- By Truson Sydney•
As Nigeria’s democracy rolls into its third uninterrupted decade, the question on every lip seems to be whether the once-ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) can ever rediscover itself to pose any threat to the now ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Of course, the answer to that question lies right inside the very fabric of the PDP. In its disposition to self-destruct, and in the hordes of moles and fifth columnists parading as party leaders, and spawning unnecessary controversies and diversion.
In the beginning…
At the dawn of Democracy in 1999, many parties cropped up but could not survive beyond the election of that year which produced former President Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP. The party held sway and became so strong and almost unbeatable, despite several attempts by others who wanted a taste of power at various levels.
The party survived several implosions that almost broke the very fabric that held it together till 2015 when several parties came together to merge under the All Progressives Congress which eventually, untied the winning strategy of PDP and equally beat them to their own game to the surprise of many.
The leaders of APC, after going through the rigours of a merger in 2014, set aside their individual differences and elected Mohammadu Buhari as the Presidential flag bearer of the party for the 2015 Presidential elections. The losers of the primary set aside their differences to work together for the party even as they were PDP in colour but a gathering of different minds bent on ‘seizing’ power … To the APC, Buhari was a better candidate with a mass appeal. The disenchantment among the citizenry not only helped prop him up, but also elevated him to the seat of power as man who is claimed to be incorruptible despite his past (sins) and unflattering human right records.
The then incumbent President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his PDP co travelers were so sure that the gathering of minds in APC can never stop them from reelecting the man from Otuoke for a second term, after the successes of the 2011 elections that saw him emerge due to the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
Their calculations were faulty, many members who felt aggrieved that they were not handed the flags at various levels for the State and National Assembly election, Governorship and yes, the Presidential Primaries of the party sabotaged the party, while some members openly canvased, worked and organized for the APC to win and enthrone Buhari. There was more of distrust than support amongst members up to the highest level of the party. They never believed that the broken pieces of the party after the 2015 shocker of an election could be mended.
Indeed, most PDP members like kids being dealt with by hunger pangs could not piece it together. They abandoned the party and began working for the APC albeit discreetly. The few who attempted to hang on and rally round some were branded saboteurs, thereby further discouraging the few who still thought that something could be done.
As the pressure became much, and unbearable too, it became obvious that places like Ekiti where Peter Ayodele Fayose was Governor, Benue state where Hon Gabriel Suswan was in charge of affairs in the state, Ondo where Dr Olusegun Mimiko still had something to offer were being bamboozled and harassed to further cow the few and destabilise the few who dared to remain and rebuild PDP.
The PDP was literally ganging up against itself. It continued to drift rudderless, and without a Captain to guide it ashore.
Today, with attention gradually shifting to the 2023 general elections, and the off-season elections in between, the PDP is still drifting.
The problems of the party, too numerous to mention, are a mess that may lead to another shameful end. And this drift may continue if the few selfish leaders mainly state Governors, who want to grab every available position in the party or are working in strong alliance with the ruling APC, continue with their gangsterism with state funds, and fail to retrace their steps.
The recent elections in Osun, Ekiti, Kogi and Bayelsa states are pointers that the party may not get it right if the members, whose party (the PDP) was at the receiving end, continue to justify rigging, cheating and the brigandage that characterized the elections in those states. And even at the level of the judiciary where what many may regard as flimsy technicalities are being used to justify the elections in favour of the ruling party.
Rather than condemning the electoral heist for what it is, some PDP leaders are buying the APC narrative of internal wrangling in the PDP to justify the rigging out of their party, and blaming fellow party members of losing the elections. This is even when every independent observer of the polls is insisting that the votes were not allowed to count.
More so, it is no longer a hidden secret that some of the state governors are taking it to another level. They want ride on the back of the alleged loss of election to, not only become the new local/regional champions who decide what happens in their own state, but also in their neighbouring states. It’s a deadly manifestation of an otherwise healthy sibling rivalry. And it is driven purely by a selfish quest for power.
They want to decide who takes over or assumes power in another state even if it means the APC should grab it. They romance the Ruling party at the Federal level to destroy the very few that still believe that there is still something good that can come out of the PDP, despite the challenges being faced by the party.
This brings to the fore the alleged destabilising roles being played by some members of the party including Governor Wike of Rivers state. It is obvious that what they cannot take in their domain, they are indirectly trying to force it down the throats of others just to curry favour from the government at the center.
For, how can one describe what happened in Bayelsa, for instance, especially in the days leading to the September 4, 2019 Governorship primaries there?
The Bayelsa scenario creates a classic example of how a party that genuinely desires to regain power should not go about its business. For some curious reason, certain party chieftain got carried away with a selfish desire to undermine Gov. Dickson’s rising profile (and foist a more malleable governorship candidate) that they forgot that the battle was against the APC and its rampaging Federal Might.
Rather than face APC, all of PDP’s was targeted at itself, cheered on by the scheming APC and a power-drunk, money-spraying Wike.
This is fueled by the fact that the romance could be a conspiracy to dislodge the leader of the ruling party in the South-South and enthrone a new leadership through the back door. And in all, the Minister of Transportation Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, could be the fall guy. Indeed, Amaechi’s position as leader of APC is seriously under threat by Governor Wike, his former Chief of Staff, as it is clear that he may have concluded plans to dump PDP for APC, Again, it is also may not be in doubt that long before the last Presidential Primaries in Port Harcourt, he has been covertly working for the APC. In all he wanted his candidate, Rt Honourable Aminu Tambuwal, to pick the ticket against the popular choice of former Vice President Abubakar Atiku.
In Bayelsa, they tried to decide for the Governor, who is serving out eight years of two terms, who to succeed him. That it was proper to deny the outgoing governor the courtesy of picking whom to succeed him in February 2020. Not even former President Goodluck Jonathan wanted Dickson to play any role in the choice of the party’s choice of his successor. They made so much noise about Dickson hurting the party by not handing the governorship ticket to Timi Alaibe, even as they turned a blind eye to the disaffection it would have caused if Alaibe, who returned to the party on the eve of the primaries, was handed the ticket ahead of people who had remained in the party since inception.
Too much money….
It is also alleged that funds up to N5 billion were freely made available to the state opposition (APC) days before the main election – allegedly by a PDP governor to spite eager to undermine his own party and score a cheap political point over Dickson. What they cannot allow to prevail in their domain they use all possible means to ensure it becomes the order of the day in another person’s domain.
The PDP members, for a spurt of potage, further muddied up the situation by not supporting the party at the election petition tribunals, but got themselves busy with serious alliance with the opposition.
But the inordinate ambition is not restricted to the unwholesome meddling in the affairs of sister states, Wike also wants to choose who becomes what in the party and the National Assembly. The case of Ndudi Elumelu and Kingsley Chinda in the quest for who emerges the minority leader in the House of Representatives readily comes to mind.
Today, there is still no love list in the rank of the PDP in the lower house, following the failure of Wike’s candidate, who is his Ikwerre kinsman, emerging.
And, like happened in the case of both the national convention and the presidential primaries, Wike have also threatened to pull down the roof on the party.
Real reason Wike is angry with Dickson…
The 2023 elections in Nigeria may be three years ahead, the jostle for power may have begun no sooner had the Independent National Elections (INEC) concluded the conduct of the 2019 Presidential, National Assembly, Governorship and State Assembly elections in several states minus those with off season elections.
For the Governors who know full well that there won’t be a return to the Government House in 2023, the jostle for who may eventually mount the saddle of governance in the states began just days after the 2019 Governorship polls.
Indeed, there are tales of succession ringing all over and many have been playing slaves, getting closer than close to the incumbent for possible anointing, while parties in opposition are yet plotting takeover. In some states, including oil rich River State, the quest for dominance and the struggle to dislodge that may have started long before the last elections won by Governor Nyesom Eze Wike.
Several names have been propping up amongst whom is Sir Austin Opara, the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives under Governor Bello Masari and even the Former Senator Magnus Abe who threw his hat into the ring during the last APC primaries and a host of others. There is this strong belief that the Ikwerres and its upland neighbours are not ready to give up, neither are they ready to allow any other ethnic group from within the state taste the powers of being the Governor of the state for now.
Since the dawn of Democracy in the year 1999, the Uplands have never given any other group the chance to sit as Governor of the state. From Dr Peter Odili who won the elections under the PDP in 1999 and was reelected in 2003, then the short spell by Celestine Omehia before his cousin who was Speaker for eight years Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi won the seat through the courts, through Eze Nyesom Wike, now serving a second term. They have never hidden the love for domination and lordship over the other groups in the state including the Kalabaris. It is equally no longer news that the ruling party in the state may have been hitting harder than hard on the opposition in the day, they are equally romancing the ruling party at the centre.
Interestingly while it is no longer news that yet the Ikwerres want to go the way of Benue state where the Tivs vowed never allow the Idomas or any of minorities in the state a short at the governorship, it is equally important to note the Ijaws in Rivers and the disputed Soku oil fields are being used as the pawn to divert attention to the fact that transparency and fair play has lost its value in governance.
More so, in the last five weeks, the people of Kalabari Kingdom have been in the news, the Soku Oil wells and the visit to Kalabari Kingdom by Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa state, easily the only state that is predominantly Ijaws. The outgoing Governor had gone to commiserate with his kinsmen who lost about 44 persons during the 2019 presidential and Governorship elections in the state, yet the Rivers state Government never deemed it fit to formally visit and commiserate with the Kalabiris. A trip Wike was confirmed to be officially in the know. That visit seemed to have renewed awareness for self-assertion, which Wike does not seem to be too happy about. It was like stoking fire in Wike’s domain.
It is also on record that the fight may be beyond the ordinary because of Dickson’s growing influence and disagreements over issues concerning the Niger Delta people. Dickson, the man from Toru- Orua had dared to challenge authorities, to venture into challenging issues and intervention in matters concerning the people. His disagreement over the suspension and eventual removal of the former Chief Justice of the Federation Justice Walter Onnoghen is a pointer. More so the issue of restructuring which has been a sore point of Nigeria’s polity. Dickson, a former lawmaker and lawyer has never hidden the fact that the present arrangement that is Nigeria needs to restructured for equity and transparency. Besides, conflict resolution among the Ijaws in Nigeria, he was instrumental to the amicable settlement of the crisis that has been endangering peace between the Ijaws in Edo and the Edo people, a matter that has been sorted without daggers drawn.
In the opposition PDP, on five different occasions even before he assumed office as the Chairman of the PDP Governors forum, Dickson on five different occasions was made the Chairman of the reconciliation committee that settled and brought back warring factions that almost tore the party apart.
It was also alleged that while some Governors in the South South and South East were strongly in support of the candidature of Sen. Douye Diri for the November 16, 2019 Governorship elections in Bayelsa, others worked discreetly to dislodge the same party in the state. Some were said to have hosted opposition party officials who moved, and equally mobilized forces against the PDP in Bayelsa state. The outcome is still being battled in all fronts by the few who stood by Dickson and Diri.
Before the December 7, 2019 when the Ikwerre Ethnic Nationality honored their son Nyesom Ezenwo Wike and his wife Justice Eberechi Suzette Nyesom-Wike, the focus was on the court pronouncement on the disputed Soku Oil wells. It was the much-needed drama that the Wike needed to further allude to the fact that there may be other issues rather than the oil fields.
At every forum, the Rivers state Governor treats off any ‘friend’ with ignominy. At the Wedding of the PDP national chairman’s son in Rivers recently, Wike took on Emeka Ihedioha, though jokingly, he cajoled him to have started drinking Champagne since he became governor.
A joke taken too far and which Ihedioha the Imo state Governor equally replied that he started tasting the drink long before Wike was voted Governor of the state. Again at the December 7, reception by Ogbako Ikwerre Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and David Umahi of Ebonyi, were at daggers drawn over a costly joke the former cracked on the latter’s relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari.
It is widely believed that Umahi is the closest PDP governor to Buhari, and the governor himself has made no pretense about his closeness to the President, so much so that it was speculated in the past that he would defect to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
But at the meeting of PDP governors and prominent party members who were in the state to felicitate with their colleague as Wike was honoured, a joke the Rivers State governor made of the Buhari/Umahi relationship struck the wrong chord in the Ebonyi State governor and almost resulted in fisticuffs between the two state chief executives. It was gathered that though the meeting was said to have begun on a convivial note and exchange of banter. Then entered Umahi, and Wike jokingly welcomed him, saying, “Ah, here comes Buhari’s man!”
Although the remarks elicited laughter from the other governors, it did not go down well with Umahi, who angrily asked Wike, “Who is more Buhari than you? I have many of your pictures with Buhari which are not known to the public!”
Another sour point which though may not be the root of the discord could be the resolution and the determination of the true ownership and ideal location of the Soku oil wells between the two states of Bayelsa and Rivers.
As two Niger-Delta states, Rivers and neighbouring Bayelsa, are at daggers drawn over an oil rich border area The determining factor and the seed of discord could also be traced to the location of Soku oil wells in Oluasiri, a community in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, or are they situated in Kalabari kingdom in Akoku-Toru Local Government Area in Rivers State?
Interesting, the resort to dragging virtually all its neighbouring state, all of which are PDP states, to court over just every boundary dispute is believed to be another problem tearing away the fabric of the PDP. Many of the disputes can actually be settled amicably, instead of pitting one PDP governor against the other.