New Telegraph

Wike: A gadfly, Atiku and 2023

That Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike is by every standard the exact opposite of what he was while serving as Minister of State of Education is not in doubt. One of the things that stand him out is that he is never afraid to speak his mind on any issue, though you may or may not agree with him. While he served as minister, he never saw eye ball to eye ball with his predecessor, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, whom he served as Chief of Staff as Governor of Rivers State. Little wonder, Wike fought Amaechi as the Ex-President’s Minister and is still fighting him till date, over irreconcilable differences.

To the Rivers State Governor, the immediate past Minister of Transportation did little or nothing for Rivers State while in that capacity. He even took the battle to the Supreme Court to enable him to probe the former governor for crimes allegedly committed against the state. At the advent of the Buhari administration in 2015, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which had lost the presidential election, was almost going into oblivion, but for Wike. It is to his credit that he gave his all to this party, at a time when some of his colleagues preferred to look the other way.

This is the thrust of the disagreement of his camp with the PDP, including its Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, his estranged friend, Aminu Tambuwal and others who allowed former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to emerge as the party’s presidential candidate.

That Wike put so much into the party primaries was not in doubt as the outcome of the primaries later showed. It was therefore unsurprising that the governor was angered by the development which was further aggravated by the Atiku camp’s poor sense of humility. But power is not served a la carte and observers believe that the PDP chieftain ought to have known that politics is full of intrigues as the party primaries later revealed. For a party that had been fragmented in the last few years, the party leadership has no doubt widened the cracks as it ought to have been in the forefront of events.

Not PDP. While the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu swung into action, almost immediately after his party’s primaries, visiting his opponents, Atiku Abubakar was nowhere to be found. Consequently, the media fed on that lacuna which further exposed the PDP’s poor management skills and capacity, especially at a time like this. And when Atiku eventually visited the Rivers State Governor, the exercise opened a floodgate of stupendous and unimaginable crisis in its wake. So angry was Wike that he has seized every opportunity to show resentment with the PDP and its presidential candidate.

Worse still, the former Vice president who should have brought his political experience to bear worsened the political inferno with the way and manner he chose his Vice Presidential candidate, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa. Meanwhile, pro-Wike forces had put forward the Rivers State Governor as a major contender for the number two position, but shock waves hit the camp with the announcement of Okowa.

While it is the prerogative of a presidential candidate to name his running mate, Atiku virtually put hot iron in the sore with his reasons for the choice of the Delta State Governor as his Vice Presidential candidate Hear him: “In these consultations, I made it clear that my running mate would have the potential to succeed me at a moment’s notice as a President-in-waiting.” “In other words, the person must have the qualities to be president.

The person must have an appreciation of the deep rot which our country has been put into by the rudderless All Progressives Congress’s government; understands the great suffering that most of our people are going through and the urgency of relieving them of that sufferings, understands the critical importance of economic growth and development to provide our young people with jobs, hope and pathway to wealth.” Atiku also denied insinuations on why he did not pick Governor Wike, adding that he was presented three nominees by the Governor Ortom-led committee and was at liberty to pick any one of them. Said he: “I didn’t reject Wike, I picked who can deliver. Wike is brilliant and tenacious. Going by history, I picked an Igbo as running mate in 2007, 2019. I still picked an Igbo for 2023.”

Observers believe that naturally, Wike would have been disappointed with his rejection, but Atiku could have been more tactical about the defence of his choice, especially since all hands need to be on deck for him to win the election. In recent elections, Rivers State recorded over one million votes, which is massive for any candidate wishing to win, even as the governor’s influence cannot be underestimated. Trust Wike, his political experience cannot be waved aside and he is shouting from the rooftop for all who care to listen that he remains a factor in the coming polls. Even Okowa cannot boast of anything yet, as his aspiration, nay that of Atiku may face a very serious threat in Delta, where the governor is currently at loggerheads with his godfather, Chief James Onanefe Ibori over who represents PDP as governorship candidate. Already, this has polarized the PDP in the state into two camps, just as APC governorship candidate and Deputy Senate president, Ovie Omo-Agege will be praying that the crisis continues.

Meanwhile, the Rivers Governor’s camp and that of Atiku may take their fight into the coming election; while the PDP leadership as presently constituted continues to play the ostrich. Worse still, Wike’s open romance with the top echelon of the APC in recent times would definitely be sending jitters down the spine of the Atiku camp. Though how he would resolve his differences with Amaechi remains to be seen, it would not be surprising if his support and that of his followers go the way of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. This is because politicians are very crafty, Rivers may experience what we saw in Ogun State in 2019, when the Amosun camp voted Buhari for the presidential election and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) in the governorship election, though the party lost. From the on-going scenario, the PDP, an already fractured party, would definitely be worse for it as 2023 approaches.

This may lead to the Ekiti scenario where ex-Governor Ayo Fayose led the party to a distant third position, never witnessed in the history of the party. The same Fayose, like a bull in a China shop, practically wrestled the party aground, making many top politicians including Senator Dayo Adeyeye and ex-governor Segun Oni to leave the party, even as the party looked on. Though the APC has its share of internal squabbles, it looks better prepared to face the task ahead, going by its commitment and preparedness for 2023. While the main opposition party is still groping in the dark, the APC has appointed a Director-General for its campaign organisation and set up a committee to fashion out its manifesto. This has given the party more than enough mileage in the race towards who occupies the seat of power next year. Obviously, Nigerians are not desirous of voting for a party which cannot put its house in order, lest it may sink Nigeria before our very eyes.

Umohinyang, a social commentator and public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja

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