BusinessDay

2023: The Wike factor in PDP’s quest for victory

Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers State, is not just a politician, but a well-known one in the country.
His stands on national issues in the last few years has endeared him to many Nigerians, including political opponents.

His contributions to the continued existence of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is not debatable. And that appears to be the crux of the internal wrangling in the umbrella association. He believes that the natural course of “sowing and reaping” has not manifested to him in the party at the centre. He strongly believes that the party owes him a lot.

Today, his moves are not clear to many Nigerians, including members and leaders of his party. Although he has severally ruled out dumping the PDP for any other party, his recent fraternity is causing adrenaline rise in the leadership of his party.

Like the Praying Mantis (insect), the fragile legs of which make the insect to maintain a steady stand, Wike’s fragile stake in today’s PDP seems to have caused his outlandish romance with elements of a party he had said time and again he would never have anything to do with.

Few months ago, the chorus “Wike dey come ooo”, became popular and resonated in the minds of delegates who stood up for a long period, cheered, applauded and anticipated that their favourite, Nyesom Wike, one of the presidential aspirants and Rivers State governor, would triumph at the contest which held in the Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city.

Interestingly, after many hours of voting processes for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential primary election, the hope of the supporters was dashed as Atiku Abubakar, the foremost contender and former Vice President of Nigeria, clinched the ticket with 371 votes to defeat his closest rival, Wike, who scored 237 votes.

It is worthy of note that Atiku’s journey through the primaries to the 2023 general election became smooth following the withdrawal of one of the aspirants and Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, who aligned with his northern brother and urged his supporters to cast their votes for the Adamawa-born politician.

Prior to the choice of presidential candidates by the different parties, governors – irrespective of party affiliations – from the southern states of Nigeria declared that the region must produce the next president so as to ensure there is equity and fairness in the nation’s political space.

However, the governors on the platform of PDP, couldn’t walk the talk, they disregarded the clamour for the power shift of the 2023 presidency to the south, elected former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its presidential candidate for next year’s general election, a decision that has since elicited strong emotional reactions, manifested in several utterances and has placed the party’s unity at stake.

Atiku’s emergence as the party’s standard-bearer, and his subsequent choice of Ifeanyi Okowa as running mate, have seemingly unsettled Wike’s camp and created a rift between him and the former Vice President, which many observers say may narrow the chances of the opposition party in the race to succeeding President Muhammadu Buhari.

“This crisis between Atiku and Wike calls for urgent attention or else the party may lose steam before the 2023 poll. No doubt, the Rivers State governor’s contribution to the party is unparalleled; it was glaring to the eyes after the 2015 election when he held the fort and preserved the party’s flag from being blown away.

“I know things might have not gone the way he wanted because of what happened after the primaries but he needs to let peace prevail for the sake of the party and so that his works, as a builder, will forever live in the minds of supporters,” Augustine Yakubu, a keen observer, says.

Speaking on what the crisis portends for the party’s fate in the general election, Matthew Edaghese, a legal practitioner, said it would have a negative effect on the party’s chances, explaining that “If I am not with you, then I am against you and a house divided against itself is bound to fall.

“Of course, it is a threat to the party’s victory except anybody wants to live in denial. If you are a politicial analyst, you will observe that whenever there is a crisis within any organisation, political parties inclusive, you don’t expect it to be a plus, it will be a minus.

“Wike wants respect, justice and he doesn’t want people who betrayed democracy to be beneficiaries of the same process. It is in the public domain that Wike has placed his terms on the table, he wants Iyorchia Ayu, the party’s national chairman, to quit especially against the backdrop of the presidential candidate of the party who is from the North.

“The chairman cannot also be from the North, so, it is too lopsided and Wike has been a strong advocate of power shift to the south. Wike on his own ground principle has every reason to go against a northern candidate when he feels it has shortchanged his own region of the country,” Edaghese said.

Edaghese further said, “Wike has strong reservations about the manner and way the primary was conducted as well as the role the chairman of the party played after the primaries; the comment he made declaring the person who stepped down for Atiku, Wike’s rival, as the hero of the convention. What was the basis of declaring Aminu Tambuwal as the hero?

“That statement coming from a supposed umpire who ought to have maintained impartial and neutral was very provocative. It suggests that he was with Atiku all along and whoever supports Atiku’s interest was his man friday. Such will not go down well with any contestant, it has removed the veil of impartiality and neutrality, making the umpire a participant in the contest.

“So, Wike, justifiably, is entitled to be very aggrieved and to feel insulted and betrayed, especially against the backdrop that he has spent so much and invested so much time, energy and goodwill in PDP when it was almost abandoned by others who deserted soon after the party was no longer in power. Wike stood with the party through thick and thin.”

Although the party’s leadership has commenced moves to reconcile warring parties, Governor Wike is yet to take a stance and has recently associated with members of the opposition parties, especially the All Progressives Congress (APC), hosting them at his private residence, and inviting them for the inauguration of different projects, which is now intensifying assumptions that he may dump the PDP.

Some of the recent visitors include, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Lagos State governor and close ally of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the APC presidential candidate, and Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State who were invited to inaugurate the Orochiri-Worukwo flyover. Also, former Governor of Sokoto State and APC Sokoto North senatorial district candidate, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko was invited for the inauguration of the Ogbunabali Road in Port Harcourt.

Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the House of Representatives, was a special guest who recently commissioned the new Rivers State House of Assembly quarters.

Apparently disturbed by the outstanding issues and the hobnobbing of the governor with opposition party members, the Board of Trustees of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), at a recent meeting, inaugurated a peace panel to interface with the key actors and find a way forward to resolving the disputes before the kick-off of campaigns.

After the meeting, former lawmaker and member of the board, Abdul Ningi, told journalists that “We discussed the crisis between our presidential candidate and Governor Nyesom Wike and how to get it resolved, we set up a committee of the whole to urgently interface with the two of them.

“We have set up in this meeting committee of the BoT to be able to interface between the factions, particularly the acrimony that is taking place between the presidential candidate and Governor Wike and any other conflicts that is taking place within our party formation.”

Read also: What Wike wants doesn’t exist

Corroborating that talks are ongoing and that there is no animosity between the pair, Dino Melaye, spokesperson of the Atiku campaign organisation, said the party has made substantial progress in the reconciliation process.

“Talks are ongoing and we are making progress. I believe that by the grace of God, PDP will remain one; strong and united. Definitely, after every primary election, there will be agitations and questions but I can assure you that we are making tremendous progress and we are all going to work together.

“Governor Wike is a fantastic party man, and one of those extremely tired of the satanic manifestation of the APC government. So, there is no way we will not work together. I can tell you on good authority that we are making serious progress and there is a communication; there is a direct discussion between Atiku Abubakar and Nyesom Wike,” Melaye said during the politics today programme of the Channels Television.

Amid efforts to settle the differences between the factions, the crisis took a new dimension as reports surfaced online last week that Wike and Newgent Ekamon, a chieftain of the PDP, allegedly filed a lawsuit against Atiku Abubakar and Aminu Tambuwal over the 2023 presidential ticket of the People’s Democratic Party

It was learnt that the plaintiffs reportedly predicated their claims on the grounds that the PDP primary gave undue advantage to Atiku which they claimed aided his emergence as presidential candidate of the PDP in the primary election conducted on May 28 and 29, 2022.

Reacting to the allegations, the Rivers State governor, while speaking at the commissioning of the House of Assembly quarters in Port Harcourt, distanced himself from the purported suit, saying that the focus of the party should be on emerging victorious in the general election.

“People have called me that I went to court against Atiku Abubakar. I want to state categorically that I didn’t go to court. I just want to say it for Nigerians to know. I have kept quiet. I am busy with delivering the dividends of democracy.

“If they lose election, nobody should call my name. I have told the candidate. If I wanted to go to court, I would have gone to court within two weeks.

“It is the candidate’s group that are doing all these things. Let the world hear. They are the ones plotting all these things, thinking they will spoil my name. We are supposed to be talking about winning election,” he said.

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