In recent days, the country home of the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, has become a Mecca of some sorts for top placed Nigerian politicians who keep flooding there for private visits with the former presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The visits became more intense shortly after the May 28, 2022 PDP presidential special convention in Abuja where he came second to former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who won the keenly contested race to be the presidential candidate of the opposition party in the 2023 general elections.
Earlier in May, Governor Wike had traversed all the states of the federation to meet face to face with special delegates for the convention. He used the opportunity to convince them of his capacity to wrest power from the All Progressives Congress, APC, if given the PDP ticket for 2023. Wike spent money.
He dissipated so much energy. And he reached out to the high and low in the PDP camp to sway favour and whip up sentiment to his advantage. Very unfortunately, indeed, all of that efforts crashed in the night of May 28 in Abuja when the delegates chose to turncoat in favor of the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.
A very self-assured Wike was miffed by the role played by the organizers of the convention for allowing the Sokoto state governor and his hitherto strong political ally, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal to speak twice having mounted the dais first and begged the delegates to cast their vote for him. Wike reasoned that it was the second appearance of Tambuwal on the stage where he stepped down for Atiku and pleaded with delegates from the states of his stronghold like Sokoto, Jigawa, Kano among others to direct their vote to Atiku, that changed his political destiny.
Flashback to the October 2018 PDP presidential convention held in Port Harcourt, Wike was the bulwark force Tambuwal ever needed to square up with Atiku and other contestants like former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, former Governor of Jigawa state, Sule Lamido and former Governor of Kano state, Ibrahim Shekarau among others.
The fact that Atiku won that election with 1,532 votes to beat Tambuwal who scored 693 showed how close and keen the contest was giving the strong backing Governor Wike gave to his assumed political friend from Sokoto. Natural law posits that one good deed deserves reciprocity.
It was clearly observed that the moment Tambuwal declared his intention to contest the 2022 primary, treachery would be the name of the game. From the Wike’s camp across the country, Tambuwal was expected to pay back the gesture Wike willingly gave to him not just during the 2018 primary election, but other social and humanitarian favors over the years.
First of all, when the zoning arrangement was first mentioned by the PDP, the likes of Tambuwal was expected to throw his weight behind the southern part of Nigeria to produce the next President. He was fully aware that his own friend and buddy across the Niger had his eyes fixated on the PDP presidential ticket for the 2023 election.
It was therefore not out of place to feel betrayed the way Wike and his teaming supporters did when Tambuwal braced all odds and stepped down for Atiku Abubakar at the 2022 convention which gave the former Vice President an edge over the Rivers state Governor.
Going forward, political pundits having aggregated the positive indices that made Wike so thick in his recent high political profiling, found solace in the fact that the Rivers State governor would be a good material for Atiku as his running mate going into next year’s election. Names of Udom Emmanuel, Ifeanyi Okowa and Nyesom Wike of Akwa Ibom, Delta and Rivers states were put forward by the national working committee, NWC, of the PDP for Atiku to pick from.
The debate was subjected to voting. And Governor Nyesom Wike garnered 16 out of 19 votes cast which is about 95 per cent. This immediately prompted the question as to why Wike was not chosen by Atiku in the final analysis but opted for Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa!
The second summersault of the PDP over Wike’s choice has since sparked unease in the camp of the governor not just in Rivers State but also across Nigeria. There is no question that Wike’s political profile in the buildup to the last convention has towered over any influence Okowa must have managed to garner over the years.
Giving his emergence, some APC members in Okowa’s Delta state went into jubilation following the announcement of Okowa as Atiku’s running mate.
Their position is that the Delta state Governor has no formidable political stronghold that can win election for the PDP. They passed a sweeping judgment, though, that there is nothing on ground for the past seven years of his administration for Okowa to merit the appointment as a Vice Presidential candidate other than Nyesom Wike. However, the influx of prominent political figures to the country home of Wike at Ada George in Port Harcourt indicates a red flag that something sinister may be in the offing.
Allegation was rife that Wike may dump the PDP as a way of assuaging his fury over the undesirable treatment meted on him by his own party.
The Governor had since debunked that rumor of possible defection. But the visit of some high ranking political top-notch on the Governor in quick succession causes some degree of palpitation not just among his followers but some panic in the political circle. Only on Wednesday, the presidential candidate of the Labor Party, LP, and PDP former Vice Presidential candidate in 2019, Peter Obi visited Wike in his hometown.
The meeting, information said, was a private one and so the details could not be made public. But on his twitter account, Obi said he was in Port Harcourt to “discuss some national issues” with Wike.
The former Governor of Anambra state whose popularity is spreading across Nigeria like a wild fire particularly among the social media savvy youths of the country, had already submitted the name of Dr Doyin Okupe as a “placeholder” for the presidential election.
His party is also said to be in talks with the flagbearer of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso for a possible running mate position to him in due course.
How that would pan out with the current stringent electoral law, is left to be seen. So the question is, what could Obi be looking for in Wike?
Is it possible for both men who are from the South-South and South-East to pair as substantive and running mate in the present Nigeria political system?
That goes off rational reasoning. It will be recalled that the same Wednesday evening, the likes of Bauchi state Governor, Bala Mohammad who also contested the last presidential primary election with Wike at the Moshood Abiola stadium in Abuja and Chief Dan Orbih, a chieftain of the PDP among others also paid a visit to Governor Wike.
Again, it was a closed door meeting, we were told. Also, two days after assuming leadership of the National Assembly, Senate Minority Leader, Senator Philip Tanimu Aduda, led the PDP leadership of the Senate for a meeting with Wike also in his country home. The meeting also had the Senate Minority Whip, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, Senate Deputy Minority Leader, Sen Shuaibu Lau, and Senate Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Danjuma La’ah as well as Senator Barry Mpigi in attendance, equally met with the Wike.
The Senators who arrived at the Governor’s residence by 3:10 pm, on Thursday immediately went into a closed door meeting with the Governor and left by about 6pm without giving an inkling of the nature of their meeting. It is suspected that the visits have a lot to do with mending of fences after the outcome of the presidential convention.
The seeming brawl in the party now was sparked by the statement accredited to the presidential candidate who listed the reasons why he preferred Okowa to Wike, prompting that Wike was “a talkative” whom he could not work with.
Wike’s silent since after the convention caused some unease in the PDP which has now led to the influx of highly placed politicians into the oil and gas rich city of Port Harcourt to visit the Governor and calm his nerves.
Fillers have it that Atiku may be looking for a young energetic man like Wike to become his campaign director general. PDP as a party knows that apart from his capacity, political sagacity and national out-reach, Wike has the knack to speak the minds of millions of Nigerians when it matters most.
That could pass for why the political emissaries streaming to pacify Wike in Port Harcourt is the turning point now. Responding to the impending fear in the party, Hon Ogbonna Nwuke, former member of the House of Representatives attributed the influx of top-notch politicians to Wike’s hometown to “the growing realization that issues were not handled properly by the party leadership”. Hon Nwuke who is also a former Commissioner in Rivers state noted that with the 2023 elections drawing closer and knowing the capacity of Governor Wike, “there is a need to build coalition across the country and Governor Nyesom Wike has the capacity to win the elections for the PDP.
That is why his silence after the presidential convention caused a serious panic in the party”. It a known fact that Atiku who will not to miss this chance of becoming the next Nigerian President has set up special committee to atone Governor Wike to continue to work hard for the party.
But while the committee members saddled with the responsibility for peace between the former presidential aspirant and the party are going about their assignment, will the likes of Dr. Aliyu Babangida, former Governor of Niger state and Chief Ned Nwoko, PDP senatorial hopeful in Delta state guide their utterances and be circumspect in their description of Wike! It is expected that more high ranking politicians will visit the Rivers state Governor in the coming days and weeks because of what he has to offer PDP in the coming elections.
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