By Emmanuel Aziken
Permutations for the 2023 presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP were being reshaped at the weekend with the confirmation of the entry of Governor Nyesom Wike into the contest.
The entry of the governor it was gathered is also reshaping the outlook for the party’s 2019 presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and his difficult task of bringing the PDP governors to back him.
The battle between Atiku and Wike, it was learnt, was now shifting to non-PDP controlled states as the two men and others in the race battle for delegates from those states which remarkably, constitute the majority of the states.
However, Wike’s emergence it was learnt, did not mean that the governors were queuing behind him.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that besides Wike, Delta State governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa was also weighing in on his chances. Okowa, who it was gathered was earlier pooh-poohing suggestions of a 2023 presidential run, was now reconsidering his options.
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Aspirants who have so far declared interest in the PDP 2023 presidential ticket include Governor Bala Mohammed, (Bauchi), Governor Aminu Tambuwal, (Sokoto) Senator Anyim Pius Anyim and . Sam Ohabunwa.
Sources egging the Rivers State governor into the race confirmed that in the days ahead National Assembly members and other key s stakeholders who have in the past been quietly courted in support of the ambition would come out.
Governor Wike’s entry according to sources makes him one of the leading aspirants and presents about the most formidable challenge to Atiku.
The Rivers State governor, it was learnt, has been able to convince at least four Southern governors to back his aspiration with the Edo State governor and Delta State governors among those yet to identify with him. Governor Godwin Obaseki is enmeshed in internal politics within Edo State with a fight for the structure with Wike’s close associate, Chief Dan Orbih.
Governor Okowa is also said not to have committed to the Wike project as he is said to be also considering his own chances. Saturday Vanguard had earlier reported a push from party activists for Okowa to enter the race on the fact of him bringing a South-South-Southeast coalition into play as a winning strategy.
Sources embedded in the Wike drive told Saturday Vanguard at the weekend that the governor would use his accomplishments in office in Rivers State as a winning strategy for a leader of Nigeria. The source was dismissive of insinuations that Wike would be difficult to sell on account of his outspokenness.
“What you journalists and those elites don’t like is what the people like about him. He speaks the mind of the people and he has done so much in terms of projects for the people to see and that is the credential we are brining to the contest.
“Mr. Projects is the man to beat,” the close political associate of the Rivers governor said on the basis of strict confidentiality.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the Wike project may have become a serious threat to Atiku upon the support he is said to be getting from a serving governor coordinating the Southwest and also from former Governor Ayodele Fayose.
“With the two of them, you can be sure that the Southwest is Wike’s for the taking,” the source said as he also pointed at the support from at least three other Southern governors behind Wike.
A source close to Okowa while also confirming that Wike was now a potential rival was, however, ambiguous on the inclinations of the Delta State governor whose political options are also being shadowed by many permutations on those who want to succeed him.
The Wike camp was quick to confirm yesterday that Okowa and Governor Obaseki from the Old Bendel Camp were two governors in the South not to identify yet with the 2023 aspiration of the Rivers Governor.
Saturday Vanguard reports that Wike has in recent days undertaken a circuit of some states under the guise of building up the party.
In Kaduna State earlier this week when he visited Senator Ahmed Makarfi the Rivers State governor was quick to say that the visit was not political but a personal one to cheer up the former PDP national chairman who was said to have recently recovered from an illness. However, Wike who has been travelling with top level associates including senators was also said to have cheered up his political hopes along the way.
Following Kaduna he was also in Jos where he was said to have reconciled former Governor Jonah Jang and Senator Jerry Useni two non-PDP controlled states.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that with the PDP governors with the notable exception of Obaseki in Edo State in firm control of their states’ delegates that the battle between Atiku and the governors in the race have now shifted to the 22 states without PDP governors.