On the night of May 28th, 2022, delegates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gathered in Abuja to elect its 2023 presidential candidate. Moments before the voting commenced, the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, mounted the podium, grabbed the mic and made a couple of interesting promises.
As one of the aspirants contesting for the PDP’s ticket that night, he vowed strongly to support the winner and help the party win the 2023 presidential election. But everything he’s done to the PDP since then has been a betrayal of his words. What changed?
A crushing loss
Wike’s first problem was losing the ticket he desperately wanted to the perennial presidential aspirant and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar.
The defeat was a bitter pill for Wike to swallow, especially losing to Atiku who helped the opposition kick the PDP out of Aso Rock Villa in 2015.
One thing you should know about Wike is he started from the bottom — as a local government chairman in 1999, to the chief of staff of a state governor in 2007, to junior minister in 2011, senior minister in 2013 and finally governor in 2015. He’s been gathering the infinity stones of politics for the past 23 years and losing on his first crack at the biggest and final stone must have stung.
Wike, naturally, didn’t like losing, but he was even more upset about how it happened.
A friendly knife in the back
There are no permanent friends in politics and Wike got a very painful dose of that the night PDP handed Atiku the ticket. A big reason the governor lost was the last-minute withdrawal of Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, from the race.
When he announced his withdrawal at the May convention, Tambuwal asked delegates to transfer all his votes to Atiku. The only problem was up until that moment, Tambuwal and Wike were BFFs.
It’s all love and friendly stabbings over here
In fact, Wike heavily backed Tambuwal’s 2019 run for the PDP’s presidential ticket which he also lost to Atiku. So, Tambuwal’s last-minute betrayal left Wike feeling like this:
But the series of unfortunate events didn’t end there.
An unfortunate slip-up
When he opened it, he ushered in PDP executives led by Iyorchia Ayu, the national chairman of the party. After a very Nigerian back-and-forth hailing of each other as “My chairman”, Ayu looked lovingly into Tambuwal’s eyes and said, “You’re the hero of the convention.”
Wike saw the video of the meeting, and concluded northern forces in the party conspired to steal the ticket from him (and the south).
Despite how deeply hurt he was at this point, there was one last opportunity for the PDP to mend fences with Wike: vice-presidentship.
An offer not made
Over a week after the PDP’s primary election, a 17-member committee submitted three names to Atiku to consider for the party’s vice presidential slot. Wike was on the list and enjoyed the support of the committee’s chairman, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State. But on June 16th, 2022, Atiku handed his vice presidential ticket to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State. And this was Wike’s 13th reason why.
Wike’s campaign of terror
The Wike that emerged from the ashes of that crushing night in May has become a wrecking ball crushing the PDP’s chances of returning to Aso Rock Villa in 2023.
With the help of his merry band who helps him compose his catchy impromptu diss tracks on all his opps and haters, he’s attacked Atiku many times over the past few weeks and rubbished the PDP’s current leadership.
He’s even publicly flirted with rival presidential candidates Peter Obi and Bola Tinubu just to show Atiku he’s a man of many options. But what’s Wike’s endgame?
What does Wike want?
On September 20th, 2022, high-profile PDP members in Wike’s camp pulled out of Atiku’s presidential campaign committee. They protested that Ayu must resign as the party’s chairman so that a southerner can replace him. The point of the demand is to balance the PDP’s regional composition since Atiku, the presidential candidate, is also a northerner.
Atiku has made it clear he can’t make Ayu step down, but Wike insists it’s something that needs to happen before he can even think about making more demands in exchange for his support.
How Atiku deals with his Wike problem can greatly impact who ends up in Aso Rock Villa in 2023. Wike knows this and will milk the power of his influence till he gets his way. Who blinks first?