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PDP orders panel to beg Wike, drop Okowa, gov’s loyalists insist

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The loyalists of Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, have listed conditions for the resolution of the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party.

Supporters of the governor, in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Sunday, said it was not late for the PDP’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to revisit the issue of his running mate by dropping the Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okonwa, whom he picked last month.

As the crisis over Atiku’s running mate worsened, the Chairman of the PDP’s Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin, said the party had set up a nine-member committee to beg Wike.

Sequel to his victory at the PDP convention, where he beat Wike and other contenders to the presidential ticket, Atiku had nominated Okowa as his running mate, despite the recommendation of Wike by a 17-man committee set up by the party.

 

Certain chieftains of the party, including the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, ex-Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang and others, had criticised the choice of Okowa as the party’s vice-presidential candidate.

There were reports on Friday that Wike snubbed a former Minister of Police Affairs and ally of Atiku, Adamu Waziri, who attempted to initiate a peace talk with him in Turkey.

The party, also on Sunday, raised another panel headed by Atiku, to pacify the aggrieved Governor and prevail on him not to leave the party.

The Chairman, Gokana Local Government Area in Rivers State, Confidence Deko, in an interview with one of our correspondents in Port Harcourt, said Wike did not deserve the treatment he got from Atiku and the PDP.

He said, “As far I am concerned, Wike has done so much for the PDP and I don’t think he deserves what the party gave to him. Come to think of it, Atiku Abubakar and the party asked the National Working Committee to find out who becomes the vice-president. A report was submitted and he (Atiku) ignored the report, and then picked Ifeanyi Okowa, the Delta State Governor.

“I am not saying he is not supposed to use somebody, but I am of the view that if he was part of those who asked the NWC to search for who becomes the vice-president to be, and they gave him their recommendation, he would have acted on it.

“But to me, it looks very odd that after submitting the report to him, he went and announced Okowa. I don’t think that Wike deserves what Atiku has done to him.”

The council boss disclosed that Wike supporters were waiting for his decision and political direction ahead of the presidential poll.

On the comments of former Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang, on the chances of the PDP in 2023 due to the festering crisis and if Okowa should be replaced, Deko said the man was not joking.

He added, “He has told you and you have heard the truth from him. If Wike was to be the vice-presidential candidate for Atiku, by now, you know Wike is a very practical person. And he does what his mind ask him to do.”

“The only option is to remove Okowa from there and announce Wike. In 2019, Wike brought the highest number of votes from South-South.”

Speaking in the same vein, some members of the House of Representatives loyal to Wike contended that the PDP was bound to fail with its choice of Okowa as the running mate.

The PDP lawmakers, in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Sunday, also took a swipe at the National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, criticising his role in the crisis that has followed the presidential primary of the opposition party.

When asked if the party should substitute Okowa with Wike, a member of the House from Kogi State, Teejay Yusuf, said it was possible if the presidential candidate could see the value the Rivers governor would add to the PDP ticket.

He said, “That will be the choice of the candidate. It would be his prerogative to do that. It is not for me to suggest that to him. If he sees that Wike will add more value to the ticket and say ‘with the way it is, I can manage the ripple effect of taking Okowa out,’ why not, if not?”

“Okowa is a PDP governor but nobody can deny the fact that Wike has the will and the capacity to make this party stand on its feet.”

The lawmaker, however, dismissed the possibility of Wike, who he described as “a party man,” dumping the PDP for another party or working with another party or presidential candidate through the backdoor.

But he cautioned that the governor’s loyalty should not be abused.

“I know that the standard-bearer is a politician of repute and he knows the dynamics, but he is a human being. So, if he made the wrong decision, I believe that, fortunately, the Electoral Act (2022) gives ample time; we have eight months to the general elections. In politics, one day can be a million days. A lot can be done in one day,” Yusuf noted.

The lawmaker affirmed that the standard-bearer should naturally look for the best way to make the decision while avoiding “a situation that might jeopardise the unity of the party and the collective desire to win the election.”

The lawmaker also condemned Ayu for allegedly taking sides in the crisis, when he should have been neutral as the leader of the party.

Yusuf cited the example of how Ayu met with the Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, and called him a hero.

Tambuwal had stepped down for Atiku at the PDP primary, making it possible for the latter to defeat Wike who came second amid protests against the retention of power in the North when it was expected to rotate to the South.

Speaking on the calls on Atiku to reconcile with Wike, he said, “That is a fact and that was what was emphasised by the leaders who spoke of recent, notably Governor Ortom and former governor Jang. I lend my voice to that, that one stoops to conquer. It is the normal thing to be done.”

The lawmaker added, “If the information is true that a committee was set up – that you set up; it was your committee – and they came up with the choice of someone. If you are not taking the person, naturally you should call the person.

“In 2019, I supported Atiku and I was very happy with the way he ran. And I am aware that immediately after the primary, concerted efforts were made and that was how (Senator) Bukola Saraki became the director-general of the campaign.

“In this one, offers were made and people pushed for Governor Wike as the vice-presidential candidate of the party. If you have any reason (not to pick Wike), you call him, and it should not be that he would be reminded by people like us before it is done. It is not too late to do the right thing and I am aware that certain efforts are being made already.”

Another PDP lawmaker from Rivers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also noted that Atiku knew what to do to restore peace in the party.

He asked, “Has he (Wike) not laboured for the party even when the likes of Atiku ran away (to the All Progressives Congress) and went to support this disaster (the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, retd.) that we have on our hands. Was he (Wike) not the one that went to court – up to the Supreme Court – and rescued the party? Has he not supported the party in every way, form and manner? Even God hates injustice.”

On the PDP candidate sending emissaries to Wike, the lawmaker asked, “Does that not tell you something? He knows what to do. If you hurt somebody and you cannot face the person, then it simply means that you are not ready for repentance or reconciliation.”

Speaking on the report that Wike declined to lead Abubakar’s campaign, the lawmaker asked, “If na you, you go gree? (If you were in Wike’s shoes, would you have accepted?).

On his part, a former member of the House of Representatives representing the Etche-Omuma federal constituency, Ogbonna Nwuke, said he agreed with those who said the issue of running mate should be visited.

Nwuke, who was also a former Commissioner for Information and Communications said, “The issue is, quite a lot of people agreed that something was not properly done.”

The media aide to the National Chairman of the PDP, Simon Imobo-Tswam, said Atiku was responsible for the choice of Okowa as his running mate.

He noted, “This question actually ought to be directed at the PDP presidential candidate, His Excellency, Alhaji. Atiku Abubakar. Okowa is not the running mate to Dr Iyorchia Ayu, and neither is it the PDP National Chairman or the NWC that chose him as the running mate to Atiku.

“Of course, the party was involved in the processes leading to the emergence of a running mate, but whatever the party did was only advisory; the choice of who became the candidate’s running mate was ultimately, after all said and done, the decision of the candidate.”

On the ongoing reconciliation process, Imobo-Tswam explained that the party, the national chairman and the candidate were deeply involved in the peace moves at different levels.

The media adviser to Atiku, Paul Ibe, could not be reached on the demand by Wike’s loyalists as his line was unavailable to take calls on Sunday.

The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, declined to comment on the demands by the Wike’s camp, saying, “I don’t react to speculations.”

However, a highly placed party chieftain and close aide of the PDP standard-bearer argued that replacing Okowa with the Rivers state governor would deepen the crisis in the opposition party.

The source also noted that Atiku chose Okowa due to the similarities in their ideologies.

He reiterated the fact that the party would do everything to ensure that the crisis is resolved.

The source in an interview with one of our correspondents, said, “Replacing Okowa with Wike at this point will further lead to more crises within the party. The candidate has made his choice and while it may not be favourable to everyone, the choice has been made.

“The choice of Okowa was about ideologies, his ideologies align with the candidate and that is why the candidate chose him as running mate. Wike is a party man. He is strong, we recognize his impact and the need to reconcile.”

Okowa’s camp

Reacting to calls that Atiku should drop Okowa, an aide to the governor urged those behind the clamour to channel their energy to how to win the presidency for PDP.

The aide, who spoke to one of our correspondents in Asaba on condition of anonymity, stated, “It is the right of the candidate which is Atiku to choose his running mate and that he has done. So, it is not possible to drop Okowa. The man has made his choice.”

The Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Mr Olisa Ifeajika could not be reached for comment as of the time of filing this report as calls and messages sent to his phone were not responded to.

Also, the State Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, declined to comment.

But a former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa blamed the crisis on the party’s leadership.

According to him, it would be dangerous for PDP to ignore Wike ahead of the 2023 elections.

He, therefore, called on the PDP chairman to resign if he cannot solve the crisis in the party.

Bafarawa told journalists that what people see as a crisis would be resolved with the ongoing reconciliation, adding that the 2023 Presidency has moved beyond its presidential candidate to the PDP.

He was responding to the comments by Ortom, who was quoted as saying that Atiku should have placated Wike after the primaries.

Bafarawa said, “This is a very serious issue which nobody can undermine but unfortunately the problem of this crisis is caused by the leadership of the party. What I am trying to say is that the candidate is no more an aspirant. He is a candidate, he is supposed to be controlled by the party.

Berating Ayu, he stated, “I am not blaming anybody; I am blaming the leadership of the party because they are supposed to swing in and bring the matter down. I don’t want the leadership to take it personally. If there is anything between the national leadership of PDP and Wike it is personal.

“But being the national chairman, he should forget; even if there is any difference between him and Wike, he is supposed to take away his personal interest and come and rescue the party because he is the leadership, it is the responsibility given to him. If he cannot solve the problem let him resign. But nobody can undermine Wike and nobody can ignore Wike.”

Asked if what had been done to Wike would be a threat to PDP in 2023, Bafarawa said nobody could ignore a governor.

Atiku allays fears

Meanwhile, Atiku has said that despite the internal conflict within his party, he does not see “a divided house”.

He admonished the party not to lose focus on rescuing Nigeria.

Atiku stated this in a newsletter sent to The PUNCH, in Abuja on Sunday.

He stated, “One of the characteristic attributes of democracy that I admire a lot is that it is a system with an intrinsic asset of crisis management. It becomes even more interesting that, perhaps, the most noteworthy outcome of a democratic process is the greater possibility of conflict generation.

“So, a remarkable lesson that I have learned in politics is that in some instances, conflicts are healthy realities. I know, for instance, that when conflicts arise out of genuine concerns about having an inclusive political process, it signposts the viability of that process and, more importantly, the eagerness of stakeholders to be active participants in the success of such process.

“As leaders and stakeholders in the Peoples Democratic Party, the simmering agitations in our party are a reflection of our credentials as a democratic party.

“Whatever our agitations are, I believe it is borne out of collective concern for the growth of our party and the country. Therefore, I don’t see a divided house in the PDP. I see an opportunity for us to come together stronger and united.”

“As a presidential candidate of the PDP, I shall ensure that I do my all to bring the party together under a formidable umbrella.”

In a move to resolve the crisis, the PDP has announced a nine-member reconciliation committee that would visit the Rivers State helmsman.

Disclosing this on Sunday, the Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin, also cautioned party members against unguarded utterances that could further plug the party into a deeper crisis.

The committee, headed by Atiku, comprises Okowa, Ayu and his National Working Committee, Jibril; BoT members; PDP governors; former governors; ex-PDP minister and some party elders from zones and states.

This was contained in a statement titled, ‘Statement by PDP BOT Chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin on the current situation of PDP.’

It read, “This was in view of great concern and great sense of feeling on the various recent comments coming from some of our PDP members and some prominent Nigerians on the choice of Chief Okowa, the Governor of Delta State as the vice-presidential candidate by the Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of our party, PDP, the biggest party not only in Nigeria but the whole of Africa.

“All the comments and various submissions are very normal in any political set-up in Nigeria today with PDP being the strongest and most prominent party that has all potential to form government in 2023.

“We must come back to our senses by all our members and all most responsible and respectful Nigerians by giving total support to the party to enable it to form government by holding all political positions in Nigeria in 2023.

“It is, therefore, very necessary that when our Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and our National Chairman, Senator Iyochia Ayu return to Nigeria very soon from abroad, the following must be done immediately:

“A very important visit must be undertaken to Governor Wike comprising of the following group: The above committee should be headed by the Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

“It is very important to note that Governor Wike is a very responsible and very obedient member of PDP, who assisted tremendously toward building the party to what it is today. We must, therefore, encourage him to never leave the party.”

He described Wike as the pillar of the party. A social commentator and political analyst, Jackson Ojo said in the present situation, sending emissaries to Wike was not the way to go.

“Wike has every right to be angry. But at the same time, this is a period, this is the season for anybody to have a disagreement, alignment and realignment. Let the party’s NWC and the Presidential candidate walk up to Wike and talk with him now that he is back in the country,” he advised.

An analyst, Olaseni Shalom, said that Wike’s efforts to unify the party to contest the presidency would be a waste if he decides to hold the party down.

He also called on Atiku to request a one-on-one and resolve issues, “as the unity of the country was one of the core pillars of his manifesto.”

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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