NYESOM WIKE, Governor of Rivers State, south-south Nigeria, must now be weaving his bits and pieces together, after emerging runner-up to Atiku Abubakar, a former vice President, who, last weekend, emerged the presidential flagbearer of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the 2023 presidential election. Political analysts had expected nothing less than an Atiku’s ticket. Even though Bukola Saraki, Nyesom Wike and Aminu Tambuwal, were predicted to be front runners.
The former vice-president’s political erudition and exposure across the length and breadth of Nigeria politics, were unquantifiable advantage he had over other contestants for the PDP ticket. He has contested Nigeria’s presidential elections six times. Atiku has a larger political image and acceptability over others. What many assumed could work against him was his age — 75 years. Yet, he was not known to have history of failing health. But robust physical outlook and bubbling with life.
Before the PDP primary, Wike’s campaign was firebrand. He was, at every stop of his campaign trip, breathing fire and brimstone on the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. He was brave and vocal, that he is the only one among the candidates that APC fears, that can wrestle power from the ruling party. Wike and his campaign team chanted this message as they crisscrossed the country, soliciting votes from the party’s delegates. Some analysts see Wike’s style of campaign as comical, unserious, not strategic, and not addressing real issues.
The expectations from Wike’s camp on his chances of clinching the PDP ticket were, however high. Wike’s major advantage is the pressure and demand from Nigeria’s South, that power should shift to the region. And among PDP candidates from Nigeria’s South in the race for the presidential ticket, Wike was a front-runner. He also, laced his campaign with firm assurance and reassurance, that whatever the outcome of the party’s primary, and whoever emerged winner and flag bearer of PDP, he would, support the person, as an immovable party man.
On the day of the party’s primary for the presidential ticket, Saturday, May 28 into Sunday, 29, 2022, in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, Wike sprang surprise. He had a good showing by emerging second with 237 votes; while Atiku Abubakar, the winner got 371 votes. Wike staged what would have been an upset, if not the withdrawal from the race, by one of the northern candidates, Aminu Tambuwal, Governor of Sokoto State, northwest Nigeria. Tambuwal, openly, announced his withdrawal from the race, and asked his supporters to vote for Atiku, minutes before voting commenced.
AMINU TAMBUWAL’S LAST MINUTES withdrawal from the race, and ceding his vote to Atiku Abubakar, did not go down well with Wike. He was a staunch supporter of Tambuwal’s ambition for the party’s presidential ticket in 2019. Wike rallied immense support for Tambuwal in 2019, even though he lost to Atiku at the primary. Wike wondered while his very close friend and associate, could not support his [Wike’s] ambition from the south in the 2023 presidential race, rather, preferred to scuttle it.
Rather than vent his grievances on the political manoeuvres by his ally, Aminu Tambuwal, that gave the ticket to Atiku, Wike turned the wrong direction. He accused his Southern Governors colleagues of betraying the power shift agreement. The southern governors had, consistently and unequivocally, insisted that power must shift to the southern part of the country, after the eight years rule of the incumbent President Buhari from the north.
Wike, however, said he would remain in the PDP, and support the party’s 2023 presidential flag bearer, Atiku Abubakar, even though resentful of his colleagues’ governors in the South, for not remaining steadfast in their resolve to have power shift to the south. Wike spoke at a reception at Government House, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, when he returned from Abuja, after the presidential primary.
He told his audience that he was tempted to obstruct the process, when Aminu Tambuwal, returned to the podium to announce his withdrawal from the race, after he had earlier made his speech. His words: “I have never seen how people can violate procedures and guidelines. Somebody had spoken. It was at that point he was speaking that he would have said I am withdrawing. You don’t call him back”.
Wike said: “I just said: ‘Look, this our party must not be destroyed’”. And added “it is God’s will, let us not bother ourselves so much”. On his accusation of his party’s southern governors, Wike said: “Shame to those who will sell out their own. I have never seen a thing like that. No wonder we cannot move on with development”.
He said if a region the [north] could gang up, the south could not gang up. “Look, a region ganged up. Your own region cannot gang up, you become a tool to be used against the interests of your people and you think you have won. No, you have lost”, Wike further stated.
Wike said, he believed, just like his supporters, that his performance at the primary has raised the political profile of Rivers State, and other minority groups in Nigeria. He said: “In the political history of this country, you can count on us. We are not pushovers”. And alleged that top northern military and political leaders teamed up to secure the ticket for Atiku.
BASKING FROM VICTORY, Atiku Abubakar, immediately, after leaving the venue of the primary, embarked on reconciliation move. He visited Aminu Tambuwal at the Sokoto State Governor’s lodge in Abuja, perhaps, on solidarity visit.
On Monday, June 30, Atiku visited Governor Nyesom Wike; former Senate President Bukola Saraki; and Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, also, former Senate President and Secretary to the Government of the Federation; all in their residence in Abuja.
Atiku stated the reason for the visits. In his tweets he said: “In continuation of my commitment to bring everyone on board in ensuring that the @OfficialPDPNig stands as one united party, earlier today, I visited His Excellency Gov Nyesom Wike at his Abuja residence. This is a continuous process.
“I was also at the residence of Senator Anyim Pius Anyim to pay him a courtesy visit and consult with him on strengthening the cohesion in our great party, the PDP”.