A sinister plot to smear the image of Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, governor of Rivers State, a frontrunner at the forthcoming presidential primaries of the major opposition party, the Peoples' Democratic Party, (PDP), has been uncovered. Wike who took the presidential contest by storm following his declaration to run last March, is being targeted because of the groundswell of support he has garnered thus far. There are indications that he may pull a surprise over otherwise formidable opponents and clandestine efforts are being hatched to impugn his integrity.
Impeccable sources have hinted that a well orchestrated ploy has been hatched to profile Wike as a bunkerer, whose political spending is funded by proceeds of the illegal practice, by one of his closest rivals. Untenable as this may be against the backdrop of Wike's relentless battle against bunkering and illegal petroleum refining across his state, hack agents of one of his opponents are unrelenting in trying to push this narrative. The intention is to cast him in the image of an economic saboteur, who has been collaborating with European allies, to perpetuate the act in the state under his jurisdiction.
Part of the plan is to buy space in about five national newspapers on the eve of the presidential primaries, to plant phantom stories accusing Wike of complicity in oil bunkering activities within his domain. The intention is to discolour the PDP presidential frontrunner in the public eye, and reconstruct his subsisting profile of integrity as a public servant, fit to hold higher national office. It will also portray Wike as a hypocritical public officer, who destroys illegal refineries in the day time, and dines with bunkerers at dinner. The timing of the publication too, will give Wike and his team little room for reaction and rejoinders, because the conjured stories will be in the public just before delegates begin accreditation at the velodrome of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium.
Aspirants vying for the presidential ticket in both leading political parties, the All Progressives Congress, (APC), and the PDP, have been on the road in the last few weeks, holding consultations with stakes and meeting accredited delegates, across the nation's 36 states. In the PDP, there have been surprise aspirants in the mix, as different from the regular suspects. Away from regular contestants like former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki and the governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, new names are featuring in the PDP.
These include Anyim Pius Anyim, a former President of the Senate who is also a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Sam Ohuabunwa, former Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Pfizer Products Plc, West Africa. Former Governor of Ekiti State, Olusegun Fayose; former bank chief executive officer, Mohammed Hayatudeen; newspaper publisher Dele Momodu and little known Charles Okwudili and Olivia Tarela, among others.
Three serving governors are also in the race to clinch the presidential ticket of the party on which platform they ascended to their gubernatorial offices. Second term governors Nyesom Ezenwo Wike of Rivers State and his Akwa Ibom State counterpart, Udom Emmanuel, have thrown their hats in the ring. Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State a first term governor who had also served as Senator and Minister in the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, is also in the jostle for the prized ticket. Variously, the aspirants have logged many flying hours hopping in and out of various states, engaging with critical stakeholders and the electors to the convention, the delegates.
Since his formal declaration to run was made in Government House, Makurdi, two months ago, Wike's application to electioneering has been something of a whirlwind. Apart from covering the political acreage of all 36 states and the federal capital territory within the period, Wike has equally met with revered Nigerian leaders of the political and traditional hue. He has met with two of Nigeria's former military Heads of State, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and Abdulsalam Abubakar, respectively. He has also visited Nigeria's first President of the fourth republic, Olusegun Obasanjo, who was also a military Head of State. He has conferred with revered royals like the Oba Ewuare II of Benin.
From the misconceived pedestal of a possible spoiler or joker in the presidential race, Wike has garnered such tremendous support and acceptance across the country, surprising doubters. Every independent poll conducted to assess the public ratings of the various aspirants, has thrust him forward in the frontline. Some aggregates initially put him within the bracket of the Top Five candidates, namely: Atiku, Saraki, Wike, Obi and Tambuwal. More recent polls have indeed highlighted Wike as the man to beat.
Obi, by the way has resigned his membership of the PDP, and is reported to be pitching his tent with the New Nigeria Peoples' Party, (NNPP), recently floated by former Kano State governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. It has also become very clear, that the Tambuwal project wouldn't fly, because he comes from the same geopolitical zone, the North West, where the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, equally hails from. Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, Nigeria's leader between 2007 and 2010, also came from the same zone.
While it may look a three-way horse race between Atiku, Wike and Saraki, the political pulse on the street, however, points to a potential Wike victory at the presidential primaries. Aside from the legwork and grounds covered, Wike is serially hailed for the continued sustenance of the PDP, which was at the point of emasculation, maybe extinction in the aftermath of the party's loss of the presidency in 2015.
Atiku who was perceived as the new leader and rallying point of the party after he flew the presidential flag of the PDP in 2019, practically eloped from the country. Atiku told concerned PDP leaders who traced him to his temporary "exile" in the United Arab Emirates, (UAE), that he was running a postgraduate programme in public administration. During the extended period of Atiku's absence, the PDP floundered and faltered in the face of a debilitating leadership crisis. Wike stood for the party and generously deployed resources, to stabilise the party which is now a beautiful bride.
If Ahmed Makarfi, former governor of Kaduna State and a former National Chairman of the PDP, had his way, he would just as well "appoint Wike as PDP presidential candidate." Makarfi said this much when Wike met with Kaduna PDP delegates to the primaries. For him, it was Wike, who, wholly and totally, provided the needed oxygen, when the party was suffering potent asphyxiation. For the avoidance of doubt, Wike provided the much-needed fiscal resources to enable the PDP fight its leadership debacle in the law courts.
In the past seven years, Wike has governed the second richest state in Nigeria, Rivers State, and made a success of his brief. He has embarked on several legacy projects, which has endeared him to his people, and boltstered his national image. No less a personality than the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo indeed nicknamed Wike "Mr Projects" in obvious reference to his visionary infrastructural endeavours. He has also been applauded for ensuring security in his domain, having repeatedly clamped down on vagrants, cultists and members of the Indigenous Peoples' of Biafra, (IPOB), operating within his jurisdiction.
Wike's perspiration on the campaign trail and the changing dynamics of political discourse, has been a major source of worry for some of his most competitive rivals. His doggedness, vigour, demonstrated capacity as a bridge-builder and team player, have come to the fore in recent weeks and months, more than ever before. His bluntness and courage to speak to power, are notable positives for him. As it stands, Wike is in a good position to breast the tape, much to the surprise of political watchers.
Wike fits the bill of the mould of President who former President Obasanjo envisions for Nigeria. With the level of multi-sectoral degeneration the nation especially under the Buhari administration, it would require a "madman" to recondition, reconcile and rebuild the country. Obasanjo said this much when Wike was accompanied by his colleagues, including Seyi Makinde and Samuel Ortom of Oyo and Benue states, to visit the elder statesman. Former Cross River State governor, Donald Duke and former Transport Minister in the Obasanjo government, Abiye Sekibo, were on the entourage. Wike could be the bulldozer required to recover the wreckage of Nigeria.