As Wike Stays in PDP, Horse Trading Continues

As the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, continues to hold his party in suspense over his next political moves, indications have emerged that his group has listed conditions that needed to be met for them to agree to work for the presidential candidate of the party and former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar. 
Since the completion of the party’s presidential election exercise at the end of May, Wike has been having a cold war with the party after he lost to Atiku. Matters were made worse when Wike was overlooked and current governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, was named by Atiku as his running-mate. Wike’s loyalists felt he should have been picked ahead of Okowa going by his contributions to the party. Even before the primaries, Wike had passionately and vehemently campaigned that the presidential ticket of the party be zoned to the South going by the fact that the North would have had the presidency for eight years by 2023 and coupled with the fact that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, would zone its own presidential ticket to the south. (The APC’s presidential ticket eventually went to the South). 

Earlier in the week, Wike met with his campaign coordinators in Abuja and some PDP governors probably sympathetic to his political cause and ahead of a meeting of the elders of the party scheduled to hold any moment from now, the Wike camp seems determined to extract some commitments from the leadership of the party. A national newspaper, (not THISDAY) had reported few days ago that the conditions include the resignation of the National Chairman of the party and former Senate President, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, to reflect the geo-political balance of position sharing within the party. The argument is that since Atiku had picked the presidential ticket of the party, the national chairmanship of the party should come from the South. 

While this could not be independently confirmed, sources told THISDAY that one of the conditions given by the Wike group was that a commitment be extracted from the Atiku group that the former Vice-President agree to serve only one term if he eventually wins the presidential election. It is not known if Atiku would accede to this demand going by its sensitive nature and how it derailed the party’s 2015 presidential bid. 

From all indications, though, Wike and his group as well as loyalists and supporters would not be quitting the PDP as they believed their interests would be better served by remaining within the party. Beyond this, even the political balance in Wike’s home state of Rivers does not even support Wike decamping to the ruling APC as former Transportation Minister and a presidential hopeful of the party, Rotimi Amaechi, is currently the party leader in the state. Magnus Abe, one of Amaechi’s right hand men who he later fell out with, had picked the governorship ticket of the Social Democratic Party, SDP. He was the only one challenging Amaechi for the control of the APC machinery in the state. Wike should know better than being on the same political boat with Amaechi after both of them bitterly fell out ahead of latter’s decamping to the APC in 2014. 

The days ahead promise to be pivotal to whether PDP would be going into the 2023 general elections as a united family or a divided one. Though it should be noted that the issues are festering now that the party still has time to discuss and resolve them. 
Beyond that, however, it remains to be seen who holds the ace: Wike or the party.  

Will Osun Governorship Outcome Hurt Tinubus Presidential Bid?
Many stalwarts of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, did not see it coming but when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), returning officer for the Osun State 2022 governorship election, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, declared Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as the duly elected governor of the state, then reality dawned on them that it would be a different political ball game in the state from October this year.

Adeleke had polled 403,371 to defeat the incumbent governor Gboyega Oyetola, who polled 375,027 votes. To many watchers of the politics of the state, it did not come as a surprise. They readily referred to the 2018 governorship election in the state during which even many members of the ruling party admitted that Adeleke actually won the election but was robbed of victory after INEC surprisingly declared the election as being inconclusive and ordered that a by-election be held in Ile-Ife and Oyetola now won by less than 500 votes. And President Muhammadu Buhari himself alluded to this when he was addressing Osun State traditional rulers in January 2019 that his party had to win Osun via remote control.

The victory of Adeleke has thrown up new permutations as the 2023 general election gathers momentum, especially as it relates to the presidential election with the erstwhile National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the party. The victory of Adeleke has brought the number of PDP governors in the South-west to two.

While many have been saying the presidential election would be a different ball game entirely, even those who are directly involved in Tinubus campaign know that it would not be a walkover for the APC in the zone if people choose to vote along party lines and not along ethnic lines as many are suspecting. It must however, be noted that the ethnic card is really working for the APC candidate in the South-west, but his job would have been made easier if his party were in total control of the six south-west states. But as it is, PDP will firmly be in charge of two of them. And it is even deeper than that.

Let it be noted also, that Governor Makinde of Oyo State would be seeking re-election, a few weeks after the presidential election and the cause of his re-election would be greatly helped if his party could put up a good showing in the presidential election in the zone, even if it doesnt win outright. And going by his rumoured closeness to Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the PDP, and the struggle to be recognised as the de facto leader of the party in the zone, Makinde might have a point to prove come February next year. Therefore, Tinubu and his foot soldiers have their job cut out.

As Abdullahi, APC Chair, Goes to Church
As many people have averred the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, would never have been an issue but due to the fact that over the last seven years when the party has superintended over the affairs of the country, religion and ethnicity have become a major issue. And this no thanks to the gross lack of respect to religious and tribal sensibilities. The lopsidedness in his appointments is so glaring that even some prominent northern leaders have had cause to complain about this. 

It is against this background that many prominent Christians kicked when the presidential candidate of the party, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, picked former governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima, as his running-mate. The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, was at the forefront of opposition to this and even matters were made worse when, during the official presentation of Shettima, some unknown clergymen, decked in their canonical robes, were seen at the occasion. With many of them unknown in Christian circles, the Tinubu Campaign organisation had to come out to say that they were actually clergymen but they were still building their ministry; hence they were not yet well known nor belong to any well-known denomination.

In the southern part of the country with predominant Christian population, the opposition to the Muslim-Muslim ticket has been very strident which ironically coincides with the Peter Obi candidacy gaining traction; especially among younger Nigerians. 
With the Muslim-Muslim ticket facing unrelenting scrutiny and criticism, it was not surprising when the National Chairman of the party, Senator Adamu Abdullahi, visited the Awayi, Nassarawa State, branch of the Evangelical Church of West Africa, ECWA, for the burial of the late monarch, Bala Angbazo, the Aren Eggon, who died at the age of 89 after being on the throne for 41 years. 

In a video trending on social media, Abdullahi, who is also a former governor of Nassarawa State, was seen shouting “Praise the Lord”. 
Many have reasoned that the politics of Abdullahi’s attendance of the funeral service should not be lost in the solemn ambience of the occasion. It was seen as part of the ruling party’s to win over the Christian population who feels their faiths and interests might not be protected under a Muslim-Muslim presidency. 
Will Abdullahi’s visit to the church douse the tension and reassure the Christian community in the country that they have nothing to worry about with the Muslim-Muslim ticket? The remains to be seen as Tinubu and Shettima continue their consultations across the country. 

The Funke Akindele Candidacy
When the governorship candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Abdulazeez Olajide Adediran, popularly known as Jandor, picked popular thespian, Funke Akindele, as his running mate, many were understandably stunned as to what must have informed the choice. The fear (or was it a surprise?) was borne out of the fact that many have hitherto thought Akindele was apolitical and apart from that, she had no electoral value.
Speaking to Channels Television on why he picked Akindele, Adeniran had this to say:

My running mate, Funke Akinfele, people call her an actress, but Ill say, I picked a lawyer who found love in film-making. Beyond being an actress, shes a filmmaker. Someone who has grown her business from zero to something and has won massive followership in the process of what shes been doing for years. An Ikorodu-born diva who I believe is going to add value to my candidacy.

He added that some people forgot that the purpose upon which a political party is established was to win elections.
My running mate is a brand that connects with the grassroots and my people in cyberspace. So, a combination of that force already spelt doom for the Lagos APC in 2023. In Lagos, what we have is an unusual situation and it requires an unusual solution. This is why we have presented to Lagosians a total departure from the norm. This is something fresh, Adeniran explained.

Adeniran might have been right in his assessment of Akindele but he must also bear in mind that this is practical politics and Jenifa, as Akindele is popularly called, is coming into a world she has no prior experience of. Besides, the hegemonic hold of Tinubu and APC on the politics of Lagos State, it requires more than what Adeniran was offering in terms of his reasons for picking Funke Akindele to break that hold. The talented actress no doubt has millions of followers and admirers. But will these translate into electoral value? That is the one million dollar question that the Lagos PDP needs to answer.

It must be noted that this would be the first time in three general election cycles that PDP would be having a different candidate from the veteran runner, Jimi Agbaje. Adeniran, the man who would be replacing him on the ballot next year, was part of the APC apparatchik in Lagos before decamping. And as someone explained to THISDAY last week, the only way APCs stronghold could be weakened and probably destroyed in Lagos is if there is an implosion within its ranks.
Even if Adeniran opted out and joined the rival PDP to finally end APCs reign in Lagos, picking Akindele does not show seriousness. Perhaps, there is a joker up his sleeves.

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