Look The forces working against the PDP Presidential Candidate appear insurmountable and incredibly larger than life.
By Ovie Edomi
Hate him or love him, you can not but marvel at the doggedness and personality of Nysom Wike, Governor of Rivers State. Since independence, none of the governors, military and civilian, is as controversial, courageous, and yet fancied as the current Governor of Rivers State: Nysom Wike. While Wike is gaining so much commendation in some quarters, he is in another quarter getting so much bashing and condemnations. Whatever way one sees Nysom Wike from the prism of the country, he has in a way popularised and elevated Rivers State to another pedestal while remaining in the political limelight of the nation, and in the process acquiring a larger-than-life image. Indeed after the PDP Presidential primaries in May 2022, where Alhaji Atiku Abubakar pulled 371 votes while his closest rival Wike polled 237 votes, Wike who came second continued another war that the PDP could not win.
It would be recalled that a few hours before the Presidential primaries, precisely on the night of the election, the Governor of Sokoto State and former Speaker, House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal stepped down for Atiku and directed his supporters to vote for Atiku. That decision according to political watchers was a game-changer for Atiku. But then, Wike’s lost by 134 votes was attributed to the Sokoto governor’s backing of Atiku and this was seen as the most unkind cut from Tambuwal considering Wike’s support for him in the quest for the PDP Presidential ticket in 2019 which Atiku later got.
If the main opposition party, the PDP did not see any impact in Wike coming second, the choice of a running mate for Atiku shortly after the primaries was rather sarcastically done. First was the committee set up by the party comprising Governors, National Working Committee and the Board of Trustees members as well as former governors with the mandate of picking it’s vice presidential candidate that voted 13 to 3 in favour of Wike but this was jettison when Atiku announced on June 16, 2022, the choice of Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate. Since Atiku announced Okowa as his running mate, the political pendulum of the party and the plan to kick out APC from power at the federal level hung in the balance. Even at the national Secretariat of the PDP in Abuja, there were signs of apprehension over the tides sweeping through the party. For instance, the arrow heads of the Ayu must Go campaign were still insisting on Dr Iyorchia Ayu resigning in fulfilment of his pre-convention pledge. One of them is former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George who continue to insist that there is no way for Ayu than to resign. In what appeared to be like calling Wike’s bluff, the reconciliation Committee set up to end the frosty relationship between the presidential candidate of the People Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State went ahead to announce members of the Presidential Campaign Council after the two camps failed to shift grounds.
Even when some of Wike’s allies made the PDP Presidential Campaign Council list, they announced their withdrawal pending Ayu’s replacement. But the Atiku’s camp insisted that Wike’s camp cannot hold them to ransom. Though Wike and his co-governors insisted among other things that Ayu must go, but the PDP Chairman resisted that move to make him resign.
Part of the move to end the crisis was to break Wike’s ranks a source in the national Secretariat working with the Atiku camp confided in TSSI. But the Wike’s camp continued to wax stronger. This may be why the Rivers State Governor vowed not to quit the PDP over his feud with the former Vice President and Ayu. Though Party leaders continue to meet to forge a consensus on what is needed to be done to save the PDP so that the party can win the 2023 Presidential election, but none of the meetings yielded any dividend. Even some of the party leaders who returned money to the party, following certain revelations are yet to come to term with the Ayu’s Leadership . Wike and his allies including Governors, Samuel Ortom (Benue) Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu) Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia)and Seyi Makinde (Oyo) as well as Chief Olabode George, Donald Duke, Segun Mimiko, Jonah Jang, Ibrahim Dankwambo and Ayo Fayose amongst others are united in pushing for Ayu’s removal but inside source told TSSI that Atiku on his part does not want to do anything that is unconstitutional and therefore insisted on amendment to the party’s constitution. Besides,the source insisted that Ayu’s replacement will affect the National secretary and down the line . However, Governor Makinde of Oyo State noted that “the country could only be unified if the PDP toes the part of honour. According to him “The truth is that we do not have any issue either with our party or our candidate. If there are challenges they must be tabled”. Furthermore, he noted, “The issue is that we must practice what we preach. If we want to unify Nigeria, we must unify PDP first.” Furthermore, he added, “we are asking the National Chairman to step down so that the South will be fully included”. Meanwhile, Atiku,the PDP Presidential Candidate was saying on one hand that, the party stood the risk of losing the trust of Nigerians should it heed the call to remove the National Chairman, it is on the other hand saying that it is un-consititutional and unless the party amends its constitution. Does this portends more danger for the PDP, Nigeria’s oldest political party since the return of democracy and before then? Those who spoke to TSSI insisted that the party is heading for collapse especially now that it has lost the 2023 Presidential election. One of the party stalwarts referred the Reporter to the damage done to the party in the last eight years which it is yet to recover from and how Governor Wike single handledly played a key role in keeping the party together until the litmus test that tore the party apart so much that the center could not hold. With the sealing of the PDP Presidential Candidate’s office in Port Harcourt, Rivers State over the breach of state regulations concerning situating party offices in residential area in the state, key watchers of the events within the PDP say the situation was enough signal to Atiku that PDP will lose Rivers State during the presidential election
Infact, Nyesom Wike it seemed had begun to give tacit support to one of the two leading presidential candidates in the 2023 election. At a public forum in late December Wike told the world that by January 2023 he will tell his supporters who they should vote for during the presidential election. He noted that he will go from state to state campaigning for the choice candidate. While many Nigerians are inquisitive about the identity of who Wike and the other PDP governors want to support, there were already speculations in different quarters that some of the aggrieved PDP Governors will support Peter Obi of the Labour Party and some Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the APC. This may be why at a press conference in Lagos, Olabode George, a chieftain of the PDP opined that the party may be defeated in the 2023 presidential election. According to him “with what we are presently witnessing, our party may lose the next presidential election, if we continue to disregard or fail to address the feeling and greviances of alienation being presently experienced by the entire southern population of this great country”. Furthermore, Olabode George noted “until this party returns to the founding fathers’ principles of unity, with equity, fairness, and justice being the pedestal for political decision taken in this party, and ensuring broad-mindedness to accommodate the concerns of all zones in this country, PDP becomes vulnerable to disaster in the 2023 election”. Another stalwart of the party resident in Abuja, who wishes to remain anonymous told TSSI that the party is in a situation where the National Chairman is from the same zone as the party Presidential candidate.
Though some observers say that there is nothing wrong with that, other stakeholders say that those saying so are only playing games and being economical with the truth. They insisted that founding fathers of the party recognised six positions for a government in power namely: President, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF and National Chairman of the party. Since the PDP is not in government, it only controls, three of the positions namely, Presidential, Vice Presidential Candidates and the National Chairman. In order to ensure inclusiveness, oneness and togetherness, key watchers say it would not be correct to have both the Presidential candidate and the party National Chairman to come from the same zone . Whether the actions of the five PDP Governors and their allies are based on group interest or not, the fact remains that, Wike and his allies have introduced a dimension to electioneering in Nigeria political space. In this regard, Atiku had more work to do to win the votes of the citizens in those states controlled by the PDP Governors and even those states whose former Governors still have a grip on the electorates . Aside the acrimony accompanying the party Presidential primaries, the funding of the presidential campaigns was one issue that Atiku had to contend with. In the just concluded presidential election, the five Governors of PDP withdraw their financial support from Atiku and it left a big challenge to Atiku, his running mate and the rest PDP Governors. Another factor that acted as a stumbling block to the Atiku and Okowa ticket was the speculations that PDP Governors may dump Atiku.
It was believed that the five PDP Governors in particular agreed among themselves to work for presidential candidate from the south, few weeks to the February 25 presidential poll.
A governor who spoke to TSSI Reporter said that the five governors and millions of voters lie in ambush for Atiku come February 25, 2023 and investigation proved that the five governors delivered their state to their prefered candidate.
That indeed was a herculean task for Atiku and his running mate knowing that the candidate and the running mate need two – third majority votes across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT to clitch the presidency in the February, 25, 2023 general elections
A source told this Reporter that of the 3,689,197 voters in Rivers State, 3,570,740 voters from Oyo state and Enugu State’s 2,720,422 voters as well as Abia’s 2,202,242 in addition to Benue’s 2,667,902 voters totally 14,850,503 votes from five states, are large number of votes especially when the total registered voters is put at 96.2 million, but not even 40 percent of the registered voters voted
Even then, the fear of political violence determined the number of people who came out to vote on the election day.
For now, political observers say it is doubtful if there has been an election as perfidious as that of February 25 Presidential and National Assembly Elections. They say that the poll ranks even worse than the infamous 2007 presidential election which even the beneficiary and winner, the late president Yar’Adua described as faulty.
In the just concluded presidential and National Assembly elections many voters were faced with assassination, violence and intimidation. In some states, the last Saturday’s elections were literally held under siegel as thugs were on rampage in many part of the south south, south east, south west and north central particularly in areas regarded as strongholds of the Labour Party and PDP.
This may be why many Labour party faithfuls who spoke with this Reporter said that thuggery prevented many people from voting in the presidential general election and even they manage to vote, their votes were manipulated to favour a particular party. The same they noted would repeat itself in the Governorship and House of Assembly elections.
Curiously, both the Labour party and the PDP staged a walk out at the national collation center accusing INEC of bias and at a joint press conference called for the cancellation of the presidential election results.
Meanwhile the UK has urged the FG to look into concerns raised by oppositions even as President elect, Senator Bola Tinubu is believed to have stretched out the Olive Branch to both Obi and Atiku
It remains to be seen if the PDP and the Labour Partyn are ready to allow themselves to be confined to the dust-bin of the country’s political history.
For now, the storm is not over and no one knows this better than Atiku and Okowa. Time will tell.