With barely six months till the general elections and with contestants across party lines closing ranks and putting finishing touches to their preparations in their respective bids to ensure successful outings, one wonders what magical wand the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar hopes to wave to unseat the ruling All Progressives Congress with the wave of internal rancor currently threatening the party hierarchy.
Presently, the infighting within the PDP is such that has never been experienced since the history of the party. More worrisome is the fact that the party’s flag bearer who is running on the premise of his ability to unify the country along ethnic and religious lines if elected president come 2023 is ironically the man in the eye of the storm. The impasse rocking the party serves as a litmus test for Atiku as his much touted claim to being a unifier is presently being sullied by his poor handling of the crisis.
Without mincing words, one can objectively say without equivocation too that Atiku’s overbearing influence as the oldest and perhaps the only remaining founding member of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) that metamorphosed into what is presently the Peoples Democratic Party is the reason the party is enmeshed in so much avoidable bickering.
For someone whose imprints and unapologetic anti-party shenanigans in 2013-2014 led to the ouster of the party when after declaring that the PDP had been turned into a southern party, he made sure to divide it against Goodluck Jonathan before going on to join the APC and went on to brag afterwards of his ability to bury the PDP in the 2015 elections… true to his words he did! However, unable to throw his weight around in the APC like he is wont to in the PDP, with the likes of Tinubu having the party in their firm grips and being in absolute control of party machineries, Atiku was left with no other option than to retrace his steps back to the PDP if he ever hoped to actualize his dreams of being counted among Nigeria’s presidents when it dawned on him that Buhari would emerge APC’s sole candidate for the 2019 presidential election. Being the power monger that he is, Atiku hurriedly returned to the PDP in the nick of time and applying his deft political maneuvers he clinched the party’s ticket at the convention beating the likes of Nyesom Wike’s anointed candidate Aminu Tambuwal, Bukola Saraki and other contestants.
As though that wasn’t enough slight to the reputation of other party chieftains, after losing the elections in 2019 to incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku once again abandoned the party to its fate without as much as showing any commitment either financially or morally towards the affairs of the party instead he relocated to the United Arab Emirates his preferred choice of residence from where he once again jetted into the country to contest and yet again won the party’s presidential ticket as usual.
All the while that the PDP was struggling to stay afloat, to preserve the party and save it from extinction, Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers state stepped in to fill the leadership vacuum created by the nonchalance of party stalwarts some of who seeing that the baton had changed hands and reading the hand writings on the wall knew that the days of pilfering the national till for themselves, family members and cronies were over and fearing possible hounding by the EFCC were left with no other option than to jump ship en masse and cross carpet to the APC upon seeing the treatment being meted out to erstwhile party stalwarts like former National Security Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan; Sambo Dasuki, former Minister of Petroleum Resources Dieziani Alison-Madueke and former National Publicity Secretary of the party Olisa Metuh.
Not one to shy away from battles, Wike armed with limitless resources accruing from Rivers state’s numerous oilfields like a field marshal led the PDP from the front assuming at different times the roles of party leader, party spokesman and opposition figurehead as the demand arises. Deploying his state’s resources, he singlehandedly funded the party’s activities including governorship elections in different states. As is expected, with time he deservedly became the party’s defacto leader considering the fact that he who pays the piper dictates the tune.
Fast forward 2022, election eve is upon us and acting within the confines of his inalienable right as a Nigerian citizen, Wike decided to gun for the top job having considered himself eminently qualified to so do but owing to what could be rightly termed political arithmetic in the words of former Senate President the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, he was outsmarted at the last minute during the primaries where he eventually lost the party’s ticket to Atiku Abubakar. Considering how things panned out at the convention, Wike who adjudged himself the party’s biggest benefactor since its descent from the ruling party to the main opposition found sufficient reasons to feel betrayed firstly by the fact that it took the connivance of Aminu Tambuwal who he trusted as an ally and Atiku his arch rival to thwart his presidential ambition and secondly the fact that the northern elements within the party didn’t see anything wrong with allocating of the party’s choicest positions from the party chairman to its presidential candidate to the north even when good conscience demands that power should rotate to the south in the interest of fairness and equity having been retained in the north since the last eight years.
As opposed to calling a truce to seek ways of pacifying Wike and possibly accommodate his interests in the scheme of things, Atiku opted to deride him by outrightly rejecting his nomination as his running mate by a majority of the people on the committee setup for the purpose! To further rub salt on injury, paid hirelings were engaged to further smear Wike’s reputation and tar him with same brush as university thugs by publishing malicious content and spurious news of him suing the party by proxy and allegedly appointing Farah Dagogo leader of the party in Rivers state.
For someone who sacrificed so much for the party when he could have conveniently defected to the ruling APC and be welcomed with opened arms, where his political future would still not be threatened beyond 2023, Wike deserves better and should not be begrudged for expressing his angst in whichever way he deems necessary.
Asking Iyiorcha Ayu to step-down his position as the party chairman and possibly replacing him with possibly a south easterner since he couldn’t prevent Atiku’s emergence as the party’s presidential candidate under his watch (same reason Atiku alluded to in 2013-2014 when he accused the PDP of being turned to a southern party) would have given the party more inroads into the zone and shouldn’t be too much of a sacrifice to make to give the party a national appeal at a time when there’s an awful din across the country for inclusiveness of all ethnic persuasions in the leadership structure of the political class following Buhari’s seven years of brazen lopsidedness in all major appointments. As it stands, irrespective of who Atiku decides to run with, the fact remains that until Iyiorcha Ayu steps down as the Chairman of the party the PDP will be viewed as running a latent agenda to continue the fulani hegemony.
Nothing about Atiku’s body language suggests that Wike’s political interests and future will be guaranteed beyond 2023. Wike’s fight is understandably for political relevance after his time in office as governor just like every other politician.
Whether or not PDP likes to admit it, Wike remains a force to reckon with as far as the 2023 presidential election is concerned. Getting paid lapdogs in the mould of Reno Omokri and his ilk to dig up videos of him making a promise during the party’s convention to support whoever emerges as the candidate of the party or the one where he vowed never to become a running mate to anyone can’t do much to tarnish his reputation if that’s what the intention is after all sticking to their promises has never been known to be any Nigerian politician’s forté.
Right from the days of Peter Odili, through the days of Rotimi Amaechi, until today, the place of Rivers state’s oil money in determining the outcome of presidential elections has never been in doubt. Atiku will only be playing foolhardy if for a nanosecond he thinks Okowa can replicate Ibori’s political sagacity when it comes to money politics because truth remains that he Atiku doesn’t have the kind of resources required to singlehandedly fund a presidential election, exact reason why he lost the 2019 election as Wike bluntly refused to fund his election and the main reason he settled for Okowa this time around knowing it would be easier to deal with Okowa than it will ever be with Wike. Then again, beyond the funds, there’s really not much Okowa can bring to the table truth be told!
Atiku had better reined his lapdogs in or watch their continuous attacks on Wike become the nemesis of his presidential bid. For a party that have its core supporters from the southeast rooting massively for Peter Obi’s Labour Party, the ones from the northwest especially Kano rooting for Rabiu Kwankwaso’s New Nigeria People’s Party, a sizeable number of the party’s governors past and present together with their followers openly pledging loyalty to Wike’s faction, one wonders where Atiku’s camp really draws their motivation from.
As it stands presently, Wike hold all the aces and needs to be appeased if need be to ensure he works for the PDP in the forthcoming elections and it behooves on the party’s candidate to figure out how best to go about it, failure to do so then Atiku should expect his comeuppance for his unbridled arrogance at the polls.