By Andy Chukwuma
I had refrained from making comments on the claim by Governor Nyesom Wike that he was betrayed by his colleagues from the south because of my belief that in a matter of days the accusation would wear off. But with many people, especially on social media, pushing the narrative, I have decided to throw some light on this subject because many of the commentators are not politicians and, therefore, do not have full knowledge and understanding of what transpired in the PDP in recent weeks.
I will begin by saying that if I had the chance to vote at the PDP convention, my vote would have gone to Atiku Abubakar. In an electoral contest you choose from the choices available to you, and Atiku in my estimation was the best of the lot. It is true that the 17 southern governors at their meeting in Asaba in May 2021, made a declaration – a.k.a Asaba Accord – that the next president should come from the south. But given the exigencies of the moment, the PDP was better off going with Atiku especially, being an opposition party. And I will explain why.
Many of the PDP stakeholders I know were initially leaning towards the South-East, especially with Peter Obi’s surging popularity among the youth. He is young, brilliant, tested, and trusted; his excellent track record in public financial management was a strong factor. But all that changed when Obi defected to the Labour Party. And lest we forget, Atiku had said he would withdraw from the contest if the party zoned the presidency to the South-East, being the region along with the North-East that is yet to produce the president of the country. Unfortunately, the zoning committee set up by the party failed to do the needful. Anyway, with Obi out, it became a straight fight between Wike and Atiku.
So, if anybody is guilty of betrayal, it is Wike who muscled Obi out of the PDP. Aside from heavily monetizing the process, he ridiculed Obi when he went on a consultation visit to the delegates in Anambra State.
Throughout his consultations/campaigns, Wike, in typical fashion, showed no restraint as he tore into other aspirants, belittled his colleagues, and lampooned anybody with a divergent view. When he visited Edo State, he shunned the Governor, Godwin Obaseki and, asked why he did that, he said: “Governor Obaseki is not in any relationship with me; he is not my girlfriend, and so why should I be quarrelling with him?” For reasons best known to him, Wike did not even consult Delta State delegates, so the issue of betrayal does not even arise.
This is the essential Wike that the PDP has had to contend with. The party has spent the last seven years managing him to avoid crisis. It was Wike that foisted Amodu Sheriff on the party as National Chairman and when the move backfired, he brought Uche Secondus. Not surprisingly, their relationship soured and Wike began a ferocious campaign to oust him. Not even entreaties from his fellow governors would placate him and, once again, Wike prevailed.
A new chairman was elected ahead of the expiration of Secondus’ tenure. Readers will recall Wike’s outburst when his nominee for Minority Leader in the House of Representatives, Hon. Kingsley Chinda from Rivers State, failed to clinch the position. In 2018, Wike threatened fire and brimstone if the PDP National Convention was not held in Port Harcourt. Again, the PDP capitulated, to the chagrin of some of us.
The picture that has emerged of Wike in the last seven years is that of a power hungry and power drunk leader – self-centred, self-seeking, and selfish. It was almost as if whatever Wike wanted, Wike got. So much so that the PDP was beginning to look like his personal property.
The truth must be told that some of us were very nervous of Wike clinching the presidential ticket, which was beginning to look like it with the huge war chest he deployed to bulldoze the states where there were no PDP governors. For instance, there were reports that the 44 delegates from Kano State were in his pocket. As if to confirm that, the Kano delegates wore “Wike For President” caps to the convention arena.
Some forty-eight hours to the primary, it became clear that Wike needed to be stopped because even though he was a strong aspirant he was going to be a very weak candidate. He did not stand a chance in a general election with his bellicose attitude, caustic tongue, and divisive tendencies. I was quite relieved when the result turned out the way it was. At least, if for nothing else, PDP can shed the toga of being owned by Wike. Secondly, Atiku’s victory has given us a fighting chance in the 2023 elections because with Wike it would have been a walkover for the ruling APC.
Those criticising the southern governors or delegates for supporting Atiku would do well to remember that if all the delegates at the convention had voted strictly along sectional lines, Atiku would still have emerged. The north had 439 delegates compared to the south’s 371. But with the results of the presidential primary election, the PDP has demonstrated that it is the most organized party in Nigeria with very robust internal democracy.
* Chukwuma writes from Asaba.