From Port Harcourt, GODWIN EGBA writes that 2023 governorship election in Rivers state promises to be an epic battle as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) under tight grip of Governor Nyesom Wike would likely lose its monopoly of governance in in the state considering the array strong contenders
Parties working to defeat PDP
After the April, 2023 presidential primaries of the PDP in Abuja, where Governor Nyesom Wike lost gallantly to his horse–like rival, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, River state has become a frenzy of political theatre with different political parties and their governorship flag bearers building their arsenals to demolish PDP from the Brick House.
Strong contenders out to upstage the PDP which has held power in the state for over 32 years are All progressives Congress (APC) under the leadership of former Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) on the shoulders of Senator Magnus Abe as governorship candidate and the Labour Party (LP) being driven by Mrs. Beatrice Itubo, chairperson of River state’s Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
Wike battle ready to return a successor
Though Wike has lost his 2023 presidential ambition for another chance in future, the feeling in the state is that he remains a force to beat at his Rivers state level where he is strengthening his platform to ensure his anointed successor, Siminialai Joseph Fubara, occupies the Government House under the PDP umbrella.
He is battle ready to ensure he succeeds to handover to the Opobo-born season administrator/new generation politician.
Magnus Abe and SDP platform
Senator Magnus Ngei
Abe, a former representative of Rivers South- East senatorial district at the National Assembly, is a no pushover, wave-making governorship candidate of SDP who has fought the fight of his strength to remain relevant in the leadership struggle against his former All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
The vocal lawyer and administrator has always beat his chest that in the 2023 governorship election project in the state, any cooked-up plan by anybody in another party to avoid clean, clear and credible process in order to exclude him from clinching the governorship seat would be resisted and he building his strong tower to face APC, PDP, LP among others.
A cross – section of political analysts in the state while sharing their takes on the election wind blowing across the state said, “Wike is now like a wounded lion in war front to tear down his challengers posing a threat to his victory in the state.
They said the outcome of losing the state to either APC, LP or any other party is better imagined than experienced, noting that his lost of the presidential ticket was disastrous enough for him.
Labour Party’s Beatrice Itubo
The analysts also opined that another party that is causing election tremor for PDP in the state is Labour Party with its presidential candidate of Peter Obi and Mrs. Beatrice Itubo as its Rivers state governorship candidate.
Mrs. Itubo, the chairperson of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) in the state took her fight against Wike right from April, 2022 ahead of the presidential candidates primaries.
Itubo, described as Labour Amazon, prior to the PDP primaries, had sworn that the NLC would not support Wike’s presidential ambition because of poor treatment his government in the state had meted out to the workers and retirees in the state.
Itubo’s vow pointed to the doubt of the possibility of civil servants in the state having a better deal under another PDP government administration.
She as the Labour Party flag bearer in state is riding with hope on the back of Peter Obi’s sky-ward popularity from the south-East to South-South geopolitical zones and believing to be giving Wike some sort of heart beat.
Wike building more enemies than friends
A PDP chieftain and zonal chairman in the state who pleaded anonymity was frank saying: “Our PDP leader and Governor Wike seems to be building more enemies in the political scene in Rivers state which might spell doom in the 2023 governorship election in the state.
“He has the power of incumbency but he is taking a dictatorial posture clamping down on his perceived fellow party members he feels their loyalty is in doubt at the national and state levels.
“He used his ‘power’ as the pillar of PDP to remove Prince Uche Secondus as PDP National chairman to pave way for his presidential ambition but was betrayed by his trusted northern friends that denied him their block votes in favour of their own, Atiku Abubakar.
“He did not stop their as he turned his weapons of demolition against some of his Rivers House of Assembly members for paying loyalty to Atiku, even taking other party candidates to court for allegedly breaching Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Election Guide Lines.
“I’m still his supporter but I’m not comfortable with the current happenings in the party because of Wike. However, I’m sure he is not unaware that those he is hunting down in the same PDP have followers who would no doubt pay him back in his own coin to ensure that his anointed successor as governor of the state does not scale through,” the analyst said.
However, from all indications, Wike seems not perturbed by what he considers as antics of those who believe that PDP in the state can take back the bench in the upcoming governorship election.
Wike, Amaechi hostility resumes
In early week of September, a regional weekly newspaper in Port-Harcourt, Rivers state capital flew two front page leading stories captioned: “Only PDP can win election in Rivers state…. Other candidates merely attempting to appear on ballot – Wike, “Amaechi/Wike ‘fight’ resumes..”
Wike in one of the headlines reportedly mocked the ousted national chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, who was said to have danced when the National Executive Council (NEC) of the party passed vote of confidence on Senator Iyorchia Ayu. Wike said decision by NEC will not dissuade him and others from insisting the prevailing structural imbalance within the party must be addressed.
Wike spoke while addressing some political decampees from other parties in the state, saying “there is no other party that can win election in Rivers state except PDP.” This is a strong belief of Wike, but he is aware of Rotimi Amaechi’s power as leader of APC in the state.
The often virulent media exchanges between him (Wike) and his predecessor in office and former Transportation Minister, Chibuike Romiti Amaechi, which had lingered unsettled resumed with perceivable ferocity recently at the burial of late statesman, Alabo T.O Graham Douglas in his hometown, Abonnema in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area.
Amaechi criticised Wike’s administration for not giving late Graham Douglas a biffing burial despite his enormous contribution to democratic institution in the country and Rivers State to appreciate by Wike described as a collateral failure in governance.
Wike who described Amaechi’s attack as ‘political hit back’ at him said he was a more failure of note as he attracted no dividends of democracy to the state as 8years Minister of Transport.
Political watchers in the state said Wike would not compromise his choice of who succeeds him because his interest after he exits from office must be protected.
Also a recent unconfirmed report revealed that the governor’s position in the party does not show his readiness to be submissive to the leadership of the party at the national level or Atiku Abubakar, the presidential hopeful, as “the governor is believed to be building voting block for the APC presidential candidate, Senator Bola Tinubu” whom he (Wike) is meeting with in London or elsewhere outside the shores of Nigeria.