There is no doubting the fact that Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike, is jolted somehow by how his political compatriots treated him in the past one month. For about a week after he lost the quest to be his ‘beloved’ party’s presidential candidate, he did not make any public appearance as such save at a wedding ceremony. Even then, he did not make any speech at the marriage ceremony.
This was unlike Governor Wike who seizes every opportunity including church services to speak his mind. It was as though the man was using that period for some reflection (I refuse to use the phrase, licking his wounds). Who would not be pained by such treatment if he/she were in Wike’s shoes? On the eve of the presidential primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the governor was brimming with confidence, grinning from ear to ear, urging people to congratulate him in advance because he was 99 per cent sure he would clinch the party’s coveted presidential ticket.
Then at the 11th hour, on the D-Day, out of the blues, one of Wike’s allies who happened to be a co-contestant, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto state, had a change of mind and directed his supporters to vote for former vice-president Abubakar Atiku. That singular act by Governor Tambuwal, who is also the chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, upturned the permutations and tilted the votes just when Wike was literally coasting to victory. You can imagine Wike’s shock at his bosom friend’s action.
Wike was even more angry that Tambuwal was allowed to mount the podium a second time by organisers of the primary election convention, the party’s leaders, to announce his withdrawal from the race and give that order. He considered this a contravention of the rules. “I have never seen anything like this”, he thundered later on. However, fences were soon apparently mended as Alhaji Atiku, the crowned flagbearer, visited Wike and other co-contestants, pleading for closing of ranks and unity within PDP. It was all smiles.
Then came the time to choose the vice-presidential candidate. Two committees were set up for this purpose, to make a recommendation from three names, viz, Governors Wike, Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta state), Emmanuel Udom (Akwa Ibom state). Majority of people in both panels chose the Rivers governor, said the reports. Indeed, newspapers were already reporting that all was set for Wike’s declaration as running mate. Again, at the last minute, at the announcement stage, the committees’ recommendations were reportedly set aside by PDP’s leadership and Okowa, instead, emerged as the party’s vice presidential candidate for next year’s election. Wike was left confounded.
Apparently, Governor Wike had been working towards becoming his party’s presidential candidate soon after his re-election in 2019; after his friend, Tambuwal, whom he sponsored for the party’s ticket, lost the primary election to Atiku, a veteran politician who in turn lost to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari at the general election.
So, as soon as he was sworn in for his second and final term as governor, Wike set to work to achieve his goal by embarking on many infrastructural projects which later earned him the accolade of a performing governor, ‘Mr. Projects’. He invited eminent personalities to commission them and these were broadcast live on national television for all to see. Last year, for 30 days in May, as part of activities to mark his anniversary as governor, at least one project was being commissioned every day in Rivers state.
He also began to speak forcefully against the ruling federal government, challenging them in court on various matters (most of which he won). Wike was thence seen as a fearless person who could speak truth to power without let or hindrance. His popularity soared, not least in his PDP fold where he was seen as one of the power brokers within as his financial interjections helped to keep the party going. He was the ‘poster boy’ of PDP and seen as the face of the opposition party.
From time to time, Wike granted hour long interviews beamed live on television, where he commented on burning issues in his usual vociferous manner. Wike brought his looming personality to ‘good effect’ when he engineered the removal of his kinsman Uche Secondus (whom he had installed as PDP national chairman) before expiration of the chairman’s tenure. He then through his friend, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state, had a northerner assume chairmanship of PDP. He had his way in election of the new chairman and removal of Secondus, notwithstanding some internal grumblings. This obviously boosted Wike’s ego and made him believe he could always have his way in PDP matters.
Wike’s plan, apparently, was that by having a northerner as its chairman he would have no qualms getting the leadership/stakeholders to zone the 2023 presidential ticket to the South, which he would then contest for and win as the most deserving southern aspirant. Thus, the first major stumbling block and disappointment for Governor Wike was when his party decided to throw the contest open to every zone, after some rigmarole that eventually saw him holding the short end of the stick.
First, PDP set up a committee on zoning headed by his friend, Ortom, to look into the matter (that must have given him some hope that his ally, Ortom, is heading the panel). Ortom, apparently, to wriggle himself from blame by his friend said his committee did not take any decision on the matter but only submitted its report to the party’s national executive committee (NEC) which would make the decision. But it was apparent that since the committee comprised one member each from the 36 states and put the matter to vote, the northerners would have carried the day in deciding to throw the ticket open. After all said and done the NEC too decided on an open field.
I think this decision unpalatable to Wike, made him more determined to win the primary election, to do everything within his powers to clinch the presidential ticket, to match Atiku money for money; in this wise, to ‘’show them’’ that he is a big force in PDP. Recall that he had been making some donations to northern states as part of his strategy.
It is noteworthy that after a tete-a-tete meeting with Rabiu Kwankwaso, who is de facto Kano PDP leader, all 44 delegates from that state (the highest of all 36 states) cast their votes for Wike.
Despite Tambuwal’s delegates switching their votes to Atiku, Governor Wike still gave a good account of himself at the convention in terms of votes, placing second after Atiku, the winner. With unmistakable tinge of bitterness, the governor told Government House motley crowd that welcomed him after his return to Port Harcourt, ‘’I showed them that Rivers state can no longer be taken for granted, I cannot be second class citizen”.
To be continued.
Ikeano writes via [email protected] 08033077519