PDP’s Search for Peace with Wike

Blessing Ibunge writes that peace may finally reign in People’s Democratic Party, as Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state, recently met with some  governors and critical stakeholders as part of ongoing reconciliation moves within the main opposition party Despite animosity trailing the aftermath of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) primaries held in May, it seems peace may finally reign as one of its aggrieved aspirants and Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, recently met with some  governors and stakeholders of the party as part of the ongoing reconciliation efforts within the PDP. Over two months after the special convention of PDP in Abuja, which elected the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its presidential candidate for the 2023 elections, the first runner up of the primary and Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, is yet to make up with Atiku for the onward victory of party next year. Atiku had polled 371 votes to defeat Wike, who scored 237 votes. While former President of the Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki came third with 70 votes, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr Udom Emmanuel and his Bauchi State counterpart, Senator Bala Mohammed,scored 38 and 20 votes, respectively. The result of the primary election was announced by the Chief Returning Officer and former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, though the process was live on some of the major national televisions in the country. The governor of Rivers State had showed so much commitment to the party, believing that with it he would some day become the president of Nigeria through the support of his supposed trusted friends in the party and votes from Nigerians. But in May this year, things did not workout as expected. Wike, a first timer tested his popularity as he blew his trumpet. He was cleared in screening and contested the PDP presidential primary and was not given the flag. The shocking part was the feeling of being betrayed by his Sokoto State counterpart and friend, Aminu Tambuwal, whom he strongly supported against Atiku in 2019. This time, in the 2022 convention, Tambuwal rather than considering the sacrifice made by his friend (Wike) for him years ago, stepped down and asked his delegates to vote for Atiku, which added to the votes that gave him the presidential ticket. Again, the party, recognising Wike as a political bulldozer opted for him as a better choice for Vice presidential candidate to support Atiku to return the party back to presidency. Atiku, it was believed, told the party to choose a running mate for him, which led to the national chairman of the party, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, setting up a committee for that purpose. Now the committee made recommendations and favoured Wike with 14 votes, but he was rejected by the candidate. Atiku rejected the result given to him by the party and went ahead to choose Dr Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate. A Dashed Presidential Dream Wike, a former two-time chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state and former National President of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, who later became the former Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi’s Chief of Staff during his first tenure as governor, was very influential in Amaechi’s administration, as many were insinuating that he was the commander of the then Government House. He later became the Minister of State for Education under President Goodluck Jonathan. With Jonathan’s support, he became the governor of the state in 2015, succeeding Amaechi. In March 2022, Wike made a public declaration of his intention to contest for the President of Nigeria in 2023. He made bold to say that he was the only aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who can salvage the country from bad governance. Between the period of his declaration and campaign for the party’s presidential primary, he was optimistic that he would become the flag bearer of PDP in 2023 general elections, although the expectation was dashed with Atiku clinching the ticket. The Rivers Governor may have expressed displeasure over the disappointment of not flying the party’s presidential flag. He had also accused some PDP Governors of betrayal, especially the southerners for not fully supporting his ambition to represent the zone at the primary.  Not quite long after the shock following the outcome of the presidential primary, there would have been another opportunity for Governor Wike to continue with the race but Atiku was not ready to work with him ostensibly due to Wike’s political influence. Wike had during a reception organised for him by the people of the state in Port Harcourt after his return after Abuja the primary, stated that he was not a second class citizen. Again, Wike’s hope to become the running mate of the PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku, was dashed on June 16 when the latter picked Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, against the recommendation of the party’s advisory council on the running mate selection. Atiku had also constituted a reconciliation committee to reach out to Wike to pacify him and to solicit his support for the party to wrestle power from the All Progressives Congress  at the general elections. Soon after the presidential primary and other activities surrounding who becomes Atiku’s running mate, Wike had remained silent until recently. PDP and other political party members visit Wike Opposition parties saw an avenue to woo a man regarded as a political bulldozer in the present political dispensation in Nigeria. The several visits by parties leaders and two presidential candidates, may be an opportunity to convince Wike to join them in their race for electoral victory in 2023 polls. Last week, the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal and the former Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, had a close door meeting with Wike in his private residence in Rumueprikom, Obio-Akpor Local Government Area of the State. Dogara had explained that their visit was on the quest and search to build an all inclusive Nigeria. He said: “Everyone agrees with us that Governor Wike is one of those indispensable political leaders. For us, it is a search to build an all inclusive Nigeria. So we feel that as part of the agenda setting we should meet with him and that is the reason why we are here. And for the rest, whatever it is, maybe in the future we can discuss that.” Lawal also explained that their mission was a brotherly visit to the governor of Rivers State. “We came to visit our brother. He (Wike)  is our brother. So, every now and then, the Bible enjoins you to visit one another. That is what we just did.” Few weeks ago, three governors led by the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum and Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who came alongside APC Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos) and Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) visited Wike. Although details of their meeting were not disclosed but everything pointed at the direction of the 2023 general elections. Wike had also cleared the air that he was not leaving PDP and there wouldn’t be need for that as he single handedly chose a candidate in Rivers (Siminialayi Fubara) to succeed him. Presidential Candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso and his Labour Party counterpart, Mr Peter Obi, also visited the Rivers governor in Port Harcourt last month. Obi had stated that his visit to Wike was to discuss vital issues of national interest with him. Wike’s anger fueled by Atiku’s refusal to visit him Rivers State governor, while speaking to journalists last week, at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, in Ikwerre Local Government Area, shortly after his arrival from Spain, maintained that the right thing Atiku and PDP national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, ought to have done after the party’s presidential primary would have been to reach out to him, but they have not. The Governor had said he will react to all the comments alleged against him by Atiku and some of his supporters. Wike who insisted on disclosing to the public what transpired during the party’s special convention. He described as unfortunate the public comments credited to respectable party members against him after the conduct of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential primaries held between May 29 and 30, this year. He also stated that Atiku used the occasion of the unveiling of PDP vice presidential candidate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, and his appearance on a national television to lie against him. According to him: “But there comes a time that people will understand and know the true facts. So, obviously, whether I will speak is not in doubt, to let Nigerians know the actual truth. Having known the truth, whatever they decide to do with it is left for Nigerians. Because, you can imagine, the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, when he unveiled vice presidential candidate, no right thinking lover of this party would say that the speech he made on that day was fair. Forget about the favour seekers. Forget about the scavengers. But I never reacted to it. That is because this party belongs to all of us. “Thereafter, he appeared on Arise Television, see the statement he made. So many lies were told and you said I should not react to some of those issues. That would not be fair. Look at it, a presidential candidate who believes that he wants to win election, and somebody who contested fiercely with him that has never raised any issue. I just kept quiet, just minded my business, to see how my state can move forward. But everyday, his people come up to attack me, to say one thing or the other. That’s quite unfair and so I should let Nigerians know at the appropriate time, that will be after the inauguration of projects that we have lined up”. Wike further wondered why  Atiku who visited him at his place to solicit his support would not visit after the primary. He also said he is not aware of any committee that has been set up by PDP or the party’s presidential candidate to reach out to him. The Meeting As part of the ongoing reconciliation within the PDP,  Wike, Sunday, met with some  governors and stakeholders of the party. The meeting, which started about 4.30pm was held at the Rivers state governor’s lodge in Port Harcourt.The agenda of the meeting was unclear  but it may not be unconnected with the festering post-presidential primary crisis, which has polarised the party divided into two major camps. Those at the meeting included Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State; his Abia State counterpart counterpart,  Okezie Ikpeazu, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State; Governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; son of the late Head of State, Mohammed Abacha and the national vice chairman of the PDP in the South-south, Dan Orbih. Others at the meeting were a former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke; former governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam; former Ondo State governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko; former Bayelsa State governor, Senator Seriake Dickson, former Kogi State governor, Ibrahim Idris’ former Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang and former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana.

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