Will the PDP’s collapse ensure that Tinubu is re-elected in 2027?

Nigeria

Published on Thursday 18 April 2024 Back to articles

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A battle is taking place between the political camps of Atiku Abubakar — the opposition Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) 2023 presidential candidate — and Rivers State’s 2015-2023 governor, Nyesom Wike, who is the current Minister of Federal Capital Territory Abuja. Unless it is somehow resolved, the party could implode and virtually guarantee that President Bola Tinubu is re-elected in 2027. 

The PDP’s national caucus met on 17 April, followed by the national working committee (NWC) and Board of Trustees on 18 April. It decided to extend the tenure of acting national chairman Umar Damagum until another meeting of the national executive committee is held.

Damagum and other members of his executive committee have been accused of being too close to Wike, who is seen as a mole positioned by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to undermine the PDP. Although Wike is serving as a minister in President Bola Tinubu’s government, he has refused to resign as a member of the PDP even though he has indicated that he would support Tinubu re-election for a second term in 2027. Despite this, Damagum has not sanctioned him and has declined calls by other party members to ensure that Wike is suspended from the PDP.

He was appointed as PDP chairman on 28 March 2023 after a court sacked former chairman Iyorchia Ayu who had led the party to its third consecutive presidential election defeat. Ayu was initially suspended by members of his ward in Benue State for alleged anti-party activities. Despite being in an acting capacity for more than a year, this is the first time that he has called for a meeting of the NWC — which is the party’s highest decision-making body — because of concerns that he would probably be removed from his position.

Damagum has argued that suspending Wike and four other former PDP governors who worked against the party last year will only compound the crisis. His critics argue that he was reluctant to suspend Wike because of his personal loyalty to him. Things recently got worse for Damagum when he was accused by some PDP members of appointing members of the APC as caretaker chairmen of the party in local government areas across the country. He was accused of working with Wike to weaken the PDP ahead of the 2027 elections.

On 8 April, six PDP lawmakers in the House of Representatives threatened to leave the party if Damagum was not asked to resign. Ikenga Ugochinyere from Imo State, who spoke on behalf of the MPS, insisted that Damagum has been positioned to kill the PDP and claimed that 60 of his colleagues were ready to dump the PDP if Damagum was retained as chairman.

However, the PDP minority caucus in the House dismissed and disassociated themselves from the threat by Ugochinyere and his group. The minority caucus leader is Kingsley Chinda who represents Rivers State and is a known Wike loyalist.

The different positions in the House of Representatives reflect the conflicting loyalties that have divided the party along the lines of pro-Wike and pro-Abubakar camps. The Abubakar camp sees the NWC meeting as an opportunity to take over the party and turn it into an effective opposition against the ruling APC and perhaps preserve it as a platform for Abubakar to launch a final attempt at the presidency in 2027.

The pro-Wike camp would prefer Damagum to remain as chairman and continue to undermine the effectiveness of the PDP as an opposition. Wike remains relevant to the APC and President Tinubu as long as he can weaken the PDP. Abubakar and his camp not only want the removal of the chairman but also the suspension of the former governors including Wike who worked against his campaign.

This is likely to polarise the party and risk breaking it into factions, which is exactly what the APC wants to happen, thereby providing a platform for some PDP lawmakers to defect to the ruling party.

Yet the PDP cannot allow the party to be controlled by the cronies of Wike, who has made it clear that his loyalty is with the ruling party. If the situation does not change, the party will be unable to present a credible candidate in the 2027 elections.

This excerpt is taken from Nigeria Focus, our monthly intelligence report on Nigeria. Click here to receive a free sample copy.

The April 2024 issue of Nigeria Focus also includes the following:

Spotlight

  • Tinubu’s tough policies are reshaping Nigeria’s economy
  • Profile: Uzoma Nwagba, leader of consumer credit push

Politics & Society

  • Wike and Abubakar battle over PDP’s future
  • Labour Party succumbs to internal crisis

Economy & Finance

  • Naira goes from worst to best
  • Numbers
  • Banks struggle to meet CBN’s new capital requirements

Energy

  • Nigeria set to miss another oil boom
  • Higher electricity prices could be positive
  • Markets wait for Dangote Refinery petrol

Security

  • Army escalates tensions in Niger Delta

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