It’s time for the Peoples Democratic Party to call off the Rivers State governor’s bluff, writes Bolaji Adebiyi
Months after Nyesom Wike, the governor of oil-rich Rivers State, was worsted at the Peoples Democratic Party presidential convention, he remains inconsolable, throwing tantrums up and down as if losing a political contest is a big deal that has never happened to anyone else in the party.
Despite efforts to reconcile him with the reality of his loss, he has continued to harass the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and its leadership, attracting at one point, the anger of Sule Lamido, two-term governor of Jigawa State, who asked him to go to hell and do his worst. Lamido’s point was that no one in the PDP had offended Wike, therefore, there was nothing to reconcile with him.
Although the former governor of Jigawa State’s rebuke of the wailing Rivers State governor represents the rising feeling of indignation in the party, Wike, last week held all kinds of meetings in faraway London with Bola Tinubu and Peter Obi, presidential candidates of opposing All Progressives Congress and Labour Party respectively. Perhaps worried by these meetings, Atiku had to meet with him to figure out how his bruised ego could possibly be massaged.
But in spite of these overseas meetings Wike’s behaviour has not improved as he has used every public outing to throw jibes at his perceived opponents not only in his home state but also threatening to throw a bombshell that would bring down the roof of the PDP. “Something big will happen soon in the PDP,” he was widely quoted to have threatened on Monday. What will possibly happen? He will leave the PDP? For which other party? If he does that, what happens to his candidates in his state?
As it has been previously pointed out here, Wike’s several outbursts have clearly given him out as an unintelligent politician, who lacking in effective strategy, has become too desperate to do a review of his failing tactics that have further eroded his hitherto very limited options. THISDAY’s exclusive report on Monday that he might have come back from these overseas meetings empty-handed not only demonstrates this but also explains his rising desperation.
From all he has been saying, it is not difficult to see how his deep sense of entitlement has continued to push him towards the precipice of political disaster. What possible concessions can a man, who carries on as if others do not matter, get from a political negotiation that requires give-and-take? Given the state of play, what deal could he have extracted from the APC presidential candidate who also has candidates running for elections in Rivers State? And what would be the political cost of such a deal to Tinubu?
Although it is not known what concessions Wike asked from Tinubu, his reported demands from Atiku appeared made to make negotiations and resolutions difficult. For instance, the demand that Iyorchia Ayu, the national chairman, should stand down cannot solve the problem of northern domination of the party hierarchy because the party constitution provides that if an office becomes vacant, the next person in line from the region where the previous occupier comes from shall fill the position. In this case, it is the deputy national chairman, Umar Damagum,
that will fill the position. Is it to be presumed that Wike a leading member of the party, who is also a lawyer, is unaware of this constitutional provision?
Many leaders of the PDP are actually coming to the conclusion that Wike is making difficult demands in order to precipitate and sustain a crisis situation that will bug down the party and distract it from the more important task of raising an effective platform for the upcoming electioneering. Not a few of them think that at this stage, the Rivers State governor should be called to order.
They have a point. This kind of behaviour is becoming a pattern dating back to 2014. That year some northern governors on the platform of the party argued that the presidency was the turn of the North and that President Goodluck Jonathan should not run for a second term. They made and insisted on this demand despite the constitutional right of the sitting president to run. They made so much trouble till four of them, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Abdulfatah Ahmed, Aliyu Wamakko and Murtala Nyako along with Rotimi Amaechi, and some other prominent members of the party from the zone, including Atiku, Bukola Saraki and Aminu Tambuwal left for the new APC. Some others who did not leave stayed on, intent on massively sabotaging the party. This left the PDP, though the ruling party, so weak that it did not recover from the crisis until it was defeated in the 2015 general election.
Five years later in 2019, it would seem to be payback time for Atiku who provided leadership for the 2014 revolt as South-east governors and leading politicians in the party from the region refused to cooperate with him on the choice of Obi as his running mate largely because everyone one of them preferred to be his vice-presidential candidate. While none of them decamped, they stayed on to sabotage the party in the 2019 presidential election which returned President Muhammadu Buhari to power.
Some PDP leaders are now saying that it is high time the party learnt from its previous mistakes of pacifying recalcitrant members who believe that they must bring down the roof each time things do not go their way. They made the point that had the party been decisive on the two previous occasions by having its own plans and routing out the aggrieved, the electoral outcomes would have been different.
Putting Wike in check, they reasoned, should be less difficult since his electoral worth and network are actually exaggerated. Already, he has suffered a major setback with his inability to secure any meaningful concession after his loitering around Tinubu and the APC. Meanwhile, neither his motley crowd of former this-and-that who since they left office have lost elections severally nor his sitting governor-friends, including Oyo’s Seyi Makinde, Benue’s Samuel Ortom and Abia’s Okezie Ikpeazu, will be able to last the distance with him.
The sitting governors have their own battles to fight in their respective states as they are candidates in the 2023 general election which electioneering will start later this month. What time would they have to be loitering around with Wike who himself has a growing mountain of opposition to his bully tactics at home to put down?
For these leaders, it is time for the PDP hierarchy to begin to have its own electoral plan without Wike, and tell him to either ship in or ship out.
Adebiyi, the managing editor of THISDAY Newspapers, writes from email@example.com