By EHICHIOYA EZOMON
It’s too early to assume that Peter Obi of the Labour Party has hashed out a “working agreement” with a “faction” of the Peoples Democratic Party, but things are looking up for the former Anambra State Governor going into 2023.
Were such an agreement to materialise, it’d be on the back of the intra-party feud that’s torn the PDP apart after the May 2022 presidential primaries in which former Vice President Atiku Abubakar clinched the party ticket.
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike – who came second at the PDP primaries – has denounced the process that threw up the standard bearer, and the emergence of Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as Atiku’s running mate.
Wike, heading four other governors – Dr Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Dr Samuel Ortom (Benue State), Dr Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu State) and Mr Seyi Makinde (Oyo State) – has rebelled against the PDP and Atiku.
Wike and his colleagues demand resignation of the PDP National Chairman Iyorcha Ayu, failing which the group of five governors (PDP-G5) would withhold support for Atiku’s February 25, 2023, shot at the presidency.
For a start, the PDP-G5 and party chieftains aligned with them, have ruled themselves out of the list of members of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, its inauguration, and launch of the presidential campaigns.
And Wike’s become the “beautiful bride,” courted by candidates of the major parties – Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, Peter Obi of the LP and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party – visiting and wooing him in Nigeria and overseas.
Their request: The Wike group should support their aspiration – via a working agreement or outright defection to their platforms ahead of the 2023 General Election.
What’s emerged in the past week seems to indicate that the two factions in the PDP may’ve reached a point of irreconcilability, with Wike declaring that the PDP would win all positions in Rivers except the presidential slot.
Wike’s words: “PDP will win our state. I am not hiding it as far as the Governorship, House of Reps, Senate and State Assembly (polls) is concerned. The other one (Presidency) we have not decided, until the right thing is done.”
The “until the right thing is done” refers to Wike and his group’s demand for Dr Ayu to resign as the PDP chair – a challenge Ayu’s rebuffed – and supported undisguisedly by the National Executive Committee of the party.
That tacit “vote of confidence” in Ayu led to Wike’s November 1 threat that Rivers PDP might not vote for the Atiku-Okowa presidential ticket next February.
Wike spoke in Port Harcourt at the swearing-in of newly-engaged 319 Ward and 32 Constituency Liaison Officers – part of over 200,000 “Special Assistants” employed within a fortnight as foot soldiers for the 2023 polls.
Wike’s charge to the Liaison Officers: “Your business is to co-ordinate the Special Assistants, who will give you feedback on what the people at the unit levels are talking about us; where they want us to go; are we doing well politically, are we doing well in the economy?”
The novel hiring of the “polling unit” aides shows Wike’s readiness for 2023, with his dissing of Atiku giving room for another candidate to secure Rivers PDP’s poll support.
Note that as Wike’s flaunting his political prowess – a regular pastime even during church services – elsewhere, Obi’s signalling he’d reached a “deal” with the PDP-G5 “for a common interest in finding a better Nigeria amid increasing security threat and a humanitarian crisis.”
“The only deal I have with them is that they are passionate about Nigeria,” Obi said matter-of-factly on November 1 at a visit to Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom.
It’s the second time in as many months that Obi would visit Benue in the course of his presidential jostling, with his October 19 courtesy primarily to commiserate with the people devastated in recent flooding across Nigeria.
Trust politicians: They don’t miss any opportunity to put a word for themselves and criticise their opponents. So, Obi, at such a solemn event, jabbed the APC government.
The Muhammadu Buhari government “is displaying a lack of leadership during the current (security and floods) crisis,” Obi said, even as he praised Ortom for “confronting insecurity in Benue at personal risk and comfort.”
This time, as first reported by Vanguard, Obi’s in Benue to pay homage to the Tor Tiv, Prof. James Ayatse and the Ochi’ Idoma, Elaigwu Odogbo, and seek their blessings.
The royal homage over, Obi visited Ortom, who spared no word in eulogising and handling him what appears his first “endorsement” by a governor of a rival political party.
Ortom’s words: “You (Obi) is the finest in terms of education, in terms of character, in terms of performance, in terms of reaching out, in terms of accommodation, in terms of being a pan-Nigerian and in terms of passion to ensure that our country is liberated from where we are: from insecurity to security and out of the economic woes to economic vibrancy and out of lack to adequate social life. You have the capacity to make things work.
“Let me say this again, where we are in our country, Nigeria, today, we should not be looking at party or where someone comes from, but we should be looking at the capacity of the personality that will be able to deliver us from the mess we are in Nigeria today… If Nigerians were given a chance to make a choice, you are one of the finest candidates that we have in this country.”
Like he proposed at Obi’s October sympathy visit, Ortom iterated his advocacy for “a collective effort to salvage Nigeria,” declaring that, “If I were not in PDP, I would work for you to be president,” and advised Obi to “negotiate power with other leading presidential candidates…”
Like he proposed during Obi’s October sympathy visit, Ortom iterated his advocacy for “a collective effort to salvage Nigeria,” declaring that, “If I were not in PDP, I would work for you to be president,” and advised Obi to “negotiate power with other leading presidential candidates with a commitment to serve the people.”
Quoting John 3:23, Ortom said if he were God, he’d crown Obi’s presidential run due to “his antecedents, his capacity and commitment to the wellbeing of our people.”
“If I were God, I would have said… but I am not God, but I admire your courage, your capacity to deliver to our people,” Ortom said, adding, “All I can say is that the God that sees the heart let Him bless you. The God that blesses and crowns, if it’s His will, let Him crown you.”
Though not yet cast in stone, Obi’s pathway to the presidency maybe getting clearer, given Ortom’s embrace and prayers, and Wike’s PDP-presidency-in-the-air stance.
Thus, Obi’s poll prospect looks promising except for the political calculations four of the PDP-5G governors have to make regarding their running for elective offices in 2023.
Governors Ikpeazu, Ortom and Ugwanyi – in the last lap of their eight-year tenure – are vying for senatorial seats, while Governor Makinde’s seeking a second term in office.
Will Wike and his collaborating governors in Abia, Benue, Enugu and Oyo – in the event of “protest votes” against Atiku – cast their ballots for Obi? It’s too early to tell, as the warring factions in the PDP can still reconcile!
- Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria. 08033078357. Twitter: @EhichioyaEzomon WhatsApp: 08033078357.