From Tony John, Port Harcourt
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has expressed mixed feelings over comments credited to the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, that what the North needs is a northerner, not an Igbo or a Yoruba person as Nigeria’s next president.
The governor said that such a statement, if true, was a threat to the unity of Nigeria at a time when efforts should be concerted in giving every Nigerian a sense of belonging.
Wike spoke on Monday, at the international wing of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa in Ikwerre Local Government Area, shortly upon arrival from Spain.
Governor Wike was accompanied by the governors, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) and Samuel Ortom (Benue).
“I don’t believe that my candidate for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) could make such a statement. But, assuming he did make that statement, and this is one of the things we have been saying, this country needs to be united and part of the way you unite it is to include everybody,” he stated.
Governor Wike expressed his stance against anything that relegates any section of Nigeria and treats them as second fiddles.
Governor Wike was of the thinking that the handlers of Atiku should also share in the blame for allowing their principal to make such a comment in public, which is capable of heightening tension and deepening the feeling of alienation among Nigerians.
Wike continued: “That has now confirmed to me one of the reasons those of them in their camp, do not want Ayu to resign because they do not want inclusivity.
“I don’t know how those who are packaging the presidential candidate will allow him to make such a statement. I was reading where somebody was saying that it was a direct response to a question he was asked.”
Given that the statement is now in the public domain, Governor Wike advised the leadership of the PDP to tender an apology to Nigerians while explaining the circumstances in which the statement was made.
“Be that as it may, I don’t think that it was necessary at this time, as people who are going in for election, as people who want Nigerians to trust them to have allowed such a statement to be made.
“If it (statement) was made, as they said, I think, as a party, we need to apologize to Nigerians, assuming the (statement) was made.
“People are denying that it was made, but if you watch the video, it appears true but people are saying with recent technology, anything can be done.
“This requires further explanation by our party, because Nigerians, as it is today, we can’t go this way if we want this country to remain as the way our founding fathers struggled, laboured, and toiled all the night to see that there is a country called Nigeria.”
Speaking further, Governor Wike took a swipe at the PDP national chairman, Senator Iyorciha Ayu, saying going by his responses to the allegations levelled against him, he stands indicted except proven otherwise.
“Luckily for me, he (Ayu) has now mentioned that he went to the presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Waziri of Adamawa, where they discussed the issues of borrowing.
“Now, the question is, when you talk about borrowing, who approves borrowing? You must go to the National Working Committee (NWC) to say you want to borrow money.
“I challenge him to bring the records where NWC approved that the party should go and borrow N1billion. What is the collateral?”
Governor Wike explained that in matters of funding the party, the governors had been up to that responsibility dutifully.
According to him, it was, therefore, unthinkable that the national chairman would, in the guise of seeking funding for the party, opt to collect loans on behalf of the party without notifying the NWC and governors.
“Be sincere, how can you talk of N1 billion loan without the NWC mooting the idea, without the governors knowing? Then, you talk about the N100 million he said he told the Board of Trustees (BOT).
“If any governor gives you N100 million in order to rebuild one of the structures of the party, the Democratic Institute, let him show the minutes of the NWC where he said a governor has contributed N100 million. Let him show the account to reflect this N100 million.
“Let him also say that the N100 million was in Naira or in Dollars. He said he gave it to the treasurer. I thought he would have told the world that NWC was aware.”
Governor Wike stated for emphasis that his allegations against Ayu were categorical and it was expected that his responses should address each of the issues separately.
“In fact, the normal thing is that when once any governor or any party person has donated money to the party, you will go and tell NWC that so and so the person has donated money. Let him (Ayu) show us the account where this money was paid into.
“Coming out to do a general denial is not denial. You (Ayu) must deny specifically the allegations that were made.”
Governor Wike also wants Ayu to mention the names of those he has contacted to handle the rehabilitation works going on at the PDP Democratic Institute and at the National Secretariat, Wadata Plaza, Wuse Zone in Abuja.
He challenged: “Ask him, the contracts that are going on in this Democratic Institute and that of Wadata, who is doing that contract? Is it not one of his sons?
“As a party, we believe that Nigerians must trust us. We must show leadership and part of that leadership is integrity. You don’t just come and deceive Nigerians that you did not collect N1 billion.
“So, let Ayu come out and tell us, tell the PDP people and tell the public that this matter was discussed in NWC.”
Governor Wike also described as out of order the PDP Board of Trustees resolution that mandated Ayu to make a commitment that he would resign after the 2023 elections.
The governor wondered why the BoT could not make Ayu fulfil his initial commitment that he would resign if a northerner emerges as presidential candidate from the PDP convention.
“To say he should make another commitment that he will resign after the elections, for me, BoT resolution is ridiculous.”