Wike: Atiku Wanted Jonathan to Relinquish Presidential Ticket in 2015
•I left PDP over betrayal, says Umahi
•Opposition candidate pulls out of NTA town hall meeting
Chuks Okocha in Abuja and Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt
Embittered Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, yesterday, continued with his tirades against the presidential candidate of his party, Peoples Democratic party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, alleging that he made every effort, including direct demand, to pressure former President Goodluck Jonathan into relinquishing his presidential ticket, when he won to run for a second term in 2015.
Wike made the revelation at the inauguration of Akpabu-Itu-Omudiogha-Egbeda Road in Ishimbam land of Emohua Local Government Area in Rivers State, which was performed by Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi.
Wike claimed that Atiku made the demand, when Jonathan approached PDP chieftains to plead with them to work for the party’s victory in the 2015 election.
The Rivers State governor’s disclosures came as Umahi said he left PDP because he foresaw betrayal in the party, which had now manifested. But he said the unity of the country remained paramount and should be pursued resolutely.
At the same time, Atiku and his running mate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, yesterday, pulled out of a town hall meeting organised for all presidential candidates in the 2023 election by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
Wike alleged that Jonathan had specifically met with Atiku at Dorchester hotel, in London, and appealed to him to return to the party.
He said, “In Dorchester hotel (London), he (Jonathan) went to plead with this our presidential candidate today, Atiku Abubakar, to say, please, my brother, come back to the party and support me.
“You know the condition they gave to Jonathan, he should relinquish his ticket not to run as president of Nigeria. That was a sitting president and presidential candidate of a ruling party.”
Wike wondered why people were now calling for his head because he and other governors in the Integrity Group were demanding that PDP National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, should relinquish his position for the sake of national balance.
He said, “We are not saying the presidential candidate (Atiku Abubakar) should relinquish the ticket, we are not being selfish. We are saying, since you are now the presidential candidate, let our people take chairmanship, they said they will kill me.”
The Rivers State governor explained that his previous faceoff with Umahi was not personal, but to protect PDP, whose mandate he had taken away to another party. He claimed that he pulled out of that legal battle against Umahi because, despite the fact that he hired the PDP lawyers, the national leadership of the party in Abuja did not consult him, when they decided those likely to replace the Ebonyi State governor.
Wike said when politics was seen to be about the people, political leaders would protect the interest of their people and improve their lot.
Performing the inauguration, Umahi described Wike as a true nationalist, who had ceaselessly built bridges across the country to foster unity. He stated that his Rivers State counterpart always fought for others delightfully and unreservedly supported others to succeed.
Umahi said he left PDP because he saw the tendency for betrayal in the party, saying it has begun to manifest. He described as treacherous the decision by some governors of southern Nigeria to jettison the resolution they made that the next Nigerian president after President Muhammadu Buhari should be from the south.
Meanwhile, Atiku and Okowa pulled out of a town hall meeting organised by NTA.
The presidential town hall series, titled, “The Candidates,” is organised by Daria Media, in partnership with News Central, and NTA, among others.
“Due to unavoidable conflicts, Alh. Atiku Abubakar and his running mate, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa of the Peoples Democratic Party, will not be participating in ‘The Candidates’ Presidential Town Hall Series,” NTA said in a tweet.
That was not the first time Atiku would be absent at events meant for presidential candidates. Earlier this month, he asked Okowa to stand in for him at a programme put together by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), in collaboration with ARISE Television.
In October, Atiku was also absent at an event organised by Women Radio 91.7 for major presidential candidates at the NAF Conference Centre, Abuja.
The setting for the town hall meeting had been made especially difficult for Atiku after tweets challenged the presenter, Kadira Ahmed, to pose challenging questions to the PDP candidate, notably his stance on the killing of Deborah, a student in Sokoto State, by Islamic fundamentalists.