By Uche Mbah
The venue of the PDP convention that will be used in selecting the flag bearers of the party that was tearing the leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party apart has been finally settled in Wike’s favor: Port Harcourt will host it. It was gathered that the presidential aspirants were not comfortable with the choice of Port Harcourt by the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, and this did not go well with the aspirants, since it appears he will be using his home advantage to project the interest of his candidate, said to be Aminu Tambuwal , currently the governor of Sokoto state. Tambuwal appears to be the choice of several people, including the former Military president, Ibrahim Babangida. Though Babangida has in recent times been endorsing every visitor to his Hilltop Mansion in Mina, he appears to have a more soft spot for Tambuwal due to his close relationship with the Sultanate. His handling of enthronement of the Sultan during his reign as Military president was commendable, as he was said to have always carried them along in his decisions. That was one of the bane of former dictator Sanni Abacha, who was seen as being a desecrator of the Sultanate. This, analysts observed, is proved by the open support of his erstwhile spokes person, Kassim Afegbua, who is currently one of the arrowheads of the r-APC, a humongous organization formed to enable decampees from APC freely decamp without infringing the law. That was why the entrance of Tambuwal to the scene was troubling to perennial presidential aspirants like Atiku Abubakar. The Sultanate may have also endorsed him, which explained President Muhammadu Buhari’s alleged anger when he sent emissaries to the sultanate for support and they gave him conditions, including the unconditional release of Sambo Dasuki, the former National Security Adviser to Goodluck Jonathan, and a Sokoto blue blood.
Consultations were ongoing with BoT members, governors, convention committee members to decide on Abuja or Asaba , Enugu, or Abakaliki. The worst case scenario, according to those in the know, is to persuade Nay-Sayers to accept Port Harcourt.
Besides Wike,Tambuwal is said to enjoy the support of at least five PDP governors and the musketeers-if one is to include Garba Wushishi, another retired General, and finally, the Sultanate. Recently, he chose an educational consultant and former Aid to lat Ojo Maduaekwe, Okey Ikechukwu, as his campaign media strategist-a move that has been lauded in several quarters due to the vast experience he will bring to bear on the job.
It is not only Abubakar Atiku, former Vice president and serial presidential aspirant, that is afraid of the support base of Tambuwal. Another person is the enfant terrible of the PDP, the Senate President and National Leader of the PDP, Bukola Saraki. Saraki’s entrance also unnerved Atiku, since he thought they have a gentleman agreement on the issue. But in this instance, Saraki and Atiku seem to be on the same page: shift the convention away from Port Harcourt to limit undue influence from Wike. Their combined financial and influential muscle is enough to rattle the Wike base, hence he resorted to Bullying tactics. This magazine has not been able to ascertain the position of David Mark, another strong but silent contender. Mark’s alleged angst over the breach-again that word-of a tacit agreement of stepping down for him by some other contestants-which may include Saki-puts him on a neutral ground. The split votes between Mark, Jona Jang and Saraki escribes a neutralization of the middle belt force that was meant to, through Mark, give the middle belt leverage. The Middle belt has been at the receiving end of the Herdsmen land grabbing agenda.
The groundswell of opposition that has turned Wike into an angry serpent could have resulted in the collapse of the PDP fragile hegemony if it were not handled. Already, Wike is throwing up the Ethnic card. “Those who are against the PDP convention holding in Port Harcourt don’t have the economic interest of Rivers and Niger Delta at heart “,he fumed.
True. The holding of the convention will, undoubtedly bring so much economic boost to state, be it only in the hospitality business. In a snide attack on Atiku, he expressed the fears that after the election, all those who are mouthing Restructuring will abandon the phrase.
“From their opposition to Port Harcourt, it means the restructuring campaign is a mere lip service”, he said.
The crisis had snowballed into involving Many board of trustee members.
Consultations were ongoing with BoT members, governors, convention committee members to decide on Abuja or Asaba , Enugu, or Abakaliki. At last, the Nay-Sayers accepted Port Harcourt.
A former Chairman of the party who is a staunch supporter of Atiku has been at the forefront of opposition to Port Harcourt. With Jonathan endorsement of Mark-not unexpected based on their symbiotic relationship when he was in power-the opposition to Tambuwal may have been sealed. Jonathan had told the world that Saraki is doing a good job in the senate but has out rightly endorsed Mark. And Tambuwal appears to have traces of their National assembly Fence-Jumping escapades following him like a heart-ache to becloud Jonathan’s judgement. In the heat of anger while he was entertaining Ibrahim Dankwambo, a presidential aspirant, Wike had threatened to deal with the PDP if the convention fails to hold in Port Harcourt. He accused some aspirants of working for Buhari . This, analysts say, may be a jab on Dankwambo himself without appearing to do so.
The crisis was so heated that the National Working Committee of PDP called an emergency meeting of all stakeholders to discuss the issue, and come to a decision on steps to follow ater the Osun election widely believed to have been won by the PDP candidate but was mared by violence and blatant partisanship of INEC and security agencies. IIn the end, Port Harcourt was agreed as the venue, and predictably, Atiku denied ever opposing Port Harcourt as the Venue. “Port Harcourt is my home”, he said, “I dont stay in hotels if I am in Port Harcourt.”
In the final analysis, the race appears to be between Mark, Kwankwaso, Tambuwal and Saraki.But recent developments that casts Kwankwaso in the mold of a younger Buhari may spell doom for him.He had adopted his son inlaw as the governorship candidate in Kano, another son in law as a member of the House of representatives and his son for the senate-a Rochas’ script already being played out. He may end up appointing his people to head all agencies like Buhari.With the convention issue settled, Governor Wike has won round one. Round two-enthronement of Tambowal-is the next battle. Although Saraki is seen as having the deviousness to handle Buhari, he may not clinch the post based on the fact of independent mindedness. In the game of godfatherism, loyalty is key. Perhaps that was why he bough nomination forms for both the Senate and President-if the snakes escapes he can chop off the tail. But Tambowal did not buy Governorship ticket. In fact, his deputy has been endorsed by PDP to contest for governorship of Sokoto state. And Tambuwal himself, being a sitting Governor, has the advantage of Immunity from prosecution by EFCC.