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Obi, Kwankwaso yet to agree on presidential candidate, running mate

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The joint panel set up by the Labour Party and the New Nigeria People’s Party to work out an alliance between Rabiu Kwankwaso and Mr Peter Obi has submitted its report for consideration, findings by Saturday PUNCH have revealed.

Kwankwaso, a former Kano State governor and presidential candidate of the NNPP, is said to have a strong followership in the North with his Kwankwasiyya movement, while Obi, a former Anambra State governor and LP presidential candidate, is having an increasing support base among youths in the southern part of the country and the social media.

While it is no longer possible for political parties to merge, in line with Section 81 (2) of the Electoral Act, both presidential candidates are working on a joint ticket with the hope of defeating the ruling All Progressives Congress, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party and others in the February 25, 2023 presidential election.

The Section 81 (2) reads, “Political parties intending to merge shall each give to the commission nine months’ notice of their intention to do so before a general election.” Already, the 2023 general elections will commence on February 25, which is less than nine months away.

 

Kwankwaso in an interview about a week ago confirmed that a committee was set up to work on the alliance and that conversation was ongoing. He said, “We are in talks with Peter Obi and a committee is working to look into how to form a merger between us.

“The merger is important because as you can see, both the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party did not pick their running mates from the South-East.”

As the deadline for the substitution of candidates and running mates for the presidential and National Assembly candidates draws near, there is a mounting anxiety among the supporters of the two candidates over the progress made in the alliance talks.

Meanwhile, the running mate to Obi and director-general of his campaign organisation, Dr Doyin Okupe, confirmed to Saturday PUNCH that the panel had concluded its sitting and talks were ongoing on the way forward.

Okupe said, “A committee was set up before now and the committee has completed its work. There have been informal meetings and third party stakeholders interventions and we have had structured official meetings too.

“In all, we came to two agreements; one is that we are going to work together as political parties in order to achieve this change that we all desire. What we did not agree upon is who would be the president and who would be the vice-president. We didn’t agree on that. But we left it open.”

Asked if the parties would agree on the issue before the deadline for political parties to submit the names of their final running mates, Okupe said, “We are aware of the deadline, and we are working on it. When we adjourned our last meeting, we adjourned sine die. So, if there is a change, we will reconvene. But we are moving on. There is no problem. We have agreed to work together to create a platform for a national coalition, so that objective is still in place.”

Also, the National Chairman, NNPP, Prof Rufai Alkali, told Saturday PUNCH in an interview that the party was engaging with the people and getting support and solidarity from many places.

When asked who would become the candidate and running mate between Kwankwaso and Obi, Alkali said, “Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso is a seasoned politician and he knows the country very well. Certain decisions have to be taken at the appropriate time in a way and manner that would bring more strength and credibility to this journey.”

Asked if a decision had been reached on it, he said, “When we do, you will be among the first to know. No decision yet.”

About the panel’s report, he said, “I am not aware of anything and I am not going to comment on that.”

On the prospect of the NNPP in 2023, Alkali said, “I have been in other parties before the NNPP, and I must say it is amazing. We keep receiving calls from people that are likely to join us and we are making a lot of progress.”

Sources in both the NNPP and LP confirmed to Saturday PUNCH that an influential former President was among those being consulted on the issue.

Kwankwaso in Rivers

The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, on Friday received Kwankwaso in Port Harcourt, the state capital.

After losing the PDP presidential primary to Atiku Abubakar and the running mate slot to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, Wike, who is said to be aggrieved by the development, has continued to receive high-profile politicians, including Obi who visited him on Thursday.

Meanwhile, both of them were seen in front of the Wike’s residence exchanging pleasantries on Friday. This was about 24-hours after a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe, as well as the senate minority caucus led by its leader, Philip Aduda.

The Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, also visited Wike on Wednesday, while Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State visited him earlier in the week.

It is believed that the visits have to do with the forthcoming presidential election. All the visits were followed by a closed-door meeting but the outcome had remained unknown.

…19 days to go

Meanwhile, the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general elections released by the Independent National Electoral Commission indicates that political parties have until July 15 to withdraw or replace their candidates and their running mates for the presidential and National Assembly elections.

By implication, the presidential candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Obi of the Labour Party and other candidates who submitted interim names for running mates have about 19 days away to submit the final names.

Item six of the timetable read, “Last day for withdrawal by candidate(s)/replacement of withdrawn candidate(s) by political parties for the presidential and National Assembly (elections) is July 15, 2022, while for the governorship and state Houses of Assembly is August 12, 2022. Section 31 of the Electoral Act 2022 provides not later than 90 days to the election.”

The APC and its presidential candidate had been confronted with the possibility of a Muslim/Muslim ticket, given that Tinubu is a Muslim from a Christian-dominated South while his running mate is expected to come from the North, which is dominated by Muslims.

The Christian Association of Nigeria and other groups and individuals vehemently opposed a Muslim/Muslim or Christian/Christian presidential ticket, saying such would be insensitive and rejected by the people.

Voter registration extension

Amid the growing public clamour for the June 30 deadline for the continuous voter registration to be extended, INEC has said it is unable to extend the exercise for now because the matter is already subjudice.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and 185 concerned Nigerians had filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos asking the court for, among other things, an order of mandamus to direct and compel INEC to extend voter registration by a minimum of three months and take effective measures to ensure that eligible Nigerians are able to register to exercise their right to vote in the 2023 general elections.

Speaking on rumours that the commission had agreed to extend the exercise for 60 days in line with the request of the House of Representatives, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, the Chief Press Secretary to INEC National Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission had not extended the June 30 deadline.

In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, Oyekanmi said, “INEC has not extended the CVR deadline. What the commission did about two weeks ago when we noticed pressure in particular areas, namely the South-East states, Lagos, Kano, and the Federal Capital Territory, was to send additional 209 INEC Voter Enrollment Devices to those areas to ease the CVR procedure.

“The commission wanted to wait and assess the effect of that action to determine the next step, but that is by the way now because SERAP went to court and tried to stop us from stopping the CVR.

“What the court has said, as part of its order, is that we should not announce any date or end the CVR but come on June 29 to respond to issues raised in the suit filed by SERAP. So now, even if we want to extend, we cannot do anything until we have answered the court and responded robustly to the issues raised in the suit and that would be on June 29. So, we can’t take any action on the CVR until then.”

Also speaking on the issue, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said in an interview on Channels Television on Friday night that the chairman of the commission was disposed to extending the exercise.

He noted that the surge in the number of registrants lately had made the extension inevitable.

He added, “We are going before the Federal High Court on June 29 to put the cards on the table. We are convinced that after we make our arguments, the court will be convinced on the reason why we cannot extend the CVR beyond a certain period.

“But we are convinced, given the enthusiasm of Nigerians and the new resolve of Nigerians to register that an extension is inevitable and the commission is disposed towards extending the period for the CVR but not up to the period that some people are canvassing.”

He said it would be a futile exercise to extend the registration and be unable to print the permanent voter cards of those registered and get them to collect the cards and vote. “So, we are favourably disposed to an extension of the CVR,” he added.

‘Tinubu, best candidate’

The Asiwaju Tinubu Campaign Organisation has described the APC presidential candidate as the most successful leader among all the presidential candidates.

The Director-General of the organisation, Chief Adebayo Shittu, at a press conference in Ibadan on Friday, said apart from being a governor of Lagos State for eight years, Tinubu developed leaders who became vice-president, governors, senators and many others even after leaving power almost 15 years ago.

According to him, governance is not strange to such a leader and getting competent hands to work with him will also not be an issue.

He added, “He turned Lagos State around when he was there. He raised the internally generated revenue of the state and despite that the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, stopped allocation to the state for two years, the state did not suffer. That is the kind of person we need now.

Speaking about Tinubu’s running mate, Shittu stated that he would pick someone who would help him to win. He added, “We should not place too much emphasis on religion or ethnicity. If you board a plane now, you won’t ask them if the pilot is a Muslim or a Christian or the state of origin. What you would be concerned with is the competence and the experience of the pilot. So, we need to be concerned about competence and not religious beliefs.”

LP as alternative

A presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party in the recently held primaries, Sam Ohuabunwa, has said Obi has widened the options Nigerians could choose from in 2023.

In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday, he said, “For a long time, it looked as if we had just two options, but now there seems to be the third option. That widens the democratic space and is giving relief to those who want alternatives.

“Though for now, it is too early to say or make any prediction, we are happy that there is a third option for Nigerians. The two parties are formidable and they cannot be glossed over easily.”

Ohuabunwa, who is the founder and former Chief Executive Officer of Neimeth International Pharmaceuticals and former president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, maintained that the APC and PDP presidential primaries were characterised by vote-buying.

“The monetisation of our politics is depressing because at both the APC and PDP primaries, everybody saw the impact of big money. If we thought it was just for the primaries of the leading parties, we also saw smaller parties complain about money and all that. If we leave the primaries and come to the general elections, we see the accusations going on in Ekiti (governorship elections). It is depressing for people like us.”

PUNCH

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2022: International Youth day:APC National Women Leader felicitates with Youths across the globe

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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!

#BettaforBetterNigeria
#APCNationalwomenwing

*Comr. Victoria Uko*
SA Media to NWL

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Tension mounts in PDP as crisis worsens; elders weigh options

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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.”

VANGUARD

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Wike’s romance with Tinubu’s men rattles Amaechi’s base

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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.

Amaechi’s neglect

“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.

PUNCH

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