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Atiku, Wike, Ayu: Endless brawl

By Ray Ekpu
18 October 2022   |   3:52 am
At the last presidential primaries two Rivers State indigenes came next to the winners. Nyesom Wike was the first runner up in the PDP primaries while Rotimi Amaechi came second to Bola Tinubu in the APC.

Composite image of Governor Nyesom Wike (left) and former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

At the last presidential primaries two Rivers State indigenes came next to the winners. Nyesom Wike was the first runner up in the PDP primaries while Rotimi Amaechi came second to Bola Tinubu in the APC. Both men came very close to winning their party’s tickets and if it had happened it would have been interesting watching both men, fierce foes, turn on their charm offensive to win the soul of the Rivers State people.

Both men have come a long way together. Wike was the Chief of Staff to Amaechi when the latter was governor of Rivers State. Amaechi eventually recommended Wike to President Goodluck Jonathan who made him Minister of State for Education. When Amaechi fell out with Jonathan he left the PDP and joined APC while Wike became a staunch member of the PDP who went on to win election as the governor of Rivers State. Now he is rounding up his second term and proving to be a major factor in the politics of the PDP. His opponent, Amaechi, has gone quiet since the primaries and it is difficult to say what his next move might be but he remains the main factor in the Rivers State APC structure.

Why did I say that Wike has become a major factor in the PDP? It is because by his words and works, he has become the major talking point in his party. Almost every segment of the party is begging him to support Atiku and the party. He picked up the second position in the primaries and was denied the position of running mate to Atiku, he probably felt that since he came next to Atiku in the primaries and he is a Christian from the south and Atiku is a Muslim from the north it would be appropriate that he be chosen as Atiku’s running mate.

That didn’t happen. Besides, the party and Atiku set up a committee to pick a running mate. Out of 17 persons in the committee 14 of them voted for Wike. Still, Atiku didn’t choose him and Wike must have been wondering what he did wrong. Instead, Atiku chose Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, a mild mannered gentleman who is the exact opposite of the pugnacious and belligerent Wike. But Wike’s belligerence has served him well and made him succeed in Rivers State and also be perceived in the national politics of the PDP as a doer. So the qualities that stood him out as successful are the very same qualities that made Atiku to shun him. The truth is that if you put a lamb and a lion in one cage the lamb will have no peace at all. That was probably what worked in Atiku’s mind even though no Vice President can prove tougher than an Executive President with gargantuan powers of giving and taking.

On the other hand, Amaechi had no reason to expect that Tinubu might choose him as his running mate simply because he came second in the presidential primaries. Both of them are from the south. One of them, Amaechi is a Christian while Tinubu is a Muslim which has proved to be a problem for him. In order to court and cuddle the huge Muslim population in the north Tinubu decided to pick a fellow Muslim Shettima, a former Governor of the troubled Borno State. Now some of the Christians in the north are up in arms, suggesting that the choice of a Muslim in the north by Tinubu as his running mate means the non-recognition of the huge Christian population in the north. They refuse to recognise that Tinubu is a modern Muslim and not an irredentist. That is why he is married to a woman who is a pastor in a Pentecostal church. But in politics there is always selective perception and the selection must favour those who do the selection. That is why the issue of a Muslim-Muslim ticket has remained a major talking point today because political opponents think that this ticklish subject can be exploited for votes.

Meanwhile, Wike has been able to prove that he is a major force in the PDP by getting the ardent support of four of the PDP governors: Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu) and Samuel Ortom (Benue). Those governors must have felt that Wike probably deserves better treatment than he has been given. That is why they keep holding meetings with him in different parts of the world. They may also have remembered the promise made by Iyorchia Ayu when he was elected the PDP Chairman, namely that if a northerner won the presidential primaries he would step down as chairman of the party so that a southerner can become chairman. That was a promise of fairness. And a northerner, Atiku got the ticket and Ayu’s story has changed. He now says he was elected for a four year term. By way of a half-hearted compromise, Senator Adolphus Wabara of Abia State has been chosen as the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT) but the office of the BOT chairman does not carry as much weight as that of the party chairman. The office of the chairman of BOT is largely ceremonial while the party chairman is the one who, along with other members of the National Working Committee (NWC), deals with the major issues of the party including funding and spending. These four governors appear to agree with Wike that Ayu must go for peace to reign in the party. And Wike is also taking the fight to some Rivers State politicians who are in the camp of Atiku and Ayu.

A recent example is the de-recognition of Celestine Omehia, a former Governor of Rivers State who ran the State for six months before the Supreme Court threw him out of office and asked him to hand over to Rotimi Amaechi. The court had ruled that the victory belonged to the party and not an individual and since Amaechi won the party’s nomination before he was denied the ticket, he had to be restored to the office. That is how Omehia lost the office. Now the Rivers State House of Assembly has derecognised him as Governor and asked him to refund to the State monies paid to him as benefits and monthly pensions up till

September 2022. Governor Wike has signed the document. This decision is purely legalistic. De jure it may be right but de facto it is not. How will all the decisions taken by the Governor and his Commissioners and other appointees be reversed without causing a major upheaval in the system? They are not likely to be reversed but most of them are not reversible. Will his Commissioners be also asked to refund the salaries paid to them? Not likely. Will all the decisions taken by them within those six months be reversed? Not likely. It is obvious that the decision was taken to punish Omehia for not supporting Wike in his fight against Ayu and Atiku.

After a series of efforts made by Atiku and other members of the party to pacify Wike and his supporters have failed Atiku has gone on to launch his campaign flag-off in Uyo without Wike and his supporters. In a well-attended flag-off Atiku promised to address hunger, insecurity, disunity and to restructure the country into one that works for everybody. Those are some of the major issues of the day but the problem with campaign promises is that they are never detailed enough for assessment of how those promises can be achieved. In other words, Nigerians need to be told in clear terms how those sweet words will be translated into action in an economy that has been amputated by corruption, low oil prices, oil theft, excessive borrowing and reckless expenditure.

Meanwhile, a counter force among some of the PDP governors has emerged. They are saying that if Atiku and the party yield to Wike’s demands they are going to take Atiku and the party to task. That makes things more complicated for Atiku and the party than before now. It means that they are between the rock and the hard place. Either choice is a hard choice. Either choice means that the party is going south which also means that it is jeopardising its election chances. That also means that the circumference of the brawl has been

This must be a major headache for Atiku and the party. Instead of giving their full attention to the campaign they are busy trying to solve housekeeping problems that have no easy solutions. This scenario gives the public the impression that the party is incapable of solving its little house-keeping problem. If it is unable to solve its own relatively little problems how can the public believe that they are capable of solving the bigger problems of the larger society. That is a question that must agitate the minds of Atiku, the party and their followers. If the party wants to be taken seriously, if the party wants to succeed in next year’s elections it must find, and quickly too, the magic wand with which to bring peace to the party.