PDP crisis: What does Wike want?

It is true that Nigerian politicians are not judged by their words because they are worthless. Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state has abandoned his previous political beliefs in pursuit of personal interest and of expediency. It is now clear even to the blind that Wike has formed an alliance with those he tagged political enemies by abandoning his political associates. Lack of political ideology is the reason their words are not set in stone; Wike is fickle by nature and we should be cautious and know when to give them trust for fear of disappointment at the time of need. Wike has failed to maintain the principle of national interest against personal interest and chosen to work for himself instead of the average Nigerians.

The Peoples Democratic Party PDP (PDP) was founded when Wike was 31 years old. The party has been home for him since its inception, providing him a platform to flourish, gave him a voice and brought him national limelight. It is the leading opposition party in Nigeria. Its policies tilt towards the centre-right of the political spectrum. The party has won every presidential election between 1999 and 2011 until 2015 elections, when it lost to the All Progressives Congress (APC) led by President Muhammadu Buhari.

In 1998, in its first presidential primary election held in Jos, Plateau state, PDP  nominated former military leader Olusegun Obasanjo who had just been released from detention as the presidential candidate in the elections of February 1999, with Atiku Abubakar (governor-elect of Adamawa state and a former leading member of the Social Democratic Party) as his running mate. The party has a neo-liberal economic policies and maintains a conservative stance on certain social issues like same-sex relations and favours social conservatism on moral and religious grounds.

In December 2006, late Umaru Yar’Adua (formerly of the Peoples Redemption Party and the Social Democratic Party) was chosen as the presidential candidate of the ruling PDP for the April 2007 election, receiving 3,024 votes from party delegates. His closest rival,Rochas Okorocha, received only 372 votes. He was eventually declared the winner of the 2007 presidential election held on April 21 and was sworn in on May 29, 2007 on the principles of equity and shared prosperity of rotational presidency.

On economic policies, the party favours free-market which supports economic liberalism, and limited government regulation. In 2003, President Olusegun Obasanjo and then Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala embarked on an economic reform which reduced government’s spending through conservative fiscal policies and saw the deregulation and privatisation of numerous industries in Nigerian service sector, notably, the Nigerian Telecommunications (NITEL) industry.

The PDP Constitution chapter one, section 7(3)(c) states in pursuant of the principles of equity, justice, and fairness the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices, and it shall be enforced by the appropriate Executive Committees at all levels. In 2010, Alhaji Sani Aminu Dutsin-ma had dragged the party and its national chairman Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo before the high court contending that he championed the bastardisation of the PDP constitution in order to pave the way for Goodluck Jonathan to contest the presidency on the platform of the party. This was the beginning of the abuse of the foundation and principles of the party that priorities the unity and diversity of Nigeria.

The plaintiff lost the case when an Abuja high court declined to invoke its original jurisdiction and compel PDP to enforce its zoning arrangement. It equally struck out a suit seeking to stop President Goodluck Jonathan from vying for presidency under the party’s umbrella in the 2011 elections. The Jonathan/Sambo Campaign Organisation then commended the court’s ruling, saying the court agreed with its view that rotation and zoning are political issues that are within the prerogative of political parties to determine.

The zoning principle of the PDP is viewed as the business of the weak minded political splinter groups within the opposition party. For instance, in 2011, Wike’s camp supported the abolishment of zoning to favour former President Jonathan. The irony today is that Wike is the same person preaching the principles of equity, fairness and shared of prosperity, citing injustice as an element to effect changes in composition of National Executive Committee of the party to axe Senator Ayu.The demand for the national chairman’s resignation by his cronies is nothing but an attempt to eliminate the party from the Nigerian political Space. 

The French statesman Charles de Gaulle famously said: Since a politician never believes what he says, he is quite surprised to be taken at his word.” In other words, politicians don’t believe their own words; those who believe them do so at the cost of their own reputations. If Wike can be judged by his past utterances against other political parties especially the ruling APC, his latest attitude towards his party and its presidential candidate speak volumes the inconsistency of Nigerian politicians. What does Wike want? He only wants to destroy the hard labour and sacrifices of the  founding fathers of the party who despite their tribes and religious backgrounds formed a movement that has the central interest of Nigeria (peace and unity).

This scenario is not different from the late Yar’adua and Jonathan when they both contested and won convincingly their elections with National Chairmen from the same region. Ahmadu Ali and Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo were both national chairmen from the same zones with their presidential candidates in 2007 and 2011, respectively, subject to their replacements after elections.The agitation by Wike camp and his song of sacrificing for the party is nothing more than oratoral considering their current stands. Having a presidential candidate and national chairman from the same zone is not new in PDP unless the Wike camp are suffering from amnesia.

Just like GEJ had his splinter group in the aftermath of 2015 general elections, Atiku Abubakar is equally reaping the same from Wike’s camp. In 2015, PDP’s Jonathan was defeated by APC’s Buhari by 55% to 45%, losing by 2.6 million votes, out of approximately 28.6 million valid votes cast. Out of Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Buhari won 21 states while President Goodluck Jonathan won 15 states and the Federal Capital Territory. Jonathan’s defeat was attributed to the party’s internal crisis.

Since his entry into politics in 1989, Atiku Abubakar has contested for the presidency five times in 1993, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. In 1993, he contested the Social Democratic Party presidential primaries losing to Moshood Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe. He was a presidential candidate of the Action Congress in the 2007 presidential election coming third to Umaru Yar’Adua of the PDP and Buhari of the ANPP. He contested 2011 PDP presidential primaries losing to then incumbent President Jonathan.

 In 2014, he joined APC and contested the 2015 presidential primary losing to Buhari. In 2017, he returned to PDP and was its presidential candidate in 2019, again losing to incumbent President Buhari. In May 2022, he emerged PDP candidate for the 2023 presidential election. Losing elections has not in anyway made Atiku to draw a battle line or blame anyone.

On the other hand, Governor Wike was a local government chairman from 1999-2007, chief staff to then Governor Rotimi Amaechi in 2007, minister of state education in 2011 until he became governor of Rivers state in 2015 to date. It is now open that Wike orchestrated the removal of Uche Secondus by ensuring that a Northerner Senator Iyorchia Ayu from Benue state was elected national chairman to pave the way for a southern presidential candidate. Unfortunately for him and his allies zoning was discarded in 2011. 

Wike is no doubt one of the performing governors in Nigeria but his current stand having lost the primaries is an indication that his political retirement is around the corner. Despite his sacrifices, PDP discovered and made him. There would have been no Wike without PDP and this should help refresh his thinking ahead of 2023. Currently, Wike has the governorship, senatorial, House of Representatives and state assembly candidates for 2023 general elections under the same umbrella he wants to destroy.

Who offended Wike? Let me be categorically clear that no one offended him. It is not Atiku or the national chairman Ayu. He has been a PDP flag bearer and elected twice as governor of Rivers  state. He has been a product of the party’s convention twice. Wike is currently acting and stagging a drama like Aki and Paw Paw over a convention he admitted to be free, fair and credible. His romance with APC and LP presidential candidates leave many in doubt of his willingness to pay the PDP all it has done for him from 1999 to date. He has the right to join any party of his choice including the APC but he cannot be the reason PDP will win or lose in 2023 unless Nigerians decide because they have the voting power.

Wike has been overrated and the PDP are now shifting grounds from seeking the mandates and votes of millions of eligible Nigerian voters to engage a man who cannot decide the fate of the party in the 36 states and the FCT. In fact, he is hurting himself more than he thinks he is hurting Atiku. To me, he is not a political school where politics is being taught because without power, Wike will be irrelevant unlike Atiku who has lived and waxed strong in the political arena of Nigeria since 1989.

Danaudi, National President of Arewa Youths Advocate for Peace and Unity Initiative, writes from Bauchi via [email protected].