2023: What is the political value of Wike?
Why Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike becoming the most wanted figure in the Nigerian political space ahead of the 2023 general election? What is the limit of its influence? Can he decide who wins or loses the presidential election scheduled for February 25, 2023?
LLove her or hate her, the governor of this oil-rich state has become the proverbial beautiful wife of Nigerian politics, courted and sought after by various suitors. He is serenaded by bids from major presidential candidates and parties in an almost similar way he and “his band” entertain Nigerians on his political outings.
Wike, who has remained in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since emerging into the political space as local government chairman and federal minister, became a wanted wife after losing the party’s presidential ticket to a former vice president and serial contender, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who won 371 votes to Wike’s 237.
Atiku’s choice of Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate despite Wike’s alleged recommendation by the former’s selection committee has strained their relationship. It has been reported that Wike felt betrayed as it was Atiku and his camp who convinced him to consider the post of vice president after losing the primary in Abuja. Separately, the former vice president’s camp had proposed a joint Atiku-Wike ticket before the primary, which was rejected by the governor, who also decided to test its popularity and acceptance with party delegates. Had it not been for Sokoto Governor Aminu Tambuwal’s last-minute decision to stand down for Atiku in the primary, Wike would have landed the party’s presidential ticket.
Wike, together with his team, hosted All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Labor Party (LP) presidential candidate Peter Obi and Atiku in London where matters of political interest were discussed . Former President Olusegun Obasanjo also attended the meeting with Obi.
Governor de Rivers had over the past two weeks hosted some prominent APC leaders such as Kayode Fayemi from Ekiti State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu from Lagos, Rotimi Akeredolu from Ondo and David Umahi from Ebonyi State.
Other senior APC leaders who have visited Governor Nyesom Wike’s residence in Port Harcourt are former Federation Cabinet Secretary Babachir Lawal and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
These visits by presidential candidates and their followers are seen as a way of courting Wike to support their ambitions.
Wike’s influence within the PDP grew when he became the rallying voice of the PDP in 2015 after the party lost the presidential election to the APC. While prominent leaders defected to the APC or withdrew after defeat, Wike mobilized resources to keep the party afloat. He, alongside a former Ekiti of State governor, Ayodele Fayose, was the most vocal among opposition figures criticizing the federal government led by Muhammadu Buhari.
With sufficient financial resources for most state chapters of the PDP, Wike became influential in determining state executives and winning their loyalty. No wonder he and his camp have also decided the chairman and majority of the party’s National Working Committee since 2015. From Senator Ali Modu Sheriff to Ahmed Makarfi, Uche Secondus and the party’s current National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu , the camp of Governor Wike was the main determinant of their emergence, as well as their departure from high office.
In response to Ayu’s insistence that he not quit, Wike said, “Dr. Ayu said we were kids. Yeah, the kids pulled you out of the gutter to make you president.
Wike’s generosity to the state chapters, NWC, as well as his ability to resist the workings of the APC-led federal government, brought him close to the hearts of many party stakeholders.
He also used his well-oiled presidential campaign tour to win more friends and party loyalists. He visited all 36 states of the country, including the Federal Capital Territory, where he solicited votes and made many friends. Sources close to his presidential campaign team tell our correspondent that the governor handed out huge sums of money to party leaders in every state he visited during the campaign.
Governor Wike’s influence is believed to transcend Rivers State and South-South as he also controls the structure of the PDP in the Southeast. For example, he enjoys the support of Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, party members in Ebonyi and Anambra and to some extent Imo. However, Atiku loyalists such as a former governor of Imo, Emeka Ihedioha, Senator Ben Obi, Senator Chris Uba and Senator Uche Ekwunife reduced his influence in Imo and Anambra states. .
Ugwuanyi, who led PDP governors in the Southeast to endorse Wike in the PDP presidential primary, is reportedly uncomfortable with negotiations with other parties by Governor Rivers’ camp.
In the South West, the region’s only PDP governor to date, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, is a prominent voice in Wike’s camp. Former governors Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo and Fayose of Ekiti are also with him.
With the party polarized in Ogun and Osun states, a former PDP national vice president and leader in Lagos, Chief Olabode George, who commissioned projects in Rivers state on Thursday, agrees also with Wike that Ayu must leave before the campaign begins.
Governor de Rivers has also been able to extend his influence to the north, where he counts among his prominent loyalists Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, former Governor of Gombe State, Ibrahim Dankwambo, former Minister of Justice and Prosecutor General, Mohammed Adoke. . During the PDP’s presidential primary, delegates from Kano, believed to be former Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso’s loyalists, openly showed their support for Wike by wearing caps with his picture on it. He also showed his influence in Kogi State when he backed Tajudeen Yusuf, Member of the House of Representatives, to defeat Atiku loyalist and former Senator, Dino Melaye, in the Kogi senatorial primary election. West.
He also has good relations with Senator Philip Aduda, who represents the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), former Senator Garba Lado (Katsina), a former First Lady of Niger State, Zainab Kure, candidate for governorship of the PDP in Nasarawa, David Ombugadu, among other party leaders in the North.
Wike traveled with some of his allies, including a former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, to different countries, where they strategized. The Daily Trust learned on Sunday that regular meetings between camp members have strengthened their bond.
He is also beloved by the people of Rivers State because of the development projects he undertook as governor. Even his biggest critics will admit that while his policies are combative, they are also progressive and developmental; this is why he is nicknamed Mr Project.
The state remained one of the strongholds of the PDP, even during the presidential elections. For example, former President Goodluck Jonathan won 1,487,075 votes to Buhari’s 69,238 in 2015 despite Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s defection to the APC. Additionally, in 2019, Atiku secured 473,971 votes to defeat President Buhari, who had 150,710. However, results were not collated for six local government areas: Bonn, Asari Toru, Okrika, Ikwerre and Ahoada West and Emohua.
INEC’s recent innovations have lowered the number of “votes” coming from River State.
Also, Wike shouldn’t have it easy, especially since there are forces that can threaten his influence.
The cold war between him and Atiku recently took on another dimension when the governor alleged that some politicians were plotting to wreak havoc in the state.
He made the allegation on a statewide broadcast days after stripping Atiku supporters in the state of their various party leadership positions. Those affected include a former state governor, Celestine Omehia, a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara, and Senator Lee Meaba.
While Meaba was removed from his position as chairman of the board of trustees of the public polytechnic Elechi Amadi, Austin Opara and Celestine Omehia were removed from their positions as party leaders in the local government areas of Port Harcourt City and Ikwerre. Our correspondent learned that their withdrawal was the result of their secret romance with Atiku. The trio reportedly attended several meetings with Atiku without Governor Wike’s permission.
“Wike doesn’t hide the fact that he’s fighting Atiku. And he said he’s ready to fight until the end.
“We don’t know what he intends to do because when the campaigns start we are also qualified to campaign. We are waiting to see how he would prevent us from campaigning. This is a joke taken too far.
“Yes, he called Omehia and Chief Opara as party leaders in Ikwerre and Port Harcourt City and humiliated them in front of their people because we went to pay a solidarity visit to Atiku.
“We all knew Atiku before him. Austin Opara, who has served in the House of Representatives since 1999, was vice president when Atiku was vice president. At that time, Wike was struggling to be chairman of the local government. So if Opara has to ask him for permission to see Atiku, then something is wrong,” Sen. Maeba said, adding that no one is in charge of Rivers’ votes.
Wike and the “Obidient” movement
The majority of Igbo youths in Rivers State support Peter Obi, the Labor Party presidential candidate. Last Saturday’s solidarity match in Port Harcourt, the state capital, in favor of Obi’s presidential candidacy is an indicator that the ‘Obidient’ factor would take a good chunk of the vote count in the State.
The Igbo race, to which Obi belongs, constitutes a good percentage of all registered voters in the state.
As Wike struggles to stay in his beloved PDP, he fears he will be rendered useless by Atiku’s men after the election, especially as his influence is set to wane after he leaves office on the 29th. May 2023.