BY AUGUSTINE AVWODE
Last Thursday, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, declared that the possibility of him and four other aggrieved colleagues reaching a last-minute truce with the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, was over.
And with that, whatever last hope anybody held of a reconciliation crashed to the ground with a loud thud. The Governor spoke at a media chat held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. A group of five governors in the PDP known as G5, led by Wike had declared opposition to the presidential bid of Atiku, arguing that his election as a presidential candidate goes against the agreement to zone the presidency to the south.
However, as a condition for a change of heart and peace to reign in the opposition party, the G5 which later became known as the Integrity Group, called for the resignation of the National Chairman of the PDP, Iyorchia Ayu, to ensure ‘balance’ in the distribution of party offices between the South and the North.
The same alibi had been pleaded by former Governor of Enugu State, Chimaroke Nnamani, to justify his public declaration of support for the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, instead of Atiku Abubakar. But Nnamani was quickly suspended alongside 10 others before he was finally expelled from the party last week.
“NO MATTER HOW POPULAR YOU ARE, YOU CANNOT ALWAYS HAVE ALL THE PEOPLE ON YOUR SIDE. SO, EVERYBODY WHO HAS SOME CLOUT MUST BE BROUGHT ABOARD, THAT IS THE SPIRIT. NOBODY CAN DO IT ALL ALONE. I CAN ONLY WISH MY PARTY LUCK ON SATURDAY. THE PARTY LEADERSHIP WAS TOO COCKY AND ARROGANT TO BEND BACKWARD. IT IS NOT GOOD. ONE VOTE, I MEAN ONLY ONE VOTE IS VERY IMPORTANT, ESPECIALLY WHERE YOU KNOW IT WILL COUNT”
The latest report, however, had it that he had gone to court to challenge his expulsion from the party. Wike and his allies which include Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State had since last year excluded themselves from the party’s presidential campaign.
Several attempts were made in the past few months to broker reconciliation by some party stalwarts and stakeholders but they have all failed to yield any desired results. Speaking at the media chat, Wike said the timeframe for resolving the grievance of the G5 is “over” and that he is no longer “ready to sit down with anybody again.” “No, we can’t do that; it’s over! We have said it and there is nothing anybody can do about it now.
They believe they can win the election. I am not ready to sit down with anybody again,” the governor said. As an encore, Wike added that he has informed the residents of Rivers State of his preferred presidential candidate and that the people are ready to vote for the individual. The presidential election comes up on Saturday, February 25. The governor, however, failed to mention the name of the candidate.
ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL
For keen observers of the emergence of the G5, it would not be difficult to know that these were individuals who had bonded together in the run-up to the presidential primary of the PDP in May last year. With the result of the primary gone awry, the hope of clinching the vice presidential slot was mercilessly smashed to the ground by the surprise emergence of Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, who was declared to be more preferred to Wike who had been recommended by the Governor Samuel Ortom committee.
But while the G5 was pursuing the agenda of ensuring equity, fairness and justice in the party, the dramatis personae all had their local politics to contend with. Whereas Governor Wike wouldn’t be contesting for any position in the next elections, his preferred gubernatorial candidate must be ‘delivered’ as they say in local political parlance. And that pitches him against his former ally now turned political foe, former governor of the state and former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
The latter is a chieftain of the ruling APC and in fact came second in the APC presidential primary, beating even vice president Yemi Osinbajo. Three governors – Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, Ikpeazu of Abia State and Ortom of Benue State are all vying to go to the senate while Governor Makinde of Oyo is fighting to get a second term in office. As a result of this disparate political configuration in the different five states, it was impossible for the five governors to throw their collective weight behind one presidential candidate.
Speaking to The Point at the weekend, a chieftain of the PDP from Delta State, James Ogheneochuko, a lawyer and political commentator, said it was apparent that at the end of the day, the G5 would not be able to adopt a single presidential candidate. He argued that what was important to the G5 was to deny the PDP sufficient “political oxygen in the presidential election to make a point that the interest of others should be considered.” “The fact is that having lost the presidential primary, the Wike camp hoped that it would be compensated with the Vice Presidential slot. But politics that is full of intrigues and treachery outplayed them.
Furious, they ganged together against the party. Wike, who had promised to support the party in whatever situation, suddenly began to sing a different tune.
Especially with the alleged provocative statement credited to Ayu after the primary, where he was reported to have congratulated Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal for being the hero of the convention. “I think the G5 member saw this as clear evidence that there was a predetermined goal for the primary and it was Governor Tambuwal who made it possible. So, with the Vice Presidential slot also gone, nothing was left than to fight the system; that was all.
After all, these were the people who brought the party to its very knees. But for the activities of Atiku and the five governors in 2014 who later became known as the nPDP, APC wouldn’t have won the 2015 election,” he stated. When in January, the G5 failed to name its preferred presidential candidate at Ibadan, Oyo State, at the flag-off of the reelection bid of Seyi Makinde, analysts knew immediately that it wouldn’t be a simple task for them Whereas both Wike and Makinde are not leaning toward the candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, both Okezie and Ikpeazu have resolved to keep their preferred candidates to their chest. Ortom has always been pro-Obi.
It was learned that the G5 members actually agreed among themselves to take a position that is “consistent with the local political reality.” Therefore, it was not a surprise when Wike told the surging crowd that “Makinde will announce it to you”.
The decision was to ensure that no harm is done to the local political reality in order not to jeopardise their personal ambitions. So, they were to keep on managing the peculiar circumstances in the states because they don’t want to be divided.
ATIKU’S LOSS, TINUBU, OBI’S GAIN
One thing that can never be wished away is the fact that the PDP candidate has lost some political capital to both Tinubu and Obi of the Labour Party. In October last year, Atiku’s chances were dealt an early blow in the South West with Makinde’s declaration that he supports the latest position of the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere. Afenifere had declared support for the Tinubu, as leaders of the organisation endorsed his presidential bid in Ondo State. During the meeting, Makinde, who was represented by his deputy, Adebayo Lawal, stated that his principal pledged full support to the decision of the group.
“Every time there is an important occasion or decision in the Afenifere or any other committee in Yoruba land, Engineer Makinde has always given his input. We are not bonded by a political party but by tribal brotherhood. And he has sent me here to inform you that he endorses whatever your decision is,” Lawal said.
The meeting supported the candidacy of Tinubu, as the former leader of the Afenifere, Reuben Fasoranti, prayed for his success at the polls. The meeting was attended by several Yoruba nationals, including Olu Falae, Olu Bajowa, former Chief of Army Staff, Alani Akinrinade, Bisi Akande, and Cornelius Adebayo. The governor of Ekiti State, Biodun Oyebanji, deputy governor of Ondo State, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, former Minister of Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, and other political figures were also present.
Last week, Makinde repeated the same thing in a different way, saying Oyo people will vote for equity and fairness on February 25. Makinde stated this when he received Tinubu and his entourage in Ibadan. Tinubu was accompanied on the visit to Makinde by the former governor of Osun State, Bisi Akande, Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare and Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State.
Former governors of Ekiti and Osun respectively, Kayode Fayemi and Gboyega Oyetola were also in Tinubu’s entourage. Tinubu, while speaking said that he was in Oyo State to solicit the endorsement of Makinde ahead of the February 25 presidential election. Makinde, in his response, said he would choose unity of the country, equity and fairness over politics. He, therefore, urged Tinubu to carry on with his campaign.
He added that the people of the state would vote for equity and fairness on February 25. Also last week in Port Harcourt, Governor Wike declared that Tinubu has the best character and courage to rule Nigeria. This was as Wike said he owed nobody an apology for endorsing Tinubu. “I have no apology to anybody for saying nobody born of a woman can intimidate me. You have never changed a party one day. That tells of your character and courage and that is what we require in this country.
But let me advise you, don’t spend any more money on your governorship candidate here (Rivers),” he told Tinubu. In Benue State, Governor Ortom, in January, backed Obi. The decision to support Obi came barely 48 hours after former President Olusegun Obasanjo endorsed Obi. Ortom’s Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Terver Akase, in a statement then said the governor “strongly recommends Peter Obi to Nigerians as the man who has the capacity to effectively tackle the economic, security and other challenges facing the country.” Akase noted that the governor is convinced that Obi “possesses the qualities of a leader who will be a true President of this country by guaranteeing justice, equity and fairness for all Nigerians.”
Ortom said the President that Nigeria needs at this “challenging time” in its history is one who understands the urgent need to unite the people and speedily initiate policies and actions to redirect the ship of the nation on the path of growth and development.
According to him, Peter Obi has all those qualities. Again, last Thursday, Governor Ortom declared that he is working for the emergence of Peter Obi of the Labour Party as the next president of Nigeria. The Governor who made the open declaration at a town hall meeting addressed by the LP presidential candidate in Makurdi said his decision was premised on his conviction that Obi was mentally and physically prepared for the task of getting the country working again.
The Governor who was a guest at the meeting which drew stakeholders from the 276 Council Wards of the state, got a rousing ovation from the participants who were very happy chanting his name and that of the LP presidential candidate after he made the open declaration. He said, “We have come to a time where we must leave out sentiments and save Nigeria by looking at individuals who can lead with the fear of God and provide gainful employment for the youths. “We must, in this 2023, fashion a new Nigeria, Nigeria that will give the people equity, fairness, and justice.
The PDP has failed Nigerians, APC has failed Nigerians, political parties have failed Nigerians, even the Labour Party has failed Nigerians. We must therefore look at individuals, those people who can deliver. So, this is not about the party, I am not in the Labour Party but I am working for Peter Obi. Peter Obi will make sure that we sleep with our two eyes closed. These unnecessary killings that are going on in our country will stop. “I have chosen to support him. I appreciate you all for choosing Peter Obi. Of the three presidential candidates, Peter Obi has the character, and competence to lead Nigeria.”
A chieftain of the PDP from the Bayelsa State, who would not like to be mentioned, said “I am not happy that at the end of the day, the PDP could not resolve the crisis bedeviling it. It is because of ego. People are too proud and haughty to acknowledge their faults. Today, Tinubu and Obi have gained what Atiku and the PDP have lost. “No matter how popular you are, you cannot always have all the people on your side. So, everybody who has some clout must be brought aboard, that is the spirit.
Nobody can do it all alone. I can only wish my party luck on Saturday. The party leadership was too cocky and arrogant to bend backward. It is not good. One vote, I mean only one vote is very important, especially where you know it will count.”