Situating Wike in the Atiku, Okowa equation, By Phrank Shaibu

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To be sure, Wike’s strengths are difficult to ignore. He has never left the PDP, not even in its ‘trying times’, and he has executed more projects than many other governors. Again, he has a large war chest and has built bridges across the length and breadth of the country.

As far as politicians in Nigeria go, Barrister Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, the governor of Rivers State, must rank among the most successful. One may not be at home with his style but no one can take away the fact that he has been victorious on all fronts of his life. Few politicians have been more accomplished than Nyesom Wike; his defeat by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar at the recently concluded Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential primary election notwithstanding.

For 23 years, Wike has played key roles both in his home State, Rivers and at the centre. Wike began his political career as the executive chairman of Obio Akpor Local Government Area in Rivers State in 1999, a position he held until 2007, after being re-elected in 2003. He had served with distinction as the chief of staff to the governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi between 2007 and July 2011, when he was appointed as the minister of state for Education by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Wike’s profile appreciated quickly and assuredly over the years such that in 2015, he was drafted by the PDP to contest the 2015 gubernatorial poll in Rivers State. Before then Jonathan had promoted him the senior minister of Education following the resignation of Professor Ruqqayatu Ahmad Rufai.

Call him Nigeria’s Francis Underwood – from popular American series House of Cards – and you may not be far from the truth. Tenacious, dogged and daring, Governor Wike is one man who has made the political space interesting in the last seven years.

He has been a devoted son of the Niger Delta, almost always to be heard pushing for an improved living condition for the people of the region and, in this, he came to be known as one of the most outspoken governors from that part of the country. Wike is, however, first and foremost, an Ikwerre man, a lover of his people and a living symbol of all that is Rivers State.

This son of Rumuepirikom in Obio Akpor Local Government Area has brought to our politics a radiant devotion, an unmatched commitment and an inimitable bravery; the reason for which he currently features in almost all political discussions across the country as the countdown to the 2023 general elections begin.

To be sure, Wike’s strengths are difficult to ignore. He has never left the PDP, not even in its ‘trying times’, and he has executed more projects than many other governors. Again, he has a large war chest and has built bridges across the length and breadth of the country.

Now, how would these positives impact the Atiku/Okowa candidature? First, the Rivers State governor has never hidden his love and passion for the PDP. So much that he made a vow during the presidential primaries: “Let me vow, today, anybody who emerges here, I’ll support the person to the fullest.

“I’ll support the person to the fullest because I’m a committed party person. Because I love this party. Because since 1998 I’ve been in this party. I work for this party. I’m not going anywhere. This is my party,” he vowed. Not forgetting how he visited almost all the states to woo delegates in the run up to last month’s PDP presidential primary, it therefore goes without saying that he has built a network of loyal friends across Nigeria. Wike has key supporters in the governors of Benue State, Dr Samuel Ortom and Oyo State, Engineer Seye Makinde and this can be a plus to the PDP at the presidential poll next year.

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Second, the Rivers State helmsman has been vociferous in asking for improved conditions for the people of the Niger Delta who have suffered neglect over the decades. Being an outspoken leader from the South-South zone, Governor Wike now constitutes a rallying point of individual and collective heroism in the region. This will count in favour of the PDP in the presidential election billed for next year.

It is therefore understandable that the Board of Trustees (BoT) has risen to ensure that this important party man and other aggrieved faithful are appeased for the purpose of ensuring a clean sweep at next year’s poll. It is worthy of note that the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar has agreed to head the reconciliation committee and would meet with Wike on the former VP’s return to Nigeria.

Like the chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin explained in his statement on Monday, the disquiet in the party was not unexpected given the fact that the PDP remains the strongest and most prominent party that has all potentials to form government in 2023.

To underscore the importance of the planned reconciliation, Jibrin said the party was deploying all its top players; Atiku Abubakar; vice presidential candidate, Governor Okowa; PDP national chairman, Senator Ayu; NWC members; PDP BoT chairman, Jibrin himself; representative of BoT membership; the 13 governors on the party’s platform; former PDP governors; former PDP ministers and some PDP elders from zones and states for the meeting with Governor Wike.

But perhaps the most important piece of information this week is that the APC’s conspiracy theorists alluding to a crack in the ranks of PDP in Delta State, the home state of the party’s vice-presidential candidate, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa have been put to shame.

Drawing from my deep familiarity with the issues and the dramatis personae in Delta State politics, I can confirm that Okowa is not fighting James Onanefe Ibori over anything, including who becomes the state’s chief executive on May 29, 2023. The truth is that Ibori and Okowa have come a long way. They have fought many political battles together. They have shown uncommon loyalty to their friendship, and the common interest of their common political family. They have shown a strong feeling of support and allegiance to each other. Ditto with the immediate past governor of the State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan. Therefore, nothing; not even the shenanigans of the All Progressives Congress (APC) hawks can cause a crack in the PDP family in Delta State.

Wholly taken, it is safe to conclude that the PDP is just an inch away from Aso Rock Villa, since the 2023 presidential election is akin to the race between the tortoise and the hare, and in this race Atiku is clearly the hare, while Tinubu is the tortoise!

Phrank Shaibu is a publicist and Special Assistant, Public Communication to Atiku Abubakar, the PDP Presidential candidate.

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