Opinion

Okowa on a lonely road toward 2023

By Sebastine Agbefe

There is no gain emphasizing the fact that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is at its lowest ebb since its formation in 1998. In fact, the party is on life support at the moment and this is not unconnected with the way and manner His Excellency, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has managed his post-party primary election victory.

In party politics, after every contest, the burden to engineer reconciliation moves is usually on the shoulders of the winner. It is meant to massage damaged egos and calm nerves. It is the only way to get party members from their different camps back into the fold to confront their opponents from other political parties. In this regard, it appears that Atiku, the Presidential candidate of the PDP has not met the expectations of his political party bigwigs.

During the run-up to the PDP presidential primaries, we watched on national television where Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who later emerged as the first runner up in the keenly contested presidential primaries said; “I will support whoever wins this primary.”

Though there were clear cases of betrayal and irregularities in the conduct of the primaries, Wike didn’t change his earlier position. He kept to his words. He received Atiku who visited him after the primaries and they both smiled before the cameras after their private meeting.

Wike only had to air his reservation in Port Harcourt during his speech at a reception organized by his people, where he queried the organizers of the primaries for calling back Governor Aminu Tambuwal for a second time to man the podium, giving him an opportunity to step down for a fellow northern aspirant, Atiku Abubakar – an action that will go down the annals of history as the turning point of that primaries, leading to Atiku’s victory.  However, Governor Wike reaffirmed his promise to work for the party.

Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa

Prior to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s emergence as the running mate to Atiku, we read on the pages of newspapers how Wike in one of his consultations to delegates reiterated that he was not interested in being the running mate to anybody. Especially so because he was confident and convinced that he would win the primaries. The southern governors had propelled him through actions and inactions to challenge the big masquerade, Atiku Abubakar.

He didn’t know that Governor Okowa who hosted the maiden meeting for the southern Nigeria President agitation, had an ace up his sleeves. Okowa was plotting for the seat of Vice President and already had a pact with Atiku Abubakar even before hosting the meeting that is now infamously tagged “The Asaba Declaration”; A declaration that would be referred to in the future wherever regional political treachery, deceit and betrayal is discussed in Nigeria and beyond.

Not minding the political injuries incurred during the primaries, Wike’s supporters continued to knock on Wike’s door, and eventually got him to open up his doors for possible nomination as the presidential running mate to Atiku. His name was placed side-by-side with a few other names and after days of deliberations of motions and counter motions, the committee set up by the hierarchy of the party and Atiku Abubakar to recommend and nominate the Vice Presidential candidate, came up with Governor Nyesom Wike as the most suitable amongst the three names finally sieved.

It was later revealed that the committee had to put it to a voice vote and Wike was overwhelmingly voted for. However, in a twist of events, Atiku Abubakar and Senator Iyocha Ayu, the National Chairman of PDP, announced Governor Okowa of Delta State as his running mate instead.

They jettisoned the report of a committee set up by themselves. That action in itself was a red rag to a bull and everyone knows Governor Wike would surely react. How and when remains a mystery.

Atiku Abubakar didn’t deem it fit to personally reach out to Governor Wike and those leaders whose egos may have been bruised by his decision, to at least mend fences.

However, as fate would have it, It didn’t take longer than eight days for Atiku Abubakar and the National Chairman of PDP, Senator Ayu, who party leaders now adjudge as the bull in a china shop, to witness the first repercussion of their ill-treatment and disrespect on Governor Nyesom Wike and Other party leaders.

The party was ignominiously defeated like never before in the Ekiti State Governorship election. Majority of the Party leaders and serving Governors looked the other way.

For the very first time since 1999, the PDP lost an election for paucity of funds. Governor Okowa, the Vice Presidential candidate of the party could not take charge and pull the strings like Wike did in Edo State gubernatorial election.

No doubt, Governor Wike is gifted with the power to mobilize for elections. Beyond mobilizing funds, he is a charismatic party man. He is an asset to the PDP. He is unarguably the face of opposition in this political dispensation. His absence in Ekiti exposed the weakness of Governor Okowa and the others.

The Ekiti election was no doubt, one amongst the two lifelines left for the PDP to launch itself back as a formidable party, prepared to wrestle power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forthcoming 2023 general elections but failed to do so.

Notwithstanding, there’s still one lifeline left, and that is the Osun State gubernatorial election. If the PDP puts up a good fight and come out in flying colours, it could energize them going into the 2023 elections. However, there’s still a big clog in the wheel.

The recent revelation of Governor Samuel Orthom of Benue State in his interview with Arise Television shows that the party’s leadership are all up in arms. And it is deeper than imagined. There’s still no lesson learned from the Ekiti debacle.

The onus to call for a truce if possible lies in the hands of the National Chairman and the Presidential Candidate. They must stoop to cut the Gordian knot.

Atiku is no political novice.  He has seen it all politically. In fact, had Atiku Abubakar not agreed to step down for MKO Abiola during the Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential primaries of 1992, maybe, we would not be celebrating June 12 today, as it was very likely that Babagana Kingibe would have won if he, Atiku, had to step down for him.

He, however, stepped down for Abiola to defeat Babagana Kingibe with the belief of clinching the Vice Presidential slot as running mate to Abiola. But in the end, Kingibe was announced as the running mate. What transpired thereof, is a story for another day.

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Atiku later won the Adamawa state governorship election in 1999 but was picked as presidential running mate to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. They won in the general election and had an uninterrupted eight years rule.

It is against this backdrop that no one can say Atiku’s failure or refusal to meet with Governor Wike is an oversight. I want to believe that it is deliberate. It’s either he is calling Governor Wike bluff or he wants to minimize Wike’s negotiation strength. Wike on the other hand has decided to engage a very fierce and dangerous political weapon—silence. It is usually a weapon to aggressively manipulate and pressure political adversaries to come down from their high horses.

As they continue in their political moves like the knights and rooks on a chessboard, Governor Okowa and the party in Osun State suffer.

Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, who the Southern and Middle-Belt leaders led by Pa E.K Clark, decorated with the toga of a ‘betrayer’, and called a wolf in sheep’s clothing, It’s carries the burden of the Osun election. Days ago, he was seen at the inauguration of the Osun State Campaign Committee looking pale.

Unlike the PDP, he had with him only Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State carrying the burden of the election. The other governors of the party boycotted the Inauguration for obvious reasons. They are not happy that having set up a committee comprising the NWC, former Governors, serving Governors and BOT, etc., their recommendation was trashed without any iota of explanation.

Arising from the disrespect for party leaders, Governor Ortom has said he is hibernating and he will pray to God to know whether or not to support Atiku Abubakar, his party presidential candidate in the 2023 general election. Ortom has gone beyond the veil.

Three southern Governors, Governor Ikpeazu Okezie, Governor Makinde and Governor Nyesom Wike are all outside the country, holidaying, with no sight of their return. They were last seen in Turkey.

Governor Udom of Akwa-Ibom has suddenly snowballed into thin air. The last time Governor Obaseki of Edo State had a microphone in his hands he focused his attention on the youth’s political crusade, code-named ‘Obi-dient’. He deliberately ignored his party. Atiku Abubakar has gone on vacation to Dubai.

Amidst all of this, the Osun State gubernatorial election is fifteen days away and the time is ticking fast. If PDP loses the election, then all bets are off, barring any last-minute change for their 2023 hopes.

For whatever it is, If PDP loses in Osun, it would be safe to say that Governor Okowa’s inordinate quest for power is the thin end of the wedge. He has brought calamity upon his party. He has schemed his way up to grab the Vice Presidential ticket of the party against the hues and cries of majority of the leaders who favoured  Nyesom Wike, and now he, Okowa, is on a lonely path toward the 2023 general election.

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