June 14, 2024
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[Explainer] Nyesom Wike: Can his anger frustrate Atiku’s chances in 2023?

By Theophilus Abbah

River State Governor Nyesom Wike is assertive and hard-htting. Though he controls just one state in the South-South geopolitical zone, his political tentacle is spread across the six states in the region. In recent times the bitterness of gall that flows from his lips when he speaks about his unpleasant experiences in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is earsplitting.

River State Governor Nyesom Wike is assertive and hard-htting

Accompanying the bitterness is the anger of a lion, ready to devour his enemies, in this case, the PDP chairman, Dr Iyorchia Ayu and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar. In diverse ways, Governor Wike has threatened fire and brimestone in order to teach Atiku a lesson. And with the spark and sound of blinding thunder, he gives the resignation of Ayu as one of the condititions for ceasefire.

Key Points:
Governor Nyesom Wike has kept the party together since 2015
He has the financial resources to support Atiku in the 2023 election
The PDP’s decision to choose Atiku was a desparate measure
Wike has more supporters in the South-South, but as South-South PDP governors have joined Atiku, Wike’s influence has dwindled.
Wike’s wants to party to allocate juicy positions in government to his camp before the elections
If Atiku loses in the 2023 presidential election, it may not be due to his face-off with Wike.

He and his supporters have pulled out of the Atiku Campaign Council, unsettling the party that dreams of taking over power from the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2023. As the fire in PDP rages, the APC may be celebrating mischievously, or even hide in the shadow stoking the fire with more inflamables.

However, in the worst case scenario, can Wike’s anger frustrate Atiku’s chances of winning the 2023 presidential election?

A retreat to the past:

The relationship between Atiku and Wike was very

elegantly rosy and excellently robust in 2019, considering the fact that the PDP, under the chairmanship of Uche Secondus, was in reality under the armpit of Governor Wike, who provided the financial backbone for the party to survive the APC onslaught.

Can Wike’s anger frustrate Atiku’s chances of winning the 2023 presidential election?

Apart from providing Atiku with financial support for the 2019 presidential election, Governor Wike ensured that the PDP candidate against incument President Muhammadu Buhari won significant votes in the South-South – with the support of governors in the geopolitical zone.

For instance, in Rivers State PDP garnered 473,971 votes, almost double of APC’s 150,710. Below is a chart showing how the two presidential candidates fared in the South-South in 2019.

Flying the banner of the PDP, Atiku won convincingly in the South-South in spite of the towering figures of Chibuike Amaechi, the powerful Minister of Transportation, and Comrade Adams Oshiomohle, the then APC’s National Chairman.


Though PDP governors in the South-South states may have mobilized their people to cast the hope into Atiku’s ballot boxes, the man who kept the party together for such feat was, no doubt, Governor Wike.

How Things Fell Apart:

The word that has created the rift in the PDP is ‘zoning.’ For a party that entrenched zoning into its political inclusivity since 1999, the PDP polluted itself by sliding from this principle of equity when it came to the (s)election of its presidential candidate for the 2023 election.

As at 2019, with Buhari as APC’s presidential candidate, the PDP zoned its presidency to the North, so no aspirant from the South contested in the primary election. In that primary election, the contestants included Atiku Abubakar, who won the party’s ticket, Bukola Saraki, Aminu Tambuwal, Ahmed Makarfi, Jonah Jang, Sule Lamido, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Datti Baba-Ahmed, Attahiru Bafarawa, and David Mark.


Atiku Abubakar, PDP Presidential candidate Photocredit:google

There was an understanding that the presidency had been zoned to the South, while Uche Secondus, from the South was National Chairman of the party.

In the march toward the 2023 elections, with the election of Dr Iyorchia Ayu, from the North-Central, as the party’s National Chairman in October 2021, it was expected that the party had zoned its presidential seat to the South. This was considered imperative, as Buhari, from the North, was about to complete an 8-year double tenure as president.

As at April 2022, the South-South governors forum issued a statement, insisting that the next president must come from the South, an action taken to frustrate any form of deviation from the zoning arrangement by either the APC of the PDP.

PDP Chairman, Dr. Ayu

PDP Chairman, Dr. Ayu

Surprisingly, at the primary election in June, 2022, several aspirants from the North contested for PDP’s presidential ticket, and in spite of all the efforts made by Wike to claim the dream of the South to retain the PDP presidential ticket, he was outmanouvred by elements in support of Atiku Abubakar.


Atiku meets wike after winning the primary election. Photocredit:google

Primarily, this was responsible for Wike’s anger. The worsen the situation, Atiku Abubakar had worked against the PDP in 2015 to the extent that the PDP lost five states to the APC, while Atiku was in bed with the party that produced Buhari as president. It is, therefore, an irony that the same Atiku Abubakar returned to the PDP to grab its presidential ticket.

The PDP about-turn in the zoning was based on a political calculation that because the North has more registered voters than the South, one winning strategy was to field a candidate that appealed to the Northern Muslims, instead of fielding a Christian from the South.

This thinking is not scientific, as The Insight data story has proved that Southern presidential candidates won when they contested against northern presidential candidates in previous elections. Choosing Atiku as its flagbearer may be the PDP’s own masterstroke for the 2023 presidential polls.

Wike is becoming a lone voice:

Governor Wike stood firmly for the PDP throughout the stormy period since 2015 when it was swept from power, and relegated to an opposition party. He even held the pillars of the party together, so it did not get swept away in the storm. However, he could not stop some governors in the South, the PDP’s traditional stronghold, from jumping ship to the APC.

For instance, Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, two states previously controlled by the PDP, stormed out of the umbrella due to disagreements with the party’s leadership. Also, Wike had a long-trending face-off with Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, which led to the washing of their dirty linen in public.

The war of words between the two governors was in respect of Wike’s domineering posture over the party. Wike is also believed to be behind the forces that chased Uche Secondus out of the chairmanship chair in 2021.

Apart from the three PDP governors aforementioned who are not dancing to Wike’s music, the fact that several PDP governors have joined Atiku’s campaign council further isolates Wike from the scheme of things in the PDP. For instance, Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State is in Atiku’s boat.

It is mostly likely that what Atiku would miss in financial support from Wike, the PDP presidential candidate could gain in his alliance with Governor Udom. Other PDP governors who are in tune with Atiku include Bayelsa State Governor Duoye Diri, Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed, Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde, and several others, except, perhaps, Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, who is unrepentant about his opposition to another Fulani president, after his bitter experience with Fulani herdsmen under the Buhari presidency since 2015.

Wike’s terms for peace:

Apart from his demand for the resignation of Dr Ayu as PDP Chairman, Wike wants Atiku to commit to giving his camp certain positions, if the PDP wins the 2023 presidential election. Such positions include the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Attorney-General of the Federation, Minister of Petroleum and Minister of the Niger Delta.

It is difficult to say if the Atiku camp, made up of the majority of the governors who have joined Atiku’s campaign council would conceed such juicy positions to Wike’s camp. Worse still for Wike, the tide is dangerously against him.

If he joins Tinubu’s wagon in APC, he might not do a lot of damage to Atiku’s chances in the election, apart from denying the PDP victory in Rivers State.

In spite of Wike, Atiku’s hopes for winning the election lie in the North-East states (Taraba, Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe); North-Central, where he has numerous supporters and has always won overwhelmingly; many South-South states, and some North-West states.

Though the 2023 presidential election will be very tough for all presidential candidates, it is not certain that Wike’s anger would worsen Atiku’s fate so much.

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