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Wike, Atiku camps return to trenches

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh (Abuja) and Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt)
09 August 2022   |   4:35 am
Four days after the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, and Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, met and agreed on a framework for the resolution of the differences between them...

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu (left);his Rivers counterpart, Nyesom Wike and Rivers State Deputy Governor, Mrs Ipablibo Harry-Banigo at the commissioning of Orochiri-Worukwo (waterlines) flyover in Port Harcourt …yesterday.

• PDP postpones NEC, National Caucus meeting over Atiku’s absence, fear of Ayu’s removal
• Postponement not because of Atiku, he prepared for the meeting, aide insists
• We’ll use our votes against those that say Rivers don’t matter, Wike subs Atiku
• Sanwo-Olu: Wike has sent strong message by inviting me to Rivers
• Wike in talks to work for Tinubu’s election, says Rivers APC

Four days after the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, and Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, met and agreed on a framework for the resolution of the differences between them, the rift between the two gladiators appears to be deepening, as their supporters keep driving a wedge in between.

They had reached an understanding on Thursday at a meeting in Abuja, which held at the residence of a former Minister of Information and National Orientation, Jerry Gana, to constitute a team of equal numbers to look at the issues. That was the first time the two leaders would be meeting since Atiku overlooked Wike and appointed Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate for the February 2023 presidential election.

It, however, emerged that the main opposition party, yesterday, postponed its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting because some were pushing for conditions that may be hard to deliver, including the removal of its National Chairman, Iyorcha Ayu.

It was alleged also that the presidential candidate would not be available for the meeting, but an insider in the Atiku camp informed The Guardian last night that the party’s candidate was prepared for the NEC meeting. According to the source, “Atiku was prepared for NEC because the schedule I have for the week has the meeting included. How could the meeting be shelved because of him when he is not the chairman? Whether he is there or not, if there is a quorum, the meeting goes ahead.

“What I am suspecting is that it is possible NEC couldn’t hold because members felt there was no reason going into such meeting with a divided house. Both meeting may have cleverly been put off as the signs of division among members set in. people are still not moving away from the pre-primary divide of the North holding key positions in the party. If Atiku were to win, Ayu will step down automatically.”

Even though the party said it postponed its NEC meeting earlier scheduled to hold on Wednesday and Thursday this week due to unforeseen circumstances, a source in the party said the meeting cannot hold without the presidential candidate and many other stakeholders.

The statement signed by the party’s National Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, reads: “This is to inform all members of the PDP National Caucus and NEC that the meetings of the two bodies earlier scheduled for Wednesday, August 10 and Thursday, August 11, respectively, have been postponed. The postponement is due to unforeseen circumstances. A new date will be announced in due course. All inconveniences are deeply regretted.”

It was, however, gathered through a source that the absence of Atiku and some party leaders, who may not be present at the meeting because of other engagements, informed the postponement.

The source, who disclosed that the party had wanted to use the opportunity of the meetings to address outstanding issues, added, “there is no problem, we have to postpone the meetings because the presidential candidate is not around.

“This is the first NEC meeting we are holding since our primaries and we need the attendance of all leaders. We had our BoT last week and we thought we could follow it up with the National Caucus and NEC meeting. But we cannot have these meetings without the presidential candidate and many others. So, we have decided to postpone it for about two weeks.”

Also speaking, another source said the meetings were postponed to forestall tension in the party that could motivate a move to remove the party’s National Chairman.

The source said: “You see, Ayu’s role in this whole crisis showed from day one with the bias he has against Governor Wike. I can tell you that, if the NEC holds, Ayu will be history, because tension is still high. So, some of us advised that the meetings should be postponed till tension reduces.”

These and failure to agree on the agenda, the source said, forced the postponement of the two key meetings. With ongoing reconciliation talks in the party, Wike supporters had alleged that Atiku has started by-passing the governor and reaching out to other prominent Rivers PDP chieftains in a bid to isolate Wike should talks fail.

Some party stalwarts loyal to Atiku have also frowned on Wike’s seeming courting of friendship with the opposition, especially the non-extension of invitation to PDP national leaders for the commissioning of projects across the state this week, despite inviting the All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders for the events.

Wike has distanced himself from the party since the conclusion of the party’s primary elections and selection of vice presidential candidate.

Wike’s camp has insisted on the removal of Ayu, following the emergence of Atiku as presidential candidate. The governor’s camp insists that the presidential candidate can’t be from the North, same region with the party’s national chairman and other key positions of the party.

Atiku is opposed to the removal of Ayu, insisting on winning the election in February before Ayu can step down. Wike has continued to send chilling message to the Atiku camp with his open romance with top APC members.

YESTERDAY, the governor hosted governors of Lagos and Ebonyi states, Babajide Sanwo-Olu and Dave Umahi, to commission a flyover.

Also, the governor’s sound-bites from yesterday’s project commissioning has been seen as a subtle sub for Atiku, where he declared that no political aspirant will draw votes from Rivers in the general election without according the state the respect it deserves.

Speaking during the commissioning of the Orochiri-Worokwu flyover in Port Harcourt, Wike warned that he was in ‘in charge’ of Rivers and would not let anyone sideline the state no matter how highly placed.

“If you say Rivers does not matter, Rivers will tell you, you don’t also matter at an appropriate time,” Wike said during the road commissioning by Sanwo-Olu.

“If you don’t like us, we would not like you. If you like us, we would like you. Nobody will use our votes for nothing, our votes will matter and Rivers must benefit from anybody we are going to support. That’s the truth of the matter.”

The governor added: “Politics here is no longer about ‘vote for somebody’ (but) what would you do for the people of Rivers? So, people should calm down. We are coming, nobody should panic. I’m fully in charge, don’t you know that? I am fully in charge!

“I’m not that kind of governor anybody can bring to Abuja to hold meeting, I’m not that kind of governor, I’m fully in charge here. If you say I’m not in charge, put your head and see whether you will come out, so all these big names, forget it. We are in charge.”

Wike praised his Lagos counterpart for honouring his invitation to commission the project, noting that he was impressed about the level of infrastructure development in Lagos.

“Anytime I come to Lagos, I see what you are doing, I’m so impressed, that’s why I say you too – come and see what we are doing, it has nothing to do with party, it has to do with comparing notes and that’s the way we are supposed to work. Party is a vehicle that takes you to a destination, you come down and show that you have capacity to do something for your people.

“These past two weeks we’ve been commissioning and flagging off projects, anybody who can do that, go and do it let us see. It is not by mouth, whether you hate us or not, there is nothing you can do about it. Don’t be jealous of us, do your own.

“Since people knew you were coming to commission this flyover, certain people have been saying, why did we invite Lagos governor? Why now? And I have asked them questions, ‘when is the time stipulated to invite you to come and commission a flyover?

“The Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola, was here, governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, was here, Minister of Sports was here, Minister of Health was here, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was here, so, why is this one worrying people?

“So, those of you who want to have hypertension, have hypertension! I have no regret of inviting you to come and commission this project, so, I’m very very happy.”

In his remarks, Sanwo-Olu noted that infrastructure development was one of the primary responsibilities of “any serious government anywhere in the world.

“I would like to specially commend my brother, Governor Wike, for his strong commitment to the delivery of physical infrastructure in Rivers, a commitment that has been recognised by all and sundry, and which has earned him the appellation ‘Mr. Projects.’”

Sanwo-Olu said though himself and Wike belong to different political persuasions, the invitation extended to him sends a very strong message that politicians and political leaders, can come together across political and ideological divides, for the good of the people.

“There is also a strong message being made today about expanding our capacity to play politics without bitterness. This symbolic gesture by my friend and brother is one that should become standard practice across Nigeria.

“There is a lot that we can learn from one another, and experience that we can translate from one part of the country to the other.

“Ultimately, we are all in governance to touch the lives of the people for good; to deliver to them the dividends of democracy. There is no doubt that Governor Wike has spent his last seven years focused on this, just as we have similarly been doing in Lagos.”

Providing the description of the project, the Rivers Commissioner for Works, Dakorinama George-Kelly, said the project has been completed on schedule with specified quality.

“This flyover bridge is meant to amend traffic congestion along the Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway because right from the Bori Park flyover down to Eastern Bypass, there will be no traffic congestion. So, there will be ease of doing business around Port Harcourt and Rivers people will benefit from it.”

In his speech, Regional Manager of Julius Berger Nigeria PLC, Juergen Fischer, noted that history had been made with the opening for public use of the seventh flyover awarded to them for construction.

He thanked Wike for the trust reposed in Julius Berger Nigeria PLC to handle such huge projects for the state government.

MEANWHILE, the Rivers APC chapter has accused Wike of courting the presidential candidate of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The party said talks with Wike are still inconclusive, even as it warned the governor to mind his actions in the state.

APC gave the warning in a statement released by its spokesman, Chris Finebone, in response to Wike’s Sunday boradcast that some politicians in the state were hiring thugs and other criminals to help them win the 2023 election.

Wike had issued a warning that any hotel that hosted a gathering of law breakers would be demolished. Finebone said in his statement, that Wike’s “predicament has not been helped by the inconclusive outcome of his offer to work for the presidential candidate of the APC, Tinubu, in exchange for a safe landing and protection after the 2023 general election, having been convinced that Tinubu will defeat Atiku.

He continued: “As Wike presses on with courting the APC to secure protection after the 2023 general elections, a close ally of the APC presidential candidate, Sanwo-Olu and other APC stalwarts will be in Rivers State this week to either commission projects undertaken by Wike or flag off others.”

The party further warned Wike against demolishing any hotel, recreational facility, or other property owned by any of its members in the state.

Speaking further, Finebone warned that “Wike will bring upon himself apocalypse of immense proportions,” if he attempts to demolish any hotel, leisure places or any property of its member in Rivers under any guise whatsoever.

The party said that Wike’s panic after losing out on the presidential and later vice presidential nominations of his party, the PDP, led to the accusation that there was a conspiracy by parties to destabilise Rivers.

It further accused Wike of committing financial and other atrocities as the governor of Rivers for two terms ending on May 29, 2023, and as the former Minister of Education.