By Gbenga Oke
AHEAD of the 2015 elections, all seems not to be rosy with the Rivers State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP). A face-off is brewing among the political gladiators in the party.
The entrance of the former Minister of State for Education, Barr Nyesom Wike into the governorship race is said have altered the political calculations, and ignited a war of wits among the aspirants and party elders.
Even though he kept his governorship interest under seal for several weeks, Wike’s intention became very clear following his resignation from the cabinet of President Goodluck Jonathan and disclosure that he is running for the number one seat in the state.
However, several governorship aspirants on the platform of the PDP appear uncomfortable with his aspirations because he is believed to have the support of the President wife, Mrs Patience Jonathan.
Scaling the hurdles
Hailing from Upland Rivers like Governor Rotimi Amaechi, the question on the lips of many is: how far can Wike go in his quest to succeed Amaechi?
To win the PDP ticket and the governorship election proper, Wike is expected to scale a number of hurdles including zoning, division in the party over his aspiration.
Recently, some of the PDP stalwarts backed down on the entourage of his group, Grass-roots Development Initiative (GDI) over what some of them termed his selfish interest to use GDI as his campaign structure.
The GDI travelled to virtually all the local government areas of Rivers State claiming it was giving support to the second term ambition of President Goodluck Jonathan. But things seem to be tearing apart for GDI with some of the aspirants claiming that Wike has been using the group to build his own structure ahead of the governorship election.
However, Wike is said to enjoy the backing of some power brokers in the state and elsewhere. He reportedly hosted a party in his house in Abuja after leaving the Federal cabinet and the party was attended by the First lady, Patience Jonathan and former Governor of the state, Dr Peter Odili among others.
But the absence of other major political gladiators from Rivers state was a minus for the former Minister and it has further confirmed that other aspirants and party leaders may be avoiding anything that has to do with him.
The following day after the party, it was said that the former minister headed to Port-Harcourt and he was welcomed into the state by thousands of his supporters who had thronged the airport to give him a rousing welcome.
Division within the party
The fracas that ensued among the aspirants a couple of weeks back at the reconciliation parley of the PDP in Abuja has further deepened the crisis within the ranks of the party. While many of the aspirants claim it was the handiwork of Wike, he has insisted that he has no hands in it.
One of the aspirants at the meeting said throughout the period the former minister was in the hall with members of the committee, other aspirants were not allowed to come close to the venue as the hefty looking supporters of Wike molested and stopped everyone.
Also, a commissioner under the administration of Dr Peter Odili, Mr Lolo Ibienye, warned that if the national leadership of PDP failed to address the problems, the party in Rivers State will be sitting on a keg of gun powder waiting to explode at any time. He added that with the molestation of party members and journalists by thugs, it would have been disastrous if the exercise had taken place in Rivers.
As all these are going on, a member of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Alabo Graham Douglas, dropped another bomb claiming it will be disastrous for the party to field Wike as its candidate for the 2015 polls.
His words: ‘The desire of Wike to contest the governorship in 2015 does not augur well for peace and harmony in the state. It is unacceptable to the generality of the Rivers people especially the riverine Ijaw group, the Ogoni group and large members of the Ikwerre group. If Wike is allowed by the leadership of the PDP to emerge as governor of Rivers State, it will mean that for 24 years, the people of Rivers mainland would have ruled the state at the expense and great marginalisation of the other major ethnic nationalities. Such a situation arising will not be tolerated and may have unsavoury repercussions, which no one for the time being can predict’.”
Another issue that has divided Rivers PDP is the issue of zoning of the governorship. It is being said that to ensure fairness in 2015, a riverine candidate must emerge. Even though the APC, the ruling party in the state under the leadership of Governor Amaechi, has thrown its weight behind the aspiration of a riverine aspirant, the PDP seems to be following a different route, a situation that has further pitched the Chairman of the party, Felix Obuah against some aspirants and leaders of the party.
Obuah has maintained that the party is not zoning offices and that anybody can aspire to any office provided such person is qualified.
Many of the aspirants on the platform of the PDP accused the party chairman of supporting and planning to give the party’s ticket to Wike and that is why he is insisting that there is no zoning of governorship to the riverine area.
With Governor Amaechi supporting a Riverine candidate to emerge, analysts have stated that this might give the APC an upper-hand over the PDP if the opposition party insisted on Wike.
The PDP aspirants
Some of the PDP aspirants in the race include Barrister Nimi Walson Jack, Tonye Princewill, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, Bekinbo Dagogo Jack, Alabo Pawariso Horsefall, Senator Lee Maeba, Professor Don Baridan, Sen. George Thompson Sekibo, Major Lancelot Anyanya (retd) and Larry Harrison