As the 2023 presidential race gathers momentum, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, is all out to edge out former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, erstwhile Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and other contenders for the party’s ticket from the North.
Multiple high-level party sources told Daily Trust that Wike, who they described as the sole financier of the main opposition party has reached out to many of his colleagues on this agenda.
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A source with knowledge of the permutations said the Rivers State governor was all out to zone the party’s presidential ticket to the South.
Daily Trust reports that two sitting governors who are members of the party are interested in the PDP presidential ticket. They are Governors of Sokoto, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Bauchi, Bala Mohammed.
Also interested in the ticket are former Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, former Governor of Kano State.
Saraki, Daily Trust, gathered has been reaching out to stalwarts of the party ahead of his formal declaration for the presidency.
A source close to him said Saraki, former Governor of Kwara State, would soon declare for the presidential race.
Daily Trust reports that Wike played a key role in the emergence of Iyorchia Ayu-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), after sacking the Uche Secondus-led executive.
The governors, the most influential power bloc, under the umbrella of the PDP Governors’ Forum, ensured the emergence of their candidates.
Through the scheming and machinations of the 13 governors of the party, 18 out of the 21 positions were filled through consensus. With this, pundits said the governors have taken over the soul of the main opposition party ahead of the 2023 politicking.
The 13 governors are; Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Bala Muhammed (Bauchi), Douye Diri (Bayelsa), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto) and Darius Ishaku (Taraba).
Last Monday, Wike hosted the PDP governors at the Government House, Port Harcourt as part of what watchers of the political space said was a continuation of their efforts to shape the 2023 politicking.
The Port Harcourt meeting came after Wike’s recent visits to Bauchi, Adamawa, Sokoto, Abia, Enugu, Oyo, and Bayelsa States.
Wike’s visits to some of his counterparts was said to be intended to woo the governors in his bid to perfect the plot.
Our source said the governor has recruited five of his colleagues into the project.
Wike is believed to have the support of governors Benue, Enugu, Oyo, Abia and Adamawa.
“In his camp now, he has five governors. Nobody can challenge him now because he has been funding the party. Who has total control of the NWC of our party? It’s Wike,” the source said.
A former senator said the governors are working hard to ensure that one of them picks the party’s ticket.
“I want to be frank with you, nobody is talking about Atiku now because the governors said they don’t want him because he is above 70. They want someone who can relate well with them and has the energy to withstand the challenges bedeviling the country,” he said.
But while these schemings are on, Atiku and other contenders have continued with consultation, with some of them said to be warming up to retire.
High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Chairman, DAAR Communications, has been leading Atiku’s team across the country to canvass support for the presidential ambition of the former vice president.
The Dokpesi -led team has visited many states across the country. During the committee’s visit to Anambra State on Saturday, Atiku was described as the only aspirant that can lead PDP to victory.
Contacted, Saraki’s media aide, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said he has no comment on the matter.
We are not aware – Atiku’s aide
Atiku’s media aide, Paul Ibe said they are not aware of the moves to edge out his boss.
He told Daily Trust that his boss enjoys the support of the Rivers State governor and other top shots.
“We are not aware of any such move. Atiku Abubakar enjoys the support of a good number of stakeholders in the PDP including Governor Wike. The focus of every stakeholder in the opposition party at this point is to rescue Nigeria and Nigerians from the claws of bad governance that the APC has thrown the country into.
“And like all patriots and stakeholders in the Nigeria Project, the priority of H.E Atiku Abubakar and indeed the PDP is to recruit eggheads who will come up with brilliant policy plans that can turn the current state of mass poverty, insecurity, divisions and hopelessness into prosperity and unity for Nigerians,” he said.
But another source close to the former vice president said Atiku was aware of the scheming.
He said Atiku would declare for the presidency when his Technical Committee on the 2023 project submits its report.
“If it is not consensus, Atiku will defeat all of them at the primary election,” he said.
But, a former Commissioner of Information in Edo State, Kassim Afegbua, has urged Atiku to dump his presidential ambition and support a southern candidate.
Afegbua, a member of the Technical Committee for Atiku’s presidency, in a statement yesterday, said the ambition of Atiku will not fly.
“Nigerians in their millions are tired of seeing the faces of persons who have dominated the political space in the last forty years and yet, unwilling to take a bow. In the spirit of the new thinking and paradigm shift, please tell them to allow us to breathe,” he said.
Meanwhile, all efforts made to speak with Governor Wike or any of his aides on the allegation that he is working against other aspirants in the 2023 presidential ambition yielded no results.
Everyone can contest – BoT member
Contacted, a member of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Adamu Maina Waziri, said that all aspirants have the right to contest for the presidency.
“This is the principle of democracy and people have every right to vie for and be elected president of Nigeria, as long as the criteria as specified by the constitution are fulfilled.
“So, any PDP member has the right to aspire to be the candidate of the party at the federal level of election by reaching out to people.
“The vehicle for doing that in realising your aspirations is to go to the people and canvas for their support.
“In this wise, anybody aspiring to do that or trying to strategise to achieve that is being a democratic person,” he said.
He, however, warned that “We don’t want such consequences to be amplified to committing undemocratic behaviour within the polity”.
‘No decision on mode of primaries’
Another chieftain of the party, who does not want to be named, said a decision has not been taken on the method to be used for the party primaries.
In a phone interview, he said a decision would be taken when various organs of the party meet on the matter.
“We are urging the National Assembly to accelerate the harmonisation of the bill. We call on the president to summon the courage to assent to it. We are waiting. As a law-abiding party, whatever the law of the country says is what will guide us. We have not decided on the mode of primary until when this is done,” he said.
Atiku’s delay gives Rivers gov winning hand – Varsity don
A lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Bayero University, Kano (BUK), Dr Aminu Hayatu said it is still difficult to foresee how the situation in the PDP will play out because the party has been battling with the internal crisis even before its convention.
He, however, believes that if the Wike group succeeds in edging northern candidates out and the ruling APC also goes the way of fielding a Southern candidate, it will translate to one of the most keenly contested elections in the history of Nigeria come 2023, howbeit with money-politics determining the outcome.
He said Atiku left it a bit too late by not being assertive with the convention, which then gave the likes of Wike a winning hand.
“Wike is one of the strongest big shots in PDP now because he is the one who has been managing the party as far as visibility is concerned in terms of replying and criticising the ruling party. So it is a time he and his group feel that power should be given to at least one of their faction.
“Atiku has used money overtime in at least becoming the flag bearer of the party. But now, their (PDP) calculation is being teleguided by happenings in the APC. That is if APC manages to produce a Southern candidate, then it is a problem for the PDP because they would have wished that the APC produces a northern candidate, which most of the southern states are going to oppose. After all, it is a general agreement, although not written, that power should go to the south,” he said.
Hayatu added that if both parties end up with southern candidates “That would amount to the hottest contest we have seen in recent times because it will be about who can galvanise and win the sympathy of Nigerians towards their party.”
By Ismail Mudashir (Abuja), Victor Edozie (Port Harcourt) & Clement A. Oloyede (Kano)