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Uneasy calm over Wike’s grip on PDP, romance with APC

FCT Minister and former Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike’s hold on the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) structure in his home state while at the same time…

FCT Minister and former Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike’s hold on the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) structure in his home state while at the same time hobnobbing with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has put the main opposition PDP in quandary, Daily Trust Saturday reports.

 

The current political development in Rivers State and the situation within the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have shown that a politician is holding both the ruling and the opposition party by the jugular at the same time. And it is arguably the first time in the political history of Nigeria.

The man at the centre of this political drama is the immediate governor of Rivers State and current minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT, Nyesom Wike.

While it has been widely reported that President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) owes his electoral success in Rivers State to Wike, the former governor’s insistence that he remains a member of the PDP even after taking up appointment in the APC, has continued to generate ripples across the two main political parties.

Opinions have remained divided in the PDP over the status of the former governor, even before his recent fallout with his successor, Governor Siminalayi Fubara. Some stakeholders have told the party to suspend or sack him, while others insist that he remain a member owing to his long-standing contribution to the party over the years.

Some others have also insisted that the minister has already left the party following his activities before and during the elections, and his acceptance of the ministerial slot from the ruling APC.

It is believed in several quarters that Wike does not only want to maintain the position of the PDP leader in Rivers but also the leader of the APC in the state through the appointment of his loyalists as members of the caretaker committee of the party.

How trouble started over battle for zoning

Recall that the impasse between the PDP and Wike started following the refusal of the party hierarchy and its National Executive Committee (NEC) to zone the presidential slot to the South. Many of the southern stakeholders and presidential aspirants also felt shortchanged that the National Working Committee of the party started selling presidential nomination forms even when discussions over the zoning arrangement were still ongoing.

Many reasons were adduced by the proponents of the zoning formula, with those in support of the North saying that only the late President Umar Musa Yar’adua had been president of the country on the platform of the PDP from the North since 1999.

The southern proponents, on their part, insisted that after the eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari, the mood of the country did not favour another northern president, and as such, the ticket should be zoned to the South to give the PDP a fighting chance. Unable to pacify both parties, the party, at its NEC meeting, threw the contest open.

The problem continued after the FCT minister lost the presidential ticket to the former vice president, Atiku Abubakar and also failed to secure the vice presidential slot, which was given to the former Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa.

Wike garnered four other governors on the platform of the party and formed the G-5 Governors, insisting that the national chairman of the party and its presidential candidate would not come from one zone – the North. He insisted that the only way to bring about peace that would make him support Atiku’s presidential ambition was for the then national chairman of the party, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, to resign his position for a southerner to take over.

All entreaties, reconciliation meetings and emissaries by some party leaders to allow the party to present a common front during the elections was not successful as Wike and the other G-5 members, Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), the last three now former governors, and other party members in the then expanded Integrity Group, could not be pacified, leading to the now widely reported anti-party activities of the group.

Wike’s inroad into the APC

Wike was said to have worked for President Tinubu to allow him get the required 25 per cent in Rivers State and was thus rewarded with the position of minister.

But the insistence of the minister that he is still a member of the PDP while working with the APC and hobnobbing with the ruling party’s leadership have been creating problems in the party.

Recently, a known ally of the minister, Tony Okocha, was appointed by the APC to head the Rivers State seven-man caretaker committee leadership.

More poignantly for the PDP, the defection of the 27 Rivers State House of Assembly members loyal to Wike from the PDP to the APC, for many, only points to two things: that the FCT minister may either be plotting his formal defection to the APC or intend to remain both a leader in the PDP and the APC at the same time.

This development, according to a source within the PDP leadership, does not sit well with party leaders loyal to Atiku. The source, who asked not to be named, told Daily Trust Saturday that many party stakeholders, especially those loyal to Atiku, were angling for the minister to be sacked from the party or at least suspended.

The source said the situation surrounding the minister pointed to the fact that he is preparing the ground to dump the party and move to the APC but wants to do that at his time and convenience, a development some party faithful are not happy with.

“The NWC is responsible for the problem in the party. They are not ready to do the right thing. How can you not exert your powers? Are they afraid of anyone in the party, or they have been compromised? There is no way the party would work without employing the carrot-and-stick approach. This is what is needed in any human group.

“Once that is missing, you don’t expect that the situation would work well for members of that group. For example, the former Rivers State governor cannot belong to two political parties, but that is the situation today because the NWC that is supposed to wield the big stick has lost what it takes to act,” the source said.

Daily Trust Saturday gathered that the situation around Wike’s continuous grip on the party has also been compounded by the recent statement credited to the acting national chairman, Ambassador Umar Damagum, that the party was not interested in sanctioning anyone for anti-party activities.

He said the NWC was only interested in reconciliation; hence sanctions would create more acrimony in the party.

Addressing a PDP Mobilizers Group in Abuja, Damagum said sanctioning more people would destroy the party.

He said the NWC had agreed to set up a reconciliation committee to review and reconcile all aggrieved members.

Wike no longer a member of PDP – NWC member

But also reacting to the situation, a member of the NWC of the party, Timothy Osadolor, told Daily Trust Saturday that Wike had already left the party, so and Nigerians should not mind what he is saying. He added that the former governor’s actions pointed to the fact that he is no longer a member of the party.

He said, “The truth is that Wike has technically left the PDP. When last did you see him in any PDP function? Even the crisis he is having in his state is because of the structure of the party and the loyalty of party leaders. You can also see the relationship between him and his governor.

“His anti-party activities are part of the problem he is having with his governor. So, if from his own state he cannot function in the party, and at the NWC level he cannot function, you don’t need any news to know that the man is out of the party.

“To say that Wike is no longer a member of the party, especially when he has also claimed leadership of the APC in his state, is just over-flogging what is already obvious. No matter how he continues to say that he is a member of the PDP, the reality on ground and his action state something else.

“I think Nigerians should not take him too seriously because the man is given to double-speak. Wike has left the party and that is the truth.

“In Rivers, for example, there can only be one leader of the party, and that is the state governor. For us, the governor has given us assurances that he can manage the affairs of the party in the state and that is what we know and believe as a party.”

PDP vows to sanction Wike, others over anti-party activities

The acting national chairman of the party, Ambassador Damagum, however, said they were considering sanctioning members who indulged in anti-party activities during the last general elections, including Wike, at the appropriate time.

He noted that the leadership of the party had approved a review committee to look into what transpired and how the party lost the 2023 elections, adding that it would take the necessary measures when the report is presented to the National Working Committee.

Damagum also insisted that nobody is above the party, saying, “If Wike believes he is above this party, we will be able to show him that he is not.

“There is time for everything. My duty is to stabilise this party and not to cause crisis. And I will continue to do that within the confines of reason.

“There are other people who worked against this party, not only Wike. When we get to that level, we will sanction everybody.

“One thing I am conscious of is that there was never a time he said he was not a member of this party. The same members of the party that believe he has done something wrong have also done something wrong.”

But analysts said the position of the party chairman was at variance with that of the national publicity secretary, Debo Ologunagba, who had earlier said the party hierarchy wanted to concentrate on reconciling its members instead of slamming them with sanctions.

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