There were indications on Monday that the reconciliation talks between Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, had suffered a major setback as Wike again threatened to disappoint those underestimating his state.
Speaking at the inauguration of the Orochiri-Worukwo (Waterlines junction) Flyover, the Rivers governor explained that the dynamics of contemporary politics had made it unwise to just gift votes away without the assurance of derivable benefit for the people.
The governor, in a veiled reference to Atiku and the PDP national leadership, said nobody could take Rivers’ votes for granted.
A former lawmaker, Senator Lee Maeba, berated the governor for portraying himself as a superhuman being. Maeba, in an interview with The PUNCH, said his problem with Wike was because of his closeness to Atiku.
Last week, the governor sacked the Governing Council of the Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, Rumuola in Port Harcourt led by Maeba.
Things have not been rosy between Wike and Atiku following the former Vice-President’s decision to nominate Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as his running mate.
Wike and his associates were reported to have demanded the resignation of the National Chairman of the PDP, Iyorchia Ayu, as a condition for him to work for Atiku. However, some leaders in the party dismissed Wike’s demand.
The Rivers governor, who was expected to have been picked as the vice-presidential candidate of the party, has since been hobnobbing with some governors of the All Progressives Congress.
On Monday, the governor invited his Lagos State counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; to inaugurate some projects in the state.
In a veiled attack on the national leadership of the PDP, the Rivers State governor said no one should expect to get the votes of Rivers State without at least giving something in return.
Apart from his veiled attacks on Atiku and the PDP, the governor was said to have gone after politicians in the state that were close to the PDP presidential candidate.
Some of them were said to have visited Atiku without Wike’s permission.
On Monday, Wike stated, “If you say Rivers State does not matter, Rivers State will tell you that you don’t also matter at the appropriate time. If you don’t like us, we will not like you. If you like us, we will like you. Nobody will use our votes for nothing. Our votes will matter and Rivers State must benefit from anybody that we are going to support.
“Politics now is no longer just voting for somebody; it is about what you will do for the people of Rivers State,” Wike stated.
He pointed to how difficult it would be for any conspirators to upset the voting pattern of Rivers State.
Wike reiterated that those who looted the treasury of the state would not be supported to become governor of Rivers State.
“My guest from Lagos State; let nobody tell you story that anybody will come here to win as governor of Rivers State. It will not happen. Those who looted the treasury of the state will not come here to be governor of Rivers State and I have challenged them.
“I am fully in charge. I am not that kind of governor people will go to Abuja and hold meetings against. I am fully in charge here,” the governor said.
Wike knocks critics
Wike also knocked those criticising him for focusing on the construction of flyovers.
“First of all, let me state, if there is one state that pays salary regularly, it is Rivers State. Let me also state, every month we pay pensioners. Let me also state since we have been paying gratuity, have you been hearing anybody talking on radio?” he added.
Wike explained the invitation of the Lagos State governor was not the first time persons of other political parties were invited to inaugurate projects in Rivers State.
He pointed to the overall benefits such invitations have on governance because it served as peer review for them.
In his remarks, Sanwo-Olu, who inaugurated the Orochiri-Worokwu (Waterlines) Flyover, commended Governor Wike for his strong commitment to the delivery of physical infrastructure in Rivers State.
“I would like to specially commend my brother, Governor Wike, for his strong commitment to the delivery of physical infrastructure in Rivers State.
“A commitment that has been recognized by all and sundry, and which has earned him the appellation of “Mr. Projects” within and outside Rivers State,” he said.
Sanwo-Olu said though himself and governor Wike belong to different political persuasions, the invitation extended to him sends a very strong message that politicians and political leaders, can come together across political and ideological divides, for the good of the people.
“There is also a strong message being made today about expanding our capacity to play politics without bitterness. This symbolic gesture by my friend and brother is one that should become standard practice across Nigeria.
“There is also a lot that we can learn from one another, and experience that we can translate from one part of the country to the other,” Sanwo-Olu stated.
Attempts to get a response from the PDP to Wike’s statement proved abortive as the National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, proved abortive as his telephone indicated that it was switched off on Monday.
Also, Atiku’s Spokesman, Paul Ibe, did not respond to inquiries.
However, a member of the PDP reconciliation committee told newsmen on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the press, that the talks between the former Vice-President and Wike were still ongoing.
He stated, “The PDP can never take Rivers State for granted. It is one of our largest states and has the highest number of votes in the South-South. Wike is only flexing his muscles because he wants a better deal which is understandable.
“The talks between him and Atiku are still ongoing. And I am sure everything will end well.”
In a chat with newsmen, a former lawmaker, Senator Maeba, who was removed as the Chairman of Elechi Amadi Polytechnic, said the governor’s action was because of his closeness to Atiku.
He said, “We have a candidate of the party who has the capacity to lead Nigeria out of crisis. So nothing can deter us from supporting Atiku to save Nigeria.
“Wike is not hiding that he is fighting Atiku. Yes, he said so. He called a meeting of Ogoni people who are with him and told them to tell me that he will see how I will campaign for Atiku in this state and he is ready to fight to the finish.
“We don’t know what he (Wike) is planning to do because when campaigns start we are qualified to campaign too. We are waiting to see how he will do it. This is a joke taken too far.”
Senator Maeba also confirmed the removal of former Governor Clestine Omehia and a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Austin Opara, as leaders of their party in Ikwerre and Port Harcourt City LGAs respectively.
“Yes, he (Wike) called them and humiliated them before their people because we went to pay a solidarity visit to Atiku which we are supposed to do.
“All of us knew Atiku before him. Austin Opara has been in the House of Representatives since 1999. He was the deputy speaker when Atiku was Vice-President. That time Wike was struggling to be local government chairman. So, if Austin Opara has to take permission from him today to go and see Atiku, then something is wrong,” he stated.
Maeba also took a swipe at Wike, saying nobody was in charge of Rivers’ votes.
Ex-lawmaker faults Wike
He said, “There is nobody that is in charge of any vote. Vote is individual business now. For somebody to be boasting that he is in charge of votes, means he has a rigging plan.
“Why are you in charge of votes? You cannot be in charge of votes, because everybody has individual votes to cast. If Adegboyega Oyetola was in charge of votes in Osun, he wouldn’t have lost election.
“So, for somebody to be boasting he is in charge of votes, people should ask him where do you want to get the votes? How many voters card does he have?
On the allegations of politicians holding meetings in Abuja against him, Maeba said the governor was talking as if he was ‘superhuman’.
“Let me tell you something. When you apportion so much right to yourself, then you are superhuman. Austin Opara was the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives when Atiku Abubakar was the Vice President. They attended caucus meeting together and National Economic Council Meeting.
“So, does it mean that Austin Opara who has been friends with Atiku for over 20 years ago will now start to beg Wike to go and see Atiku?
“So, he (Wike) is the one who doesn’t have respect for citizens.
Like me, I met Atiku first in 1992 in Jos for the SDP campaigns. We started working together in 2003 when I became Senator. That time where was he (Wike)? When Austin Opara was working with Atiku, holding meetings, Wike was struggling to come into limelight.
“So, when you use comments like that that you are not the kind of politician that people will hold meetings against in Abuja, he goes to Abuja every day. He flies to Abuja. In fact he virtually sleeps in Abuja. So if you don’t have respect for the rights of senior citizens of the state, you don’t have respect for their right to survive and self-sustenance, then something is wrong with your own system,” the former senator stated.
Continuing, Maeba said, “If you continue to call yourself, I am a strong Governor, we need strong institutions not strong men. The best way to democracy is strong institutions not strong men.
“A strong man is synonymous with the Idi Amin’s of those days. There are no strong men anymore. What we need are strong institutions to strengthen our institutions.”
Efforts to reach former Rivers State Governor, Sir Celestine Omehia and the former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara, proved abortive as they neither answered several calls put across to their mobile telephone by our correspondent nor replied text messages sent to them as of the time of filing this report on Monday night.
On Wike’s remarks that those who looted the state would not become Rivers Governor, the All Progressives Congress in the state described it as cowardly.
The state Publicity Secretary of the APC, Chris Finebone while speaking to one of our correspondents on telephone urged the governor to list names of those he was referring to.
Finebone explained described Wike’s statement as an illusion and a false sense of bravado, pointing out that the governor was already playing anti-party to have threatened to use Rivers votes against Atiku.
Lamido advises Atiku
But a former governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido on Monday warned that Atiku Abubakar should not enter into any agreement with any aggrieved member of the party without the party leaders.
According to him, Atiku lacks the authority to discuss the outcome of the PDP convention which had polarised the party between him and Wike’s allies.
Lamido issued the warning in an interview with newsmen on reaction to the recent meeting between Atiku and Wike at the residence of a former Minister of Information and National Orientation, Prof Jerry Gana.
On his part, the Spokesperson for Atiku Campaign Organisation, Daniel Bwala, in an interview with The PUNCH, said many aspirants who contested the party’s presidential primary with Atikua had become his supporters.
In a related development, the National Executive Committee of the meeting of the PDP which was supposed to hold in Abuja on Wednesday and Thursday has been postponed indefinitely.
Although the reason for the cancellation was not stated, it was learnt that it may be connected with the crisis in the party and the attempt by Wike’s group to remove the national chairman.
A notice of the postponement by the party’s National Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, on Monday, cited “unforeseen circumstances” as reason for the shift in date.
He wrote, “This is to inform all members of the PDP National Caucus and National Executive Committee that the meetings of the two bodies earlier scheduled for Wednesday, August 10, and Thursday, August 11, respectively, have been postponed.
“The postponement is due to unforeseen circumstances. A new date will be announced in due course.”