2023: Anxiety heightens in PDP over Wike’s ‘defection plan’

More than two months after the Presidential primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party, the controversies that followed the exercise are yet to die down.

At the center of the controversies is the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike who was defeated at the primaries by the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.

Wike, a first time contender at presidential elections polled 237 votes which were, however, not enough to secure him the ticket against Atiku Abubakar who scored 371 out of the 746 valid votes.

A dramatic withdrawal of former ally to Wike, Aminu Tambuwal for Atiku Abubakar was believed to have whittled down the chances of the Rivers State governor at the convention.

Addressing delegates at the convention, Gov. Wike had pledged to support anyone who emerged as winner at the primaries.

In his words, “today, anybody who emerges here I will support the person to the fullest because I’m a committed party person, because I love this party, because since 1998 I have been in this party.

“I will work for this party, I will not go anywhere, this is my party”.

With the latest crisis within the PDP, Wike appears to have reneged on the promise he made at the convention.

The matter worsened after the presidential candidate of the PDP overlooked Wike and chose Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate.

During his interview on Arise TV, Atiku explained his reasons for his choice of Okowa as running mate.

He noted that he chose whom he believes he can “work with amicably” and somebody that can “deliver”.

The comments of Atiku seemed to have caused more harm than good which led to Gov. Wike’s outburst on his arrival from Spain at the Port Harcourt International Airport where he accused Atiku of telling “lies” during the interview.

Since he lost out in securing the PDP’s presidential ticket and vice presidential candidacy, Gov. Wike had received a large number of visitors at his home in Port Harcourt, including Governors from the ruling All Progressives Congress.

This has fueled speculations that he may be on his way out of the PDP.

Again, his perceived closeness to the presidential candidate of the APC, Bola Tinubu has also given rise to rumours that he may eventually work for the victory of Tinubu against his party’s presidential candidate.

In a recent outburst, a former Wike’s ally and former Rivers South East Senator, Lee Meaba criticized Gov. Wike for lining up a majority of “Tinubu men” for project commissioning in the middle of campaigns.

Meaba said, “In the middle of our campaign, you line up Tinubu’s men, why do you line up Tinubu’s men? In the middle of our campaign, you are highlighting APC and Tinubu above our own candidate”.

At the commissioning of legislative quarters in Port Harcourt on Friday, Gov. Wike boasted that he will perform very well in any political party he finds himself in.

“Take me to the Labour Party, YPP anywhere I will perform,” he said.

Speaking at the event, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, who was the special Guest of Honour made overtures to the Governor to join the APC with certain words that many could interpret as “pregnant”.

In the words of the Speaker, “in politics, there is no permanent friend, there’s no permanent enemy but only permanent interest.

“And this journey that you have started, that you and I know; shall be permanent.”

At the tail end of his speech, the Speaker reiterated his earlier calls by even persuading members of the Rivers State House of Assembly to join Gov. Wike when he makes the move.

He said, “I congratulate the Speaker, Right Honourable Ibani and all the members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

“I believe that when the governor finally chokes them, the members of the State Assembly will be coming with him to where he is destined to be.

“We await you, your Excellency and very eagerly too. Do not let anybody intimidate you, at the appropriate time you will tell them”.

On Wednesday, at the flag-off of the Illoabuchi-Azikiwe road construction, a former Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko appeared to be begging Governor Wike not to leave the party.

He said, “all well-meaning Nigerians therefore know that we badly need to unite our nation to be able to effectively confront our security and economic challenges.

“Your Excellency, our party, the PDP, a party that you have laboured so much since, saddled with the historical duty of forging this unity, a unity premised on truth, equality and justice, a unity upon which rescuing Nigeria from the unsatisfactory performance of the seven years of the APC will be built. It is a mission that must be accomplished. A mission where you have been specially positioned and favoured to play a major role.

“You have undoubtedly done well for the PDP and I can assure you that the preponderance of PDP leadership and members know your worth.”

After Gov. Wike’s comments on arrival from Spain, the leadership of the PDP set up a meeting between him and Atiku in Abuja.

Subsequently, a reconciliation committee was set between the two parties to find ways of resolving the issues.

Arabella also gathered that one of the conditions given by Governor Wike’s camp for peace to reign is the removal of Iyorcha Ayu as the National Chairman of the party, which, however, a chieftain of the PDP, Bouch Nsirim loyal to Gov. Wike dismissed as an insinuation.

Speaking with newsmen, Nsirim said, “It is very important to state clearly that Governor Nyesom Wike has not told anybody that he wants the National Chairman of the party to resign, these are insinuations from different quarters”.

Few days after the meeting between Atiku and Wike, it appeared the peace talk may have suffered a setback after Senator Lee Meaba, an ally to the former Vice president, accused Governor Wike of “stopping them from campaigning for Atiku” in Rivers State.

Similarly there have also been feelers that the Atiku camp’s body language is such that it can do without the Rivers State governor for the election.

Bouch Nsirim, however, believes that the PDP cannot do without Governor Wike.

He said, ”anybody that is in the political scene, will know that the governor is an integral part of the PDP.

“It is clearly evident; the effort that he has made to ensure that the party survives.

“He is a major player and a major factor in the politics of Nigeria today.

“Like I have told anyone that cares to know, if you play with Governor Nyesom Wike, you are playing with the vote of Rivers people”.

Answering a question on what Governor Nyesom Wike wants for peace to reign in the party, Nsirim said, “what the Governor wants is mutual respect.

“You know that beyond being the governor of this State and being a participant in the just concluded primaries, the efforts he made in ensuring that the party survived is one that no one can jettison and so for me, I think what is ideal is for the presidential candidate to meet with him and sort out whatever issues”.

With the tone of Governor Wike during the commissioning of the legislative quarters in Port Harcourt on Friday, it appears the peace talks may have broken down.

The latest developments have left more room for assumptions that Gov. Wike may be working for the victory of the APC flagbearer, Bola Tinubu, especially with the very short comments he perhaps unintentionally made during his speech on Friday.

He said, “even the electorates, they are being deceived, “Muslim-Muslim, Christian-Muslim, native doctor-native doctor, is that our problem now?”

Perhaps, the governor quickly caught himself and added, “at the appropriate time, we will talk politics.”

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