The crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party ahead of the 2023 general election has worsened with the loyalists of the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike threatening to leave the party if their principal (Wike) defects.
Political leaders loyal to Wike, in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Thursday, warned the PDP that they were ready to mobilise other supporters of the governor to dump the nation’s main opposition party.
But the PDP’s standard-bearer, Atiku Abubakar, allayed fears over the crisis in the party, saying he would ensure reconciliation.
Atiku said this barely 24 hours after Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom accused him of failing to honour the democratic choice in the selection of his running mate.
Ortom also noted that Atiku failed to reach out to Wike and some other aggrieved members of the party after selecting the Delta State, Dr Godwin Okowa, as the vice-presidential candidate despite the recommendation of a 17-man selection committee which nominated Wike.
But Atiku moved to douse the tension, saying efforts were being made to resolve the grievances of party members.
Tweeting via his official Twitter handle @Atiku on Thursday, the PDP presidential candidate assured that “appropriate actions have been taken, are being taken, and will continue to be advanced.
“@The Peoples Democratic Party will remain united. Focus on our actions. We are taking action to address the feelings of all party members. The unity in our community is my priority. Our resolve to unify Nigeria starts in our party and moves to the community, then on to society.”
“Every governor, legislator, and other elected officials produced by our party, and party members and loyalists, are much loved and respected by me. When they speak, I listen. I do not only listen. Appropriate actions have been taken, are being taken, and will continue to be advanced,” he tweeted on Thursday.
However, there are indications that the peace moves may not have gained the expected traction as loyalists of the Rivers State governor appeared to be unconvinced by the olive branch offered by Atiku.
Wike, who has refused to speak publicly since he lost the running mate slot to Okowa, is also giving the Atiku camp and the PDP sleepless nights with his romance with some opposition parties.
The governor had on June 24 hosted the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, Rabiu Kwankwaso, in Port Harcourt.
The visit occurred a day after the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, visited Wike, sparking speculations about their intentions and the Rivers governor’s plans.
Although the purpose of the visits was not made public, Wike’s dalliance with the two parties has strengthened speculations that he might leave the PDP.
Former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, who was also present at the meeting with Obi, had on Wednesday declared that it was the turn of the South to produce the president in 2023, a direct attack on Atiku’s ambition.
The crisis over the PDP vice-presidential slot festers as Wike is currently in Turkey on vacation.
Speaking to The PUNCH in separate interviews, some members of the House of Representatives from Rivers State condemned the choice of Okowa as the PDP vice-presidential candidate.
A member of the House from Rivers State, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Wike’s loyalists would follow the governor should he decide to defect from the PDP to another party.
“As a matter of principle, those of us from Rivers State, I am not sure we want to speak on it for now. But the truth is that anywhere he (Wike) goes, Rivers people will follow him,” the lawmaker stated.
When asked if those to follow Wike would include National Assembly members from Rivers, the source restated, “Rivers people will follow him but I will not want to come out to say that now until when everything is settled.”
Another House member from Rivers, Solomon Bob, said it would be an understatement to say that Wike had contributed to the PDP more than any other person.
“Without Wike, PDP would have been long gone,” he stated, adding that the governor’s voice was heard across the country, using his energy and resources to sustain the party.
Bob said, “Those who are making claims now to the man’s labour, where were they? Where was Atiku? Atiku ran away. In 2015, he ditched the party and went to the APC because he did not want (the then President Goodluck) Jonathan to continue (with a second term in the PDP).
“He wanted to pitch his tent with his northern brother (Muhammadu Buhari of the APC). In 2019, before he came to run (for president in the PDP), he was in Dubai. After he lost (the election), he went to Dubai again. Only one man was left with the job and responsibility of rebuilding (the PDP) again and fighting for the unity and cohesion of the party, and that is Wike. Without Wike, there will be no PDP, I can tell you that.”
Stating that Atiku committed a serious blunder, the lawmaker said, “Let me tell you: they have scored an own goal; Atiku has scored an own goal. It will be hard for him. Atiku is in a difficult situation. As they say in English, he is in over his head.
“Atiku is in over his head. He is fickle. The biggest asset the PDP has is Wike. Nobody in the PDP has the energy and the dynamism. You discarded your biggest asset, how can you win?”
The lawmaker stated that he agreed with Ortom on the fact that Atiku ought to have personally met with Wike and reconcile with the governor.
Bon said Abubakar was frequent at Wike’s house “day and night” but has failed to show up there after winning the PDP primary.
In his submission, another Rivers lawmaker, Dagomie Abiante, described Wike as an asset to the PDP, which Atiku failed to realise and utilise.
He stated that the governor “deserved much more” than the VP slot, adding that he is better than Okowa “in every respect.”
Abiante said, “He has been a pillar to the party; he is the one speaking for the party and he speaks for the interests of the South. Okowa hosted southern governors across party lines.
“If you hosted them and they agreed that the president had to come back to the South if there had to be any change, it does not have to be from the person who hosted that meeting. There should be some level of morality in politics.”
The lawmaker added, “He had 237 votes (at the PDP presidential primary, coming second to Atiku), that simply means that 237 local government areas supported him. In the PDP, each vote represented one LGA. Is that not an asset?”
Speaking on the issue, a former member of the House of Representatives, Ogbonna Nwuke, in an interview with The PUNCH, said if Wike dumped the PDP, Rivers supporters would follow him.
On what Atiku could do to address the threat to his aspiration, he said seeking forgiveness for wrongdoing was not out of place
He stated, “In my view, two things, reconciliation and if you think you have offended somebody, ask for forgiveness. Every religion that we know, stresses forgiveness.
“I don’t know what it is he (Atiku) thinks he can do for Wike at this time, except work assiduously, sincerely to get Wike and his friends to work for his victory. He is the one who needs them now, and he must do what is right. So sending emissaries, hiding behind the mask won’t solve the problem.”
“You need to walk up to those you want to lead. Demonstrate leadership. And if they are convinced by your body language, they will do what they should do to help you too. They are party men, they have said so,” Nwuke, a former Commissioner for Information and Communications stated.
He, however, explained that Wike had not said anything about his political future.
“Thus far, Wike has not said anything about his political future. He has not said anything negative about the party. That for me is evidence of his maturity. At the fullness of time, Governor Wike will speak for himself.
“I believe that he is the only one who can speak on his intent right now,” Nwuke stated.
A senior advocate of Nigeria, Onueze Okocha, described Wike as a party loyalist as far as the PDP was concerned, adding that the party must prevent the Rivers governor’s defection to win the 2023 polls.
He stated, “From the beginning when the PDP was formed, Wike was with the PDP and he worked for the PDP all through and has continued to do so.
Asked if Atiku could replace Okowa with Wike since there was still room for replacement, he said he would not make such a suggestion.
On his part, the Chairman of the Gokana Local Government Area of the state, Confidence Dekoo, said Atiku should be magnanimous in victory.
Dekoo, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the telephone on Thursday, said he would abide by any decision taken by Wike.
He stated, “First and foremost, all of us are politicians, and that every time after every primary or after every election, there is dignity in allowing every other person to have that sense of belonging that I have succeeded, but be magnanimous in victory.
“What he (Atuku) can do now is to come down to those who contested election against him. Don’t forget that, as all the former governors you mentioned said, he (Wike) is indeed a factor in the PDP today.
“Do you want to undermine a man like that that we all agree is a factor? You can only do that at your peril because you are contesting a general election and you need all hands on deck.
“So, my advice would be that yes, try and reach out. A phone call will not solve that kind of problem, but a visit, physical visitation.
“The leadership of the party, talk to him as well, and he will understand. But to think that you will act as if it doesn’t matter, no one man can do this thing alone.”
On whether he would follow Wike if he decided to defect to another party, he stated, “Whatever my boss does is what I will do.”
But the spokesperson for the former vice-president, Paul Ibe, in an interview with one of our correspondents, noted that the process for the reconciliation of all aggrieved persons within the PDP had commenced.
Ibe, who disclosed this in response to an inquiry from The PUNCH, stated, “I am sure you saw Atiku’s tweet? That’s the stand now. All other things will definitely follow. The process is not as easy as you think. It is not one plus one equals two. The process has started just like Atiku pointed out in the tweet.
Ortom, in an interview with Channels Television on Thursday, explained why 14 out of 17 members of a committee set up by the PDP picked Wike.
He expressed dissatisfaction that Atiku did not meet with Wike before and after announcing his running mate.
Ortom said, “ My concern is that the overtures have not gone out enough to resolve the matter. Even, before the pronouncement, Wike should have been reached and made to understand the rationale behind the decision made. He would have accepted based on his love for the party. “
A former Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, in an interview with journalists in Kaduna on Thursday, said Wike had the right to be angry.
He, however, advised Atiku to reach out to the Rivers State governor to explain why he picked Okowa.
He stated, “I won’t blame Wike For feeling bad because he has been one of the pillars of the Party. Let the Presidential candidate, Atiku, sit down with Wike to discuss issues because he is the only one that knows why he picked his running mate. The matter is resolvable,” he said.
A political analyst, Tonye Isokariari, described Wike as the party’s pillar, noting that he would have been “a strong vice president that will give the APC a run for their money.”
A lawyer, Sunny Anyanwu, said it was Wike’s prerogative whether or not he chooses to leave the PDP or stay, just like Peter Obi who left the party to be the presidential candidate of the Labour Party.
Leke Baiyewu, Lara Adejoro, Deborah Tolu-Kolawole, Temitope Omogbolagun, Solomon Odeniyi, Nathaniel Shaibu, Dennis Naku and Godwin Isenyo
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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.
I never told Tinubu to give Peter Obi a chance, seek treatment for his health – Ghana President
Ghananian President, Nana Akufo-Addo has denied writing a letter to the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, appealing to him to give the flagbearer of the Labour Party, LP, Peter Obi a chance in the forthcoming 2023 presidential election.
He said he never told Tinubu to seek treatment for his health as contained in the purported letter making the rounds on social media.
Akufo-Addo who is well known as a good leader, advised people via his verified Twitter handle to discountenance the story, noting that the letter is completely false and mischievous.
According to him: “My attention has been drawn to a disturbing post making the rounds on social media, where it is alleged I have written to the 2023 presidential candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to “give Peter Obi a chance and seek treatment for his health”.
“This is completely false and mischievous, with no iota of truth whatsoever in it.
“I have written no such letter to the APC leader, and it will not occur to me to do so. Ghana and Nigeria boast of decades of cordial, strong and brotherly relations, and I am not going to be the one to interfere in the internal affairs and politics of Nigeria.”
Governance: Outside PDP, I’ll still perform — Wike boasts
GOVERNOR Nyesom Wike on Tuesday boasted that his widely acknowledged outstanding stewardship in office reflects his personal capacity and passion to deliver enduring development to Rivers state people and nothing to do with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) he belongs.
Wike during Tuesday’s commissioning of dualised Ogbunuabali – Eastern Bypass Road project in Port Harcourt, bragged, “Take me away today from PDP to another party, I will still perform. So, it is not because I’m in PDP that I’m performing.”
He said, “Leadership is not about party. Leadership is about individual. Party is only a vehicle to actualise your ambition, to be able to tell your people I have this capacity, I have this quality to render services to you.
“It is because I have that passion for my people, have the commitment to serve my people. Take me to YPP, allow me become whatever I will become there, I will perform. Take me to any party, I will perform. So, it is not party that makes you to perform.”
While comtemporaries use economic hardship as excuse for failing in rendering purposeful leadership and service to their people, Wike said he found same situation a more rewarding leverage for sustain delivery of projects to Rivers people.
Chiding perceived misguided Rivers politicians for twisting his assertion on Monday that the state was fully under his grips, Wike explained that, “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 on the occasion lifted the ban on youths activities in Ogbunuabali and released N2 billion he promised the community, praising their cooperation while the road project lasted, after initially objecting to it.
Special guest on the occasion and former Governor of Sokoto State, Sen Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko who inaugurated the road project joined the growing list of top political leaders who continue to acknowledge the leadership capacity of Wike in service delivery to Rivers people.
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