Wike, PDP and 2023

By Chris Ezeonoh, Port Harcourt

For former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) in the 2023 general election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, if there were to be reincarnation, he would not wish to contend with even a shadow that has a resemblance with that of Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers State.

The former vice president and many PDP faithful obviously believed that having emerged victorious from the hotly contested presidential primaries; the only hurdle left for the party and their flag bearer is the presidential election proper.

Little did they know that the party would be thrown into a quagmire that has the potential of polarizing the opposition party and rob it of the much needed cohesion and virility to confront the ruling APC at the polls next February.

Top echelons in the PDP in their wisdom considered and nominated the Rivers governor, Wike to pair Atiku as running mate for the battle of the presidential election. But Atiku for whatever strange reasons rather saw Wike as a liability other than the asset he was meant to be for the success of the party at the polls next year.

The Turakin Adamawa (Atiku) unilaterally (even against the principles of the opposition party) snubbed Wike and went for Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as his running mate whom he perhaps perceived would be more pliable.

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Atiku must have underestimated the rising political profile and influence of Governor Wike, even when he had no reasons to do so.  And since that faux pas by the former Vice president, the umbrella of the PDP has been riddled with embarrassing holes.

Some analysts say Atiku ought to have known better than Wike is not that small fry that could be squeezed easily by the ball of the thumb taking into cognizance the governor’s antecedents in the PDP and national politics.

Wike almost single handedly put together the immediate past national leadership of PDP led by Prince Uche Secondus who invariably was Wike’s Man Friday then.

In 2018 when PDP was planning its national convention and sought to move the venue of the convention from Port Harcourt to Abuja, Wike had roared like a lion and threatened dire consequences against the party should the venue be moved out of Port Harcourt.  The party quickly rescinded the plan and stuck to Port Harcourt venue as earlier agreed.

It is on record how Wike fought at the convention to ensure that his friend and governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal emerge as the flag bearer, but Atiku eventually carried the day after much dollar rain.

In this year’s PDP convention held in May, Wike also caused much stir in the polity as he traversed the length and breadth of the country ahead of the convention seeking the support of delegates. But for the last minute withdrawal of Tambuwal from the race on the convention ground and the joker of asking his supporters to support Atiku, Wike would have shocked even Atiku with all the vaunted connections and influence of the former Vice president.

Is Atiku piqued by the tough challenge Wike had given him over time that he felt the governor does not deserve such position and recognition alongside him? Some analysts say Atiku by turning down the recommendation of Wike as running mate has lost the services of a “bulldozer and swamp bogie” that would have cleared every stump and obstacle on the way to Aso Rock in 2023 for the PDP.

Interestingly, since Atiku sought to stifle the glowing light of Wike politically, the reverberations have been deafening within the polity and in PDP in particular. And as it appears, the PDP is now in a quandary on how to handle the reverberations, while Wike the supposed victim is gleefully enjoying the unfolding drama.

Today, Wike has become unarguably the most sought after politician in the country, even more attractive than the presidential candidates that emerged in the recently conducted primaries, Atiku inclusive.

Thus it is confounding according to some analysts why Atiku would not see the sterling qualities Wike possesses that other politicians are falling over themselves to court such that politicians from all walks of life in Nigeria are streaming down to Port Harcourt to consult the Rivers governor.

Wike is now being addressed in different colourful appellations – the beautiful bride, political colossus, avant-garde, political juggernaut, just name them and fuelled mainly on account of the blunder by Atiku who many before now thought is a political strategist.

Although many politicians have been visiting Rivers State since the end of the PDP primaries, mostly PDP henchmen, the frequency became intense since Atiku turned down the choice of Wike as running mate. However, what caused strong ripples was the last Friday visit of three serving governors on the platform of the ruling All Progressive Congress, (APC), namely, Sanwo Olu of Lagos State, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State.

Even as the content of their discussion in their closed door meeting were not made public, it is obvious that the meeting was aimed at coaxing Wike to swing his support towards the APC, in particular to the Presidential project of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in line with the demands of the Southern governors that the presidency should return to southern Nigeria in 2023.

Wike’s continued silence after each meeting with different political interests is not helping matters for the PDP as it has always left the party more confused on how to approach the governor, some analysts say.

So the one million dollar question is, will Wike leave the PDP or stay and fight within? Does the governor who has professed so much love for the PDP have such tendency? Or has he been so provoked or maltreated that his anger is now tipping over such that anything is possible now?

What is Wike just up to that the leadership of PDP are all holed up at Wadatta Plaza headquarters of the party in Abuja looking forlorn towards Port Harcourt like a child whose mother went to the market without keeping lunch for him and the day wearing down to evening?

Is Wike really the oxygen of PDP? If the governor refuses all entreaties to be appeased, would it be nunc dimitis for Atiku and his 2023 ambition?

Political pundits are eagerly waiting to see how the PDP will handle this seeming delicate situation and come out unscathed.

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