By Rotimi Fasan
IT would look like Nyesom Wike is finally putting the pain and anger from the Peoples Democratic Party convention behind him, given the way he has been going about commissioning housing, road and other projects embarked upon by the Rivers State government under his watch.
It has been something of a tradition for the governor to engage in periodic commissioning of projects during which he invites leading members of the PDP, including past and present officials of the party at the state and federal levels.
What this proves, if nothing else, is Wike’s commitment to the PDP as both a “party man” and politician. This was the fact some of those trying to win back his confidence in and support for the PDP have been saying in the wake of the convention debacle that saw him edged out from both the presidential and vice-presidential positions.
They have spoken of him as a good party man who would not do anything to hurt the position of the party in Rivers State. This is the same song that PDP stalwarts sang rather off-key shortly after Atiku Abubakar was supported in his choice of Ifeanyi Okowa as running mate.
Then the point was made in very casual tone with PDP members thereafter going out to further demonstrate why Wike was not fit to be vice president much less a presidential ‘material’. They must have thought they could dismiss him with a wave of the hand. Now they know better as they are running from pillar to post trying to calm the building rage of the man that could well pass as the strong man of South-South politics in the present time, notwithstanding his many foibles and outright shortcomings.
In spite of their best effort, things are still slippery and anything can happen. The Wike camp has a laundry list of demands that the Abubakar camp are required to fulfil if their party is to go into the next election as one entity. Top on this list is the removal of party chair, Iyorchia Ayu, who Wike and his supporters certainly see as a lackey of Atiku.
That demand has been compounded by the South-West caucus of the PDP with Chief Bode George leading the charge in their own demand that Ayu vacates his position in the spirit of the party’s convention that requires that both the presidential candidate and chairman of the PDP do not come from the same region of the country. Where one is from the North, the other is expected to be from the South. These were the terms that Ayu, it is alleged, agreed to when he was appointed party chair.
He knew what the score was even as he had oversight of the process that saw to the emergence of Atiku, the late comer that ousted all previous pretenders as well as contenders to the PDP presidential throne. It was as if the stage was being prepared for Atiku to step in, in spite of earlier assumptions that the PDP ticket would go to a Southern candidate given the PDP zoning arrangement, one that would nullify Northerners’ claim to the presidency in 2023. Given this arrangement, another president of Northern extraction after Muhammadu Buhari would and should be a non-starter. This has been the convention in Nigerian politics since 1999 and probably earlier if one judges by the practice of some of the political parties of the Second Republic, including the ruling National Party of Nigeria, NPN.
The South-West leadership of the PDP, to go back to their own recently articulated position, cannot see their stake in the PDP if all major party positions like the presidential slot and party chair are occupied by Nigerians of Northern extraction- that is the legacy of the Buhari presidency that has raised the level of ethnic awareness and distrust to an alarming level due to the president’s insensitivity to the ethnic diversity of Nigeria in his appointments. While still struggling to untangle itself from the web spun by the Wike group, an utterly fatherless court process emerged last week to further muddy an already cloudy state of affairs.
The suit returns the issue of the presidential ticket of the PDP to the centre of the party’s concerns, demanding a scrutiny of and rationale/justification for the vote switch that saw Aminu Tambuwal transferring his votes at the convention to Atiku by questioning the legality of that process. This was the decisive move that gave Atiku the edge that translated to his victory over Wike as the presumptive winner of the contest for the party’s candidate for next year’s presidential election. Wike has made clear he had no connection to the suit and the PDP has accused the APC of orchestrating this phantom court process in its attempt at fishing in muddy waters.
The present quagmire into which the Atiku campaign has been thrown is entirely political and the players in it are themselves politicians who are adept at pulling last minute tricks to resolve any disagreement among them as fair-weather friends. The Atiku group is not entirely leaving it to the Wike group to dictate settlement terms in their disagreement. Some of them are, indeed, hawkish in their response and cannot see any reason why the party should try to placate Wike. As far as they are concerned, Wike’s exit from the party, should that happen, would be good riddance to an individual that many of them found only tolerable to the extent that they could use his financial and human resources for the advancement of the cause of their party.
Yet, Wike is still holding out, waiting to be engaged by the PDP’s peace-making team while he makes no great effort on his part to reach out to them. He has in fact described as a lie a statement made by Atiku concerning his ouster from contention during their party’s May convention. This comment of his had got Sule Lamido wondering what sort of Nigerian, not to mention party man, would call a much older person, even if a political adversary, a liar. He could not make sense of such disrespectful behaviour.
It is, perhaps, a measure of Wike’s present state of mind that his VIP invitee to the commissioning of his latest set of projects in Rivers State was a former governor of Sokoto State and member of the rival APC, Aliyu Wamakko, whose supporters claim is the real power house of Sokoto politics. This invitation is a clear snub of Tambuwal in particular and the PDP political family at large that had accused Wike of working for the APC in Rivers State. In the end, Wike may be saving the last blow or worst verbal savaging for Tambuwal.