By Dr Otabor Christopher
As events unfold to reveal the underbelly of the 2023 general elections, there are already winners and losers. Like a tennis grand slam tournament, some have crashed out in the first round while others are powering on towards the finish line.
One person that is not accepting his fate as having been rejected at the primary elections is His excellency, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state. The Rivers state born politician has been ranting, and revealing all the secrets and strategems of his party to the media like a badly brought up male child after spanking, since he lost his presidential primary election. He communicates the fact that there was a gang up against him by the national chairman and other stakeholders of his party, the PDP. There is nothing new about all he has been saying. Politics is all about gang up and scheming to outwit opponents. Can Wike claim that he has never ganged up against anyone in his political career?
Instead of being overly loquacious and spilling every secret in his heart, I will advise governor Wike to take a break and go lick his wounds, re-strategise and wait for his next opportunity instead of making a ruin of whatever is left of his political capital. The more the governor talks about the bygone primary election with so much gall, the more he appears more unpresidential, thereby justifying his rejection as presidential candidate and running mate of the major opposition party.
I understand that it might not be easy for Governor Wike to let go of his defeat at the presidential primary election because he has no plan B to fall back on since he didn’t contest for the senatorial primary election which would have been a consolation for him. To be out of an elected office for four years for a very hyperactive politician like Wike sounds like a death knell to his political career, especially with the presence of a perceived adversary as the national chairman of his party in the person of professor Iyorchia Ayu whom Wike himself railroaded into power. Wike is currently between the rock and a hard place in his political career. It is not in his character to decamp to another party, definitely not the ruling All Progressives Congress, a party he has lampooned countless number of times in the past. Wike will rather remain in PDP, to sail or to sink.
From the foregoing, it is clear that the reason Wike is insisting on Ayu’s resignation is not primarily for fairness but for self survival. This is not the first time PDP will be having a national chairman and presidential candidate from the northern part of Nigeria. Col. Ahmadu Ali from north central region was chairman of PDP from 2005 to 2008. He was chairman when Yar Adua was elected candidate of PDP who later went on to be elected president in 2007.
Here is Governor Wike’s likely consideration: If Ayu remains as national chairman, whether PDP wins the presidency or not, Wike will be sidelined from the party he has funded heavily over the last several years since PDP lost the central government in 2015. If Ayu is kicked out and a Wike loyalist becomes PDP national chairman, whether Atiku wins the presidency or not, Wike will still be relevant and his 2027 presidential ambition can kick start immediately after the 2023 elections.
Wike must understand that ‘the horse may be ready for the battle, but safety is of the Lord’. Power ultimately comes from God. In 2006, when Wike was still the chairman of Obi-Akpor local government Council of Rivers state, his governor then, Dr Peter Odili criss-crossed the length and breadth of this country canvassing for votes to become the presidential flagbearer of the PDP. In my assessment, Dr Peter Odili was closer to picking the party ticket then than Governor Wike was in the last presidential primaries of 2022.
The twist of fate came for Dr Odili when the then outgoing president Olusegun Obasanjo pronounced Yar Adua as the preferred candidate giving the fact that he, Obasanjo, being a southerner who was completing his second term needed to hand over to a northerner based on their party zoning arrangement at that time. That’s how Dr Odili’s ambition crumbled. Dr Peter Odili took it in good fate and exited the scene quietly.
I do not think Ayu should resign anytime soon as national chairman of PDP because if not properly managed, that would be more costly for PDP than getting a snub from Wike and his co-travellers, giving the short time left until the presidential election. My advice for Wike is for him to accept the olive branch being offered to him by his party before the negotiation door closes or he should exit the political scene quietly like Rotimi Amechi and Vice president Osinbanjo after they lost their party primary election.
Dr Otabor Christopher