Wike, others and the albatross of integrity
WHAT came out of the National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party as the disagreement between the camps of the victorious and now presidential candidate of the party and former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku and the runner up, incumbent Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike has assumed a life of its own with diverse implications for the two groups and the nation in the race for the President of Nigeria in the 2023 election.
Any discerning observer of Nigeria’s would readily foresee the crisis the moment the PDP started playing kindergarten politics with the most important term of its existential covenant by throwing open its presidential ticket as against the conventional expectation that the next President of Nigeria would come from the Southern part of Nigeria after Buhari’s eight years.
Except for incurable optimists, which politicians are, it was clear long before the convention that some powerful elements within the party were only concerned with returning to power irrespective of the person and region. By whatever fortune or magic, Atiku has carved a niche for himself as one ever capable of winning the presidential ticket of the PDP.
He did so at the Port Harcourt Convention in 2019 even when he just returned to the PDP on the date of the earlier convention in Abuja to pick the National Executive Committee of the party. The fortunes of the Waziri were further boosted by the confusion created by the new Electoral Act which was then undergoing unending work process by which the parties decided to play safe by simply electing their candidates on the basis of one delegate per local government which undoubtedly gave undue advantage to states favoured by the military in local government creation.
The decision of Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State to step down for Atiku in deference to ethnic persuasions also added to the Waziri’s edge. It is no longer news that Wike who came second was already in the state of planning life after his gubernatorial endeavours.
Yet what my people call “uti” (an invisible and invincible hand that pushes individuals to make mistakes) was certainly at work with Atiku when he gave the public the impression he was considering Wike as his running mate. He constituted a Committee of eminent politicians who proved smarter by subjecting their decisions thereof to vote giving Wike a 14-3 edge. This14-man mandate similar to Abiola’s 14 million for the June 12, 1993 election has remained the albatross on both Atiku and the PDP.
Five governors, Wike of Rivers State, Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State were collectively the face of the Wike Group which now insists on the basis of equity that the party could not afford to concentrate the offices of the presidential candidate, the national chairman and the director general of the campaigns in the North in an election year.
Specifically, they insist on the unwritten covenant that the office of the national chairman and the presidential candidate are alternated between the North and the South. Capitalising on an earlier declaration by Dr. Iyorchia Ayu who had just emerged national chairman by consensus that he would relinquish his own position should a co-Northerner emerge as presidential candidate, the Wike Group insisted that Ayu lived by his words after the emergence of Atiku. Observers, however, believe that the agitation against Ayu is the convenient alibi by the Group against being accused of not being satisfied with the outcome of the predictable convention.Indeed the Group recently raised its banner when at a meeting in Ibadan in November it proclaimed its association as the Integrity Group. Apart from the five governors, more juggernauts in the party are counted among the Group. They include former Governors Mimiko of Ondo State, Ayo Fayose of Ekiti, Donald Duke of Cross River and Jonah Jang of Plateau State. In the saddle also is the former Military Governor of old Ondo State and Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Bode George.
The Ibadan meeting of the Integrity Group also paraded former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Bello Adoke; incumbent Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Mr. Taoferk Arapaja; Senator Nasif Suleiman, Mr Nnenna Ukeje, Senator S. O. Onor and Senator Mao Ohabunwa. If it is honestly realised that in states where the PDP has no governor, a former governor is by convention the leader of the party, those who still believe that the party would survive without the structures held by these icons would wake up with migraine after the election.
The Group that left PDP for APC in November 2013, walking out of the National Convention in Abuja and backed by Atiku Abubakar, were not as powerful as the members of this Integrity Group. The former group consisted of five of the PDP governors Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano, Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto, Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa and Rotimi Amaechi. Yet it was strong enough to dislodge incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan from Aso Villa in the 2015 election.
There are, however, so many dissimilarities between the 2015 and the 2022 groups in structures and modus operandi which for space and time we may not dwell on; suffice it to say, however, that the 2015 situation was a straight battle between the ruling PDP and the opposition APC. The Integrity Group had dithered in taking decisions almost to the dying minutes now, certainly not because they were waiting for any truce with Atiku.
They know that even if Ayu were to resign it wouldn’t take much time for a president to even scare him out of office. How many national chairmen served under Obasanjo’s eight years tenure? Just like Wike himself reminded us two days ago that only the Ward Executive saw Secondus out of the office of the national chairman. Atiku and Ayu are also not comfortable with handing over the structure of the party to the other side in an election they are already swimming against the national tide by their candidates combination. In their respective and various public statements, Wike has told us that that a Northern candidate succeeding Buhari and a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket were two indistinguishable sides of the same evil, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko has insisted on regional equity while dissociating himself from the insulting composition of the Ondo State PDP Campaign Committee in a party in which it is satanic to imagine anyone having precedent over him in Ondo State. Ebullient and sartorial Lagos boy Naval General, Bode George, had elected self-exile in the unthinkable emergence of a Tinubu Presidency, not to talk of Donald Duke whose adolescent innocence has been appropriated by using his photograph for another man.I am privy to privileged gatherings to state that not only Nigerians but also the international community are waiting breathtakingly for the Integrity Group to make its declaration which is believed will swing the pendulum in the presidential election. Of course, with PDP, it will be most self-disrespecting for the Integrity Group not to know that they have since crossed the Red Sea. The APC is not just an evil alternative, its handlers are already swimming in delusion of already fighting for their rooms in Aso Rock.