I always look forward to TV appearances of Bode George, the naval officer turned politician and a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dependable strongman for assured scintillating performance. He has a way with language that is inimitable. You may disagree with what he says but you can’t help but admire his delivery. Last week, while answering questions on the lamentable situation the PDP has found itself, he said: ‘it looks like some kind of devil has entered our party’s midst.’ From my perspective, nothing can be more apt to describe the muddled-up state of affairs in the PDP.
Many weeks after the PDP presidential primaries, the party is yet to douse the eruption of bad temper that came thereafter. An aggrieved strongman of the party, Governor Wike, who had lost at the presidential primaries, is threatening to upset the applecart thus bringing ruin to the aspirations of the party. After losing the primaries, he had hoped that he would be compensated with the vice-presidential ticket, but that too didn’t materialise. It was a double loss he couldn’t stomach. He had been on the road bad-mouthing the presidential candidate and the party leadership telling anyone that cared to listen that he needed to be assuaged.
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In the past many weeks, he had been seen to be openly dallying with an aggregate of leaders from the other political parties. Chieftains of the APC including the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko were invited to Rivers State to play prominent parts in the highly publicised commissioning of projects. The invitation to Senator Wamakko, in particular, was to score a point. Wamakko is a political rival to the Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, whom Governor Wike had accused of betrayal at the presidential primaries. Readers might recall that it was Aminu Tambuwal’s withdrawal at the dying minutes during the primaries and support for Atiku’s candidature that virtually sunk all hopes for Wike’s presidential ambition.
To worsen matters, Governor Wike was seen to be openly hobnobbing, on different occasions, with the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, and that of the New Nigerian People Party (NNPP), Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso. These were just roadshows to showcase the options available to Wike. And after all, Governor Wike had let it be known that the votes of Rivers people cannot be taken for granted. He has the muscle to shift these votes to wherever it serves his interest.
Nevertheless, it is evident from the rash of activities in Wadata House, that the upper chambers of the PDP have been making valiant efforts to sort out the differences with Wike and bring him back to the fold, to no avail so far. Wike has been making all sorts of demands one of the known ones to be that the party chairman resigns. The party chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, happens to be a northerner just like the presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar. Now Wike’s camp is demanding that he relinquishes the position to a southerner. But to be candid, no right-thinking political party would replace its chairman and leader at the brink of national elections. Admittedly Ayu had once boxed himself into a corner by promising to resign when a presidential candidate of northern origin emerges. Since Atiku Abubakar emerged this promise had been the proverbial sword of Damocles over the tenure of Ayu.
I guess supporters of the PDP must be getting worried and impatient with the internal wrangles perpetuating in the party. The PDP is facing two more obstacles separating it from the prize of the presidency it has set itself to clinch. Their leading opponent, the APC, is looking stronger, more assured, and more organised by the day. Agreed that the APC is yet to surmount the hullabaloo that trailed its same faith ticket matter, but somehow with the setting up of a more all-inclusive campaign team, they seem to be forging ahead. And with a sitting president, conscious and jealous of his legacy, flanked by 22 state governors, beating the APC would be an uphill task.
Besides this, there is a clear danger to the PDP of the LP, led by its charismatic candidate Peter Obi. Reasonably one would not give the LP a chance of producing the next president for they are still a party without a national spread and they have no official in a strategic national or state position to render crucial executive and material support. Despite this handicap, the LP could be a spoiler to the aspiration of the two leading parties. The party is presently massed in the South East with spots in the South South, Lagos, and a growing acceptance in the North Central. Alas, these areas constitute the bulwark of the PDP support base. The votes that the LP will garner from these areas would degrade the final tally for the PDP.
This makes it imperative for the PDP to exorcise the devil in their midst. Governor Wike knows the damage he would bring to the PDP if he is left out. He is a tinder box that needs meticulous handling. Bode George and his fellow elders have their job cut out for them. They need to pacify Governor Wike and lead him back into the fold for the survival of the party’s ambition. The nation also needs a viable PDP as an alternative.