s the tortoise is always at the heart of the story in typical African folklores, Nyesom Wike, incumbent governor of Rivers state and ex presidential aspirant of the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP is the tortoise in the story of 2023 general elections.
Although,he had lost the presidential primaries to former Vice President Turaki Atiku Abubakar in the keenly contested presidential primaries held on May 27 in Abuja,Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Wike has managed to hold Nigerians spell bound continuously for a whopping four months since he lost the primaries in a contest that he polled 237 against the winner’s 371 votes, out of a total of 767 votes cast.
Commendably,Wike lost the primaries by a margin of only 134 votes.
And it is presumed that the winning votes came from sokoto state Governor,-Aminu Tambuwal’s camp who through last minute political brinksmanship on the part of the former Vice President,was persuaded to yield his votes to him thus facilitating his win over the Rivers state governor,Wike.
But,even if Wike lost in the primaries,he has actually been winning ,as he has become a beautiful bride being wooed by both his party,PDP, the ruling party at the center, APC and even the wave making LP.
The wooing is so intense that in the past one week,Wike and his allies have been holding court in London.
First,he and his team of three other governors were meeting with Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the APC. Then it was followed by a session with Peter Obi,LP presidential flag bearer,for whom former president Olusegun Obasanjo is reportedly seeking Wike’s hand in a political wedlock.
What really stands out for me with Obasanjo in the mix is how the ex president,who presumably had become apolitical,was in London reportedly trying to sway Wike and his cahoot of governors, including Samuel Ortom of Benue state,Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia state and Seyi Makinde of Oyo state,to the side of Peter Obi.
Just as we thought we had seen it all,PDP presidential candidate,Atiku Abubakar, who against the advise of BOT chairman of PDP, Walid Jibrin,had been reticent about meeting Wike in his Portharcourt home base to assuage his anger,also showed up in London for dinner with Wike to iron out their differences.
That was amazing and stunning!
I will return to how Wike is winning after he lost in the presidential primaries,but first let us dwell a bit on how he narrowly lost to the winner of the contest,former Vice President,Turaki Atiku Abubakar.
Now,it is in the public domain,how the yielding of the votes of governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state to Turaki Atiku Abubakar during the primaries,turned the table against Wike,resulting in his loss in the contest.
And that action which Wike views as betrayal of the highest order is the driving force for his anger which he is expressing by flirting with all manners of political suitors.
But the shenanigans at the party primaries and Wike’s seeming availability to the highest bidder are part of the political game of alignments and re-alignments of forces which are the stuff that horse trading in politics is made of.
Ordinarily,having lost the primaries,Wike should have recoiled into his shell to leak his wounds,as most of the other fellow contestants in the primaries of both parties have done.
To put things in perspective,allow me share my personal experience which will help drive my point home.
At a dinner table with friends recently,l posed a question: who emerged second in the primaries contest conducted by the APC?
It was unsurprising to me that none of my fellow dinners could easily recall that it is Rotimi Amaechi,ex transport minister that came second to Bola Tinubu.
Has anyone heard from Amaechi lately?
Obviously,he has gone into hibernation.
Also,a former senate president,Bukola Saraki and the current Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo,who worked assiduously and were also hopeful of clinching the presidential tickets of their respective parties,PDP and APC lost out by coming third in the contests conducted by their respective parties.
After the political hurly burly,Saraki has has gone under the radar and he has stayed low key as he has not been seen at public events lately, just as Osinbajo,soon after the primaries,checked himself into hospital for surgery on his foot and in the process took time to exhale.
Some Nigerians are contending that a similar attitude or approach should have been adopted by Wike.
But as all fingers are not equal,all things are also not always equal.
So,it would appear as if the current Rivers state governor is being bellicose about his loss,hence he has refused to take things lying low.
A bit of background will throw more light on the origin of the intrigues.
Before,the 2023 primaries which held at about the end May of this year ,Wike and Tambuwal were strong allies who in the 2019 presidential primaries were in the same camp against Atiku Abubakar, Bukola Saraki, lbrahim Dankwambo etc.
Wike who hosted the 2019 primaries in Portharcourt was determined to sway the contest in favor of his then ally,Tambuwal, but for the intervention of the northern establishment,a.k.a Kaduna mafia that sent their representative to physically attend the primaries and convey to Wike their preference of Turaki Atiku Abubakar as PDP presidential candidate.
It is such an irony that there has been a role reversal as Tambuwal,the erstwhile Wike ally is now a political foe,and worse still,the one that dealt him a mortal blow during the primaries for the impending 2023 presidential elections by collapsing his votes into that of Turaki Abubakar to secure victory for the former Vice President.
It reminds me of the narrative in the famous literature book, Macbeth where Brutus ,Julius Ceasar’s best friend whom he ran to for protection from being assassinated by members of his cabinet ,turns out to be the one that dealt his best friend Ceasar,the fatal blow via a vicious stab that finished him off.
According to the fable captured in that iconic literature book,Macbeth,Ceasar was so surprised that his best friend Brutus became so fiendish,that he let out the famous cry ‘et tu brute’.
So,l can imagine Wike exclaiming ‘et tu Tambuwal’ when he discovered that it was his erstwhile ally’s votes that finished him off politically in his quest to be the number one occupant of Aso Rock Villa in 2023.
Of course ,Tambuwal has his reasons for backing Atiku Abubakar, for which the chairman of PDP,lyorchia Ayu hailed him as the hero of democracy.
And just as that accolade for Tambuwal by Ayu appear like pouring gasoline into a burning fire,Wike appears hell bent on getting his pound of flesh from the party, and particularly,the chairman,Ayu who he is determined to force to resign.
Consequently,instead of allowing Atiku Abubakar to savor his victory after emerging as the PDP presidential candidate since end of May,which is roughly four (4) months ago,Wike has been like a dog in the manger.
Thus,he has literally been grinding Atiku Abubakar’s nose on the stone by not allowing him to get on with moving the party forward in its quest to be the next ruling party at the centre and himself as the prime occupant of Aso Rock Villa seat of presidential power in 2023.
As governor Wike and former Vice President,Abubakar have finally crossed the proverbial rubicon by meeting in London,not Portharcourt or Abuja,the question on everyone’s lips now is: what next?
While the outcome of Atiku Abubakar and Nyesom Wike London parley appears to be cheery,as both sides were seen coming out of the dinner meeting wearing broad smiles,but with Wike being like Houdini-the famous magician who can easily pull a rabbit out of a hat,if his demands are not met,who next would Wike romance in order to make Atiku Abubakar green with envy and act like a lover whose aggrieved bride is on the verge of breaking up their engagement by openly flirting with his rivals?
Would Atiku Abubakar meet the Wike conditionalities (of which l won’t speculate since they are nebulous) but which are believed to be as stringent as the lMF loan?
And does Wike have any more Cupid arrows in his quivers to fire should the Wike/Abubakar presumed agreement collapse?
Guess what,history has a way of repeating itself as Atiku Abubakar has travelled on a similar lane before.
To put things in context,allow me cast our minds back to 2003 to draw a parallel between Vice President Atiku Abubakar and president Olusegun Obasanjo presidential primaries imbroglio when OBJ was seeking the hands of his party for re-election mandate,and the present situation whereby Atiku is seeking to become president and Nyesom Wike is constituting a stumbling block in a bid to settle scores or be a major stakeholder in the next government .
The circumstances may not be exactly the same,but the intrigues are strikingly similar.
It may be recalled that in 2003,as former president Olusegun Obasanjo was concluding his first term in office,some governors within then ruling PDP resolved not to lend their support to Obasanjo for a second term bid for the office president of Nigeria.
Instead of Obasanjo,they were poised to channel their support to then Vice President Atiku Abubakar who they believe had the wherewithal,since they were unhappy with Obasanjo OBJ’s dictatorial tendencies in the manner that he was administering the country in somewhat draconian ways,perhaps owing to his military background.
After then chairman of PDP,chief Audu Ogbe made OBJ aware of the stance of the revolting governors that he was “unmarketable and unelectable” as such, he would not be given the mandate for a second term,high wire politicking,such as what is currently being witnessed between Wike and Atiku was triggered.
The rest they say is history,as it was reported in the grapevine that OBJ went on his knees or genuflected to beseech then Vice President Atiku Abubakar to reason with him in his quest for a second term and help persuade the renegade governors as it were,to have mercy on him by allowing him enjoy the privilege of a second term.
In other words,OBJ stooped to conquer.
After the initial bluster,he had his way by getting re-elected for a second term.
But thereafter,it would appear that for daring to constitute a threat to his second term bid,there has been,and continues to be very dire consequences for then Vice President,Atiku Abubakar and others who he deems to have conspired against him.
As if on a revenge mission,OBJ succeeded in stopping Atiku Abubakar from succeeding him in 2007.
Subsequently,he has written very vile things about the man who served as Vice President under him in his book: My Watch which would ordinarily make Nigerians not touch the former Vice President with a barge pole or make the electorate dine with him with a long spoon. But the electorate seem to have figured out that it is a matter of personal vendetta by the former president against his vice.
In spite of that potential damage ,Atiku Abubakar garnered about 13 million votes in 2019 presidential race against the incumbent president’s 15 million votes. And the PDP presidential flag bearer intends to build upon that 13 million votes in the coming election and hopefully in light of the expanded voters base as the youths are now taking politics seriously by registering massive to vote in the 2023 elections,an additional 3 -5 million more votes would propel him into Aso Rock villa in 2023.
Astonishingly,Atiku Abubakar’s spectacular showing at the 2019 presidential polls which is remarkable has not deterred former president Obasanjo from continuing to savage the former Vice President’s image by stating in multiple media interviews that God won’t forgive him,if he supports the former Vice President,Atiku Abubakar’s quest to become president of Nigeria.
So,it is in that context that OBJ’s showing up in London to broker a deal between Wike and Peter Obi,the LP presidential candidate with a view to undermining Atiku Abubakar’s quest for the presidency should be situated.
It suggests or implies that the former president has remained unrelenting about quashing the former Vice President’s presidential ambition,one more time in 2023.
But would he succeed this time around ?
As the wise crack goes: revenge is sweet when served cold and OBJ seems resolute in his quest to take his pound of flesh from those that he deems to have been a clog in his wheel of political progress in 2003.
And that explains why the former president has obviously remained on a war path about twenty (20) years after he survived what he might have considered to be treachery against him.
Hence ,shortly after returning to office for a second term ,he visited then PDP Chairman,Audu Ogbe in his house where he shared a meal of pounded yam with him.
Thereafter,for daring to be the purveyor of the bad news from the governors who initially resisted his second term,the sack of then PDP chairman,Audu Ogbe was announced the very next day after they shared the meal.
Subsequently,OBJ who is largely adjudged by those who have crossed swords with him as being very unforgiving,took on all the other suspects or culprits in the attempt to upstage him in 2003, one by one.
And many watchers of politics in Nigeria ascribe the travails and political witch hunt of former Delta State governor, chief James lbori to his prime role in the attempt to stop OBJ from having a second term in 2003.
Given the well documented litany of misfortunes that befell those that tried to scuttle OBJ’s bid for re-election in 2003,should Wike and the three governors ,supporting his intransigence,as it were,not be careful or more circumspect about the war that they are fighting today, so that it may not turn around to hurt them tomorrow ?
It is not only with Atiku Abubakar,but Wike has been in dalliance with Bola Tinubu,Peter Obi and Musa Kwankwanso.
Can his decision be fair to all of them at the same time ?
For sure ,Wike is certainly enjoying his new popularity or is it notoriety?
With three (3) of the twelve (12) PDP governors of states in the trenches with him,Wike packs a significant punch in terms of ability to bring voters to the table.
That is what is magnetizing suitors to him as bees are attracted to nectar.
But, wait a minute!
Is the magic sustainable and is he not burning too many bridges and courting too many enemies?
To be specific, would he survive when he exits the office of the governor of Rivers state in May 29, 2023?
Fortunately, Atiku Abubakar is believed to not be vindictive.
Magnus onyibe,an entrepreneur, public policy analyst ,author,development strategist,alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy,Tufts University, Massachusetts,USA and a former commissioner in Delta state government, sent this piece from lagos.
To continue with this conversation, please visit www.magnum.ng