By Osondu Ahirika
On November 26, 2013, five governor’s of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, defected to the opposition All Progressive Congress, APC.
The breakaway faction then known as new PDP were technically led by erstwhile Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi. He was also factional Chairman of the Nigeria Governor’s Forum.
The others who were in league with Amaechi were, Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Magatakarda Wamakko (Sokoto).
Two other governors ,Aliyu Babangida (Niger) and Sule Lamido (Jigawa) for undisclosed strategic reasons remained in the party. Perhaps to sabotage her from within.
Back then, a cold war between Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio, who was Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum and Rotimi Amaechi was open.
The formation of the PDP Governors’ Forum, was a ploy to whittle down the influence of the Rotimi Amaechi led NGF.
The strife that embittered Amaechi against Jonathan was intensified by the rancorous outcome of the NGF chairmanship election where the powers that be backed Jonah Jang of Plateau State against his run for a second term.
PDP with her divided house didn’t survive that election. That’s how then incumbent and PDP Presidential candidate, Dr Goodluck Jonathan lost the 2015 election to Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress. Nigeria has suffered woefully for that misstep.
Fast forward to the build up of the 2023 General elections and the scenario is up again. There’s only a slight alteration of characters and events.
This time, the PDP has been out of power and is the main opposition party. Following the outrageously poor performance of the APC, the PDP stands the best chance to reclaim the Presidency.
However, Rivers State is again likely to be the Achilles heel of the PDP as Governor, Nyesom Wike is leading four other governors in open revolt against the party.
The governors include Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State.
This time also, two ex Governor’s, namely, Donald Duke of Cross River and Ayo Fayose of Ekiti, are the slight alternate of the roleplay by Aliyu Babangida and Sule Lamido back in 2013.
In the 2015 scenario, the crisis started almost two years earlier but in this case, the 2023 General elections is only a few months away.
As things stand, the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel is the chief cornerstone for the Atiku Abubakar Presidential project being the Chairman, Presidential Campaign Council just like Chief Akpabio was the enforcer of the Goodluck Jonathan campaign, albeit as the PDP Governors ‘Forum Chairman.
Morever, from the look of things, Governor Wike is waging a cold war with his Akwa Ibom State counterpart making insinuations since he lost the PDP Presidential primaries.
Amaechi was in tandem with four Governor’s of Northern extraction to battle President Jonathan. Wike on the other hand ties with three Southern Governor’s and one from the North to undermine Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s Presidential bid.
The PDP must not allow Rivers State to become her undoing in this project. Everything should be done to ensure these five Governor’s don’t ditch the party.
On July 8, 2022, a delegation of APC Governor’s went to meet with Nyesom Wike in his country home ahead of the 2023 elections.
Kayode Fayemi(Ekiti), Rotimi Akeredolu(Ondo), Babajide Sanwo-Olu(Lagos) and then Ekiti State Governor-elect, Biodun Oyebanji made that trip. Earlier, there was a rumour he met with APC Presidential candidate, Senator Bola Tinubu in France. We cannot pretend not to know what the ruling Party is scheming for.
Wike, who has fired the first salvo by going to endorse the incumbent APC Governor Babajide Sanwo- Olu of Lagos State for a second term against Olajide Adediran, candidate of his party for the 2023 polls. An obvious result of the earlier bipartisan visit.
To this, First Lady, Hajia Aisha Buhari was singing, Wike’s hit mock track, ‘As e dey pain Dem, e dey sweet us’. It is a game PDP q should not watch and do nothing about.
I agree Wike is overbearing, over-reacting and no man ultimately is indispensable. However, the Rivers Governor and his aggrieved colleagues should be, courted, wooed and brought back on board by the PDP and her Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who is projected as the UNIFIER Nigeria is clamouring for.
Currently, of the 36 State governors in Nigeria, 22 belong to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and 13 to People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The flip in Sound State will increase the PDP controlled States to 14. It will be a disastrous push if the PDP doesn’t mend fences with the five Governor’s. This is our chance.
As at August 1, 2022, Rivers State with 3. 68 million registered voters comes fourth only behind Lagos, Kano, and Kaduna in voting strength as reflected by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. This number is up with 473, 924 registered voter’s from the 2029 record of 3. 21 registered voters.
The State has remained a vote basket for the PDP and this should not be allowed to shift. But for divine intervention, PDP almost lost Bayelsa State in the 2019 Governorship polls. Two State’s in the South East and one from the South South have been ‘annexed’ by the APC. They should not be allowed to take more.
While we should not overrate Wike and his wiles, we shouldn’t underrate his impact. According to Winston Churchill,”Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” We must not let Rivers State happen again.