From Tony John, Port Harcourt
There is uncertainty over the political situation in Rivers State as the 2023 general election approaches. This is especially as Governor Nyesom Wike who will play a critical role in driving the process has kept the people waiting.
Presently, nobody in the state can authoritatively say the exact position of the governor, particularly on the presidential candidate to support.
Thus, Rivers people and some members and supporters of the ruling party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the state are undecided on whether they are going to vote for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) or any other political party.
The internal crisis in the PDP and Governor Wike’s unwavering stance that the National Chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu, should resign for a Southerner, for equity and fairness in the main opposition party, has put Rivers in the eyes of political pundits.
Although Governor Wike had severally said that he would not dump the PDP for another party, supported by the recent assurance given to the members of the Board of Trustees (BoT), who visited him in Port Harcourt, but his comments and reactions afterwards cast doubts of the promise.
Recently, at the inauguration of Rivers PDP campaign council, the governor declared that those who disrespect the state and its electoral importance do not deserve Rivers electorate to vote for them or their candidates in the 2023 general election.
Wike specifically pointed to how the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, picked people from Rivers State as members of the Presidential Campaign Council without any input from him.
He stated that the action of Atiku showed that they did not want the state to be part of what they are doing.
“The presidential candidate entered Rivers State and picked those he wants to pick without the contribution of the governor. So, they said they don’t need me to campaign for them, they don’t need Rivers people to campaign for them. Will you force yourself on them?” he had queried.
The governor stated that the PDP presidential candidate picked those who are enemies of the state to be part of his campaign council, which was disrespectful.
He decried how Rivers State had been treated in the past despite the bulk votes delivered to the PDP since 1999.
According to him, people could not continue to demand for Rivers votes and yet be unwilling to accommodate Rivers’ interest.
Also, at a recent event in Lagos State, Governor Wike endorsed his counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who is from the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the second term, against the PDP governorship candidate.
Again, with the President Muhammadu Buhari’s award to Wike for his infrastructural renaissance witnessed in the Rivers, and a plethora of congratulatory publications in most of the national dailies, some political analysts in Rivers are wondering the sudden romance by a governor who had remained a strong critic of the APC government.
Not too long, the APC in Rivers State warned Southwest governors of the party to stop disrespecting them by hobnobbing with Governor Wike.
State stakeholders of the party gave the warning at a day consultative meeting with stalwarts of the party in the South-south zone in Port Harcourt.
The party also urged its national leadership to prevail on the governors to desist from coming to the state, if not for the sake of solidarity.
The party stated that the Southwest governors visiting Wike was an embarrassment to their effort in trying to reclaim the state.
Chairman of the party in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, Sydney Nyeche, said: “We find it disrespectful that while we are toiling for the party in the state, some group of governors from the West come to the state, go to Rumueprikom (Wike’s residence) and be negotiating with Nyesom Wike
“The attention of the National Chairman is drawn to this because we will not tolerate this anymore we have had enough.
“We urge the National Working Committee of the party to warn these governors from the West to desist from coming to the state to negotiate with the governor. This level of embarrassment we have suffered should stop.
“I cannot be threatened everyday because of my political leanings and somebody will come from the West to rubbish our efforts. If they cannot come to the state to show solidarity, they should stop coming to the state.”
So, with this development, and the governor’s body language, it would be difficult to say outrightly the Rivers governor is not weighing options for the presidential candidate the Rivers PDP will cast their votes for in the 2023 election.
Another grouse the governor mentioned during the inauguration of the Rivers campaign council was the PDP presidential candidate picking the enemies of the state as members of his campaign team.
The question people may ask is, who are the enemies of Rivers State in Atiku’s campaign team? Well, there is no gainsaying the fact, that the purported enemies of the state were those of his allies who had fallen apart with him.
Though, the governor did not mention the names of the so-called enemies of the state, Nigerians and Rivers people in particular, who have been following the recent political trends in the state, would not make mistakes identifying them.
From investigations, the purported enemies of the state are prominent Rivers politicians, who had played politics up to the national level. They are individuals you cannot wish away like that.
They had played prominent roles in the growth of Governor Wike’s administration. Unfortunately, it is in this last lap of his (Wike) administration, particularly after the state governorship primary, where many of them felt dissatisfied with the process that produced the governorship candidate, Sim Fubara, that his relationship with them severed.
These state enemies have strong political followers (supporters) from their respective senatorial districts. But, the truth is, it would be difficult for them to march Wike’s political prowess.
The governor, no doubt, has the wherewithal to subdue and make them irrelevant in the forthcoming election.
In fact, the opposition political parties in the state, apart from the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which is Senator Magnus Abe’s party, have condemned the governor’s political strategies ahead of the 2023 election.
With the recent Executive Order 21 law, which bars political parties and politicians from using public schools and their property for rallies, except on approval by the Ministry of Education and payment of N5 million, the opposition parties accused the Wike-led government of attempting to subdue and deny them the right to campaign.
Also, it is believed that Wike’s recent appointment of thousands of political advisers and liaison officers across the 23 local government areas, was a perfected strategy to ensure that the opposition political parties and the purported enemies of the state do not find their standing in the forthcoming election.