There are indications that Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, and governors and party leaders in his camp may have softened their stance against supporting the presidential bid of former vice president and presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar.
This, LEADERSHIP Sunday learnt, was the outcome of the latest meeting between the duo which took place on Thursday at the Rivers State governor’s lodge in Asokoro, Abuja.
The meeting between Atiku and Wike has however become a subject of controversy after reports emerged that the former vice president may have pledged to support the presidential ambition of Governor Wike in 2027.
Both camps have however denied the media reports, with spokesman for the PDP presidential campaign council, with Sen Dino Malaye, going as far as issuing a statement debunking the story.
The reports that both Atiku and Wike are already looking ahead to 2027 even before securing victory at the 2023 presidential election took party leaders unawares, including some associates of vice presidential candidate of the PDP, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.
The Delta governor who met with members of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) did not reveal the subject of 2027.
Though major details of the discussions between Atiku and Wike in the Thursday meeting is still under wraps, a reliable confidante of the Rivers governor who spoke with LEADERSHIP Sunday said they will study the offers made by Atiku to know the next line of action.
The meeting which held at the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge in Abuja behind closed doors was their second meeting in Nigeria after the party’s presidential primary held in May 2022.
Wike’s confidant and a former member of the House of Representatives, Chief Ogbonna Nwuke, told our correspondent in Port Harcourt yesterday that the issue of 2027 presidency was mere speculation, noting however that the issues presented by Atiku to Wike would be considered.
Noting that the issue of support for Wike did not arise during the meeting, he said, “What is known is that whatever proposals the presidential candidate put before Governor Wike will be looked into by members of his team before giving him a feedback.
“You know in politics you don’t have written agreement. The issue of 2027 Presidency being discussed at the meeting is speculative. It is very speculative. Now, if he is talking about power shift to the South, it is Atiku that shares everything. That issue is just mere speculation.
“The meeting has come as a pleasant surprise, which means that if the PDP is ready to activate its conflict resolution mechanism, these issues can be resolved. It will make a difference if Atiku and his associates will remove every impediment that made conflict resolution in the PDP impossible.
“There is no way Wike and his supporters can think good of Atiku if Atiku does nothing about the resignation of Ayu. That is the basic demand. It is a demand based on justice, it is a demand based on fair play, and it is a demand based on equity.
“The two leaders have met and talked, which signals hope to PDP members and admirers of the PDP nationwide, that they will move beyond mere talks and deal with real issues bedeviling the party at this time.”
Meanwhile, even though Okowa appears to be ignoring the topic of Atiku’s meeting with Wike, his political associates have described a promise to support the Rivers governor in 2027 as unrealistic.
A PDP House of Representatives member from Delta State said his leader was not perturbed about the 2027 tall promise since such assurance was given to Okowa by the same Atiku when he unveiled Okowa as his running mate at the PDP national headquarters in Abuja.
He noted that Atiku had said Okowa will be suitable for president after him, citing some of the criteria he considered was Okowa’s rich experience and political trajectory which positioned him well to become president after his (Atiku’s) tenure.
According to him, when their administration starts next year, not only will Atiku know the qualities of Okowa but the entire country will know it too.
“He already has the qualities from the local government level to the state, National Assembly and now going to the federal level. So, who else can compete with him after Atiku?”
The lawmaker who spoke in confidence said Atiku, in choosing Okowa, held wide consultations with various stakeholders within the party, including governors, members of the National Working Committee, Board of Trustees and other leaders to seek their input and their wisdom, but not in the case of Wike in this new promise.
He however said Governor Okowa can never be part of that negotiation, not because of presidential ambition, but he would not want to be mentioned as betrayer again.
He added that Okowa would even prefer to play along in order not to scuttle the olive branch being extended to Wike.
“While I am able to read the body language of my leader, he cannot be distracted about such a thing. He is a perfect politician that knows the game. You don’t give what you don’t have. Can only one person make someone a president in a country like Nigeria? We know Wike in and out. Wike wouldn’t to take such promise serious considering that he has already drawn a battle line.
Meanwhile, Governor Okowa yesterday admitted that there is still work to be done as far as reconciling the party ahead of the presidential election is concerned.
Okowa, who spoke after a meeting with leaders of the Board of Trustees (PDP) in Abuja, added that the aggrieved PDP governors and party leaders will not destroy their home, PDP.
The Delta State governor met the BoT leaders who have been meeting PDP leaders over the lingering party crisis.
Those at the meeting are former minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki; former deputy national chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Shuaibu Oyedokun, among others.
The crisis rocking the party took a fresh twist last Thursday when five NWC members loyal to the camp of the aggrieved governors returned N151 million naira housing allowance paid to them.
The party executives, who had received between N28 million to N36 million each according to their status, alluded to the funds being used to hush them over discrepancies in the use of party’s funds.
The deputy national chairman of PDP, Umar Damagun, and the national publicity secretary of the party, Hon Debo Ologunagba, denied insinuations by their colleagues that the money was meant for bribe, adding that they all agreed that the housing allowance should be paid to all NWC members.
Wike and some other governors, supported by some party leaders, had distanced themselves from the party’s presidential campaign, insisting that the national chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, must resign to pave way for a national chairman of Southern extraction.
However, after meeting with the BoT members, Okowa said, “We are talking among ourselves as governors, realising that there are several leaders within our party from across the country. We’ve been talking with ourselves.
“I believe that there is still a little work to be done but a lot has been done. We are largely reconciled. There are still issues to be dealt with. That’s why you see some of the leaders of the party, the Board of Trustees, here today.
“We have had very useful discussions on what they could do and what we ought to continue to do as a party. But because the PDP is a very large party, we understand that there is some level of disagreement, but we will continue to stay in touch with ourselves to resolve the issues.
“Last Tuesday, on the 27th, we were in the South East. Our brother, the governor of Enugu State, hosted us very well. That’s a very positive step forward. We had very useful interactions with all our leaders in the South East and I think that is a great plus for us as a party.
“And I believe that you’re aware too that we were in the South West where we were very well received by Governor Seyi Makinde and the stakeholders of the party. The few issues are still left on the table. I’m sure we’ll come to discuss it and in the next few days, we are convinced that we will be largely reconciled.
“Governors and other members who are aggrieved are members of the party. I believe that my brothers would all work for the party. PDP is home and they belong to that home. They’re not going to destroy their home. So, we will allow it together. I do believe that we’ll continue to talk with ourselves and resolve the little issues that are left.”
Okowa however noted that Nigeria is in a difficult situation at the moment, adding that the country has never been as divided as this coupled with the level of insecurity and the state of the economy.
“When you look at the issues of education, look at the state of affairs in the various states there are obvious issues. Atiku is the only one who is best positioned to truly deal with the issues of Nigeria at the moment.
“We don’t want those who are going to come to the office to learn on the job because we are in a critical position. So we need a man who has the experience who also has the level of humility and calmness, who is detribalised and ready to keep Nigeria together,” he said.
On his part, the acting BOT chairman, Adophus Wabara, who led the delegation, said they came as the special reconciliation committee of the BoT to visit Okowa on the ongoing crisis, and also to proffer solutions to those issues.
He noted that while they have met with some of the aggrieved governors, they are yet to meet with Atiku and Wike.
Noting that they were properly briefed by Okowa on the issues they came for, he said, “The committee is enlightened now on the issues and we’re moving forward. Like I said the last time, we have been going around and we met most of the governors.
“In the coming days, we will also meet with the principal, the presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and from there we will proceed to meet with Governor Wike.
“We have met with some other governors; we have met Governor Samuel Ortom, Governor Seyi Makinde, Governor Ahmadu Fintri, Governor Ikpeazu and Ugwuanyi of Enugu State.
“We have what it takes to resolve this, and very soon we will resolve all these issues,” Wabara said.
Before his trip to Europe, Ayu had asked the BoT to intervene in the crisis rocking the party.
Melaye Dismisses Report On Alleged Promise To Support Wike’s 2027 Presidential Bid
Meanwhile, spokesperson of the PDP Presidential Campaign Management Committee, Senator Dino Melaye, yesterday debunked report suggesting that the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, promised to support Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike to emerge president in 2027.
The campaign spokesman, in a terse statement on his Facebook page, said, “I speak for Atiku Abubakar that no such discussion between Atiku Abubakar and Governor Wike of Rivers State. At no time did Atiku Abubakar discuss such with Governor Wike. Atiku never promised or discussed 2027 with Governor Wike or anyone for that matter”.
Atiku had met Wike in Abuja shortly after five NWC members loyal to the governor’s camp returned N151 million naira housing allowance paid to them.
Meanwhile, Dino in another statement said Atiku will be leveraging on his 30-year-old and current political acquaintances and alliances as he begins his campaigns.
Dino, who was laying out the pattern of campaigns for the election, said the former vice president will make use of his contacts across the entire Nigeria landscape.
“In an emphatic affirmation of readiness to lead, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar is set to activate his long standing connections across Nigeria, as the Presidential campaign of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) takes off in earnest.
“Atiku, as the postal boy of the PDP will be adding value to the Party’s electoral chances through old and current political acquaintances and alliances built over 3 decades of political engagement,” he stated.
He added that ahead of the campaign, Atiku has put together his governance blueprint, which is not only documented for others but internalised in him.
“A very focused leader, Atiku will be operating along with the Campaign Council, supported by competent and experienced political figures that he has appointed to play various roles in the campaign. These high profile figures are not only political assets; they are reputable Nigerians across diverse geographical, social, cultural and economic colourations,” Melaye said.
He noted those who see Atiku as another ‘northerner’ are missing the point, adding that while the candidate has never denied his ancestry, he has always conducted himself as a Nigerian.
“On the political scale, Atiku will speak directly and unpretentiously to the issue of restructuring, devolution of power and resource management. Being a broad minded leader and an advocate of federalism, Atiku will unfold his road map to unbundling government at the centre and promoting the interest of the federating units. One critical area that Atiku will speak about is security. Again, this is where States may assume increasing responsibilities away from the bureaucratic control of the National security architecture.
“As Atiku moves around Nigeria over the next three to four months, he will be going round as a man who is at home with the people, a man with the presence of mind to analyse and appreciate issues, a man to call forth latent political, social and economic structures, and a man to re-assure Nigerians that their best years are in the future.
“With contacts across the entire Nigeria landscape, if Atiku was a Banking Institution, he would be described as having branches all over the Federation. He’s a human institution. This has truly earned him the sobriquet; The Unifier. The campaign period is indeed a period of consolidation and harvesting of good political fortune, to pave the way for electoral success for His Excellency Atiku Abubakar,” the campaign spokesman said.