Sunday PUNCH reliably gathered that the main opposition party was considering expelling key members of the G-5 governors elected on its platform, who refused to support the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in the February 25, 2024 presidential election.
It was learnt that the PDP was planning to show the exit door to the immediate governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, who was the arrow head of the rebel governors, as well as the immediate governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom.
Apart from not supporting Atiku, the party considers the current romance Wike and Ortom are having with Tinubu and the APC as serious anti-party activity, whose consequence is expulsion.
The PDP has therefore warned that if the former governors accept any appointment from the President and the APC, they would be summarily expelled from the party.
It is not clear yet what the PDP plans to do with the other members of the G-5 as Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State is serving his second term on the platform of the party and participated at the recent retreat of the party in Bauchi, while the immediate past governors of Abia and Enugu states, Okezie Ikpeazu and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, appear to be in political wilderness having lost their respective bids to go to the Senate. Ortom similarly failed in his bid to become a senator.
However, the five ex-governors recently visited the President at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in solidarity with Tinubu even as the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku, is still trying to upturn his victory at the Presidential Election Petition Court.
Relying on the May 31, 2023 judgment of an A Federal High Court that it had the right to suspend or expel Wike or any other member if the action was done in accordance with the law, Sunday PUNCH gathered that the party was seriously considering kicking the ex-Rivers governor and other recalcitrant members out.
Justice James Omotosho had ruled on a suit filed by Wike prior to the 2023 general elections seeking for an order to stop the PDP from taking action against him without fair hearing.
The ex-governor had sued the PDP, its National Working Committee and National Executive Committee, and joined the National Chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu; National Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, and the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Justice Omotosho held that suspending or expelling the applicant without affording him the right to defend himself would breach his fundamental rights as enshrined in the party’s and Nigeria’s constitutions.
He said though the party had the right to suspend or expel its members, this must be done in compliance with its own law.
The judge said that though Section 46(1) of the law vested jurisdiction on the court if one’s rights had been breached, he added that the court would not dabble in the internal affairs of any political party, except where the right of a member had been violated by the party without recourse to its own laws.
Against the backdrop of a possible approach for its members to be part of the President’s government, the PDP reminded its members of the consequences that await those who while the party was still contesting the outcome of the 2023 presidential election, go ahead to serve in the new government.
The party insisted that neither its NWC nor any of its members had been approached by the ruling party for the possibility of working together in the interest of the country.
During their visit to Tinubu, Makinde and Wike took turns to commend the President for starting off very well, singling out his announcement of removal of subsidy on petrol as a step in the right direction.
Added to this are the utterances of Wike, who alongside his four colleagues not only worked against the PDP, but has continued to berate the party for lacking the courage to zone the 2023 presidential ticket to the South after eight unbroken years in the North.
When asked a few weeks ago if he would serve in the APC-led government, Wike responded, “Tinubu has not informed me about getting an appointment. I am not too big to serve my country, but he has never told me that he would give me an appointment. If he asks me, the first thing I will do is to ask my wife and friends what they think about it.”
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Sunday PUNCH, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, said, “Whether we are approached or not, the PDP is a party of process and a truly democratic party. But let me say this, our members are conscious of what the party believes in.
“They are aware that we are in court, and they will be guided appropriately. They know the right thing to do and the consequences of not doing the right thing.”
He added, “As a party, we have not been approached to release any of our members to serve in the government. There are processes in issues like this. In any event, it will be premature to talk about this because the election that brought this government into power is being challenged by the PDP. Election is a process involving four stages – the pre-election, the election itself, declaration and post-election, particularly the petitions and all that.
“We are in the final leg of this chain and until this is concluded, we cannot begin to speculate about what will or will not happen. What we are holding out to at the election petition tribunal is whether the process was credible and transparent. If it turns out that the process was not credible as we are trying to establish, then there can’t be a credible outcome. If there is no credible outcome, it is difficult to circumvent the process and that will be against the established procedure and rules.”
Reminded that Wike did not mince words when asked if he would make himself available to serve the APC-led government, Ologunagba noted, “When an individual in the PDP speaks, he speaks for himself. Whoever speaks in a manner as if he is interested in serving in the APC-led government speaks for himself. Yes, Wike spoke, but there is no evidence that Bola Tinubu is seeking his advice on who makes his cabinet or not.”
On whether the party will allow its members to serve the government of the day if it is formally approached, Ologunagba said, “Until we are approached, the party cannot give you an official statement or reaction. I speak for this party and I know what the PDP stands for. Whatever I tell you now will not be important because we have not been approached and we are not aware that any of our members has been approached either.
“You can’t come up with appointments across board in the name of a government of national unity. National unity based on fraud and illegality? You can’t build something on nothing and expect it to stand.”
The polity is replete with many instances where politicians in the past dumped their parties to accept job offers from a sitting government, but for Ologunagba, there is no need to speak on what will happen should a member of the PDP accept to be part of the Tinubu administration.
“Let that (PDP members’ acceptance to serve in the APC government) happen first and we will know what to do. In the event that this happens, which is a possibility, we will react appropriately, but what if it doesn’t happen?
It is wrong to jump in front of my party to speak on what may or may not happen?” he added.
That said, the PDP image maker left a jibe for the immediate past administration, saying, “We are working at developing the democratic process, which the former President, Muhammadu Buhari, destroyed. History will not be kind to Buhari.”
In a move aimed at forging a common front ahead of future challenges, the PDP acting National Chairman, Umar Damagun, on Tuesday convened a meeting of the NWC-select committee to review what went wrong during the elections and to suggest ways of averting similar mistakes in the future.
Wike’s ally reacts
Meanwhile, a close ally of the immediate past governor of Rivers State, Senator Olaka Wogu, has warned that any attempt by the PDP to expel Wike if he accepts any appointment from the APC-led administration or for any other reason will have consequences.
Wogu, who spoke with one of our correspondents on Saturday, cautioned that it would be a travesty, tragedy and a mistake if the PDP expelled the former governor from the party.
Explaining that Wike had an obligation and right to serve his fatherland, the former lawmaker added that there was nothing wrong in a former governor serving as a minister or in any other capacity.
He said, “First, Wike is a Nigerian, and if there is a call to serve his fatherland, he has the right to consider whether the position given to him is the best way he can serve the country or not. So, if that is it, then he has a duty to accept the offer.
“There are many unknowns, but we always think that it will be a tragedy, a travesty and a mistake if the PDP expels Wike in any circumstance. When I say circumstance, I mean whether he accepts to be a minister or take any other position. There isn’t any big deal about it.
“I think that the decision to tamper with Wike is not one that will be taken on the general principle. It must be well considered with wisdom because there will be consequences if there is any attempt to expel him.
“Wike does not operate within the framework of whether he will be expelled from the party or not. There are rules for people and there are rules for people. Going back to the animal kingdom; whether all animals are equal or not, the fact is that all animals are equal, but some are more equal than the others.”
PDP on poison allegation
Meanwhile, a member of the National Executive Committee of the PDP, Timothy Osadolor, has given reasons why chieftains of the party have refused to speak on allegations by Wike that he was poisoned at the party’s secretariat in 2018.
The former governor recently made the claim at a family thanksgiving in Port Harcourt, which was attended by prominent leaders, including Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who represented President Bola Tinubu; Senator Adams Oshiomhole and Dr Kayode Fayemi, among others.
Wike shocked the audience when he claimed that he almost lost his life, save for divine intervention.
He had stated, “I never knew that I had been poisoned in our campaign secretariat. My intestines were all black. The doctors did all they could do.
“But, through divine providence, what would have been a disastrous situation was miraculously turned around by God, who immediately began to restore my failed organs.”
Since that claim, neither the national leadership of the PDP, nor its Rivers State chapter has reacted, but Osadolor said party leaders chose to ignore the former governor because they knew that “he is an attention-seeker.”
He said, “The leadership of the party decided not to react to Wike’s claims because there is nothing to react to. If you dignify a man who is an attention-seeker at all times, you will be giving life to baseless claims. Our leaders are aware that the man is not telling the truth and they decided to ignore him.
“The Wike we know would not have waited for a whole day without calling a press conference to speak up. Why did he wait for almost five years before coming up with the frivolous claim?
“The truth is that the former governor is an attention-seeker. He gathered politicians, mostly of the All Progressives Congress, to make claims that are neither here nor there. If you ask me, I will say I don’t know why he hasn’t moved to the APC.”
Osadolor urged the Damagun-led NWC to focus on piloting the affairs of the party rather than entertaining distractions from “people who worked against the PDP during the 2023 general elections.”
“The leadership of our party must remain steadfast in the task of making the PDP stronger. If we cannot sanction those who worked against us from within during the elections, we must equally not allow their utterances to distract us,” he added.
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