The Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, has set up a committee to pacify and woo the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and some other aggrieved members of the party.
The initiative was instituted by Atiku based on the need to go into the 2023 general elections with a united front.
Media reports that the opposition party has been rocked by crisis following the choice of the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as Atiku’s running mate.
Wike, Okowa and Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa-Ibom had appeared before the screening panel set up by the PDP to nominate a vice-presidential candidate to the PDP presidential flagbearer.
Okowa was nominated by the PDP presidential candidate after rumours had it that Wike had been selected by the party advisory committee as the vice-presidential candidate the day before.
But findings indicate that the PDP feared Wike might work against Atiku’s ambition following his loss as the party presidential candidate and running mate to Atiku.
Signs that the PDP might run into stormy waters became pronounced with the defection of some of Wike’s supporters from the party in the last 24 hours.
Aside from the resignations of two allies of the Rivers state governor-a former minister of Niger Delta, Godsday Orubebe and an ex-commissioner in Edo State, Kassim Afegbua, a mass exodus of party members was also said to be looming.
Sequel to the ominous signs in the party, Atiku was said to have constituted a team to appease and fully bring back Wike into his campaign council, ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a PDP chieftain who was privy to the decision, said, “ Atiku wanted to tell Wike about his choice of Okowa one-on-one but then, he heard that Wike had returned to Rivers. That clearly showed good faith. Even though Wike was not the selected candidate, Atiku wanted to accord him respect by letting him know before the news got to the public.
“Atiku has set up a reconciliatory committee to reach out to Wike and mend the cracks. Atiku understands the need to go to the 2023 elections with a united front. Everyone will be pacified. Not only Wike but every aggrieved person within the party.”
Corroborating the development, a top Atiku confidant stated, “Our people (PDP members) are still aggrieved and when you are doing mediation, you don’t give the impression that you are not sincere but it is a serious undertaking.“His Excellency, Governor Wike is strategic to Atiku’s victory, make no mistake about it. Whatever anybody may say, that is a party man through and through. He understands the times we are in and that was why he threw his hat in the ring; that is why he wants to be president because he feels that he has what it takes to lead the country so also the other candidates who contested.
“Now, that the contest is over, we really have a responsibility to bring everybody together. You don’t go to a battle with a disunited army. Wike is the kind of man you can go to battle with, you don’t leave him behind. You do all you can to bring him on board. The enemy is not within PDP; the enemies are those who have enslaved us; people that have impoverished us.”
Asked about the composition of the reconciliation panel, the source declined to release their names, noting that the job of the members was sensitive.
According to him, the team would approach those known to have Wike’s ears and get them to talk to the Rivers State Governor to close ranks with Atiku.
On the timeframe for the committee’s work, the source added, “No timeframe, it is an ongoing process. We are working very hard and I can assure you that a lot of work is going on. I know because I have spoken with one of those involved.”
The media adviser to Atiku, Mr Paul Ibe, could not be reached for comment while the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, declined to speak.
Meanwhile, the peace moves by Atiku may, however, be heading for the rocks as the loyalists of the Rivers State Governor have dismissed the initiative as unnecessary.
A PDP chieftain in Rivers State and former member of the House of Representatives, Ogbomna Nwuke, described the Atiku reconciliation committee as a contradiction.
Speaking to The PUNCH on Tuesday, he said, “On one hand, somebody says he (Wike) is one who talks too much, who probably is uncontrollable. And then, on the other hand, you want him to help your cause. You want victory and you think he can contribute to your victory. Is that not a contradiction?
“There was an attempt to draft a man who was not interested in the vice-presidency into the vice-president; a committee set up, the caucus spoke, the national working committee of the party spoke favourably about Wike and it was not honoured.”
Nwuke further stated, “Atiku did what he wanted to do. So what committee is he setting up again? To do what? It doesn’t make sense.
“When the convention was over, nobody showed him the way to Wike’s house. If he wants Wike to work with him, he should walk to the Governor of Rivers State and speak with him. We don’t need committees, what will the committee do? It doesn’t make sense to me.
“I don’t know why relationships shouldn’t be exploited. What is this committee thing? You have something else in your mind, you set up a committee to do something else. What is the meaning of that?”
“For the avoidance of doubt, Governor Wike had said no matter what happens he would not leave the PDP. That was what he said.
“The implication is that a man who is committed to the PDP will work for the PDP, whether you set up a committee or not. And that is my personal opinion,” Nwuke stated.
Nwuke, who was also a former commissioner for Information and Communications in Rivers State, also took a swipe at a former governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, who accused Wike of being loquacious and rude.
Aliyu had in an interview on Channels Tv on Tuesday said that the PDP presidential candidate did not pick Wike as his running mate because he wanted someone that could complement him, rather than one that talks too much like Wike.
But Nwuke, who represented Etche-Omuma federal constituency in the National Assembly, dismissed Aliyu’s criticisms, saying he didn’t understand the difference between politicking and administration.
He argued, “The Wike that this man (Aliyu) is talking about has been chief of staff. As chief of staff, he never went against his principal. He spoke and did not go beyond his brief.
“This same man (Wike) had served as the Minister of Education. While serving as minister he did not also speak out of tune. Of course, he knew who the boss was, he knew what his role was and he played his role.
“And so people should draw a fine line between politicking and administration. They are not the same thing.
“Everybody who knows Wike knows that he is a team player. In trying to help build the PDP he worked with a team of committed PDP people. And together, they were able to bring the PDP from where it was, in defeat to where it is today.”
Efforts to reach the chairman of the River State PDP, Desmond Akawor, and the party’s spokesman, Sydney Gbara, proved abortive as they did not respond to calls.
Also, Kelvin Ebiri, the media aide to the Rivers State Governor could not be reached on his mobile phone as of the time of filing this report.
But the Commissioner for Information, Delta State, Charles Aniagwu, in an interview with The PUNCH, disclosed that the leaders of PDP were already on the move to pacify aggrieved members.
Meanwhile, political analysts have faulted Atiku’s committee, saying this was not the right direction for reconciliation.
Mr Adekunle Akinola said Atiku erred by allowing the PDP advisory council to interact with Wike and Okowa in the run-up to the selection of his running mate.
Another analyst, Mr Tonye Isokariari, said that the pacification was unnecessary. He noted, “It makes no sense; if I am Wike, I will feel insulted because if he knows he did the right thing he would not have set up a committee to pacify him and people like Wike will not take such an insult. ”
The leadership of the All Progressives Congress in Rivers State says it would shock the PDP and take over the Government House in 2023.
The state APC chairman, Emeka Beke, who disclosed this during an interview with one of our correspondents in Port Harcourt, also said the party would deliver the state for its Presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.