By Ehichioya Ezomon
It’s become a source of embarrassment for an individual to hold the Peoples Democratic Party to ransom – a political platform that boasts of tens of millions of registered members, and millions more of supporters nationwide.
Alarmed PDP members wonder when will the party and its presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, grow the balls and call the bluff of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike since the May 2022 primaries.
Wike came second to Atiku at the primaries, and hasn’t given Atiku and the PDP any breathing space to focus on the 2023 general election that’s barely six months away.
What’s Wike’s grouse? That the PDP leaders, and the local party chieftains in Rivers State, schemed him out of the PDP flag and the vice presidential slot, accordingly.
Dictating the terms and processes of a truce that ought to be mutual, Wike has turned down every peace overture in a scenario of either his way or the highway.
Even prior to the August 19 Port Harcourt reconciliation meeting of the Atiku-Wike camps, Wike continued to shift the goalpost, and ready to bring down the PDP roof if his stringent conditions weren’t met.
Losing the primaries, and running mate’s position he’d no means of appropriating, Wike demands, to the bargain, the restructuring of the PDP in favour of the South.
And that entails the resignation of the party’s National Chairman, Dr Iyorcha Ayu, who’d denied resigning, and won’t do so, as he’s “elected for a tenure of four years.”
Has the Port Harcourt preparatory talks agreed to swap the position of the PDP national chair, to placate Wike? That will be clearer in the next round of the conclave!
The sticky restructuring demand comes via a reported agreement for PDP’s main organs to devolve to the South should the party candidate emerged from the North.
In the March and May 2022 PDP national convention and primaries, former Senate President Ayu, who hails from the North Central (Middle Belt), emerged as national chairman, while Atiku from the North East, secured the party flag.
So, “agreement being agreement,” to quote Wike, his camp is craving, among other positions, for the immediate ceding of the national chairmanship to the South.
No PDP leader, including Atiku, has denied the agreement to change the PDP front guards if the North produced the presidential candidate for the 2023 polls.
Why won’t the PDP honour the agreement, verbal or written? Was it to hoodwink the Southern leaders that clamoured for the presidency to rotate to the South?
How will the North alone hold the topmost posts in the PDP: the Presidential Candidate, National Chairman and Chairman of Board of Trustees in Sen. Walid Jubrin?
Wike’s demonized as engaging in “anti-party activities,” for insisting the right thing be done, which the agreement for a swap of the PDP top positions is foundational to.
The PDP prides itself as hoisting the rule of law as fundamental to democratic practice. So, the party should demonstrate good faith by honouring that agreement.
Still, there’s a limit to which Wike can drag his grievances that the discerning public see as a sense of entitlement, geared towards massaging of his likely bruised ego.
Based on his claim to hold the winning formula for the PDP in the 2023 polls, Wike wants to be rewarded for failure to clinch the PDP ticket and the post of running mate.
If Wike’s that powerful, as he regularly boasts, why couldn’t he, with his famed financial muscle, swing the presidential, and national votes for the PDP in 2019?
That said, Wike deserves commendation for holding together a shattered PDP that emerged from the ashes of the 2019 polls it’d predicted to secure in a landslide.
Yet, he’s overplaying his hand by assuming that without him, Atiku and PDP won’t record victory in 2023. That’s fallacy! They can romp through on Election Day!
In my native Esanland, a person being appealed to is a “king.” The rank and file, and the leaders of the PDP regard Wike as a “king,” and have kowtowed to him to forgive their primaries’ “indiscretion,” but he’s refused.
Whatever framework the reconciliation committee will arrive at for an eventual Atiku-Wike parley, Wike has shaken, and may’ve lost the trust and confidence that members of the PDP had reposed in him. He’ll no longer be seen and regarded as “a party man to the core.”
Who’d drag the candidate and their political party in the mud the way Wike’s done, and still retain the trust of the platform to be faithful, and to deliver at the polls?
Atiku and the PDP should be watchful, and brace for a potential scheming by Wike in the course of the must-win February 2022 presidential election for the party.
In any case, Atiku has picked a formidable running mate in Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who, though not a showman as Wike, is a smooth political operator.
Dr Okowa has the clout to fill the gap Wike might create, and mop up the required votes for the PDP in the entire South, where the party needs to win big, to counter the votes of other political parties in the North.
Particularly, Atiku’s iterated his choice of Okowa because, “You (Nigerians) know him to be a fighter; you know him to care about winning; you know him to care about good governance; and you know him to care about our people.”
Unveiling Okowa on June 26, Atiku, referencing the choice of a vice president in the United States of America, noted that, “a running mate is used to balance the ticket, complement the candidate and, after victory, assist the President with governance.”
“Sometimes, a candidate is chosen who generates a buzz and adds huge excitement to the campaign. But today in Nigeria, we face huge challenges, which leave us little room for drama.
“We have to win the elections and get to work immediately. My running mate has to be ready to start working with me, from day one, in addressing our country’s challenges. Nigerians will not accept anything less,” Atiku said.
In other words, Atiku chose Okowa because he’s “simpatico” – a competent standby, who’s ready to step in as president at a moment’s notice, and won’t rock the boat if they’re elected in the February 2022 poll.
Though Wike possesses some of the qualities that Atiku listed, he declined to pick him as deputy, to avoid two captains trying to pilot same boat in different directions.
Here’s another Esan saying: “The blow has landed on the nose when the boxing hasn’t started.” A clear evidence of Atiku’s foresight is Wike’s brinkmanship since the primaries, undermining the PDP, and rubbishing Atiku’s standing as the standard bearer. Wike can do worse!
So, it’s time to move on without Wike! Otherwise, the tail will wag the dog, and cause avoidable distraction that may negatively impact the bigger picture of the 2023 polls.
* Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.