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Rivers APC: Tinubu, S’West govs’ romance with Wike unsettles party

EMMANUEL MASHA reports on the recent stakeholders meeting of South South Executive Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at which chieftains of the party in that zone expressed dismay over the political romance between APC leaders in the South West and Governor Nyesom Wike

 

W hen former Vice President Atiku Abubakar emerged as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after a grueling primary election, no one ever imagined that his emergence would divide the party rather than unite it.

 

The tone of the election had been dictated by the clamour for zoning, with some presidential aspirants from the South, particularly Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, strongly faulting the emergence of Atiku, who southern politicians backed for the ticket in 2019.

 

For Atiku to have bulldozed his way into the contest and eventually won, Wike argues, has upturned the political balance against the South, which should have produced the presidential candidate in line with the PDP zoning tradition. Even though Wike eventually lost to Atiku, the Rivers governor has   been getting more of the headlines since the primary.

 

The outcome of the PDP primary has turned Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, to a Mecca of sort as different politicians continue to visit the Garden City to convince, dissuade and woo Wike. No doubt, Wike is soaking the pressure and at the same time, having a good time. He has held countless meetings with both political allies and foes, even in London, yet there is nothing concrete to determine his next political move.

Wike, who may have been underrated, has succeeded in rallying a group of serving and former governors to his cause. Expectedly, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Labour Party (LP) have been courting him for a possible defection. He has met with some South-West governors in Port Harcourt, and has equally held meetings with Peter Obi, the LP presidential candidate.

 

The fact remains that in the aftermath of the presidential primary, the PDP has been struggling to remain united as Wike keeps hammering on the issue of alleged gang-up against him on one hand and the quest for equity and justice for the South on another hand. He feels that the party’s national chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, who is supposed to be an unbiased umpire in the election ended up siding Atiku.

 

For that reason, Wike wants Ayu to resign and to be replaced by a southerner. According to Wike, it is against the age-long zoning policy of the PDP for the party chairman and the presidential candidate; who is likely to emerge as president to come from the North.

If Atiku eventually wins, Wike has argued, it simply means that the two most powerful persons from the party in government; those that will take powerful decisions for every part of the country would come from the same area. While Ayu, who Wike wants to be the sacrificial lamb continues to proclaim his innocence, Wike has also alleged that the party chairman collected the sum of N1 billion from a presidential aspirant in Lagos.

“Ayu is very corrupt. I’m totally informed. Ayu has the opportunity to challenge me, I will name. Some of the governors can tell you. Will he deny the fact that he didn’t collect N1 billion from Lagos? Let him deny it, I will tell him who gave him the money, not from the Lagos State government, the money was given to him in Lagos.

 

“He met one of the presidential candidates and told him that he’s not sure these governors may want to sponsor the party. That money did not enter into the account of PDP, but we are not attacking Ayu on that basis,” Wike said. While Wike’s battle with the PDP rages, leaders of APC in Rivers State recently condemned what they termed South-West governors romance of Wike. The party leaders, made up of allies of the immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, spoke at a stakeholders meeting in Port Harcourt.

Recall that three months ago, outgone governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi; Ondo State governor and chairman of the Southern Governors Forum, Rotimi Akeredolu and Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, conferred with Wike in Port Harcourt.

Also at the meeting was Wike’s ally and former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose.

They had visited Wike amid rumours that he met with APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, in France. This claim was however dismissed by Tinubu’s campaign team. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has also been in Port Harcourt to commission a project during which he claimed that Wike is “destined” to join the APC.

He said: “It is the irony of life and indeed very interesting, the twist of fate, that those who he sat with to plot against me are the same people who sat together at your primary to plot against you. “So, plotting is not necessarily a new thing in politics but what is constant is that in politics, there are no permanent enemies, there are no permanent friends, but what you have is permanent interest.

“And by God’s grace, this one that you have started, the journey that you have started that you and I both know, shall be permanent. Please choke them. I said choke them. “I believe that when the governor finally chokes them, the members of the state Assembly will be coming with him to where he is destined to be. We await you, Your  Excellency, and very eagerly too.”

 

But the Rivers APC stakeholders who met in Port Harcourt, including those vying for elective positions in 2023, bared their mind over the manner APC South-West leaders have turned Wike to a beautiful bride. Tinubu hardly invite Amaechi, who placed second at the APC presidential primary tohis events.

 

Amaechi, who is also the leader of the party in the state, is the only reason why the party has not completely collapsed in the state. Some of his trusted and formidable allies, who have worked with him for almost two decades, have dumped the party without concrete reasons, while the fear that more will still dump the party persists.

The calculation among the APC stakeholders is the manner of negotiation the party leaders from the South-West are having with Wike. For instance, what would be the fate of candidates in the state vying for elective positions? What would be the position of Amaechi if Wike eventually decides to join the APC?

 

Who between Wike and Amaechi would lead the party and direct its affairs for the 2023 election? These and other unanswered questions must have motivated the stakeholders meeting of the South-South executive committee presided over by the APC National Vice Chairman of the zone, Chief Victor Giadom.

At the meeting, the state APC chairman, Emeke Beke, expressed dismay that none of the party members from the zone whose names were submitted to the national level of the party made the list of the APC presidential campaign council. Beke told Chief Giadom to relate it to the national level when he returns that the state APC chairmen in the zone took a position and have written to the President and the national officers in that regard, even as he called for a refund of 25 per cent from the proceeds of the sale of forms in the state.

Beke said: “We have written to the President, to the national chairman, to the candidate (Tinubu), to the chairman of the governors’ forum and the Director General of the campaigns. You people asked us to nominate five names for campaign council. None of the five names we sent appeared on the list because they don’t like Rotimi Amaechi. From the zone, no one (names) appeared and the chairmen have taken a position on that.

We will down our tools. “As you go back tell the national chairman that Rivers State bought forms of over one billion naira. And what we are asking, remit to the state 25 per cent of that money. If that money is not remitted to Rivers State, forget about coming to Rivers State to campaign for a presidential candidate. We will vote for our National Assembly and state House of Assembly candidates and focus on the governorship candidate of this state, and we will win.

“The truth is that what has happened to Rivers State is because they don’t like Rotimi Amaechi. I speak as Emeka Beke, not as Rivers APC chairman. I have heard and seen Wike’s comments on television and social media respectively. Wike dines with leaders of our great party. If the national does not listen to the APC Rivers State, we will take our destiny in our hands.

“We have been out of government for eight years. Now we want to win elections. I can tell you that Wike does not have the political base to win election in Rivers State. What Wike is doing is giving the bride to leaders of our own party to shortchange the APC family in Rivers State.

My candidates and members in Rivers State have suffered. “Candidates are selling their land, selling their property to make sure they win an election and keep the APC in power. Then, leaders we look up to will come here and campaign. At the end of the day, they will dine with Governor Wike at night. Please tell them not to dine with Governor Wike again.

Let them support this party in the state.” In his submission, the state APC Legal Adviser, Dike Iheanyi Zubi, alleged that Tinubu and some South-West governors were carrying out anti-party activities and called on President Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) to call them to order.

 

He said: “It is very discouraging for the APC here in Rivers State to see a situation where the presidential candidate of our party, Tinubu and his handlers, including South-West governors of the APC, coming to the state to undermine our party here in Rivers State.

They hobnob and hold nocturnal meetings with Wike, who is seen as a contender with the APC here in the state.” In his response, Giadom promised to deliver their message to the party’s national leaders. “This is my own constituency and I am from Rivers State.

I know exactly that everything that you have said here is true. Everybody in Nigeria knows that what you are complaining about is true. From the speaker (Femi Gbajabiamila), Governor Fayemi, and Governor Akeredolu, all came here (Rivers) to commission projects, and by doing it, praised Governor Wike,” he said.

 

Whatever political step Wike eventually takes in response to the emergence of Atiku as presidential candidate, the APC in Rivers don’t foresee a situation where their leader, Amaechi will wave the broom (APC symbol) with Wike. In 2019, no single APC candidate contested election due to a Supreme Court judgement. In 2023, the party feels that it has an opportunity to recover what it lost in 2019. But the biggest obstacle to achieve that is Wike, whether he remains in the PDP or joins the APC.

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