It had been rumoured, it had been expected, but it still came as a surprise to many: Wike on Sunday complicated the power matrix in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) when he joined the fray to take on those who left the party in the lurch in 2015 and now want to ride the party to the hottest seat in the country: the presidency.
In a not-too-veiled reference to the trio of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Bukola Saraki, and Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, seen in some circles as having betrayed the party in 2015, dumping it for then opposition but now ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which they helped elect, Wike suggested they cannot now return and want to benefit from it.
On Sunday, Wike was in Makurdi where he met PDP delegates and declared his interest in the 2023 presidential race.
He joins former Anambra governor, Peter Obi; former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim as aspirants from the South. Atiku, Saraki, Tambuwal, and Bauchi Governor, Bala Mohammed from the north have stated their interests for the same seat, though three of them – Saraki, Tambuwal, and Mohammed – are in discussions to present one of them. The issue of zoning is a delicate matter in the PDP.
Wike got the endorsement of the party’s chief delegate and governor, Chief Samuel Ortom, who also added, “on southern Presidency, I stand.”
Noting that it was pay-back time to Wike for his goodness in the past to Benue State, Ortom praised the contributions of Wike when Benue needed it in its time of distress in the last few years of insecurity.
“Periodically, you have been helping us, particularly during the 2018 crisis in the state, we will support your aspiration because you have sown seed and you need to reap.” the governor said.
On his part, Wike told the party delegates at the Government House, Makurdi, that almost all presidential aspirants from the party were responsible for the party’s defeat in 2015.
“Let these people who are interested in the presidency in the PDP tell us their contributions. You claimed to be one of the founding fathers of the party, but you left and came back; you have become an ordinary person in the new PDP.
“If you form a company and run away because the company is not doing well, you come back and found that it is now doing well and you want to come and take over.”
“Some people want to use Nigeria to get back their private business. Let them mention their private sector that survived. Is it bank that your father had?
“Everybody is an employer of labour. Even me, I have 50 people in my house, so everybody has been employing people according to his capacity.
“In 2015, most of these people made us (the PDP) to lose the election.”
Wike declared he has remained in party through through its turbulent times, contributing to its growth.
“I have spoken truth to power, I don’t have problem with anybody but have to tell them the truth. Umahi and others abused me because I told him that he cannot take our mandate away.
“As governor, I have performed well, I can go anywhere with my shoulder high. How many of them have challenged this government (APC)?”
In a refrain that was recently echoed by President Muhammadu Buhari at the endorsement of National Working Committee (NWC) members at the All Progressives Congress when he urged the new officials not to sell the party’s tickets to the highest bidders, Wike said, “Don’t sell your votes, please give me your votes as we go to primary.
“If I become the President, I will take security as a priority because the main purpose of government is the protection of lives and property.”
Meanwhile, Wike’s predecessor as Governor and Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has said that he is afraid of Wike.
On Channels Television, he was asked whether he would return to Rivers State to take power for his All Progressives Congress, (APC) in 2023, the minister stated that Abuja is now his home, ”This is my home now. Abuja is now my home and my governor is the minister of the FCT. I live and do business here.”
Asked if he was afraid of Wike, Amaechi said, “Yes. I’m very afraid of him. I’m very afraid.
Prodded further on his fear, he retorted, “Because I’m a ‘fear fear man’ now. What’s your problem? When we get to the bridge we’ll cross the bridge,” he said.