FORMER vice president Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has committee to pacify and woo Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike and other aggrieved members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who are unhappy about his candidacy and his choice of running mate.
Late last month, the PDP elected Alhaji Abubakar as its flagbearer for next year’s presidential election at its annual convention in Abuja. He has since picked Delta State governor Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate, which has caused some consternation in the Wike camp, as some party members expected him to be selected.
A PDP committee had drawn up a shortlist of potential running mates for Alhaji Abubakar that included Governor Wike, Governor Okowa and Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State. Atiku chose Governor Okowa of the three and there are now fears that Governor Wike might work against Atiku’s ambition following his loss.
Governor Wike’s team is thought to feel a sense of entitlement, particularly as he came second to Alhaji Abubakar in the party primaries. Signs that the PDP might run into stormy waters became pronounced with the defection of some of Governor Wike’s supporters from the party over the last 24 hours prompting Atiku to act, as he believes the party needs to go into the 2023 general elections with a united front.
Aside from the resignations of two Wike allies including former Niger Delta minister Godsday Orubebe and an ex-commissioner in Edo State, Kassim Afegbua, a mass exodus of party members is feared to be looming. As a result Atiku has constituted a team to appease the Wike camp and fully bring them into his campaign council.
One party leader 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.”
One Atiku aide added: “Our PDP members are still aggrieved and when you are doing mediation, you don’t give the impression that you are not sincere, as it is a serious undertaking. His Excellency, Governor Wike is strategic to Atiku’s victory, make no mistake about it and 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 as 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.”
However, some Wike loyalists have dismissed the initiative as unnecessary. Hon Ogbomna Nwuke, a PDP chieftain in Rivers State and former member of the House of Representatives, described the Atiku reconciliation committee as a contradiction.
Hon Nwuke said: “On one hand, somebody says 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?”