The name ‘Wike’ has been waggling in the tongues of political observers since the PDP presidential primaries.
For obvious reasons, he has been in the cynosure of political cineplex as the 2023 presidential election talks litter the media environment. His floating fracas with PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and the melee between inhabitants of both political camps have been making it to the front pages of Nigerian Dailies.
The cold war started on the night of May 28. In an unexpected twist, Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal during the PDP Presidential primary, announced his decision to step down his presidential ambition for Atiku; a development that aided Atiku’s victory.
This came as a shocker to Wike who perceived the Sokoto Governor as his friend. Beyond politics, they had built an endearing friendship. To Tambuwal, their friendship didn’t stretch to making political decisions favourable to his friend.
The aftermath played out as predicted. Nigerians expressed disappointment over Tambuwal’s decision to step down for his ‘northern brother.’ There was ethnic and tribal coloration to his action. And they attributed it to the unity and cooperation amongst the Northerners.
Wike felt betrayed. He had earlier promised to support whoever emerges as the party’s flagbearer. He didn’t renege on this. He reiterated this promise on May 30, two days after the primary. He tweeted “We cannot abandon the @OfficialPDPNig, we will be fully supporting H.E @atiku.”
However, things turned agley after the PDP Chairman Iyorchia Ayu made a reckless statement. He paid a ‘thank you’ visit to Tambuwal to thank him for stepping down for his long-time friend and political ally, Atiku.
He embraced the Sokoto governor warmly and shook hands with him firmly, and said, “You are the hero of the convention.”
This statement is one of the most incautious statements that could come out from someone in his position. As a party chairman and an umpire of the election, it was highly undemocratic to do so. His action was a display of open bias. It became clear that there was a plot against the Rivers Governor.
It was an open secret that Ayu was a political messenger of Atiku and his longtime ally who was Vice President when he (Ayu) was President of the Senate. His mission of being the Party Chairman was to ensure his friend gets the presidential ticket.
In party politics, the onus lies on the party Chairman to settle rancour between aspirants without taking sides—after every primary election. This will unite the party and further strengthen its shanks to contest with candidates of other parties.
Should Ayu Iyorchia, a political party chairman, engage in comments and utterances capable of tearing the already fragile fabrics of the party apart?
This was the action that triggered Wike’s anger. He felt even more betrayed and backstabbed. In a fit of pique, he made a sudden turn and reneged on his vow.
The matter was further exacerbated after Atiku picked Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate. This amplified the frosty relationship between Wike and Atiku.
Recall, that after Atiku lost the 2019 presidential election, he jetted to Dubai to cool off. Uche Secondus went into coma. Other top players and executives in the PDP slumbered away. Wike played the role of opposition spokesman, chairman and deputy all by himself. He bankrolled the party activities, controlled the structures and did everything within the confines of his power to keep the party afloat. PDP almost collapsed to the ground. In fact, there were almost no traces of the opposition party in Nigeria.
It is only unfair to Wike and a few others who kept the party alive during Atiku’s respite. It is very unfair to Wike and other Southern presidential candidates of the party because the North has ruled for eight years and there should be a power rotation to the South. It is undemocratic for Iyorchia to display open parti pris in a presidential primary election. Wike’s grievance revolves around all these.
In 2015, Atiku, while in APC claimed it was the turn of the North to rule. And that was one of the reasons he supported Muhammadu Buhari after he (Atiku) lost the party primary. He claimed Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner had ruled and it was the turn of a northerner. Surprisingly, in 2022 he is contesting after eight years of a northerner.
Atiku has been contesting for President since 1992—30 years ago. In 1992, he contested under SDP and lost the primary to MKO Abiola.
In 2007, he decamped to the Action Congress and contested. He was defeated by Umaru Musa Yaradua of the People’s Democratic Party. After a rift with the leader of ACN, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, he decamped back to the PDP in 2009. He ran for President again in 2011 and was defeated by incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan in the primary.
Again, he left the Bamangar Tukur led PDP, alongside seven governors and formed the nPDP in 2013. After efforts to halt the reelection of Jonathan failed, he decamped to the APC and joined forces with Buhari and Tinubu. He contested and lost the APC primary election to Muhammadu Buhari in 2014.
In 2017, he decamped back to the PDP, won the Presidential primary in 2018 and contested the 2019 Presidential election. Again, he lost to Muhammadu Buhari of the APC. And in 2022 he is contesting again.
Why does he have so much desperation and appetite for power?
There is no verifiable positive footprint he left as Vice President that could convince an average Nigerian to drum support for his candidacy. Are the truckload of corruption allegations and privatization scandals his legacy to drive his presidential ambition? On what foundation does his blueprint lie?
Wike’s grievance is justifiable. Since the return to democracy in 1999, there has been a tradition of power rotation between the North and South in the PDP. This tradition cannot be jettisoned by a serial Presidential aspirant.
Atiku has the party ticket. I wish him well.
Bright Okuta is a writer and digital journalist.
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