Wike in dilemma over choice of successor
Even as Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike of Rivers State is excitedly moving across the country to solicit the support of Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) delegates ahead of the party’s presidential primaries, analysts say the governor has one heavy burden weighing him down, and that is who succeeds him as governor of the state in 2023.
Sometime last year, during the spate of project commissioning by the governor, he hinted that he would not impose any governorship aspirant or candidate on the people of Rivers State come 2023.
According to him, the leadership of the party would meet to decide who to support at the appropriate time.
But he insisted that he is obliged to ensure that Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) wins the 2023 governorship election in Rivers The Trumpet gathered.
“One mistake I will not make is to impose somebody. From my experience as a student of history, reality has shown that it is difficult for you to say Joseph is the man I can trust.
“Until you give somebody power and money, that is only when you will know whether that person is trustworthy or not, he said.
Wike stated that God would not allow someone who will destroy all the remarkable progress the state had made over the years to be governor.
“God will ensure that it is only someone who is courageous, firm and ready to protect the interest of Rivers that will succeed me.
“Rivers is a state so many people have interest in. It is a state that you have to put your feet on the ground. It is a state that you have to annoy a lot of Nigerians and a lot of Nigerians will hate you.
“But what is important is for you to know is what is good for your people and stand for your people. Do not allow personal interest to sway you against the interest of your people”, Wike had said.
From the foregoing, some analysts say it would almost be as difficult as a camel passing through the eye of the needle to get someone who would scale through and fit into the somewhat utopic parameters the governor would be looking at to be convinced that one would be “courageous, firm, ready to annoy Nigerians and to be hated by Nigerians” to qualify to preside over the affairs of the state as Wike’s successor.
Again, some observers say the governor adroitly brought God into the situation to say “God would not allow someone who will destroy all the remarkable progress the state had made over the years to be the next governor” and “God will ensure that it is only someone who is courageous, firm.” is an alibi meant to say that he, Wike, would not allow or would ensure that.
In other words, when the governor said “the leadership of the party would meet to decide who to support at the appropriate time”, the governor was actually referring to himself as the leader of the party. As one analyst puts it, “who has actually advised Wike and is certain the governor would concede and listen?
Do you not see how the governor sacks his appointees with careless abandon? Does that cut the picture of one who consults or weighs situations? Wike is lord unto himself and the state. So no one should be deceived when he said that he would not make the mistake of imposing anybody. Even if other governors decide not to impose, not Wike”.
The analyst went on, “Wike is fastidisaid, “Wike is fastidious and sets standards that. Already he has passed a vote of no confidence in everybody nursing the ambition to seek the coveted governorship position by saying no one can be trusted”.
These scenario observers posit explains the governor’s frustration and dilemma over who should succeed him within the PDP in the state.
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At the moment, the race to clinch the number one position in the state within the PDP is already crowded with no fewer than 16 aspirants having purchased, completed and submitted their expression of interest and nomination forms.
Before now, Governor Wike had barred his appointees from holding or convening any political meeting ahead of 2023 elections. But from the list of those who have purchased, completed and submitted the Nomination and Expression of Interest forms for governorship position are some of his key appointees among other close associates, a situation said to have compounded the governor’s dilemma.
Top on the list is the immediate past state chairman of PDP, Bro. Felix Obua also doubles as the chairman of Rivers State Waste Management Agency, (RIWAMA).
Obua in many circles is seen as Wike’s ‘Man Friday’ who stood firm and made himself available during the turbulent years of PDP in the state when Wike was fighting to take over the structure of PDP.
The combined efforts of Wike, Obua and a few others ousted the leadership of Late Chief G.U. Ake, as chairman of PDP, paving the way for Obua to take over.
During the state congress of PDP when it was time for Obua to hand over at the end of his statutory tenure, Wike showered encomiums on him for leading so well. He said if it was possible to extend Obua’s tenure, he wouldn’t have hesitated to do just that, describing Obua as a man of his words.
So will Wike look at the Ogba Egbema Ndoni born former local government chairman popularly known as “Go Round” and repose confidence in him for the top job in Brick House?
Another top contender is the immediate past secretary to the state government, Dr Tammy Wenike Danagogo. The former minister of Sports and Youth Development, former commissioner and former local government chairman has spent almost four years working with Gov. Wike as SSG.
The PhD holder in Law is said to be the eyes of the governor in the Kalabari axis of the state. Analysts say he could be highly favoured should the riverine/ upland politics become very strong ahead of the governorship election.
Dr Abiye Precious Sekibo is yet another PDP big wig who has completed and submitted his Expression of Interest and Nomination forms for the governorship position.
The former Rivers SSG and former minister of Transportation is among the PDP elders whom observers say has the ears of Wike. He was a former governorship candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, (ACN). Sekibo hails from Okrika, another riverine part of the state.
The only albatross that may knock Sekibo out according to analysts is that he belongs to the generation of the former Governor Peter Odili under whose tutelage people like Gov. Wike were groomed. So analysts reason that if Sekibo becomes governor, it might be very difficult for Wike in his characteristic brusque nature to get Sekibo to kowtow or do things his (Wike) way, hence opening the way for internecine confrontations.
Also among the old generation politicians who picked the guber form is Senator George Thompson Sekibo from Ogu/Bolo local government. He is the incumbent Senator representing Rivers East (Wike’s senatorial district) in the National Assembly. He is also from the riverine axis of the state.
Others from the riverine axis of the state who have completed and returned their guber forms include, Dr Farah Dagogo, member of House of Representatives representing Bonny/Degema constituency, Chief David Briggs, former commissioner for Works and former chairman of Rivers State Post Primary School Board, Hon. Boma Iyaye, a former member of the state House of Assembly, as well as the former commissioner of Sports.
Engr. Tele Ikuru, former commissioner and two-time deputy governor is also in this group, alongside Mr Siminalaye Fubara, immediate past Accountant General of the state and former Permanent Secretary, Government House, Port Harcourt. There is also Alabo Geroge Kelly, formerly of the Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC), but later appointed Special Adviser to Wike and Head, Bureau for Special Projects.
From the Ogoni axis of the state comes Dr Gabriel Pidomson former House of Assembly member and former SSG under Celestine Omehia. He is currently the state chairman of a Pro-Wike political support group, Wike Solidarity Movement, (WSM).
Senator Lee Maeba, a two-time senator and currently, chairman Governing Council of Captain Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, Port Harcourt is also a contender.
Senator Olaka Nwogu and Barr. Isaac Kamalu both hail from Eleme local government in Ogoni. Kamalu was the immediate past Commissioner for Finance, and formerly Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning. He was also a former member of the House of Assembly.
The only aspirant from the largest ethnic group in the state, Ikwerre, who has submitted the guber form is Hon. Austine Opara, former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives.
His aspiration, only him from the entire Ikwerre whose ethnic bloc has held the governorship position in three successions from 2007 to date is what observers are saying could be Gov. Wike’s joker to retain power within the Ikwerre ethnic bloc perpetually.
Interestingly, the voices of dissent from the riverine axis are becoming quite vociferous as they push the case for balancing, equity and justice in the distribution of power in the state.
Apart from Rufus Ada George and the late Melford Okilo, the riverine people have not produced any other governor in the 55 years of the creation of Rivers State.
However, some schools of thought are saying that no part of Rivers State is either entirely upland or entirely riverine, hence the argument on riverine/upland dichotomy should be discarded.
The APC in the state under the suzerainty of the minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi has however embraced the reality of the dichotomy by asking only aspirants from the riverine axis to pick the guber forms.
This is the setting in Rivers State as the parties head into the primaries to pick their candidates.
Will Wike be a man of his words by ensuring a level playing ground for every aspirant in the PDP? The month of May will provide the answer.