Why Wike remains at loggerheads with Atiku

L-R: Atiku Abubakar and Nyesom Wike
L-R: Atiku Abubakar and Nyesom Wike
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I am horrified by River State’s Governor, Nyesom Wike’s, endless vituperations against the Peoples Democratic Party and some of its stalwarts.

Expectedly, many other Nigerians feel the same way about his serial verbal missiles against real and perceived enemies in the PDP. To be fair though, the man is not alone in the disgraceful brickbat. There has been an almost equivalent level of irresponsibility from the other side. However, I am concerned about Wike because he is the only elected one amongst all these politicians who throw words into the polity like they were in their bedrooms. Speaking without discretion is disappointing for a man of his high office. This is not to say that Wike carries on this unacceptable course of action without cause, however. It is just to say that leadership places a demand for self-restraint on those who hold positions.

The party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, must take the blame for the raging storm in the PDP. Consensus building and constant consultations are critical ingredients of democracy, and Atiku should know this more than anyone. If the candidate had talked to Wike before announcing his choice of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate in June, the PDP might not be in the situation it is in now.

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Apart from that, his comments at the unveiling of Okowa, his failure to engage Wike thereafter and his attempts to blindside the governor by creating an alternative support base in Rivers State, congregated and led to a further breakdown in confidence.

To make matters worse, some of Atiku’s supporters have taken turns to attack the River State Governor over the past couple of weeks. Each time they came at him, they dismiss his grudges and minimise his value to the party. Ironically, two of the leaders in this group are former governors, who are believed to have worked against PDP’s interests in the 2015 elections because they preferred a northern president. These are the men who now pillory Wike, making him look like a nonentity despite his contribution to the party.

This situation went on until last weekend when the candidate enjoined his party men to temper their comments. Atiku made this comment just before he held a meeting with Wike in London, apparently after the realisation that the governor has some governors behind him. At last count, there are at least three (some say as many as seven) governors with Wike. If you take four governors out of the 13 that the PDP currently has, it significantly handicaps the candidate.

Wike’s projection of the issue as a fight for fairness between the South and the North makes the PDP situation worse. Given how much identity has become a factor in Nigeria’s politics and the preference of many southerners for a southern president, arguments that the chairmanship of the party should immediately shift to the south will win more sympathy than Atiku probably envisaged. Realising that Wike and his friends might pose a real danger to his ambition, apparently stimulated by last weekend’s meeting.

Unfortunately, that meeting did not achieve much. Reports showed that Wike’s team presented an almost impossible shopping list to the presidential candidate. The demands, according to reports, include an undertaking that Atiku will serve for only one term, and paving the way for a power shift to the South. Besides the removal of Dr Iyorchia Ayu as party chair, the group also reportedly demanded that the South-West produce the chair and that the Wike camp produce the Senate President, Principal Officers of the National Assembly and key ministers if the PDP wins.

Now, these requests are no doubt a lot for any presidential candidate to concede just to increase his chances in an election he may not win. However, it may be the only hope for a rapprochement of the forces. Without such assurances, the Wike camp risks being left in the cold during an Atiku presidency. That must, in fact, be a real and present fear for members of the group if they consider how long it has taken Atiku to seek reconciliation. The most likely thing is that he would sideline them upon winning elections and render them inconsequential. The candidate himself has a testament to this treatment between 2003 and 2007. So, if Atiku wins, this list will be the only chance for Wike and his friends to maintain their relevance in the PDP. The chord of trust is broken with the initial poor management of the crisis. These men know that the Atiku who ignored them for this long will incapacitate them if he becomes president.

Unfortunately, this point lays the fact that politics in Nigeria is only about self-preservation before us. Atiku, Wike, and their men are only concerned about their political survival. This is politics of convenience and expediency; therefore, if Atiku grants the requests, those fighting him today will dine with him tomorrow. When our politicians claim to fight the cause of religions and ethnic groups, they do so because it favours them or their cronies.

So, for Wike and his group, a written assurance of their relevance within an Atiku presidency would solve all their problems. Their support would have nothing to do with how much this man can do to solve the myriad of problems affecting Nigeria and bring the country back on track for development. And if he wouldn’t concede, then the heavens would fall, and the house could crash on everyone in the party, and Nigeria could go to the most incompetent of people. They simply do not care.

This self-centeredness is why Nigerian politicians cannot learn lessons from the past. Were this not so, members of the PDP would recall that they travelled this trajectory leading five of their governors to join the All Progressive Congress in 2013. Of course, they claimed the love of their country caused their move, but it wasn’t too long before Nigerians saw through their hypocrisy. Within months, most of them swallowed their words about the party they sold to Nigeria and marched back to the PDP with tails between their legs. It is all about the personal interests of these politicians.

If it weren’t so, you would ask yourself why the PDP national chairman, who promised to quit in the emergence of a northern presidential candidate, is currently holding on as if his life depends on it. Ayu has not just refused to leave the office; he is also talking defiantly and putting fuel on the fire in his party. Then, you ask yourself if a leader with a divided house should seek peace or take sides with one party, as Ayu carries on. Even here, Ayu’s position is not so much about Atiku as about his own survival, so we ask, what exactly do they get from these offices that they never want to leave?

Yet, the PDP tries to sell itself as the alternative to the sad story that the APC has become. If the party, however, truly had plans to change Nigeria, its leaders would work in unison and avoid the current reign of narcissism and scramble for personal gains. And this is the fact that Nigerians must realise. These politicians are all the same across political parties. As a result, no matter who gets elected in the coming elections, citizens must remain alert, keep a constant check on the leaders, and ensure that the people’s interests remain paramount.

Written by Niran Adedokun

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