It is no longer news that Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, is having a running battle with the incumbent governor of Rivers State who was his rival in the party’s presidential primaries conducted in 2022. But, the defeat of the Rivers State governor and his reaction to his defeat has led to a crisis which is currently tearing the party apart in Rivers State.
For one, Governor Wike and four other PDP governors, Sam Ortom of Benue State, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State and Ugwuanyi of Enugu State have all called for the resignation of the PDP chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu.
The coming together of these 5 southern governors to demand for inclusion and equity in the top echelon of the PDP has created a battle, with Governor Wike stating that his opinion and consent wasn’t considered in the composition of the Presidential Campaign Council of PDP. And that as much as enemies of Rivers State were included in the Presidential Campaign Council list, he will not have Atiku Abubakar’s presidential election campaign backed up by the Rivers State government which he heads.
Obviously, Governor Wike has been moving around with APC Presidential Candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s allies, some of whom have paid visits to his private home at Rumueprikom in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. The APC chieftains who have visited Gov. Wike include South Western APC Governors led by the then Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, who held a private meeting with Gov. Wike on issues which may not exclude the interest of APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the February 25th, 2023 presidential election.
As if that was not enough signal in supporting the interest of the APC presidential candidate, Governor Wike has been inviting APC stakeholders to Rivers State to commission projects executed by his government. One of such invitees is Rt. Honourable, Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Reps, who travelled to Rivers State to commission the Rivers State House of Assembly Legislative Quarters. This move created a lot of acrimony within the APC Rivers State chapter as members were not happy with the APC national headquarters for the way and manner their national leaders are visiting Gov. Wike. They say this increases his political value and negotiation power in the PDP quagmire.
From all indications, Governor Wike is supporting the emergence of the APC presidential candidate. Few months back, Governor Wike visited Lagos State and declared Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu as having a smooth ride back to Alausa Government House for a second term in office come March 2023.
Gov. Wike openly made a donation of N300m to the Lagos State Women Project which finally sealed his alliance with the APC national headquarters.
Wike believes that he has more to gain with the victory of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in 2023 when compared with that of any other Southern Nigeria presidential candidate. He believes that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has nationwide appeal, devoid of ethnic bias.
Another important factor that brought out Governor Wike’s anger against the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar remains the way Governor (Dr.) Ifeanyi Okowa played host at Asaba in the pre-presidential primary election Southern Governors’ Forum in which they all agreed to have a Southern Nigerian presidential candidate emerge from the primary election but for the same Gov. Okowa to have reneged on this common agreement by the 17 Southern governors. As if that is not enough, the Rivers State Governor believe that Governor Okowa supported his opponents in the PDP presidential primary election which he lost to Atiku Abubakar in Abuja with funds.
Gov. Wike has Rivers State in his pocket. With Governor Wike creating more jobs for Rivers State youths numbering over 28,000, the 4,442 Polling Units in Rivers State will be genuinely manned by the supporters of Gov Wike who must ensure that they deliver their polling units to the presidential candidate of choice to the Rivers State Governor.
The political pressure groups that Governor Wike used in 2015 and 2019 for electioneering campaigns are still waxing strong today as they are well spread across the 319 electoral wards and in the 23 Local Government Areas of the state. They will also be mobilized to deliver victory to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Rivers State against the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
One more shocker for the PDP presidential candidate will be the fact that Rivers has the history of being one of the states in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, after Kano and Lagos States that record a huge number of votes for presidential candidates in past elections, apart from the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections when they voted enmasse for PDP while the APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari won. Since 1999, PDP, as a party had maintained the lead in all presidential polls in Rivers State because of the influence of the sitting governors.
Governor Wike has control of members of the National Union of Road Transport Workerss (NURTW) as they play vital roles in elections to favour the decisions of their State Chairman, Azubuike Nmerukini who is a political ally of Governor Wike from 1999 till date. He was elected into the Rivers State House of Assembly and later became Chairman of Port Harcourt City Local Government Council. This same Azubuike Nmerukini was appointed Chairman of Rivers State Local Government Service Commission while Nyesom Ezenwo Wike holds sway as Governor of Rivers State from 2015-2023. This NURTW members are well spread out in the 319 electoral wards and 4,442 polling units in Rivers State, as such, they will dictate where the winning candidate’s votes will swing to on 25th of February, 2023.