Against insinuations that the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has resolved to back the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, loyalists of the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar, have dismissed the possibility of Wike turning his back on his party.
Wike, leading a pack of four other PDP governors and chieftains, had made it clear that campaigning for Atiku was a no-deal unless the incumbent National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, was removed from office.
The Rivers governor and his counterparts in Oyo, Benue, Abia and Enugu states, Seyi Makinde, Samuel Ortom, Okezie Ikpeazu and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, respectively, are bent on Ayu’s ouster on the ground that the PDP presidential candidate and party chairman should not come from the same regional bloc.
In September, the governors and other key stakeholders of the party, including former governors Donald Duke (Cross River), Jonah Jang (Plateau), and Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo) as well as a former Minister of Information, Prof Jerry Gana; a former PDP Board of Trustees Chairman, Chief Bode George, and a host of others resigned their membership of the presidential campaign council in a bid to prevail on Atiku to mount pressure on Ayu to resign.
However, the former vice president chose to keep his distance, insisting that only Ayu could determine whether to stay on or not.
Meanwhile, there were insinuations that following the failure of Atiku to heed the counsel of the aggrieved party leaders, Governor Wike had resolved to support the candidacy of Tinubu, believing his chances were brighter than that of the Labour Party candidate, Mr Peter Obi.
Sources privy to this development confided in our correspondent that Wike would remain a member of PDP but would mobilise support for Tinubu in Rivers.
The governor had a few weeks ago said the PDP in Rivers would rally round all candidates for the House of Assembly, National Assembly and governorship elections, adding that until the right thing was done, Atiku remained a loner in the oil-rich state.
“PDP will win our state. I am not hiding it as far as the governorship, House of Representatives, Senate and state Assembly are concerned. The other one, we have not decided, until the right thing is done,” Wike had said.
Also, at the commissioning of the Rukpokwu-Igwuruta Link Road located in the Obio-Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers state a fortnight ago, Wike caused panic in the camp of Atiku when he asked the mammoth crowd that came out to witness the event, some troubling questions.
“Then the other one (presidential election), I will come and tell you where you will vote. All I will tell you is, don’t worry, calm down. Those that I mentioned, make sure you vote for them. Very soon, we will meet at our houses and take a decision about where we are going. You will work for a party that has come to your aid, a party that has brought dividends of democracy,” he added.
But speaking with our correspondent on the development, the spokesman of the National Election Management Committee of the Presidential Campaign Council, Dino Melaye, ruled out Wike’s defection to any party even as he insisted that talks of reconciliation between the two camps were ongoing.
“We are still talking and he (Wike) is not defecting,” Melaye said.
Speaking in the same vein, the Director of Strategic Communication of the PDP Campaign Council, Chief Dele Momodu, said he would respond whenever the governor made his position clear on the matter.
“I can’t respond until he (Wike) does,” he added, even as he said he knew nothing about the rumoured plan of the governor to align forces with the APC presidential candidate.
Atiku’s ally and Director General, Borno House-to-House for Atiku/Okowa campaign organisation, Mustapha Shehu, said the PCC had since moved on, adding that the Rivers State governor was not “as important as he thinks he is.”
“The message on almost every street is that Atiku is the preferred candidate of Nigerians. This is one of the reasons Atiku decided to move on without the G-5 (governors) even though his door remains open for reconciliation. In the current scheme of things, it is becoming evident that Wike is not as important as he thinks he is,” he added.
However, a close associate of Governor Samuel Ortom who did not want to be named told our correspondent that the possibility of Wike working with Tinubu should not be ruled out.
He said, “Governor Wike is passionate about the presidency moving to the South in 2023. If you have ever been in a meeting where he made this argument, you will understand this. It is difficult to convince him that there is an alternative to a southern presidency. He supported the North in 2019 by openly backing the Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal. He expected the favour to be returned to the South this time but that did not happen.
“It is a shame that Ayu, who should have quietly resigned to assuage the fears of these leaders, is sitting tight. Maybe Wike has chosen to demonstrate to everyone that he means business. If Ayu is staying on and Atiku is not ready to do anything about it, I think Wike will support Tinubu. One thing is certain, he will not leave the PDP.”