‘Labour Party, major attraction to Wike based on growing acceptability’
As the reconciliatory team of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), continues to find ways to settle the differences between the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, it will only take a miracle to reconcile both politicians.
The recent comments credited to Wike and his body language point to the fact that his mind and body may have left the party long before now. Sources within the PDP in Rivers say that Wike nurses the hurt of deep betrayal, and has already made up his mind on the next political move.
That Wike is in romance with the All Progressives Congress (APC) is not just because it is the ruling party; it may have to do with not wanting to be harassed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) when he leaves office. Why remain in the PDP without any big portfolio other than being a political heavyweight whose resources would be used to propel a man he lost the primary to, to victory? Wike respects the staying power of Bola Ahmed Tinubu; he admires his political strategy and influence which cuts across the country’s geopolitical zones.
So, if Wike eventually aligns forces with Tinubu, who defeated former Rivers Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, to clinch the APC presidential ticket, the Rivers governor would have succeeded in whittling down the political value of Amaechi in the state and the South-South zone.
The Tinubu camp does not fully trust Amaechi, who they saw as the biggest threat to Tinubu in the build up to the APC presidential primary. Although Tinubu later visited the immediate past transportation minister at his Abuja residence on a fence mending mission, the Tinubu’s camp is also cognizance of the fact that based on current political reality, Wike wields much more power and influence in Rivers. When Wike received at his private residence in Port Harcourt Governors Kayode Fayemi, Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo and the outgoing governor of Ekiti State, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, it was not for merrymaking or a jamboree. It was a visit that was politically motivated towards 2023 and had the backing of their political leader, Tinubu. If he had invited them to flag-off or commission a project as he has been doing since he assumed office in 2015, it would have been a different issue. That the meeting was held behind closed-door without media coverage shows the level of importance of the issue they discussed.
Weeks after hosting the governors, Wike also invited Sanwo-Olu to inaugurate the Orochiri-Worokwu (Waterlines) Flyover, during which the Lagos State governor lauded Wike for his strong commitment to the delivery of physical infrastructure in Rivers. Only yesterday, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, was also in Rivers State to inaugurate one of Wike’s numerous projects. Although the governor might argue that he has friends within the ruling party and he can invite any of his friends to inaugurate projects, keen watchers believe that these actions are part of a well-orchestrated move whose end point is not so clear right now. What is however obvious is that his party, the PDP, will be unsettled by Wike’s romance with the ruling party.
Apart from the political heavyweights from the South-West, politicians from the North have also visited Wike, whose private residence, not Government House, has become a Mecca of sorts. A former Governor of Sokoto State, Aliyu Wamako, who’s also an APC member, was in Rivers recently on the invitation of the governor, likewise several other Northern politicians that are members of the PDP. Also, the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) Peter Obi has also visited. However, to appreciate Wike’s disappointment in losing the PDP presidential ticket, it is necessary to trace his political ascendency beginning from when he was the council chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, from 1999 to 2007. From that period up until Saturday, May 28, 2022, when the PDP primary was held, Wike had never lost a personal political contest. As council boss, he was elected to head the council of local government chairmen across the country from which position he saw political opportunities that he harnessed by building bridges. From a council boss to Chief of Staff and then a minister speaks volumes of his rise.
In 2015, he emerged as governor and was re-elected in 2019 against overwhelming odds. The security operatives deployed to provide security for residents were the ones that attempted to disrupt the process as they tried to hijack ballot boxes and unleash mayhem on innocent voters. From funding the party and leading the charge to keep the PDP intact, Wike’s second term in office also saw him reconciling feuding governors within the party. For instance, it was the Rivers governor who brokered a truce between the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom and Governor of Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed, in Port Harcourt.
Things were working smoothly for Wike from 2019 up until the party chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, declared that the party’s presidential ticket would be thrown open, rather than zoned to the South. That was the first major setback to the presidential ambition of Wike, who understands the party’s history and knows that Ayu’s stance violated the gentlemanly agreement that has lasted among the PDP stakeholders for more than two decades. Since the 1999 general elections, when former President Olusegun Obasanjo won the presidential election, the PDP had always rotated the Presidential ticket between the North and South.
The party believed in zoning, preached and practiced it. Wike, who had held the party together during troubled times beginning from 2015, shortly after the APC came into power, up until this year had expected the PDP to sustain its zoning arrangement.
The emergence of Ayu, and Atiku’s insistence to contest the election changed Wike’s calculation. Before then, around mid last year, he had ensured the removal of Prince Uche Secondus as the former party chairman and was receptive of the coming of Ayu, who was suggested by a close governor as a man that would be fair to all and also continue with the party’s zoning arrangement.
For Wike, who backed Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal at the Adokiye Amasiemaka Stadium, Port Harcourt during the PDP presidential primary in 2018 and eventually supported Atiku when he picked the ticket; Ayu’s insistence against zoning was the major obstacle that stood against Wike’s triumph in 2022. To show that Wike is not ready to work with Atiku, he recently parted ways with Sen. Lee Maeba, a former staunch ally who stood solidly behind him during the 2015 and 2019 governorship elections.
Maeba had led some PDP leaders in Rivers in a meeting with Atiku and had allegedly promised to deliver Rivers vote to the former Vice President in 2023. A furious Wike wasted no time in dissolving the governing board of the Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, chaired by Maeba, a two term senator from Ogoni. Maeba, who has accused Wike of dictatorship in the running of the PDP in Rivers, also claimed that Wike ordered him not to run for the party’s governorship primary, which produced Siminialayi Fubara. He claimed that Wike vowed to stop them from campaigning for Atiku in the state without his express permission. For speaking out against Wike, the local government chairman of Emuoha Local Government Area, Chidi Lloyd, a Wike ally described Meeba as a coward without an electoral value.
Lloyd said Meeba displayed his cowardice again by remaining as a council chair of a Polytechnic he claimed Wike refused to fund for over seven years without resigning his appointment. A plan B for Wike, according to one PDP chieftain, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, is a possible defection to the Labour Party, whose popularity continues to rise throughout the country.
The governor, he noted, is trying to buy time while the negotiation with the party’s reconciliation committee continues. “As things stand now, the Labour Party is a major attraction to Governor Wike, based on the acceptability of the party by a growing mass of the Nigerian people. This is a governor that is in politics to win, and wouldn’t want to jump into a party that will eventually fail,” the source said