2027: Atiku, Wike re-strategise as PDP battleground shifts to congresses

Following the decision of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to retain Ambassador Umar Damagum as Acting National Chairman, the battle for the soul of the party has now shifted to the forthcoming State congresses.

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Sunday Vanguard gathered that Damagum’s survival, in what appeared to be a coordinated attempt to replace him, has opened new frontiers for the battle to control the party’s structure ahead of the 2027 general elections.

Loyalists of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, who are the main backers of Damagum are celebrating his retention as a victory over loyalists of former Vice President, Atiku, who wanted Damagun replaced.

The battleground for the soul of the party has now shifted to the usually contentious Ward, Local Government and State congresses.

Governors, who have powerful predecessors or party stalwarts, will be battling to either retain or take control of the party structure at the state level to enhance their chances of political survival.

Dispute

At the height of the political dispute between Wike and his successor, Similaye Fubara, the FCT Minister had told all who cared to listen “We will not allow anybody to tamper with our structure in Rivers State.”

But Fubara appears determined to do just that in order to consolidate his position as governor.

A member of the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC), who spoke in confidence for fear of retribution, explained that politics begins at the grassroots hence the decision of party leaders whose political relevance is at stake to return to the drawing board.

The party stalwart, who is sympathetic to Atiku, said, “This (the Damagum debacle) was just one battle, there are several ahead. We are going back to plan for state congresses.

“We will work with friendly governors in states where our party have them. In states where we don’t have a government in place, we will work with leaders to stabilize the party.

“As you are probably aware, these are areas where the battle is likely to be fierce. The state executives have a crucial role to play in organizing the party and the election of delegates for crucial elections”.

Gains

In the same breath, Wike’s loyalists are not leaving anything to chance as they are said to have set in motion a machinery to consolidate on recent gains.

Those familiar with the plan confided in Sunday Vanguard, “This group is not taking anything for granted. What is next is to ensure that the committees to be set up to conduct ward, local government and state congresses do not take us by surprise.

“To Wike’s credit, he has built a lot of bridges in the party over the years.

“He has a sizable number of loyalists nationwide. He remained and kept the party together when Atiku and his friends abandoned the party in 2015”.

An Imo State chieftain of the party, Dr. Katch Onanuju, whose sympathy lies with Wike, while speaking on the issue, said, “We have issues in our party no doubt, but we will sort ourselves out.

“All the noise about Wike doing anti-party is lacks basis. Whatever he did in 2023 is nothing compared to what the five northern governors and Rotimi Amaechi did to the party in 2015. Wike never left our party, he remained and has been helping to rebuild it ever since.

“The party will surmount its problems if there is sincerity of purpose. The congresses are coming up, there will be fresh crisis if some people think they can sit in Wadata Plaza and impose leaders on the states and write lists where people who never participated in the electoral process are named as leaders.”

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