Wike’s Camp and the Big Gamble

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The ugly experience suffered by five governors of the defunct Alliance for Democracy in 2003, following their decision to work with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, may relive itself in 2023 if the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and allies do not tread with utmost caution, Ejiofor Alike reports

In what could be aptly described as an anti-party activity, some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who are sympathetic to the cause of the Rivers State governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, last Wednesday, pulled out of the Presidential Campaign Council of Atiku Abubakar, insisting that the party’s National Chairman, Dr. Iyorcha Ayu, must step down.

The supposed anti-party activities of Wike and his group did not start with their pulling out of the Atiku campaign council as they had long been hobnobbing openly with the leaders of other major political parties ahead of the 2023 general election.

Since Wike began to bare his fangs following his loss of the PDP presidential and vice presidential tickets, his major known allies include the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde; Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom; Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu; Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; and ex-Plateau State Governor, Senator Jonah Jang, among others. 

However, Makinde was the only governor in Wike’s camp that attended the Wednesday meeting held at the Rivers State governor’s country home in Obio-Akpor, where the resolution to pull out of Atiku’s campaign was taken.

It is not clear if Ikpeazu, Ortom, Ugwuanyi and others, who did not participate in the meeting, would abide by the resolution reached.

But in the resolution read by a former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, the camp of the Rivers State governor insisted that “Senator Iyorchia Ayu must resign as the national chairman of the party for an acting chairman of the Southern extraction to emerge and lead the party on the national campaign…Consequently, we resolve not to participate in the campaign council in whatever capacity until the resignation of Dr. Iyorchia Ayu,” part of the resolution added.

The Oyo State governor also said he backed the decision of the group to pull out of the campaign, adding, “We hope that the powers that be listens to the voice of reason and do the needful”.

Apart from seeking reelection in 2023, Makinde is the Deputy Director General (South) of the campaign council.

In a swift response, Atiku stressed that as a believer in the concept of the rule of law, the demand to remove Ayu must be within the dictates and letters of the PDP constitution.

Ayu played into the hands of Wike and his group with his unhidden show of excitement over Atiku’s victory at the PDP presidential primary, which portrayed him as a partial umpire. The Rivers State governor and his allies capitalised on the fact that the South was shortchanged since both Atiku and Ayu are from the North. 

So, their clamour for Ayu’s resignation could be said to be just. After all, it was the same Wike and southern members of the PDP that saved the party from extinction, when Atiku and some other northern members declared it a dead party and joined the All Progressives Congress (APC) to sack former President Goodluck Jonathan from power in 2015.

So, while Wike has continued to grandstand, claiming that he is fighting for justice, his allies also claimed that their support for him was neither because he lost the presidential primary nor because he was not chosen as the running mate but because of equity and justice in the party.

But Wike has since been reminded by his opponents that his grievances are borne out of selfishness and ego, having lost the party’s presidential and vice presidential tickets.

Those opposed to his political style have argued that he should have supported presidential aspirants from the South-east instead of deploying the unlimited resources at his disposal to buy the PDP ticket, which eventually ended up a wasteful venture.

His opponents in both the North and South have insisted that since the South-east is the only zone in the South that has not produced the President since 1999, Wike should have supported the zone if he claims to be a champion of justice and equity. 

Unfortunately, having lost out in his bid for any elective position, Wike might lead Makinde and other members of his camp to their political graves in 2023.

While some members of his camp are spent forces, who cannot even deliver their polling booths in an election, others are serving governors, who are either seeking reelection or senatorial positions in 2023.

On his part, Wike is only planning to install a successor on the platform of the PDP.

However, many believe that with his current anti-party activities of holding meetings with the presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu and the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi, the Rivers State governor can easily trade off the governorship candidate of the PDP in his state, Mr. Siminalaye Fubara, to avoid the likely probe of his administration.

According to analysts, in the likely event of Wike working against his governorship candidate, that the Oyo State governor and other members of his camp seeking reelection or senatorial seats might suffer the fate of the five governors of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD), who supported the reelection of former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the platform of the PDP and lost their return bids.

Former governors Segun Osoba of Ogun State, the late Lam Adesina of Oyo State; Bisi Akande of Osun State; Adeniyi Adebayo of Ekiti State; and the late Adebayo Adefarati of Ondo State – all of the AD – failed to win their reelection bids in 2003 due to an alleged betrayal of the pact they reached with Obasanjo, then of the PDP. Only the then Governor Tinubu of Lagos State survived.

In one of his interviews with THISDAY, Osoba confirmed that Obasanjo hoodwinked the AD governors.

“He deceived us by promising true federalism, fiscal responsibility and credible census. Our leaders believed him. The pact we had was that he would do major restructuring in his second term. But he failed us. I have no regrets that he did what he did to truncate our second term, because my landmark achievement of projects across Ogun State is still a benchmark of a successful governor,” Osoba reportedly said.

The former AD governors did not play any anti-party activities because they did not have a presidential candidate but they still had their fingers burnt.

Makinde, Ortom, Ugwuanyi and other members of Wike’s group should understand the dangers of working for another presidential candidate, when they are also seeking elective positions on the platform of a different party. Even Wike should not be sure that any promise made to him by the leader of any opposition party would be kept.

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