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2023: WHY WIKE REMAINS DOOR TO ATIKU’S WIN OR DEFEAT

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The task of becoming the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a daunting one. And, understanding this explains why all the presidential candidates are probably facing one of the most difficult moments of their political careers.

Undoubtedly, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar contesting on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has the toughest job among the three main contenders. He has a hurdle of the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike to scale if he must return to Aso Villa, which he left in 2007 as the vice to former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

While Wike’s challenge looks insignificant to the eye, he’s hydra-headed and eventually posing as a door – to either Atiku’s win or defeat. A lot of other issues are attached to Wike, all of which will be treated in this report.

Why is Wike larger than life? The Rivers State governor does not only have people in the party who share his sentiment, he shoulders the interest of all aggrieved members in the party. From the South that was schemed out of 2023 presidential race to the rise of Peter Obi of Labour Party and romance with the ruling party, among other petty political Lilliputians seeking relevance, Wike still remains the link bridge connecting them all.

Wike’s cronies also include his counterpart governors and some members of the National Working Committee (NWC). Hence, it is substantial to say that Wike has turned the fight into a South-North dichotomy.

In a nutshell, Atiku has to win this internal battle before marching to the warfronts against his counterparts – All Progressives Congress (APC) and Labour Party (LP) presidential candidates – Bola Tinubu and Peter Obi respectively. If he eventually reconciles Wike to his side, he would have won half of the scuffles ahead.

Atiku and Okowa’s emergence

The battle for Atiku began the moment he emerged as the standard bearer of the main opposition party. It’s not the status itself that poses a challenge, but the process that brought him in. This doesn’t affect only him, his running mate, Governor of Delta state, Ifeanyi Okowa is also in the picture.

Prior to the PDP primary election in Abuja, in late May, Wike had pledged to support whoever emerged as the party’s flag bearer. He also assured he wouldn’t leave the party, regardless of what happened.

It was almost certain to conclude that Wike would emerge to fly the party’s flag going by his political muscle. Sadly for him, his colleague from Sokoto state, Governor Aminu Tambuwal withdrew from the race and urged his delegate supporters to vote for Atiku. This, obviously won the battle for the ex-vice President. Wike was obviously outplayed by a ‘friend’.

Rivers Governor could stomach Atiku’s victory at the primaries, but his ego was bruised when his neighbour in the South-South was picked to be the vice presidential candidate. Up till now, Wike has neither publicly congratulated Okowa nor commented on the issue.

Wike insistence on Ayu’s removal

Asides from other grievances that sprang up aftermath of the emergence of both Atiku and Okowa, Wike has admitted that his main rancour with PDP leadership is the failure of the party’s national chair, Senator Iyorchia Ayu to resign.

He claimed that there was an agreement during the zoning debate that both the presidential candidate and the national chairman cannot come from the same region.

Since Atiku is from the North, Ayu cannot remain as the PDP helmsman because he also hails from the North. Notwithstanding the resignation of Walid Jibrin as the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Wike insists Ayu must go. Amid this, members of the National Executive Council (NEC) passed a vote of confidence on Ayu. As much as Ayu remains as PDP chairman, Wike cannot work for and with Atiku.

South-South battleground and Rivers electoral value

Whatever Atiku calculated to have chosen Okowa as his vice ahead of the 2023 general elections has arguably boomeranged. This has divided his votes in the South-South already unless the internal wrangling is resolved amicably before Nigerians head to the polls next year.

In the wake of the brawl with the Atiku camp, Wike, while commissioning recent infrastructural projects in his state. Imaintained that he would help PDP not to win elections. This will only change if his demands are met.

But, Atiku must hold on to the belief that the South-South region is a cherished stronghold that would give him votes in the South. By extension, he should strategise not to let Rivers slip away from his grasp even if it means sourcing for a powerful figure in Wike’s state.

Rivers will deliver for Atiku because, in the 2019 presidential elections, Atiku scored 473,971 votes against Buhari who polled 150,710 votes.

However, while Wike’s clout cannot be underestimated in Rivers, Atiku can rake in massive votes in the region including Wike’s state if he plays the game well. The states in the region with the exception of Cross River belong to PDP. He just has to work with Okowa and find a charismatic party chieftain to be on his campaign train.

Makinde and unfriendly South-West terrain

The South-West is a no-go area for Atiku but anything can happen in politics, even at the last minute. Tinubu displayed that during the APC’s presidential primary election, as a political journalist said, “While other presidential candidates go for the delegates, Jagaban goes for the presidential candidates themselves.”

The region is for Tinubu except for Oyo state just like the South-South is for Atiku. But this doesn’t mean there won’t be trickles to gather for both of them in each region.

Going back to Tinubu’s tactics at his party’s primaries, Wazirin Adamawa can adopt such a strategy by enticing the bigwigs in Southwestern Nigeria to his camp if he wants to defeat the national leader of APC in his backyard.

On September 14, 2022, Atiku met with Oyo state governor, Seyi Makinde who is also Wike’s closest ally. Atiku knows he needs Makinde if he has to get a substantial number of votes from South-West. Makinde wanted what Wike wanted. Don’t forget that Wike is a door. Atiku can decide to open or shut.

Also, by February 2023, Osun state governor-elect, Senator Ademola Adeleke would have assumed office, but it is not certain if he would have garnered the political experience to deliver large votes for Atiku.

Mark, Ayu, Ortom and North-Central factor

The Middle-Belt of Nigeria is another PDP’s biggest armoury if Atiku’s political antenna is receiving a signal. He must woo another Wike’s ally and staunch critic of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government in the person of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state. Ortom lamented a few days back that all is not well with PDP.

Whether Atiku sidelines Ortom or not, he has the shoulders of the former Senate President David Mark to ride on. Mark is a big fish in Benue politics. It is noteworthy that Ayu is also from Benue, and Atiku might not succumb to Wike’s threat of sacking Ayu. It is resourceful to use his status in gaining prominence in the state and the region at large.

Other states in the North-Central, especially those plagued by the atrocities of killer Fulani herdsmen will embrace Atiku and this might smoothen his cruise to victory in 2023.

Kogi and Kwara states are APC states but Atiku can use his influence to wage war against them in dividing the votes. The heavyweight ranks of former Kogi Senator who is also Atiku’s spokesman, Dino Melaye and former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki are strong waves to ride on.

South-East, Igbo presidency and the ‘Obidients’

Any politician that jettisons the wave of the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi does so to his detriment. Obi is not only the Igbo presidency that the region longs for, he’s a political figure that the disgruntled young Nigerians want to install via their votes in 2023.

It is expected that Tinubu and Atiku understand this. How they would surmount that hurdle is a test of their acumen. The former VP cannot convince Igbo men with ‘Okowa is also an Igbo’ status to lure their votes.

Although, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo has reiterated that it would have preferred that APC and PDP choose a Southeasterner to vie for the highest political office.

The Igbo leaders wanted a repeat of 1999 when PDP and defunct All Peoples Party (APP) fielded Obasanjo and Chief Olu Falae respectively who are Yoruba people.

And since Ndigbo didn’t get this, the ethnic sentiment that Obi is more Igbo than Okowa is a card to play. An Atiku would struggle to win this debate.

The Obidients are also everywhere. They are the youths that want to pay back APC and PDP in their coin for many years of the nation’s woes. These are energetic and resolute Nigerians who are ready to share spoils with Atiku and Tinubu for Obi’s advantage.

Having said this, Atiku cannot totally lose out in the South-East, another former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim and the new Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman, Adolphus Wabara will not hesitate to embrace Atiku to oust the APC government.

Dicey North-West, North-East’s strongholds

The core North, despite APC’s damage to security and economy, will still most likely queue behind Tinubu who is promising a facelift of Nigeria in the pattern of Lagos when he was governor and other gimmicks he and his party will push out to Nigerians.

Governors like Nasir el-Rufai, Abdullahi Ganduje, Aminu Masari and Bello Matawalle of Kaduna, Kano, Katina and Zamfara states are key to Tinubu’s win. Kano’s votes are instrumental. In 2019, Buhari polled 1.4 million votes in a landslide.

Whoever between Tinubu and Atiku owns Ganduje automatically owns those Kano’s votes. How Atiku would get an appreciable fraction of those votes is also important.

However, Atiku can slug it out with Tinubu on the basis of the son of the soil. He’s a Northerner. He can appeal to the ego and sentiment of the Northern political class and stakeholders from the region.

Atiku is the most prominent politician in the North-East. This would have been a free ride for him but Tinubu chose his running mate, former governor of Borno state, Senator Kashim Shettima to spoil the show for Atiku.

The ex-VP needs to possess the North-East as his home. He must campaign vigorously to weaken the APC even in the terror-laden Borno. He’s a politician who knows what his campaign programmes should hit at.

Way forward

Kwankwaso: the beautiful bride

As integral as Kano’s votes are to winning the presidential election, the former governor in the state, Rabiu Kwankwaso is a major stakeholder. He has massive followers through his Kwankwasiyya movement.

All along, whoever Kwankwaso supported would reap Kano’s votes, but this time around the former Defence Minister is running for President under the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). If he doesn’t step down, it is almost certain that Atiku, Tinubu and Obi should forget Kano as a determining factor in winning.

There are speculations that Kwankwaso would align with any of the three front runners at the dying minutes – and Atiku might have to lobby to win him over.

Nigerians own the votes

The 2023 presidential election largely depends on the aggrieved, hopeful and optimistic Nigerians who desire and demand a better, safer, richer and greater country, and would do all within their reach to achieve this. They are the ones Atiku should appeal to. They are the voters he should convince. He will definitely use the inadequacies of APC against them. But, he needs more than that. Nigerians want practicalities.

With the new Electoral Act, political analysts have supported the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to say it would be difficult for politicians to rig elections. So, 2023 is for Nigerians, Atiku and other candidates in the race must understand and work with that fact.

But, the ball is in the court of Nigerians whether to continue with the status quo or have a paradigm shift. Whichever way, Atiku has a bigger challenge than Tinubu and Obi in winning the election. Since his entry into politics in 1989, he had contested five times in 1993, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. And he knows more than anyone that 2023 is probably his last chance.

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Facts

WHY DO BANANAS TURN BROWN?

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Green, yellow and black bananas © cegli/Fotolia

The life cycle of a banana is a colorful one—it starts with a deep green, changes to a delicious yellow, and ends (if it’s not eaten beforehand) at an unappetizing brown. But what causes this color change, and what makes a banana go from green all the way to the dark side? As it turns out, bananas are a little too gaseous for their own good.

Bananas, like most fruits, produce and react with an airborne hormone called ethylene that helps to signal the ripening process. A fruit that is unripened is hard, is more acidic than it is sugary, and likely has a greenish hue due to the presence of chlorophyll, a molecule found in plants that is important in photosynthesis. When a fruit comes into contact with ethylene gas, the acids in the fruit start to break down, it becomes softer, and the green chlorophyll pigments are broken up and replaced—in the case of bananas, with a yellow hue. The loss of the acidic taste and hardened interior means a sweeter, yummier, and mushier fruit—perfect for eating!

However, unlike most fruits, which generate only a tiny amount of ethylene as they ripen, bananas produce a large amount. While a banana in the beginning of the ripening process might become sweeter and turn yellow, it will eventually overripen by producing too much of its own ethylene. High amounts of ethylene cause the yellow pigments in bananas to decay into those characteristic brown spots in a process called enzymatic browning. This natural browning process is also observed when fruits become bruised. A damaged or bruised banana will produce an even higher amount of ethylene, ripening (and browning) faster than if undamaged. It seems like your grandma was right—a green banana that’s placed in a brown paper bag will ripen faster because of all the ethylene trapped inside. But if the fruit is subjected to its own gaseous prison for too long, it will ripen itself all the way to rot.

Britannica/Cydney Grannan

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[DID YOU KNOW] CHIEF JOHN SMITH?

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Chief John Smith (likely born between 1822 and 1826, though allegedly as early as 1784; died February 6, 1922) was an Ojibwe (Chippewa) Indian who lived in the area of Cass Lake, Minnesota.

In 1920, two years before his death, he appeared as the main feature in a motion picture exhibition that toured the US, featuring aged Native Americans. At the ripe age of 137, White Wolf a.k.a. Chief John Smith is considered the oldest Native American to have ever lived, 1785–1922

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GUNMEN DEMAND N620M RANSOM FOR ABDUCTED TRAIN PASSENGERS

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Edo train station

Gunmen who abducted 31 Edo train passengers on Saturday have allegedly demanded N620m  ransom for their release.

The PUNCH gathered on Monday that the criminals had presented their demands to the families of the abductees.

The Executive Director, Esan Youth for Good Governance and Social Justice, Benson Odia, disclosed that the kidnappers were demanding N20m for each victim.

This was as the police anti-terrorism squad and the Nigerian Railway Corporation on Monday met to strategise on ways to rescue the train passengers.

Speaking with The PUNCH, Odia stated that the demand was absurd, calling on the authorities to intensify efforts in rescuing the 31 hostages in the custody of the kidnappers.

He also said that the Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo and the Managing Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation, Fidel Okhiria were at Igueben to assess the situation.

Odia said the authorities promised to deploy helicopters on Tuesday to locate where the victims were kept in the bush.

He said, “I can tell you that the kidnappers have demanded N20m, totalling N620m. This is absurd and I don’t know where poor people will be able to raise that amount of money.’’

The Edo state police spokesman, Chidi Nwabuzor could not confirm the veracity of the claim.

However, the Edo State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, disclosed that six victims had been rescued, adding that efforts were ongoing to rescue the remaining 26 victims.

The commissioner in a statement noted that Governor Godwin Obaseki had given directives that the criminals should be arrested.

He added that two wanted kidnappers who were not connected to the present case have been arrested and would also help the police in their investigation.

The statement read, “Following the directive from Governor Godwin Obaseki that the kidnappers that attacked the train in Igueben on Saturday be smoked out of their hiding and the persons abducted be rescued, we are happy to announce that six persons have been rescued.

“The six persons are: a 65-year-old man, a nursing mother and her baby, a six-year-old girl and two siblings; aged two and five years old.

“We commend the efforts of the rescue team in the bushes and their support staff that have been working tirelessly since the incident occurred to ensure the kidnapped passengers are rescued and reunited with their families.

“We are confident that the other victims will be rescued soon as the highly motivated security personnel are in high spirits and have doubled down on the hot chase of the kidnappers.’’

“As events unfold in the bushes, be assured that we will keep you posted and we crave the support of all stakeholders, particularly the media, to stay with the facts and avoid sensational reports that could further inflict emotional pain on the families and friends of the victims who are already in distress. Operation Bush Combing continues,” Nehikhare added.

Also, the NRC MD, in an interview with Channels TV on Monday, said the agency had got approval to acquire sophisticated security systems.

On whether lessons were learnt from the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train, he stated, “We learned a lot from the last attack.

improved our security by increasing the number of personnel; vigilantes, army, police, and some technology but we are not there yet.“We have to continue to improve and make sure that we get the required result.

“On Itakpe-Warri, we have engaged the local community to protect and also support the security architecture we have in place.

“So, I think we have improved but there is nothing that cannot be sabotaged with the will and determination of the saboteurs.”

Edo police

Meanwhile, the Edo State Police Command said it has stepped up its ongoing operations to rescue the abductees.

The command’s spokesman, Nwabuzor, disclosed that the rescue operation was being carried out in a way that would not compromise the process.

He stated, “I can only tell you that six persons have been rescued so far. The Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Dankwara has assured citizens of Edo that efforts are on to apprehend the kidnappers and rescue other victims.’’

When asked if the gunmen had made contact with the families of the victims, he stated, “That falls under the other thing I should not mention because the criminals are also monitoring what is being said about the situation.’’

In a related development, the President of Igueben Area Customary Court, Mrs Precious Aigbonoga, was kidnapped on Monday morning in Ugoneki, while on her way to Court in the Igueben Local Government Area, Edo State.

Disclosing this in a statement, the Nigeria Bar Association Publicity Secretary, Festus Usiobaifo said the NBA was working closely with the Edo State Police Command to rescue her.

The statement read, “The President of Igueben Area Customary Court, His Honour, Mrs Precious Aigbonoga, was kidnapped on Monday morning around Ugoneki axis, on her way to court in Igueben Local Government Area, Edo State.

Her Honour is the wife of our colleague, Mr. Afebu Aigbonoga, PDP candidate, Etsako West Constituency 1. The Chairman of the Lion Bar, Chief Nosa Francis Edo-Osagie is deeply sad by this news and condemns, in strong terms, the worrisome insensitivity of these bandits in kidnapping Mrs Precious Aigbonoga;  an easygoing, gentle, and hardworking judicial officer.’’

NBA position

“The executive of NBA is in close touch with the Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Dankwara. By the grace of God Almighty, His Honour shall be rescued unhurt, and the bandits brought to book, Amen. Let us keep His Honour in our prayers, please,” the statement added.

The PUNCH had on Monday reported that the Managing Director and Chief Executive of NRC said that security agencies were on the trail of the abductors believed to be armed herdsmen.

He said, “The police, vigilante and Army are all after the people in the bush; that’s all I can say. There are certain things that we need to clear before we issue a statement.”

The Force Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, also affirmed that efforts were ongoing to rescue the abductees.

“We will give necessary support to Edo State Police Command and Railway Police Command on the rescue of the abducted victims; efforts are being intensified to rescue them and arrest the culprits,’’ he assured.

When asked about the nature of support being given to the state command, Adejobi simply stated, ‘’Support is support.  It’s a security matter’’ and declined further comment.

There were reports that the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, had dispatched police special squads, including the Intelligence Response Team and Anti-Terrorism Squad to Edo State to rescue the victims.

The squads, it was gathered, would complement the efforts of the police in the state.

A senior officer stated, “The IG has deployed the IRT and the anti-terrorism squad to Edo from Force headquarters. But the security agencies should have taken pre-emptive measures by deploying armed agents around the stations.”

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