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Wike’s impending cross-carpeting and implications for an unsettled Rivers APC

By Adamu Abuh (Abuja) and Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt)
16 July 2023   |   3:28 am
Since his exit from office on May 29, 2023, former Governor has remained a central figure of political discourse in Rivers state. This is not unconnected with his alleged impending decampment to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the possibility of him being considered as a Minister by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Nyesom Wike

Since his exit from office on May 29, 2023, former Governor Nyesom Wike has remained a central figure of political discourse in Rivers state. This is not unconnected with his alleged impending decampment to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the possibility of him being considered as a Minister by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Wike is said to be eyeing the Ministerial slot for Rivers State and one of the demands being tabled before him for the appointment is that he must decamp to the APC.

Though the governor holds the prerogative to accept or turn down the offer, some party loyalists have condemned the alleged move, saying Wike has frequently derided the party and once described it as a “cancer.” They wondered why he (Wike) wants to be infected with the same cancerous party.

However, if the speculations of him joining the APC becomes reality, the development will pitch two former governors, Chibuike Amaechi and Wike together in a party that has remained divided on many fronts through the times, and may also precipitate a fresh battle between the duo.

Undoubtedly, the development will change some dynamics within the party in the state as to who controls the machinery of the APC in Rivers, who gets what and who determines what. This is because Wike, who served as Chief of Staff in the Amaechi administration, has been in a long-standing face-off with his former boss.

Since 2012, Wike with the support from the centre as the then Minister of State for Education and through the court, collapsed the structure of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which ushered in Wike’s team and forced Amaechi and his supporters to decamp to APC.

There has also been a festering crisis in the state chapter of the APC, which has now split into three factions. At the moment, the three factions are fighting dirty on who gets the ministerial slot following their separate contributions to the presidential election.

Party sources told The Guardian that four top politicians in the state are on the consideration list for minister. The first is Senator Magnus Abe. Abe was a seating mate to the wife of the President, Oluremi Tinubu at the senate and the duo are said to be close allies, a relationship which paved way for Abe’s alliance with Tinubu. He is followed by Tein Jackrich Jnr, the president of Belema Oil Servicing Limited, an indigenous oil company. The Guardian gathered that Jackrich contributed N50 million during the APC presidential campaign to bail out the state. Dakuku Peterside is also said to be on the list. And then, Wike.

The spokesman of mainstream APC in Rivers, Darlington Nwauju, had described Wike as an enemy of the party who is unfit to lead them, adding that those seeking that the ministerial appointment be ceded to Wike are ‘impostors.’

He noted that in Nigerian politics, ideology is zero but were this to be contemplated in advanced democracies, it will be a difficult move for Wike. Nwauju insisted that the assumption of Wike leading APC in Rivers state is a big ‘political gamble.’

Nwauju’s reaction was sequel to an earlier call by a faction, led by Chief Tony Okocha, who served as the South-South Coordinator of Bola Ahmed Tinubu Vanguard (BAT), that the ministerial slot meant for Rivers state should be given to Wike due to his alleged role in capturing the state for Tinubu.

Magnus Abe

However, miffed by Okocha’s call, the Magnus Abe faction, led by Augustine Wokocha, suspended Okocha from BAT Vanguard, accusing him of misappropriating funds and instigating callous campaign against Abe.

But the Chairman of BAT Vanguard, worldwide, Dr. Dare Owotomobi, has dismissed the purported suspension, saying it cannot stand because Wokocha has ceased to be a member of the group.

The drama and crisis has continued unabated but political observers maintain that there are strong possibilities that irrespective of all these, Wike may still decamp to APC due to his political interest even though he had in different media interviews stated that he was not ready to leave the PDP.

Speaking on the development, a renowned political analyst in the state, Olalekan Ige, said, in politics, only political interest is permanent.

He said, “In politics, somebody may not agree with you today and next day, the person will say, let us bury the hatchet and move on.”

Ige noted that if Wike decamps to APC, there is the likelihood of some of his supporters in PDP joining him, which will obviously whittle the powers of the PDP in the state. “If Wike’s supporters are going to decamp from PDP to APC, then it means the governor of the state, Siminialayi Fubara may also want to join his boss as his political benefactor,” Ige said.

He explained that only the national and state Assembly members will have challenges in moving to APC with Wike because there is already a supreme court judgment that forbids them decamping to another party other than for two reasons’ as stated in the constitution.

He noted that if there is no leadership crisis in PDP at the national level, it makes it difficult for the national and state House of Assembly members to join the APC, stressing that Wike’s alleged move to APC will deplete the rank of the PDP in the state.

Speaking on the implications to Governor Fubara, Nwauju said, “If you would recall when then Governor Dave Umahi defected from the PDP to the APC, Mr. Nyesom Wike declared on public television that the PDP will certainly head to the courts to ask that Umahi drops the position since he secured the governorship on the PDP platform. I cannot preempt the response of the PDP but we will wait and see.”

Nwauju maintained that those genuinely interested in the politics of Rivers state will be shocked if Wike joins the APC because “the bitter kola does not taste as it’s sounding when it is chewed.”

For a chieftain of the party and ardent loyalist of Amaechi, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, APC is a political party and given that politics is a game of numbers, anyone who feels attracted to the objective of the party and the interest it pursues, is free to pitch tent with the party with the obligation to subject himself to the rules governing membership.

However, Eze stated that there should be reservations in the case of dissident elements whose notoriety in bluffing rules, corrupting systems with financial inducements and usurping leadership in the pursuit of selfish, private vendettas portend grave danger to any organisation of humans.

He said APC prides itself as a party rooted in democracy and rule of law, and going by that standard, the entrance of Wike into its fold would ordinarily not be easy, adding that the party abhors Wike’s type of politics, which is clearly antithetical to progress.

Eze recalled: “The European Union (EU) Election Observatory report for the 2023 election singled him out for indictment. His desperate engagements ridiculed our system. He earned the country a global embarrassment. In saner climes, his likes are subjected to the slammer for their very many crimes. If he nurses any interest in joining the APC, just be sure that such interest is not pure; it is definitely for a clandestine purpose as his custom is.

“Albeit, we await the reaction of the leadership of the party when he eventually makes open his intention to join the party he ones described as cancerous.”

Eze warned that it would be the greatest political mistake ever envisaged by President Bola Tinubu in his political life to appoint Wike as a minister.

“You know, ordinarily it is within the prerogative of the President to appoint into his cabinet whoever he wishes, but in this case, Nigerians have raised alarm already. They have set target for the President and they know that Wike does not fit into the calibre of people needed to help Mr. President meet the expectations of country people. He lacks the minimum record and character prescribed for people who should hold public offices in the present-day contemporary Nigeria.

“What do you think of a man that bragged so much about overhead bridges as legacy projects in this era of technology? Aside from those overhead bridges, he cannot point at anything as his achievement in office as Governor. Already, he has a case with the anti-graft agency for the billions of Naira he stole as Education minister during former President Goodluck Jonathan administration. He bargained to refund the money and he was refunding same on installment as Governor with Rivers money before former President Buhari stopped him. That matter is still pending.

“The President appointing Wike into his cabinet as a minister is an insult not only to APC members and mostly to those who have died in the struggle to water and sustain APC in Rivers state all these years.

Rotimi Amaechi

“But one thing is sure and Mr. President must be wary of it; if Wike could destroy such a great political party like PDP, then destroying both Tinubu and APC will be like sipping a glass of wine; if he could abuse and harass his benefactor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, then abusing and deriding Tinubu will be like a walk in the park; if he could ignore President Jonathan and his wife after they imposed him on Rivers State and her people as their Governor, then be sure that ignoring Tinubu will not be an issue. 2027 is his target,”Eze noted.

Eze added that no sound person that belongs to the mainstream APC, knowing the damage that Wike has caused both members and the party in general, allegedly killing and maiming most of our leaders, would accept him into the party. If it happens, those killed because of APC will revile from their graves.

The party chieftain also added that Wike’s alleged plans to move to APC will not decimate PDP in Rivers state, as he needs the party more than the party needs him because he will want to keep the PDP for his 2027 outing.

Meanwhile, APC’s Deputy National Organising Secretary, Nze Chidi Duru, has said that Wike is welcome to join the ranks of progressives in the country.

He faulted the notion held in certain quarters that Wike’s entrance into the party would do more harm than good, assuring that the party would accommodate all the opposing tendencies in the Rivers state chapter of the party if Wike eventually moves over.

According to him: “The door of the party is open to everybody. If he has the vision of the founding fathers and the ideology on which the APC was formed, he is welcome.

“Frankly, for me he is more than welcome if he makes the decision to join the APC. The party is big enough to bring people on board and politics is all about pursuit of interests in the midst of like-minded people.

“I don’t subscribe to talks of fears in the state chapter escalating beyond control. If at all there is any problem, it already exists. The joy of political party and association is to have as many tendencies as possible within the political system.

“When these individuals come, they represent the tendencies within the party and it is those tendencies that would come together to work for the party. These differences exist in a number of states and at the end of the day, it is for the leadership at all levels, whether at the ward, local council, state and national levels, to see how to coordinate those tendencies to achieve set objectives.

APC’s Vice National Chairman, North West, Dr Salihu Lukman, who spoke in the same vein, stressed the need to strengthen the party with new entrants that would guarantee good electoral fortunes for the party.

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