrote: “I have no comment for now.”

Atiku’s dangerous gamble/G-5 threat

Also, there was fresh anxiety that the G-5 group may take over the party in the event that Damagum is removed.

It was learnt that as part of its Plan B, the G-5 will want Danagum’s successor to be from the South instead of the North-Central where four aspirants have emerged.

It was learnt that the G-5, some party leaders and NEC members have proposed power shift from the North to the South to solve the prolonged crisis in the party since the suspension of Dr. Iyorchia Ayu as the National Chairman of the party.

A source said: “If their scheming for power shift succeeds as the last option, the Deputy National Chairman (South), Taofeek Arapaja from the G-5, may take over.

Another source said: “The NEC meeting is another litmus test for Atiku.

He needs to watch the slippery terrain before deciding on his next direction.

“If Atiku’s Camp sacks Damagum, Arapaja may take over, which will be fatal to the career of the former presidential candidate of the PDP.”

But another source told our correspondent that “the G-5 members have lost their potency because they are no longer in government.

“Except for Wike and Governor Seyi Makinde, I don’t think the G-5 can match Atiku’s political dexterity.

“In fact, from the grapevine, we learnt the G-5 is divided because some clauses in pre-2023 Presidential Election Gentleman’s Agreement have not been met. They are not as united as we may assume.

“There are lots of issues on this NEC meeting. Let us leave everything open.”

 I’m duty-bound to abide by party decision – Ombugadu

Damagum, in a statement yesterday, said ahead of the Thursday meeting that he was being supported by some PDP members to settle for a party leadership position.

He said he was “duty-bound to abide by party decision.”

“Lately, various groups of well-meaning members of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have intensified a clarion call for me to be given a responsibility by the party at the national level,” he said.

He added: “I feel humbled that much of these calls emphasise our antecedents,  especially with keen references to our creativity, stamina, innovation, the populist enthusiasm that was aroused as well as the  dividends of democracy that our mandate yielded all over Nasarawa State; worthy attestations from the good people of Akwanga/Nasarawa Eggon/ Wamba Federal Constituency whom I represented between 2011-2019 and the very positive impacts of our keen pursuit of the gubernatorial ticket of Nasarawa State in 2019 and 2023 remain very relevant.

Credit: The Nation