There is no doubt that Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike is shaken in one way or another by the way his political compatriots have treated him over the past month. For about a week after losing the quest to be his “beloved” party’s presidential candidate, he made no public appearances as such except at a wedding ceremony. Even then, he made no speech at the wedding ceremony.
It wasn’t like Governor Wike who takes every opportunity, including church services, to speak his mind. It was as if the man was using this period for reflection (I refuse to use the expression, licking his wounds). Who wouldn’t be pained by such treatment if he were Wike? On the eve of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP’s presidential primary election, the governor was brimming with confidence, grinning ear to ear, urging people to congratulate him in advance because he was 99 sure % that he would clinch the party’s coveted presidential election. ticket.
Then at the 11th hour on D-Day, out of the blues, one of Wike’s allies who happened to be a fellow competitor, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State, changed his mind and ordered his supporters to vote for former Vice President Abubakar Atiku. This singular act by Governor Tambuwal, who is also Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, flipped the permutations and tipped the votes just as Wike was literally rolling to victory. You can imagine Wike’s shock at his close friend’s action.
Wike was even more angry that Tambuwal was allowed to take the podium a second time by the organizers of the primary election convention, the party leaders, to announce his withdrawal from the race and give this order. He considered it a violation of the rules. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” he thundered later. However, the fences were soon seemingly mended as Alhaji Atiku, the crowned standard bearer, visited Wike and other fellow contestants, pleading for closing ranks and unity within the PDP. It was all smiles.
Then came the moment to choose the candidate for the vice-presidency. Two committees have been set up for this purpose, to make a recommendation of three names, namely, Governors Wike, Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta State), Emmanuel Udom (Akwa Ibom State). A majority of people on both panels chose Governor de Rivers, according to reports. Indeed, the newspapers were already reporting that everything was ready for the declaration of Wike as running mate. Again, at the last minute announcement stage, the committees’ recommendations were reportedly overturned by the PDP leadership and Okowa, instead, emerged as the party’s vice-presidential candidate for the elections of next year. Wike remained confused.
Apparently, Governor Wike had been pushing to become his party’s presidential nominee soon after his re-election in 2019; after his friend, Tambuwal, whom he sponsored for the party ticket, lost the primary election to Atiku, a veteran politician who in turn lost to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in 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 numerous infrastructure projects that would later earn him the accolade of a successful governor, ‘Mr. Projects’. He invited eminent personalities to order them and these were broadcast live on national television for all to see. Last year, for 30 days in May, as part of activities marking his anniversary as governor, at least one project was commissioned every day in Rivers State.
He also began to speak forcefully against the ruling federal government, challenging them in court on various issues (most of which he won). Wike was then seen as a fearless person who could speak truth to power without letting or hindrance. His popularity soared, especially in his PDP fold where he was seen as one of the power brokers as his financial interjections helped keep the party going. He was the “poster boy” of the PDP and considered the face of the opposition party.
From time to time, Wike gave hour-long interviews broadcast live on television, where he commented on burning issues in his usual boisterous manner. Wike brought his looming personality to “good effect” when he engineered the removal of his relative Uche Secondus (whom he had installed as National Chairman of the PDP) before the President’s term expired. He then, through his friend Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, had a northerner assume the chairmanship of the PDP. He had his way in the election of the new president and the impeachment of Secondus, despite some internal grumbling. This obviously boosted Wike’s ego and made him believe he could still have his way in the PDP business.
Wike’s plan, apparently, was that by having a northerner as president, he would have no qualms about getting leaders/stakeholders to zone the 2023 presidential ticket to the South, which he would then contest and win as as the most deserving Southern contender. So Governor Wike’s first major stumbling block and disappointment was when his party decided to open the contest to all zones, after a rigmarole that finally saw him hold the end of the stick.
First, PDP set up a zoning committee headed by his friend Ortom to look into the matter (it must have given him some hope that his ally Ortom was leading the panel). Ortom, apparently to avoid blame from his friend, said his committee had not made any decision on the matter but had only submitted its report to the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) who would make the decision. But it was obvious that since the committee included one member from each of the 36 states and put the issue to a vote, the northerners would have won the day deciding to throw the ticket open. After all said and done, the NEC also opted for a clear field.
I think this unpleasant decision for Wike made him more determined to win the primary election, to do everything in his power to clinch the presidential ticket, to match Atiku’s money for money; in this sense, to ”show” them that he is a great strength in PDP. Recall that he had made donations to the northern states as part of his strategy.
Notably, after a one-on-one meeting with Rabiu Kwankwaso, who is the de facto leader of Kano’s PDP, all 44 delegates from that state (the highest of 36 states) voted for Wike.
Although the Tambuwal delegates transferred their votes to Atiku, Governor Wike still fared well at the convention in terms of votes, coming second to Atiku, the winner. With an undeniable tinge of bitterness, the Governor told the ragtag Government House crowd that greeted him after his return to Port Harcourt: “I have shown them that Rivers State can no longer be taken for granted, I can’t be a second-class citizen.”
To be continued.
Ikeano written via [email protected] 08033077519