There are strong indications that the five aggrieved Peoples Democratic Party governors may endorse their preferred presidential candidate on January 5, barring any unforeseen circumstances.

The PUNCH gathered on Tuesday that the governors, who are presently meeting in London, United Kingdom, might be influenced by former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s advice that the Presidency should come to the South-East in 2023.

Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Samuel Ortom (Benue) and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu states and some political heavyweights from the South had parted ways with the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, over his alleged refusal to prevail on the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu to resign after Atiku, a northerner clinched the presidential ticket of the party.

The governors insisted that Ayu’s resignation would ensure a balance in the leadership of the main opposition party.

Although Atiku and the governors held several meetings in Nigeria and the UK, there was no headway as they insisted on Ayu’s removal from office as a precondition for peace.

However, in deciding on the presidential candidate to support, a top source informed The PUNCH that the governors might heed Obasanjo’s counsel that they should endorse the Labour Party presidential standard bearer, Peter Obi.

The former President had met with the governors in London in August where he reportedly lobbied for Obi.

Giving a background on the factors that might sway their decision, an aide to one of the governors stated, “The governors are considering Obasanjo’s advice that the Presidency should come to the South in 2023. Obasanjo has advised them to support Obi because he believes that if the Presidency comes to the South, it should go to the South East.

“That is why at their last meeting in London, he lobbied for Obi because justice and fairness demand that South-East should produce the next president.’’

Asked when the governors, known as Integrity Group would unveil their preferred candidate, the source said, “From all indications, the governors will announce their preferred candidate next week. If there is no major event before January 5 when Makinde will kick off his campaign, they will make the announcement on that day in Ibadan.’’

An aide to another governor dismissed reports that the group were divided over the choice of the presidential candidate to endorse.

According to the source, at the London meeting on Tuesday, the governors agreed that since Atiku failed to prevail on Ayu to step down, they should work for a southern candidate.

No Division

Speaking on the alleged cracks in the rank of the governors, the source stated, “Not really, but they have different approaches to the issue. Some of them have nothing against Atiku. But none of the governors will come out to speak against the joint decision of the group that the presidency should come to the South. If Ayu has stepped down, they would have supported Atiku.’’

But other sources are insisting that the unity of the Integrity Group may be hanging by a thread, as there seems to be a crack in the fold.

The contention, it was learnt, involves who to support between Obi and the All Progressives Congress standard bearer, Bola Tinubu.

Wike had said at several fora that nobody can break the ranks of the G5, adding that attempts to do so by their detractors had collapsed.

It was learnt that the ambition of Ortom, who is gunning for the Senate and Makinde, who is seeking a second term in office may be hanging in the balance as a result of their faceoff with Ayu.

Besides this, the Benue State governor had not hidden his love and preference for the former Anambra State governor whom he said could deliver Nigeria.

Following moves by the governors to dump Atiku, the leadership of the party said they were at liberty to do so.

The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Ibrahim Abdullahi said going into the polls a divided house might not be ruled out, saying, “Let’s go to the polls like that. We can’t exhaust all the options, anyways.”

NWC member

In his reaction, however, the PDP Deputy National Youth Leader, Timothy Osadolor, said the Wike-led group lacked the pedigree to question Atiku’s faithfulness to the party.

He stated, “That the G-5 purportedly led by Wike is talking about trust and loyalty is laughable and painful in the ears of discerning Nigerians. If anyone is to talk about trust that person must not even stand close to Governor Wike to do so, for him or her to be taken seriously.

“We know Wike and Wike knows himself. He should tell us what happened between him and all those that helped him in the past starting from Peter Odili, who in his large-heartedness still tolerated him, to Rotimi Amaechi, another former governor. Wike coming out to say he will announce his candidate to Nigerians and campaign for the candidate is akin to the last kick of a dying horse.’’

Osadolor also called on Ayu to speak up, noting that “another lie told by Wike was that Atiku Abubakar promised to ask Ayu to resign. How possible is that?

“Go and listen to the speech the chairman gave on resignation. He said: ‘I am a democrat and a party man. If a Northern candidate emerges as a presidential candidate and my party asks me to resign, in the interest of the party, I will.’

“He neither said if a failed aspirant asked him to, nor did he say if Wike asked him to. Rather than ask him to resign, the National Executive Committee passed a vote of confidence on Dr Iyorchia Ayu and the National Working Committee that he leads. How else do you want the party to say carry on?

We empathise with Governor Wike. He was already seeing himself in Aso Rock as Mr President, as Nigerians are determined to bring back the PDP into the presidency to help salvage what is left of the fabric of this nation,” he added.




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