Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike’s closed-door meetings with Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi; and Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, have sparked rumours of a defection.
Wike and Obi met in Port Harcourt Wednesday, four days after the Rivers governor met with Umahi of the All Progressives Congress.
Premium Politics reported that there have been growing calls for an Igbo President before political parties conducted their primary elections.
Since Nigeria exited military rule and returned to civilian rule in 1999, the country is yet to produce a President of South-East, North-East and North Central extractions.
Nigeria has had three Presidents from the North-West (President Umaru Yar’Adua and now President Muhammadu Buhari); Olusegun Obasanjo from the South-West as well as Ernest Shonekan, leader of the civilian Interim Government in 1993; and President Goodluck Jonathan from the South-South.
However, after parties failed to honour the calls for zoning of their presidential candidacy to the South-East, this publication reported that Obi dumped the opposition Peoples Democratic Party days before the presidential primary.
Wike contested the opposition party’s presidential ticket but lost to Atiku Abubakar (from Adamawa in the North-East) who also snubbed the Rivers governor to pick Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate.
Back story: How Umahi dumped PDP, clashed with Wike
Umahi had left the PDP in November 2020 for APC, and had cited injustice meted out to the South-East but denied that he joined the ruling party “because they (PDP) refused to zone the ticket to me is being very mischievous.
Umahi had a fallout with Wike following his exit from the PDP and described the Rivers governor as a dictator for claiming that he joined the APC because of his desperation to be President of the country in 2023.
Disgruntled oppositions reunite behind closed doors
Months after the heated exchange, Umahi, who contested the APC presidential primary was spotted in Wike’s private residence as they met behind closed doors, showing signs of a reconciliation between them.
Umahi met with Wike came after he lost the APC presidential primary to a former Lagos State Governor and an APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu.
Four days after Umahi and Wike met, LP’s presidential candidate and the seeming hope for an Igbo presidency in 2023 (Obi) also met with the Rivers governor behind closed doors, sparking rumours of a defection.
Wike appeared disgruntled for not being chosen as Atiku’s running mate and he is yet to congratulate Okowa on becoming the PDP vice-presidential candidate for the 2023 election.
Third-force: Obidients, LP-NNPP merger
Obi’s online followers tagged ‘Obidients’ have since dominated social media even as the PDP came third in the recently concluded governorship election in Ekiti State where APC’s Biodun Oyebanji emerge winner with 187, 057 votes.
There has also been a rumoured merger between LP and the New Nigeria Peoples Party in what looked like a third force. NNPP presidential candidate, Rabiu Kwankwaso, in an interview with BBC Hausa, confirmed that his party was negotiating a possible alliance with the LP leadership and its candidate, Obi.
The former Kano State governor premised this on the failure of the APC and PDP, to pick a candidate from Nigeria’s South-East.
“We are discussing with Peter Obi and his working committee over the matter. Our friends and families are also part of these discussions. Some of them have met him and talks are ongoing.
“Merging with the Labour Party is very significant at this critical moment, especially when you consider the fact that both the APC and PDP and APC presidential candidates did not pick their running mates from the South-East.
“Because of this, if we don’t take someone from that region, it confirms that we won’t have any arrangement for the South-East in both the presidency or vice presidency in the 2023 elections,” Kwankwaso said.
Obideints get Obaseki’s attention
Obi’s social media army who called themselves ‘Obedients’ appeared to have gotten the attention of Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, of the PDP who expressed fears that Obi may floor the ruling APC and PDP in 2023.
Speaking with members of the PDP on the outcome of the Ekiti poll some days ago, Obaseki warned that the PDP must be more attractive to Nigerians, who are now following the LP and Obi.
“How can PDP, a big party, couldn’t win but was not even number two. So you can see that something is going on and we do not want this to continue,” Obaseki told PDP stakeholders.
“The history of our politics in the country is changing. I don’t know if you’re closely watching what is going on with the level of disenchantment with the existing political parties. I’m sure in all our homes we have so many people now who call themselves ‘Obedients’.
“I don’t know if you have them in your houses, just asked them which party are you? They’ll say “Obedient”.
“They don’t want us. They’re not talking about APC or PDP. They’re looking for alternatives. And they’re many, much much more.
“You see all of them queuing for PVC. They’re not looking in the direction of PDP or APC. They’re looking for alternatives and if we don’t curb this and make our party attractive, I don’t know what will happen in the next election.“
Atiku raise panel to woo Wike
With the third force threatening to become a resistance, PDP flagbearer, Atiku, has been making moves to unite the PDP that has been rocked by crisis following the selection of Okowa as Atiku’s running mate.
Obi, who was Atiku’s running mate in the 2019 elections and had left the party owing to the failure to zone the presidential ticket to the South-East, also appeared to be making attempts to win Wike over.
Atiku had set up a committee to pacify and woo Wike and some other aggrieved members of the party based on the need to go into the 2023 general elections with a united front.
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 for 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 indicated 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 is also said to be looming.
While the 2023 presidential election still appears to be a two-horse race between the ruling APC’s Tinubu and the opposition PDP’s Atiku, the top parties will closely monitor the moves of LP’s Obi to avoid being stunned like former President Goodluck Jonathan at the 2015 presidential election.
Buhari and the APC, a merger of many parties before the 2015 elections, had won the hearts of many Nigerians with their ‘Change’ mantra which led to the historic election in 2015 when the party emerged as the first opposition to defeat a sitting party in the presidential election.
Should Obi succeed in 2023, LP would become the first-ever party to produce a Nigerian president outside the two leading parties but the days before the 2023 elections are filled with intrigues and shocks while Nigerians await the outcome of the results of the meetings of Obi, Umahi, Wike, and Kwankwaso.