Ahead of Friday’s deadline for political parties to submit the names of their presidential candidates and running mates to the Independent National Electoral Commission, most of the political parties are making hurried moves to beat the deadline.
The commission had said it would not extend the deadline for the submission of the names of the candidates and their running mates.
In the Peoples Democratic Party, the committee set up by the party to advise it on the most suitable running mate for Atiku Abubakar will hold its final meeting on Tuesday, Sunday PUNCH reliably learnt on Saturday.
The panel, which comprised governors, National Working Committee members, former governors and Board of Trustees members, was given the mandate of recommending to the party the best candidate that would be acceptable to many Nigerians and help the party win the February 25, 2023 election.
In the ruling All Progressives Congress, it was also learnt that the party and its candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, might settle for a Muslim-Muslim ticket, given the party’s difficulty in finding a Christian from the North, who would boost the party’s chances in the election.
A top source in the party told one of our correspondents on Saturday that even though consultation was still ongoing, the idea of picking either Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State or the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who are both northern Christians, was no longer topical due to their limited clout in the region.
The source noted that North-West and North-East had the bloc votes in the region and that if the party could not find a stronger Christian from the two sub-regions, it might settle for a Muslim.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday’s meeting of the PDP panel, a reliable source, who is also a member of the panel, told one of our correspondents that the committee adjourned its previous meeting to enable members to broaden their consultation.
“The deadline for submission is June 17, so the meeting was adjourned till Tuesday, June 14, to give room for more consultation and unification efforts. They will take a final decision on Tuesday,” The source said.
It was gathered from other sources in the party that Atiku, who is a BoT member, would also be part of the meeting, and that the party might take a final decision on the issue.
“Our presidential candidate will be part of the meeting on Tuesday and the major organs of the party are represented as well, so the decision there is as good as final. The announcement may be delayed to ratify the choice and of course we will watch what the other parties will come up with,” one of the sources stated.
Okowa favoured, Wike, Udom make PDP final list
There are strong indications that the Governor of Delta State, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, is favoured to emerge as Atiku’s running mate as the candidate is said to be favourably disposed to the choice of Okowa, a medical doctor serving his second term as the governor of the oil-bearing state.
Other persons being considered and who are interested in the slot are governors Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State and Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. Wike was the first runner-up during the party’s presidential primary held on May 29, 2022.
A top source in the party, who is also close to the candidate, said, “Atiku will consult very well. He has met with the governors on the platform of the party; he has met with members of the national caucus, the PDP Governors’ Forum, members of the National Executive Committee, and even former presidents and heads of state.
“The leadership of the party asked him to bring three names that he thinks he could work with and he did, which are the names people have been mentioning everywhere; Wike, Okowa and Udom Emmanuel. But I think he prefers Okowa. He (Okowa) is believed to have the support of the majority of the governors, including those from the South-East and South-South, where he hails from.
“The preference for him is also strategic. Following the need to carry along the South-East people, Okowa is Igbo from the Igbo part of Delta State. He is calm, a medical doctor and does not insult or fight people, including his colleagues. Even during campaigns, he’s not the type to speak ill of fellow aspirants or candidates.
“Therefore, it’s not likely that there will be any major opposition to his choice. Like I said, he is Igbo and he will create that needed balance between the South-South and the South-East. The Igbo will support him and people in the South-South will also support him.”
There are also insinuations that some PDP governors were against the choice of Wike as Atiku’s running mate.
On why Wike, who was a major contender for the presidential ticket, was not considered, the source, who was privy to some of the meetings held over the issue, told Sunday PUNCH, “Some governors frustrated the move to make him the running mate. They feel he is too powerful. But in all honesty, you need someone like Wike to win the election.
“He can fight dirty and can pull the crowd. But some of the governors, who form a powerful and influential bloc in the party, feel otherwise and you cannot dismiss their views.”
The source said a new twist to the search was the view of some stakeholders that the running mate should come from the South-West.
He added, “As it is now, it is very likely for Tinubu to pick his running mate from North-West. We must not forget that the majority of the votes are from the North-West and South-West. That is where the bloc votes are.
“What some stakeholders are saying is that if he does, it will be dangerous for the PDP to totally ignore the South-West, because North-West, which has the highest votes, may give Tinubu that advantage.
“Now, people are saying if a Christian from the South-West is Atiku’s running mate, it will affect Tinubu’s votes in the region, because running with a Muslim/Muslim ticket will spark outrage from Pentecostal Christians and that will affect his votes among even the northern Christians. It will also affect him in the South-South. That is the argument. So, the PDP cannot also ignore the South-West.”
To deepen his consultation, Atiku met with former PDP governors on Friday after he had met with former ministers. He wrote on his Facebook page that the responses from all the stakeholders that he had met reinforced his belief that the party would win if the unity was sustained.
APC considers Bagudu, Shettima, Ganduje, El-Rufai
Fresh information emerged on Saturday that the Tinubu camp had ruled out Lalong and Mustapha, who is from Adamawa State, and might settle for a core Muslim northerner, regardless of their advantage of being Christians.
One of those involved in the consultation for Tinubu’s running mate pointed out that the party might settle for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Reliable sources close to Tinubu also indicated that the former Lagos State governor would rely on the input of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and members of the Progressives Governors’ Forum on who should be his running mate.
The pressure to pick a Muslim as his running mate, it was learnt, was to assuage his many supporters in the North due to indications that there were no popular Christian politicians to sway votes in favour of the APC in the region.
A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the sensitive issue, affirmed that four men were in contest for the position. The source said, “We have Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State; a former governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima; Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State; and Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State.”
It was learnt that the Governor of Borno State, Prof Babagana Zulum, made a case for Shettima when Tinubu visited the state during his consultation with delegates. Shettima is a strong supporter of the APC candidate and he spoke out in Tinubu’s defence after his Abeokuta outburst.
Another source noted, “However, the President and the members of the Progressives Governors’ Forum will play key roles in deciding the running mate. You will be surprised to know that Zulum made a case for Shettima when Asiwaju visited Borno during the campaign. He said, ‘Jagaban, please I am going to ask for two favours from you. I want you to pay attention to my state and also consider my principal, Senator Shettima, as your running mate. He has good things to offer and you will enjoy him’.
“For now, the running mate may have to come from these four men.”
It was gathered that Lalong’s name was dropped because he’s known to be very close to the former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who came second during the primary.
The source said, “From fresh considerations, we cannot pick Lalong or Boss Mustapha. Apart from his closeness to Amaechi, a factor we are not very comfortable with, Lalong is from the North-Central, which is not a core northern state. Plateau is also considered not to be strategic enough to win elections in northern Nigeria. Using him will be like alienating the entire northern Nigeria.
“Concerning Boss Mustapha, well, he is not with us. Though he belonged to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria like Tinubu, he does not identify with him. He was not part of our campaign and has yet to visit the aspirant (as of Saturday afternoon) since he won the primary.
“In his home state of Adamawa, it’s known that Mustapha cannot win an election there. So, why will you impose such a man on an aspirant that needs the huge votes from the northern region?”
Meanwhile, Amaechi has expressed his readiness to work with Tinubu. In his short response to an inquiry on whether he was ready to work with the party’s candidate, the former minister said, “Yes, we met. He came to my house and we discussed and resolved to work together.”
‘Muslim-Muslim ticket debate, conspiracy to distract Tinubu’
The National Vice Chairman (North-West) of the APC, Salihu Lukman, said the debate over a perceived Muslim-Muslim ticket was a ploy to distract Tinubu, adding that he was not surprised to find party members among those second-guessing the outcome.
Lukman in a statement in Abuja on Saturday, stated, “Most of those trying to use religious arguments to influence the choice of running mate for Asiwaju Tinubu are impliedly arguing that a Christian northerner can only win presidential election if his/her running mate is a Muslim from southern Nigeria.
“In the same vein, this will be politically disadvantageous, if not impossible for any Christian from the North or Muslim from the South to win the presidential election. Such a backward national mindset must be changed.”
He said the 2023 presidential campaigns must not be reduced to the level of ethnic and religious sentiments if Nigeria was to move forward.
Allow northern govs decide your running mate, stakeholders urge Tinubu
Some stakeholders and chieftains of the APC, on Saturday, urged the party’s presidential candidate to allow the northern APC governors to choose his running mate.
They argued that since the northern governors suggested that the party should zone its presidential ticket to the South, they were still in a better position to field a running mate.
The Director-General, Voice of Nigeria and foundation member of the APC, Osita Okechukwu, told one of our correspondents, “On the issue of the running mate, I will advise our presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to weigh the opinion of the northern governors on this matter. They stand in a better position, better than any other organ of the party, in consultation with Mr President to give us a candidate.”
Also, the Chairman of the APC Rebirth Group, Aliyu Audu, said, “The northern governors sat and decided that the ticket should go to the South. The same set of people should be able to decide who will be the running mate. It is not just up to the candidate. It is up to the party.”
The APC’s first national secretary, Tijjani Tumsah, also stated, “Tinubu’s criteria should be competence, a known value addition to the ticket and someone who can deliver. We should not be limited by religion or some other criteria. His criteria should be a competent person from the North.”
As of the time of filing this report, efforts to reach Tinubu’s spokesperson, Mr Tunde Rahman, proved abortive as he neither responded to calls or an SMS sent to him.
Religion not a problem in choice of running mate – Campaign organisation
Religious affiliation will not be a factor in the choice of a running mate for Tinubu, his campaign organisation said on Saturday.
Responding to the rejection of Muslim-Muslim ticket by the Christian Association of Nigeria and counter-claims by the Muslim Rights Concern, the Director, Legal Directorate, Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Babatunde Ogala (SAN), told Sunday PUNCH that the APC would not pander to such sentiment.
He said, “What is the business of CAN in politics? That is what I don’t understand? Was CAN there when we were doing our convention? Do they know the processes of how our candidate emerged? I think CAN, MURIC and other religious bodies should concentrate on their religion and stop heating up the polity. The party has not come up with any position; so why the issue of threats? What is their own with issuing threats?
“We will pick the best (running mate) for our party who can deliver the election for us; they should allow the people to decide what they want.”
NASS caucus joins APC govs in search for Tinubu’s running mate
The National Assembly Caucus of the APC has joined the search for a running mate for Tinubu, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.
The Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, last week hinted that by the current zoning arrangement in the party, the North-East should produce Tinubu’s running mate.
In an interview with our correspondent on Friday, Ado-Doguwa, who is from Kano in the North-West, argued that the APC could win with a Muslim-Muslim ticket, noting that the candidate is a liberal Muslim married to a Christian, Senator Oluremi Tinubu.
He added, “The National Assembly Caucus will rather continue to partner with the governors to chart the best way forward for our great party to deliver in the 2023 general elections. We are also adequately represented in virtually all the decision-making and decision-taking horizons of the party.
“On the tentative zoning arrangement, I believe the North-East should be allowed to produce an acceptable running mate. But whether that will be Ahmad Lawan or not, I cannot tell. My candid opinion is that in this 21st Century, Nigeria has passed that stage where religion will play a prominent role in the selection of our vice-president.”
However, the lawmaker representing Borno South Senatorial District, Senator Ali Ndume, said his involvement in the presidential race ended with the failure of Amaechi to clinch the party’s ticket. He added that Tinubu would determine who would be his running mate.
A member of the National Assembly, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, disclosed that Lawan, Zulum, Shettima and a former Speaker of the House, Yabuku Dogara, were being considered.
“It is very likely that in spite of all the stories going round to be a Muslim-Muslim ticket. It is very likely. But who that person will be, I am not in the position to tell. Lawan is not in the contest because Lawan is seen as someone who betrayed Tinubu,” the lawmaker added.
I’ll pick credible southern Christian – Kwankwaso
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, Rabiu Kwankwaso, has said the party is currently making consultation to choose a credible southern Christian as his running mate.
He said in an interview with one of our correspondents, “A committee will be constituted to help get the best Nigerian, who will be a Christian from the southern part of the country, as the running mate. The Kwankwasiyya National Movement is already in the southern part of the country and we will get someone who is widely accepted in the southern part of the country as my running mate.
“I am sure they will come with their own benefits to be added to the NNPP for the success of the party. When we come together, no candidate of the APC or the PDP will be able to defeat us.”
Asked how he planned to defeat the two major parties, the former Defence Minister said, “The Kwankwasiyya movement is very popular, and we will even win in the North-East.
“I’m happy that the Electoral Bill was signed into law, and that will make it difficult for anyone to rig us as they’ve always done in the past.”
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2022: International Youth day:APC National Women Leader felicitates with Youths across the globe
The National Women Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Dr Betta Edu celebrates with the youths across the globe on the occasion of the International youth day with a theme *Intergenerational solidarity: Creating a world for all ages*
Dr. Betta in a correspondence released by her Special Adviser on political matters, Seun Bosede Osamaye, noted the importance of Youth Day as an awareness day designated by the United Nations to draw attention to a given set of cultural and legal issues surrounding the Youths.
Speaking as a mother in her goodwill message, the ebullient National Women Leader of the All Progressives Congress Dr. Betta Edu appealed to the Nigerian Youths to continue to be law abiding, to shun social vices, and to embrace peace as they join their counterparts all over the world to observe the *2022 International Youth Day*.
Noting that the United Nations has made a day like this very important to provide an opportunity for youths to reflect on their voices, actions, and initiatives, Dr. Betta beckons on the Nigerian Government to make it a norm in celebrating this day for the youth by raising awareness and educating people about the importance of youth in the society because the *Youths* are the pillars and future of every country.
Speaking further, Dr. Betta stressed the utmost importance of promoting youth participation especially in politics so that they can help to create a better future. She wish all Youths across the globe a successful outing and a Happy International 2022 Youth Day!
*Comr. Victoria Uko*
SA Media to NWL
Tension mounts in PDP as crisis worsens; elders weigh options
Amid tensions, some elders of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday, intervened in the crisis rocking the party by giving approval for the constitution of the presidential campaign council.
Vanguard gathered that while some PDP leaders are pushing for the party to wield the big stick against those engaged in anti-party activities, other leaders are more favourably disposed to ongoing reconciliatory efforts.
It was learned in Abuja yesterday that the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and other organs of the party, including the National Working Committee, NWC, the Caucus and the Board of Trustees, BoT, have agreed to go ahead with the constitution of the party’s presidential campaign council.
This came on a day former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George, urged the PDP National Chair-man, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, to honourably resign.
George, however, urged Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State not to join the All Progressives Congress, APC, despite misgivings over the choice of running mate to the PDP presidential candidate.
Party elders wade in, mull options
A top ranking member of the party, who is familiar with the issue but elected to speak in confidence, said: “We held a major consultative meeting on Tuesday and I can assure you that the membership of the council will be announced in the next two weeks.
“Campaigns start next month; we want to be up and running before this happens. We have been reaching out to our members nationwide, including our respected leaders in Rivers State.
“Details of our next steps are being worked out. You know the PDP, being a very large family, has a lot of tendencies and individuals and groups have egos that require massaging. We are doing that.
“There are those pushing for us to wield the big stick but the majority are more favourably disposed to ongoing reconciliatory efforts because we are in opposition; we need everyone more than the ruling party.”
Another party leader, who spoke on grounds of anonymity, said: “The PDP has dealt with bigger challenges; this one too has come and it will go. Governor Wike, whose name is being mentioned anytime our current challenges are cited, is a party man, he has said it himself.
“He has other party leaders who respect him and look up to him to protect their political interests. Whatsoever those interests may be, he feels an obligation to protect those who stuck out their necks for him during his bid for the ticket.
“It is the pursuit of this that has delayed us till now but we must make progress; we have an election to win and there will be positions of responsibilities to be given out. It is the patience component that is the issue at the moment.”
Substantial progress is being made — Atiku’s camp
When contacted, Mazi Paul Ibe, Media Adviser to the PDP Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, said: “Substantial progress is being made with regards to resolving outstanding issues. My principal has assured the party and all members that everyone will be carried along. That commitment has not changed.”
We’ll resolve crisis soon—PDP leader
Also speaking, a top PDP leader told Vanguard that leaders are making moves to resolve the crisis.
The PDP leader, who spoke in confidence, said: “We are making efforts to resolve the crisis.
All I know is that Wike will not leave the party. As regards inviting APC leaders to commission projects in his state, he has said it before that he would invite leaders across party lines to commission projects in Rivers. I can assure you that the crisis within the party will be resolved soon.”
Ayu should resign honourably —Bode George
Commenting on the crisis rocking the party, George, who addressed newsmen in Lagos, insisted that Ayu should honour his words by stepping down as national chairman of the party.
He, however, urged Governor Wike not to join APC, despite misgivings over the choice of Atiku’s running mate, saying “you don’t win all the time.”
Heis words: “In democracy, we must talk and exchange ideas. We must agree and disagree without actually being disagreeable. Any organisation with human beings will always have issues but the ability to manage that crisis will be the determining factor.
“I want to appeal to all sides to sheathe their swords. Nigerians are waiting for us and we must convince them that we can manage the resources of the country in an equitable manner.
“They should all cease fire. Statements of arrogance and innuendos that can destroy the party should stop forthwith.
“Zoning has sustained our democracy for this long because it’s the concept that established our party.
“My plea is that all should cool temper because if we don’t get it right this time around, this nation will never forgive us. Nigerians are waiting for the PDP.”
On 2023 general election, George said it was not yet uhuru.
While expressing worry over the security situation in the country, he said: “My fear is that if the insecurity continues, who will be bold enough to campaign or cast votes during election?
“These are serious issues we must consider. Are we thinking about it? It’s scary. How will people go out to vote on the day of election?”
Wike, one man balancing force —Mimiko
Meanwhile, former Ondo State governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, yesterday, commended Governor Wike’s boldness to lawfully speak truth to power, saying he has averted bids by desperate politicians to force Nigeria into a one-party state.
Mimiko said this while performing the flag-off of Rivers State project for dualisation of Azikiwe-Iloabuchi Road in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Noting that through bold legal challenges, Wike has deepened national consciousness by combating the defective federal system towards actualising true federalism.
Mimiko said: “Beyond the self-evident physical transformation, you (Wike) have stood as a bulwark against those sworn to emasculating the main opposition party, all in their bid to force a one-party state down the throats of Nigerians.
“You were at one point virtually a one man countervailing force, defending and protecting our dear PDP. You have also, through bold legal challenges, deepened the national consciousness on the defects in the running of our defective federal system.”
Hoping Wike remains committed to the struggle to entrench true federalism for just development across ethnic divides and religious persuasions in Nigeria, the former governor said: “Our party, the PDP, a party for which you have laboured so much, seems saddled with the historical duty of forging this unity, a unity premised on truth, equity and justice, a unity upon which rescuing Nigeria from unsatisfactory performance of the past seven years will be built.
“It is a mission that must be accomplished, a mission for which you are specially positioned and favoured to play a major role, a mission that must be subscribed to by all lovers of our country.”
Speaking on the project, Wike said: “As a man who respects leaders, I have to honour them by making sure this road is awarded and completed within six months.
“This is the last project here in Port Harcourt I’m going to embark upon before I leave office. All promises I have made in Port Harcourt, I have fulfilled. Let somebody come and tell me which one I have not fulfilled. “Because you voted for us, we too will work for you by providing basic infrastructure. That is what politics is all about. It is about talking and doing, not giving of excuses.
“No right-thinking person in this state would want to mingle or identify with such people that would make promises without fulfilling them.
“Our campaign has always been operation show your report card. We are showing our report card. Tell anybody who comes to you to show his report card.”
Wike’s romance with Tinubu’s men rattles Amaechi’s base
There are strong indications that the Rivers State All Progressives Congress led by immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, is angry about the romance between the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu’s men; and the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
Wike has in recent times been meeting with some APC chieftains, including Tinubu’s allies. On Monday, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, was invited by Wike to inaugurate a road project.
The Rivers governor also invited former Governor Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila to inaugurate some projects in his state.
Earlier, some APC governors led by the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, Kayode Fayemi, had also met Wike in his state amid his feud with the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar.
However, sources close to Amaechi, told The PUNCH that the romance between Wike and Tinubu was disrespectful especially since it was public knowledge that Wike and Amaechi were political foes.
They also accused Tinubu of supporting Senator Magnus Abe who recently dumped the APC to run for governor on the platform of the Social Democratic Party.
An associate of Amaechi who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said, “The APC leaders have been coming to Rivers State to lobby Wike and make all manner of promises to him. These people never came to Rivers even when the party was having a crisis.
“They should not forget that Amaechi came second in that presidential primary and is still the leader of the APC in Rivers State. Rather than rally around him, they have been romancing Wike. Tinubu is among the sponsors of Magnus Abe who has defected to the SDP.
“Magnus Abe is Tinubu’s boy. He is always with Tinubu. Even after joining the SDP, he is still with Tinubu and has promised to work for Tinubu’s campaign. Yet they cannot caution him.”
The source stated that Atiku might begin to woo Amaechi soon if quick action was not taken.
Speaking with The PUNCH, an APC chieftain, Chukwuemeka Eze, said he was not aware if Atiku had begun reaching out to Amaechi.
Eze, however, said if Amaechi decides to join the PDP, then Tinubu should be blamed.
He added, “If Amaechi decides to rejoin PDP, it may not be of his own making but due to the acts and attitude of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and managers of his campaign team coupled with the new style of leadership of those currently running APC.
“Let me state unequivocally that the manner and ways Amaechi and his political Team are being neglected both in the formation of the APC Presidential Campaign Council and most of the activities of the party since after the APC Presidential Convention is not the best way to treat a leader with the stature or status of Amaechi. You don’t do that.
“To worsen the situation, the manner in which Tinubu and his associates continued to associate with Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State without any consultation with Amaechi or any member of his political family is not only sad but very unfortunate.”
Eze said Amaechi remained an institution in Rivers State politics and that anybody or political leader who feels he can undermine him is doing that at his or her own peril.
He recalled that Amaechi as the Director-General of the Presidential campaign that orchestrated President Goodluck Jonathan’s defeat in 2015
“Based on his rating, I will not be shocked if Atiku Abubakar is wooing him based on the fact that the two leaders are not only very close associates politically and but have remain great partners in the progress of this country so I have nothing against such a union,” he said.
When contacted, the Rivers State APC Publicity Secretary, Chris Finebone, told The PUNCH that Wike was desperate for an alliance with Tinubu and the APC to remain relevant after 2023.
Commenting on the romance between Tinubu’s men and Wike, he stated, “In politics, the concentric circles of conspiracy are numerous. Sometimes they overlap and other times they are incongruent. But very often, the end result is one – how to appropriate political power at the expense of others or competitors. Therefore, in the instant case, whether it is Asuwaju that is going after Governor Wike or the latter that is courting Asuwaju, the end result is how to survive 2023 general elections and remain politically relevant thereafter.
We know that the desperate party or side in the entire calculation is Wike. Reason is that head or tail with Atiku, he’ll lose. Assuming without conceding that Atiku wins, he’ll surely put away Wike in a cold manner. Wike understands this. In a scenario where Asuwaju/APC wins, Wike deserves the grace of God to walk free. He needs the protection post 2023 so badly. Therefore, it is clear that Wike is the one chasing after Asiwaju/APC and not the opposite.
Whether asked if the romance was a slap on Amaechi, he stated, “I have a biblical verse as an answer. ‘Thou sayest!’
Also in a chat with The PUNCH, the Deputy spokesman of the APC in the Rivers State, Darlington Uwauju, said Amaechi was one of the few political leaders that could be trusted and that he would not leave the APC for the PDP.
The Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the APC, Cornelius Ojelabi, said anyone was free to visit Wike as he was not Tinubu’s enemy.
On Tinubu’s alleged link to Magnus Abe’s defection, he said, “I don’t know anything about that. All I know is that politics is a game of numbers. When you are in a contest, you just have to approach all that is approachable and solicit support.”
On whether he sees the possibility of Wike forming an alliance or crossing over to the APC, Ojelabi responded, “It is all about passion and you know Wike has a passion for politics. Wike was part of the southern governors who came to Lagos State before now and said that the Southern governors won’t support any presidential candidate from the North.”
‘Wike a tactician’
Also speaking with The PUNCH, a former Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, who is also a Tinubu campaigner, said there was nothing wrong with the new romance with Wike.
Shittu said Amaechi should be happy that someone like Wike was being linked to the APC.
“Nobody will stop Wike if he wants to come to APC. Again, you know Wike is a tactician. If I were in Amaechi’s shoes, I would see Wike’s coming as an opportunity to settle reconcile with him. What he should be thinking of at that point is that with Wike coming into the party, will there be an in-fighting anymore?,” he asked.
Shittu also rubbished reports that Tinubu had a hand in Abe’s defection, adding that Tinubu could not be blamed for longstanding crisis in the party in Rivers State.
“Is it not a stupid idea for anybody to suggest that Abe is not intelligent enough to take a decision on his own? There are certain things that sound silly to one’s hearing, except that it is always news to the media.
“Abe has been running a battle politically with Amaechi. Even at the last governorship primary, he didn’t win the ticket to fulfil his ambition. Tell me, does he need anybody to tell him the next step to take if he fails to clinch the APC ticket,” he asked.
Shittu added that Tinubu was not fighting with Amaechi whom he described as a brother and friend. He noted that when Amaechi accused APC delegates of selling their votes, Tinubu refused to respond.
“Is he fighting Amaechi? Even when he alleged that some delegates were given bribes for vote-buying, did Tinubu say anything? That’s because he doesn’t want to join the fray. If you study Tinubu well enough, you will know that he doesn’t take issue with people. That’s why you see people who fight him coming back to him at the end of the day,” he said
When contacted, Atiku’s Media Adviser, Paul Ibe said reconciliation and discussions with Wike was still ongoing and declined further comment.
An analyst, Sunny Anyanwu, argued that it was almost impossible for Wike to defect to the APC, adding that he may have been hurt, but he would not dump the PDP.
‘’It will amount to a dog eating its vomit if Wike defects to APC. Yes I agree Wike has been hurt. The committee set up by the PDP to select a vice- presidential candidate recommended him but Atiku on his own picked Okowa. Now, it was like injustice was done to him. I don’t think Wike will finally settle for APC. I don’t think so. But if he does it, he has brought his personality to the mud, and he will have no political relevance again,’’ the lawyer submitted.
Amaechi could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. Calls placed to the ex-minister’smedia aide,Paul Iyiofor, rang out and he had yet to reply to a text message seeking his comment on Wike’s alleged romance with Tinubu’s allies and other APC chieftains.
Meanwhile, the crisis in the PDP worsened on Tuesday with tWike, attacking a former senator, Lee Maeba, an ally of the PDP presidential candidate.
Wike and Maeba traded words over the governor’s statement on the control of the votes in the state and the benefits which accrued to Rivers when Atiku was the vice-president between 1999 and 2007.
Speaking on Tuesday at the inauguration of the dualised Ogbunuabali -Eastern Bypass Road which was performed by the former governor of Sokoto State, Senator Aliyu Wamakko, the governor said Maeba was wrong when he quoted him (Wike) to have said he was in charge of Rivers State’s votes..
This was contained in a statement issued by Kelvin Ebiri, media aide to the governor and made available to newsmen..
He said, “Because some people went to school late, they don’t understand when somebody says I am in charge of this state. I never said I am in charge of votes in this state. But I know I can talk to my people and my people will listen to me. Some people say, I have only one vote, I agree. I can’t vote two times. I will only vote once. But because of the services I have rendered to the people of this state, the state will listen to me.”
The governor stated that he had remained a consistent politician, not playing double games and urged Rivers people to be happy that they have a governor who would always defend the state.
The statement said, “Leadership is not about party, leadership is about individual. Party is only a vehicle to actualize your ambition, to be able to tell your people I have this capacity, I have this quality to render services to you.
“If you take me away today from the PDP to another party, I will still perform. So, it is not because I’m in the PDP that I’m performing. It is because I have that passion for my people. It is because I have the commitment to serve my people. Take me to the YPP, allow me to become whatever I will become there, I will perform. Take me to any party, I will perform. So, it is not the party that makes you perform.”
He stated that the state did not benefit from some politicians’ closeness to Presidents and Vice-Presidents.
Maeba replies Wike
But reacting to Wike’s comment, Maeba told The PUNCH that Rivers State benefited from Atiku on account of his and a former House of Representatives deputy speaker, Austin Opara’s closeness to the former vice-president.
The former federal lawmaker explained that his relationship with Atiku brought Intels, a logistics company owned by the PDP presidential candidate, to the state.
He said, “It (Relationship with Atiku) brought Intels. Atiku established Intels which employed many people. It was because of us that he (Atiku) invested more in Intels Rivers.
“Must friendship bring something? What has his (Wike’s) friendship brought to me? His friendship to me has only brought me pains; his friendship to me has brought me more pains.”
Also speaking in an interview with an online television station monitored by our correspondent, Maeba disclosed how Wike threatened to collapse the party if he failed to secure the party’s ticket to contest the 2023 presidential election.
He said, “Wike told me during one of our campaigns that if he failed the primary that he will collapse the whole system if they do to him what they did to (Ex-Rivers state governor, Peter) Odili. He said he will collapse the system and everybody will go home. That is the fear here.”
He wondered why the governor had refused to move on like Odili did when he failed in his bid to become the president in 2007.
When contacted, Atiku’s Media Adviser, Paul Ibe said reconciliation and discussions with Wike was still ongoing and declined further comment.
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