The face-off between Rivers state Governor Nyesom Wike and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar may have further deepened amid efforts to reconcile the two party leaders and their followers.
Among other reasons, crisis emerged following the choice of Delta state Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as Atiku’s running mate on the one hand, and the insistence of Wike group on the removal of the party’s national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, on the other hand.
The call for Ayu’s removal was consequent upon the emergence of Atiku, a northerner, as the party’s presidential candidate.
The group, therefore, insisted Ayu, also a northerner, should resign from office for fairness, equity and balancing.
The London parley
And in a bold move, the vice president met Wike in London Thursday to pacify the governor, who had earlier met Mr. Peter Obi, the Labour Party (LP)’s presidential candidate with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in attendance.
Despite the several moves for truce, including the London meeting, Blueprint gathered that Governor Wike appears resolved to reject any move for reconciliation to pacify him to support the PDP presidential candidate.
Specifically, Wike was quoted to have told top members of his group, including Governors Seyi Makinde of Oyo, Samuel Ortom of Benue and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia states, that reconciliation was out of the way except certain conditions were met.
The governor was also said to be angry over Atiku’s decision to bring his political foes closer, including former PDP national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.
It was gathered that Wike believed the acceptance of Secondus and others by Atiku, was a clear demonstration by the former VP that he could work with others in his absence.
To erect further hurdles in the way of any reconciliation, the governor, it was learnt, came up with a six-point demand at their London meeting, top of which is the removal of Ayu as the party’s national chairman.
Besides, the source said: “Wike wants the party to allow him to nominate Ayu’s replacement, a signed commitment from Atiku to serve out only one term just as he wants to be allowed to also nominate principal officers of the National Assembly and some ministers if PDP wins the 2023 presidential election among others.”
“Atiku wants me to support him, yet he has surrounded himself with my enemies both in Rivers State and elsewhere. Is Uche Secondus not with him? Godwin Obaseki, Austin Opara, Celestine Omehia, Lee Maeba, and all those fighting me are in his camp, yet he needs my support.
“We will place one hurdle and condition after another until the election time. If he does not accept my nominated candidate to replace Ayu, another round of controversy would brew up.
“I know he (Atiku) will not be able to accept or meet all the conditions. The bottom line is that he will not want to do away with those people and once the conditions are not met, this stand-off will continue because I cannot support him with those working with him and working against me,” Wike was quoted as saying by a source privy to the London meeting.
It will be recalled that Governor Wike, who championed Secondus’ choice, following a court order sacking Senator Modu Sheriff was the main mastermind of his removal from office.
It was believed that the governor ‘sacrificed Secondus last year for his ambition to pick the party’s presidential ticket, which he eventually lost.
“The demands are just to buy time as the election year approaches. Governor Wike is not going to work with those he considers his political enemies, working against his choice of the state’s Accountant General as the PDP governorship candidate,” our source further added.
‘Atiku ready for reconciliation’
However, Blueprint gathered that while Atiku is desirous of genuine peace, the former VP and his close associates are not unaware of Governor Wike’s moves “as the presidential candidate is believed to be deploying his experience in politics and as a good party man to bend backwards to accommodate all interests since a political party is a mass movement in which everybody is considered imported as against a closed shop or club with determined membership.”
A chieftain of the PDP who spoke to Blueprint under anonymity following the plea for ‘ceasefire’ by the party’s presidential candidate, said, “it is not possible for the PDP flagbearer to suddenly disconnect from longtime associates and friends with some dating back to 30 years, all because another member says; “a friend of my enemies is my enemy.”
“Recall that Wike posted on his Facebook and Twitter handle shortly after the presidential primaries in Abuja stating; ‘I made a vow to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that I will support whoever emerges from the PDP Presidential Primaries. And I am not going to go back on my word. We cannot abandon the PDP; we will be fully supporting Atiku Abubakar.’ So, why has the music changed just a few days after? Personal interest? I think that majority of party members are presently more concerned about rescuing Nigeria first before any personal interest” said the top party source.
Makinde, Ortom, Ikpeazu’s concerns
Also, while the trio of Makinde, Ortom and Ikpeazu are part of the Wike’s team, it was learnt they are, however, not too comfortable with the Rivers governor’s hard stance, “as stretching it further may have consequences for their own election as well.”
Governors Ortom and Ikpeazu are contesting for the Senate whose election take place same day and time as that of the presidency.
“With this therefore, they may find themselves in a tight corner on how to separate their election from that of the presidential candidate. These governors fear they may end up burning their fingers.
“Similarly, Governor Makinde is going for a second term and the outcome of the presidential election is most likely going to have an effect on his re-election either way it goes,” Blueprint further learnt.
Wike warns Rivers leaders working with his ‘enemies’
Efforts to get a close ally of Wike, PDP National Vice Chairman, South-South, Chief Dan Orbih, proved abortive, as he didn’t answer phone calls put across to him by Blueprint correspondent.
However, in a recent video clip making the rounds, Wike threatened to crush any party member associating with his enemies.
He said: “Let me tell you what you don’t understand in politics. The moment you claim to be working with us and tomorrow you shift to our enemy, we will take every might we have, we will even leave our enemy and finish you first.
“So all of you who are going back to Abuja to hold meetings with our enemies in the state, I’m going to finish you to the last. You can’t come here, gain from the state, be a contractor, get money then you move to Abuja to hold meetings against us and say I’ll leave you free; I’ll not leave you free.
“We removed a national party chairman who was not doing well. All of them were here, we all agreed, now they are going to Abuja to hold meetings with the man we removed, thinking that you will use that to fight us, we will crush them.”
Ayu keeps NEC meeting in abeyance – NWC member
To save his job, Ayu has refused to call for National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, said a member of the National Working Committee (NWC) who sought anonymity.
PDP National Caucus and NEC meetings were earlier slated for Wednesday, August 10 and Thursday, August 11, 2022, before it was postponed till further notice.
Over 2 weeks after its postponement, nothing has been heard about the meetings.
Blueprint gathered that a section of the party leaders loyal to Wike are plotting to use the NEC meeting to sack the PDP national chairman and propagate other interests of the Rivers State governor.
On why the meeting is kept in abeyance, a member of the Ayu-led NWC confirmed that “PDP NEC meeting won’t hold now because the situation in the party is hostile to a meeting of such magnitude.
The situation is hostile to a meeting of such magnitude. So, until things are calm, we may not have NEC meeting.”
Shekarau returns to PDP
In a related development, three years after dumping the PDP, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau is set to return to the major opposition party following his eleventh hour decision to bid farewell to the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
The decision followed what some loyalists of the former governor described as a gross injustice meted out to his person and his notable staunch political allies.
His defection from the NNPP came to the open when many of his staunch political associates made it clear that he was decamping to the PDP in order to pitch tent with the party’s presidential flag bearer, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, presently in Kano to receive him at what political pundits described as a grand occasion.
Atiku’s convoy arrived Kano at exactly 3.30pm Sunday with retinue of party supporters on hand to witness the epoch-making ceremony expected to attract tens of thousands of party supporters.
When Blueprint visited the residence of the lawmaker at exactly 5pm Sunday amid heavy down pour, hundreds of his loyalists were seen hanging around, chanting the PDP slogan, in preparation of Monday’s grand occasion,ķ,while posters bearing the portrait of the presidential aspirant and the Senator were lavishly flaunted at various strategic locations.
Shekarau’s loyalists who spoke to our correspondent over the weekend, ahead of Atiku’s visit to Kano, said Shakarau’s foray into the PDP was a new dawn which notable stakeholders in the party described as “a crucial turning point.”
“With the sudden twist in the NNPP as a result of Shekarau’s miraculous exit, the NNPP is poised to lose considerable clout in Kano as many prominent people who decamped to the PDP along with the Senator, would be willing to work towards the victory of the party at all levels in the forthcoming general elections.
“The time has come for a new paradigm shift in lending support to the Senator, whose line of argument is plausible. It would be foolhardy for him to remain in the NNPP where his stay in the party would be counter-productive,” said a staunch supporter of the lawmaker.
Also, a top Shekarau loyalist, Hajiya Hajara Shehu Gandu, said “losing a big shot in the NNPP like Senator Ibrahim Shekarau poses a threat to the party’s chance of winning Kano in the gubernatorial election. The NNPP lacked any justifiable premise in sidelining Shekarau’ people in the affairs of the party.”