By OBINNA EZUGWU
After nearly six months of media buzz, solidarity visits and eager anticipation by the Nigerian electorates, the five People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governors, who are aggrieved over the failure of Atiku Abubakar, the party’s presidential candidate, to pick their comrade, Nyesom Wike as his running mate, and have been demanding for the resignation of Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, the party’s national chairman, as the condition for truce, may have met a dead-end, with their media shows seemingly culminating into an anticlimax.
While many still await the day in ‘early January’ when the governors will eventually endorse their preferred presidential candidate ahead of the February 25 election, Business Hallmark can report that, unable to agree, the governors have opted against collectively endorsing a particular candidate.
Nigerians, who had been eagerly waiting for the five state chief executives, now known as PDP G5 governors, to endorse either Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party or Bola Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate ahead of presidential poll, presently only days away, were disappointed for the umpteenth time, when the governors gathered in Ibadan, Oyo State on Thursday, as they once again, continued the waiting game.
Wike, leader of the pack had assured in December that they would endorse a candidate early January, and openly campaign for the same candidate. But while many still await, such endorsement, findings by Business Hallmark show that cracks have since emerged within the ranks of the ‘rebel governors’, most of whom have opted to remain mute and quietly support their chosen candidates.
In late December, the governors met again with Tinubu in London; a meeting that brought excitement in the camp of the former Lagos governor, with many of his supporters going to town with reports that he had finally secured their endorsement. In reality, however, the meeting ended in deadlock, with Wike, who wanted himself and his clique to be on the same page, leaving disappointed.
Of the five governors in the G5 camp, only the Rivers governor has no ambition of his own, but is determined to ensure that his anointed candidate, Simi Fubara, emerges as his successor, a huge task on a normal day, given the determination of his predecessor. But a task now made more difficult by the division his anti Atiku stance has brought to the state chapter of the PDP.
Still, while Wike can afford to gamble, given that he is not running for an elective office himself, and the APC doesn’t have much of grassroots support in the state, especially in the wake of the rift between Amaechi and Senator Magnus Abe, who has since left to contest for governor under the Social Democratic Party (SDP), same cannot be said of others in the group, namely, Seyi Makinde, governor of Oyo State, who is seeking a second term in office; Samuel Ortom, governor of Benue State, as well as Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, all of whom are seeking senatorial seats.
Endorsing Tinubu, which many believed would be the case at some point, but on which the governors failed to agree, could have been very much political suicide for the likes of Ugwuanyi and Ikpeazu, given the popularity of Obi, the Labour Party candidate in their respective states, and the fact that they are in themselves relatively unpopular, and not entirely in charge of the political structure of their states.
For Ugwuanyi whose performance as governor has been uninspiring, his, is a battle for survival. Openly going against Obi, who is quite popular in the state, could very well seal his fate. But he would be hoping that the solid structure of the PDP would help secure him the Enugu North senatorial seat, and see through his chosen governorship candidate, Peter Mbah.
“I don’t think Ugwuanyi will be capable of swaying 1,000 votes, one way or the other, in the entire Enugu State,” said Nnamdi Nnaji, a youth leader in Amechi, Nkanu area of the state.
“He’s about the most hated politician in Enugu now, even in Nsukka where he comes from, because he didn’t perform. He cannot influence anything as it stands. He’s just doing this G5 thing in order to remain relevant. If the election is truly going to be free and fair, he will find it difficult to win his senatorial election.
“The only thing that will help him is that Enugu is a one party state. The PDP has been dominant since 1999. No matter how popular you are, once you leave PDP, you won’t win any election. Chimaroke Nnamani tried it when he left PDP and formed PDC after he had problems with Sullivan Chime. He failed to win anything. Offor Chukwuegbo also tried it when he joined APGA, but lost.
“Now, even Chimaroke, because he wants to be senate president, thinks that on account of his charisma, he can make people vote for him in the PDP and vote Tinubu in the APC. That will not happen. Because of the nature of my work, I interact with a lot of people and we discuss politics a lot.
“I’ve not seen a single person, who said he would vote Tinubu because of Chimaroke. Most people are talking about Obi. In fact, a vast majority of the people are Obidient, but a good number of people also support Atiku. Chimaroke cannot influence anyone to vote APC, except maybe his own family.”
For Ikpeazu, the situation is even more complex. Having fallen out with his predecessor, Senator T. A. Orji, he’s having a hard time trying to sell his chosen governorship candidate, Prof. Uche Ikonne, even as his senatorial ambition is under threat, courtesy of Enyinnaya Abaribe, the incumbent Abia south senator, who is running on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
“Ikpeazu’s hold on Abia PDP is tenuous,” said a party source, who craved anonymity. “He’s not on the same page with T. A. Orji, who is supporting Atiku. Now, Charles Ogbonna, a loyalist of T. A. is the coordinator of the Atiku campaign in Abia, not Ikpeazu.
“T.A. and Ikpeazu fell out when Ikpeazu wanted to chose a successor and T. A. wanted to pick one for him, but he refused. He told T. A. that nobody picked a successor for Orji Uzor Kalu and nobody picked him on his own behalf. Initially, T. A. agreed, but insisted that he must bring his chosen candidate to him.
“Ikpeazu brought four people and he rejected all of them, but eventually agreed with the choice of Ikonne. However, he gave Ikonne some conditions which he (Ikonne) rejected, and he withdrew his support. Now, he is supporting Gregory Ibe of APGA, the owner of Gregory University. Actually, T. A. has a major stake in that university, he’s the core investor, but people assume that Ibe is the owner.
“At some point, T. A. also wanted Ikpeazu’s deputy to succeed him, but he refused. And Ngwa people also did not want the seat to return to the North. It’s a fluid situation for Ikpeazu. And because of this G5 thing, the party has almost scattered. He would find it difficult to even win the senatorial election because Abaribe is strong.
“Now, we hear that Ikonne suffered partial stroke because T. A. is not backing him, and Ikpeazu is not bringing money for campaign. But I hear that they want to do vote-buying on election day, cause crisis in places they are not popular and also try to manipulate the INEC BVAs.”
Beyond party politics, Ikpeazu is also generally unpopular in the state. Apart from not delivering infrastructure as expected, he is accused of not paying pensioners, and resident doctors in the state, among others, have been owed months of salary areas. For him, therefore, endorsing a Tinubu candidacy in a state where Obi is so popular that even some PDP chieftains are confessed Obedients, could be tantamount to digging his own political grave.
It is understood that the governor had wanted the Labour Party presidential candidate to withdraw support for Dr. Alex Otti, the party’s governorship candidate in the state as condition to endorse him, but he easily rejected the offer.
In Benue, Ortom, who clearly favours Obi, could as well put his own political future in jeopardy by ensuring Tinubu, given that the APC is already strong in Benue. Under normal circumstances, it would be a tough fight between his anointed candidate, Mr. Titus Uba, and his APC challenger, Rev. Father Hyacinth Alia, for the state governorship.
From available feedback, Obi is also the more popular presidential candidate in Benue, and Ortom’s open backing of his candidacy could well work in his favour.
For Wike, while he is evidently strong in Rivers, Obi, from available feedback, is clearly the most popular presidential candidate in the state and openly endorsing Tinubu would make his job more difficult.
Makinde, on the other hand, being from the same zone as the APC presidential candidate, where obviously he’s favoured to win, is more favourably disposed to endorsing him, but could not get his commitment to back his own reelection bid, given that the APC also has a strong governorship candidate in Teslim Folarin, in the state.
“The governors could not simply agree on who to support,” a close aide of Governor Wike confided in Business Hallmark. Initially, most of them favoured Obi, given also the fact that he is Obasanjo’s candidate. However, as it stands, there is no agreement so they won’t be endorsing one candidate as a collective.”
The governors had on Wednesday night, it was gathered, met in Ibadan ahead of Makinde’s official campaign launch on Thursday, with a view to finalizing their stand, but again, could not as they put into consideration the fact that members of the integrity group – the more encompassing body of party chieftains opposed to the status quo in the PDP – cannot possibly back one candidate because of local peculiar political demands.
Speaking on Thursday during the official launch of Makinde’s campaign in Ibadan, Wike told members of the party, some of whom intermittently chanted Atiku’s name, that Makinde would tell them which presidential candidate to vote for in the presidential election soon, perhaps an indication that the governors will each endorse their own presidential candidates.
“Governor ‘Seyi Makinde has done well, the only way is for him to go back to complete the good work he has started.”
“Vote for Governor ‘Seyi Makinde, vote for all the candidates on the platform of the party, but the other one, Seyi Makinde will tell you.
“We believe in justice, fairness, honesty and equity, hence our reason for urging you to support the just governor God has given you in Oyo State. Makinde has done well since 2019 and the only way to appreciate him is to return him to government to enable him complete the good works he had started.”