There are strong indications that the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party may spill over to the 10th National Assembly which will be inaugurated in June.
The PUNCH gathered on Tuesday that some newly elected PDP House of Representatives members might yield to the G-5 governors’ wish when the battle for the leadership of the House and minority caucus begins.
Though the PDP had yet to issue any directives to lawmakers elected on its platform, there were signs on Thursday that some newly elected members might go along with the five governors’ positions regarding the choice of the minority and the House leadership.
The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, while hosting the Deputy Speaker of the House, Idiris Wase, penultimate Monday, said the Rivers PDP would support the All Progressives Congress at the national level.
Wase is contesting the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“The truth must be told that we are going to support the leadership of your party (APC) at the national level,” Wike assured Wase when the latter visited the governor in Port Harcourt.
It was learnt the other members of the G-5, who also have loyalists among the lawmakers-elect, might align with Wike in deciding the next leaders of the house.
The G-5 comprising Governors Wike, Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Samuel Ortom (Benue), and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), had been at loggers-head with the PDP leadership since the party’s presidential standard bearer, Atiku Abubakar emerged after a contentious convention in May 2022.
The governors were insisting on the removal of the suspended PDP national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu to ensure balance in the party’s hierarchy.
A member of the House from Rivers State, Dagomie Abiante, told our correspondent that Wike was expected to play a role in determining who would become the leader of the PDP caucus in the 10th Assembly.
The lawmaker noted that Rivers was one of the few states with the most ranking members in the House.
He said, “Does the party have a choice outside of Rivers and Wike? The PDP does not have a choice outside of Wike. It is not about people jumping around and making noise. Some of us are very calm and quiet. It is our nature.
“The truth has to be told: the party does not have any future away from Wike. In the entire North, how many are returning members of the party? If you are talking about experienced returning members, Rivers has them. Outside of Rivers, where else?”
When asked about the likelihood of the National Working Committee of the PDP ignoring Wike’s loyalists when nominating leaders for the minority caucuses in the Senate and the House, Abiante noted that Ayu was no longer the national chairman of the PDP and could not decide the minority caucuses’ leaders.
Ayu was suspended from office by a Benue State High Court last month following a suit filed by Conrad Utaan, a former aide to Ortom.
The lawmaker added, “There is no PDP without Wike; maybe you are talking about a different party. But if you are talking about the PDP, it is Wike that calls the shot and the truth must be told. They abandoned the party and someone rebuilt the party. Even when they came back, because they were allowed into the house, they did not know where the keys and the rooms were.”
Abiante said the performance of the PDP in the 2023 general elections was “painful to everybody,” adding that instead of the leadership of the party to reconcile the warring factions after the polls, it continued with its hostile actions.
“This is where it has landed us and today, he (Ayu) is no longer the national chairman,” he added, stressing, “If he is no longer the chairman, where is he going to do the nominations from?”
Two ranking lawmakers from Osun State, Oluwole Oke, and Bamidele Salam, declined to speak about who should nominate the minority caucus leadership.
Oke said, “I don’t want to get into such an argument. It won’t help in healing the wounds,” while Salam said, “No, I don’t want to comment on it.”
When told that the nominations for minority caucus leadership positions could compound the crisis in the PDP, Oke said, “We would get over it except we part ways.”
Incidentally, Governor Ademola Adeleke of Osun State, where Oke and Salam represent, had pitched his tent with the Ayu-led NWC against the G-5 governors.
Speaking on the possibility of the minority leadership being hijacked by other forces, Abiante noted that the outcome of supplementary elections would go a long way in determining the next leader of the House.
He recalled how the PDP failed in its bid to nominate leaders of the minority caucus of the current 9th House.
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Kingsley Chinda and the three others had lost their battle for the leadership of the minority caucus of the House.
The PDP had nominated Kingsley Chinda, Toby Okechukwu, Umar Barde and Muraina Ajibola for the minority caucus leadership.
However, the conglomerate of opposition parties in the House appointed Ndudi Elumelu as Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu as Deputy Minority Leader, Gideon Gwani as Minority Whip, and Adesegun Adekoya as Deputy Minority Whip.
The PDP consequently suspended seven of its members for alleged anti-party activities in the House for several months.
The House also referred the Chinda-led group to its Committee on Ethics and Privileges for claiming leadership of the minority caucus despite the emergence of the Elumelu-led group.
When asked why the PDP had yet to release a zoning formula for the leadership positions and the list of its nominees, the lawmaker noted that the party was still battling with internal crises, especially before and after the 2023 general elections.
“The party is still struggling to understand what happened to her. Those who are supposed to be sober are not sober,” he stated.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a member of the PDP caucus, said it is members who would nominate leaders for a caucus and not the party.
“If you check our rules book (House of Representatives Standing Orders), the rule is actually that the minority caucus shall nominate minority leaders from among themselves,” the lawmaker said, stating that the parties have no role to play in the selection process.
According to him, it is a convention that the majority or minority parties nominate leaders for caucuses, which he described as “unofficial.”
Also speaking to our correspondent, another member of the House from Rivers decried that the incumbent Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, in 2019, set the precedent of having members of the minority parties elect the minority leader of the House.
When asked about the possibility of Chinda, a Wike loyalist, being nominated for minority leader of the House again, he responded, “I am sure you were aware of what happened the last time between the party and the National Assembly. The speaker was able to show that he was not bound by any party nomination.
“Elumelu did not become the minority leader by virtue of the party’s nomination. The rules were read to mean that it is not the exclusive preserve of the party to nominate; that was the interpretation the speaker gave to it then. So, that precedence has been set and anything can happen. I am not so concerned about what the party does. Anything can happen. Everything is on the table.’’
S’West demands position
Meanwhile, another ranking member of the minority caucus, Bamidele Salam, called for the zoning of the minority leader position to the South-West.
Salam, who is from Osun in the South-West, noted that the South-South had produced the minority leader of the House for two consecutive dispensations.
He noted that Leo Ogor from Delta State was the minority leader in the 8th House, while Elumelu, also from Delta, is the current minority leader.
Salam said, “We are pushing for the South-West to take the position of minority leader from the South-South. The zone has had it two times. They had Ogor and now, Elumelu. Yes, the South-South will have more members in the 10th House, but the South-West has 12 of us and it is a significant number, considering what the other zones especially in the North are putting on the table.”
But commenting on the claims that the PDP lawmakers may take directives from Wike in respect of the election of the House leadership, a member of the PDP National Working Committee, Timothy Osadolor described the statement as unfortunate.
Osadolor, who doubles as the Deputy National Youth Leader of the party, stated, “Those lawmakers I believe, belong to Governor Wike’s camp but they should realize that they were elected on the platform of the PDP.
“They were not elected on Wike’s platform. As a party, we have gone through a lot and we are yet to recover. Let’s not start another crisis because it will not augur well for the party.
“It is the duty of the party to provide leadership and guide the lawmakers in this regard, not a governor, no matter who that person happens to be. The earlier they realise this, the better for them and the party.”
The PDP spokesman, Debo Ologunagba, could not be reached for comment on how the party intended to handle the issue. He had yet to respond to calls and a text message on the issue as of the time of filing this report.
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