2019: South-South Governors Force Atiku To Rejig Campaign
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, is facing fresh challenges in the South-South.
This fresh development is slowing down his campaign ahead of next month’s election.
The South-South leg of his campaign which was originally scheduled for flag off on Tuesday, January 8, has been put off to enable the party “organize a bigger rally.”
Party sources however hinted that the postponement was brought about by the inability of the PDP governors in the zone to work together on how to drive Atiku’s presidential campaign.
Atiku who had been in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) for some days, returned home Saturday to rejig his campaign against the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
It was also gathered that the party and Atiku are trying to find ways of mending fences in the South-South and the South-East before the PDP campaign train moves to the two zones.
Party sources spoke of challenges in some states in the South-South and the South-East including Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Anambra and Ebonyi. Some of the knotty issues before Atiku are whether or not he will spend a term in office; and non-committal on power shift to the South-South in 2023.
A top source, who spoke in confidence, said: “Despite Atiku’s personal outreach, there are still some gaps to fill especially lack of trust between old PDP and the defectors from APC.
“Also, some of those who were instrumental to Atiku’s emergence have developed cold feet because of alleged campaign of non-inclusion. One of them just withdrew to himself and relocated to London in the past few weeks.”
Sources cited an alleged cold war between ex-President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Henry Seriake Dickson over fall out of PDP primaries.
One source said ”although Governor Nyesom Wike has pledged to assume duties as the Southsouth coordinator for Atiku-Peter Obi ticket, some governors in the zone do not defer to the Rivers State governor. They are not even ready to take instructions from him.
“Certainly, there are challenges of how to win huge votes in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo, Anambra and Ebonyi states.”
Responding to a question, the source added: “Atiku is back from Dubai to rejig his campaign against APC. He will complete the fence-mending initiative and launch his campaign in the South-South and the South-East."
Another source, speaking on the postponed campaign flag off, said all is not well with the party’s presidential campaign in the zone.
The source said that apart from the inability of some of the PDP governors to work together on how to drive Atiku’s campaign, there is also the challenge of much needed funds for logistics.
Announcing the Port Harcourt rally postponement, Oraye St Franklin, Wike’s Senior Special Assistant for New Media, said it was caused by “logistical constraints.”
His words: “We wish to inform our teeming supporters from across the South-South of the shift in date of the much anticipated PDP Southsouth rally.
“This is to enable us organise a bigger, better and defining rally in the history of Nigerian politics, given that the South-South is the natural home of the Peoples Democratic Party. All logistical constraints are currently being worked out to make it a hitch-free experience for our party faithful from across the region and a truly epoch making event.
“A new date would be announced shortly. The inconvenience on account of the postponement is regretted. Thank you.”
But a top notch member of the campaign committee, speaking on condition of anonymity on the aborted zonal rally, said the Atiku campaign in the South-South “is still struggling to take off.”
He added: “aside from the fact that Governor Wike of Rivers State who is supposed to drive the campaign is still not showing much enthusiasm, it has been difficult funding the campaign in the zone.”
Another reliable source said a good number of the PDP governors in the zone are currently battling fierce opposition in their respective home states and consequently, are concentrating on winning re-election during the 2019 polls.
The result of this is that Governor Wike, as the coordinator of the campaign in the zone, is left, almost alone, to push Atiku’s campaign.
“This explains all the logistic issues facing the presidential campaign efforts here in the Southsouth. All the governors are expected to drive the campaign together, but a few are too busy seeking re-election in the various state to put in enough effort for Atiku.
“Take Governors Udom Emmanuel of Akwa-Ibom and Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta for example, they are battling serious opposition back home unlike in their first term.
“The situation is almost the same for Governor Wike himself in Rivers. So, they are all expending a lot of resources, energy and time on their re-election bids, making their contributions to the presidential campaign to suffer. Other chieftains of the party in the zone, especially former public office holders are not providing the much needed support at a crucial time as this.
“And very seriously, not much is being heard from Bayelsa and Cross Rivers governors. These two are also seeking re-election but majority of our party members feel they are not as pressed by the opposition as the others ahead of the 2019 general elections. The aborted rally could have been saved if all the governors got their acts together in good time to work towards its success.”
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