Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike yesterday fired the first of his salvos at the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP’s) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, over the process that produced Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as the party’s presidential running mate.
Wike, who came second behind Atiku during the PDP presidential primary and was widely tipped to be picked as vice presidential candidate, labelled statements by the former vice president on his Arise Television interview last week as lies, and declared that he was not yet done with Atiku.
He told reporters at the Port Harcourt International Airport that he would devote reasonable time after inaugurating his newly completed projects to respond to all the ‘lies’ told by Atiku and those he branded ‘attack dogs’ of the PDP flag bearer. But he vowed to remain in the party come what may.
Among other things, Atiku had said during the interview that he chose Okowa as his running mate because he wanted someone he could work with amicably.
“You must understand that it’s the prerogative of the candidate to pick his running mate — a running mate he believes he can work with amicably, and then also deliver the policies of the party, and also try to unify the country,” he said.
He also denied that a party committee recommended Wike as his running mate, adding that he was already reaching out to the Rivers State governor with a view to settling their differences.
Wike’s office had said moments after the interview that he would respond in due course to Atiku’s statements.
“You can imagine the presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, when he unveiled his vice-presidential candidate; no right thinking and lover of this party will say that the speech he made on that day was fair,” Wike said yesterday.
“Forget about the scavengers. But I never reacted to it because this party belongs to us,” he added.
Continuing, he said: “He appeared on the Arise TV. See the statements he made. So many lies were told and then you said I should not react to the issues. That will not be fair.
“Assuming today I am not alive, it will be accepted as the truth.
“Look at his attack dogs, Sule Lamido, Babangida Aliyu, Maina Waziri; look at the statements they issued. Look at the abuses they rained on me.
“It is important that as a person and for my own future and for those who are around me, to say that this is not fair. I will react line by line the statements made by Atiku Abubakar himself and his attack dogs.
“Anybody who loves me will not advise me not to react. If a presidential candidate, who believes he wants to win an election, and somebody who contested fiercely with him has never raised any issues, just kept quiet minding my business to see how my state can move forward; but everyday his people come up to attack me. It is quite unfair.”
When asked to confirm claims by Atiku that he had reached out to him, he said: “When people tell lies, it is most unfortunate. Some senators called me and said Atiku Abubakar said he sent Saraki to me. That is unfair. It is not correct.
“I was in Spain, Bukola came to me and said, ‘My brother, how do we settle this problem?’ I asked, ‘Were you sent by Atiku Abubakar?’ He said no. I said okay, what do you want me to do? Look at the issues. He said he didn’t know this and that. He said the matter was serious.”
Wike said scavengers hanging around Atiku to seek survival were trivialising the matter by calling him and asking him not to leave the party.
He recalled that before to the primaries, Atiku visited him in Port Harcourt to solicit his support, and wondered whether Atiku no longer knew the road to his house after winning the ticket.
Wike said: “Abubakar has never reached out to me. Forget about sending scavengers. Some of them will call my friends and say tell your guy to support us. It has reduced to that level. Some of them, I don’t know, would call me and be begging me not to leave the party. Who is talking about leaving the party?
“Atiku Abubakar came to my house and asked me to support him. So he doesn’t know my house again? Now, people I don’t even know are calling me to support him. They are trivialising issues. No way. I will not accept that.
“Atiku Abubakar cannot say he had sent somebody to me. Let one person say he was sent to me by Atiku Abubakar.
“Every day I read in the newspaper you sent a committee to come and see me. I love this party and I have remained committed and I have been able to build this party. I am not one of those who are running around the presidential candidate. They are all scavengers looking for how they will survive.
“General election is not primary election. What is the hope for this country? Who are those who love this country not by mere talking?
“National Chairman said he spoke to me. With all due respect, he never called me. Not one person has called me to talk to me.
“I urge everybody to be patient. After commissioning the projects we line up, I will speak.
“In this part of the world, when lies are being concocted and you allow it, they become facts. I have always believed that when the left speaks, allow the right to also speak.
“We are not getting younger. It is important that when issues are raised you should be able to say this is the path we are toeing so that the public will know the truth and the lies.
“Since after our primaries, I have decided to be quiet because it is the party I love so much. I decided to go back home and focus on fulfilling the main promises I made to the people of the state.
“But there comes a time that people will understand the true facts of things. It is not in doubt that I will speak and let Nigerians know the actual truth.
“Nobody should be in doubt whether I am going to speak on the issues of PDP, primaries and other related matters. I am going to certainly speak. Nigerians will know. It has nothing to do with whether I like you or not. It has nothing to do with PDP. It has to do with setting the records straight.”
Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu had earlier rubbished Atiku’s statement during the Arise Television interview depicting him (Tinubu) as an apostle of Muslim-Muslim ticket in Nigeria, as a lie.
Tinubu said the PDP presidential candidate had only succeeded, through the statement, in demeaning himself and the office he seeks by pandering to base prejudice at a moment like this when the country needs true leadership.
Atiku had claimed that he declined Tinubu’s offer to be his presidential running mate on the ticket of the Action Congress (AC) during the 2007 election.
But the APC flag bearer said he was “saddened to see such a man become unhinged from the truth.”
The APC leader said Atiku “in his desperate attempt to win the election by stoking religious bias, has reduced himself to uttering baseless lies on national television.”
The PDP candidate, he added, has become so obsessed with his quest for office that he “is willing to render any form of untruth if he thinks it might gain him a single vote.
“Atiku may want to be president. However, all he has shown is that he is pathological.
“Whatever moral compass he had has been lost.”
Tinubu said the former VP’s narration of the issue was an assault on historic truth as he (Atiku) was not even among AC founders.
“It was the actual founders of the AC who offered the party’s flag to Atiku because of the need to fight the authoritarian designs then President Obasanjo and the PDP had on Nigeria’s democracy,” he said, adding: “At that moment, Atiku had been unceremoniously pushed aside if not out of the PDP by Obasanjo.
“We needed to rally all forces to confront the one-party state Obasanjo had in mind. Atiku was simply a beneficiary of this collective duty to fight the attack on multi-party democracy the PDP had launched.
“I feel sorry for dear old Atiku. Love of his own ambition has eclipsed his relationship with the truth and an honest account of the past.
“We formed the AC without his knowledge. When President Obasanjo virtually exiled him from the PDP, we lent him our support by giving him the AC platform for the 2007 election.”
He said it was Atiku himself that “offered me the vice presidential ticket in 2007. Let me also say that my religion has not changed. When he offered the position to me, I was a Muslim and I believe he was aware of my religious faith at the time.”
PDP stakeholders mount pressure on Rivers gov for reconciliation
Reports from Port Harcourt yesterday suggested disagreements among the associates of Governor Wike on his face-off with Atiku.
Some of the governor’s supporters, The Nation gathered, are calling for some form of restitution to end the face-off while the rest want the matter laid to rest in the interest of the party.
Party sources said yesterday that Wike and his men had made it clear that they would not back down in their anger against Atiku unless aggrieved chieftains are pacified.
“The issue is not just about Wike; it is largely about party supremacy and collective decision making,” one of the sources said.
He added: “Our desire is to win election and run a government. We do not want a dictatorship.
‘That is why some of us are insisting that right from the very beginning, we must set the record straight and make it clear that we are not about to enthrone a dictatorship.”
Some of Wike’s allies, led by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, are said to be appealing to him to drop all hard stances and consider an unconditional reconciliation in the interest of the party.
Another source said: “It is not true that Governor Ortom is in disagreement with his friend and brother, Governor Wike. He has been very loud in his condemnation of the way Wike has been treated by Atiku and he is still insisting that the two must meet to discuss.
“If he is saying people should consider the interest of the party and make peace, that is not the same as fighting his brother governor. He is only urging a fast resolution of the issues.”
Ortom and some other allies of Wike are said to have made it clear to the Rivers State governor’s camp that they are now in favour of an unconditional reconciliation while other prominent members of Wike’s camp are insisting that certain conditions must be met before there can be reconciliation.
“Wike is not a small fry in PDP or in politics. You cannot maltreat him and his supporters and expect him to just accept it like that. The utterances of Alhaji Atiku suggest that there are issues to tackle and it is in the interest of all that this is done before anything. Let all the cards be on the table for all to discuss,” one source said.
“Why are they unwilling to meet Wike and hear him out peacefully. Why are we eager to merge people together without asking them what they want? We all know that Wike and his people are crucial to the election if people desire victory.
“The party needs unity, yes, but the people also need justice and assurance that the government we intend to form will be a collective one and there will be no witch-hunt of any sort.”
Barring a last minute change, Wike will meet with his team this weekend to discuss the way forward in the matter.
The Nation gathered that the Rivers State helmsman is not unaware that the Atiku camp has been putting pressure on some of his associates with a view to winning them over.
“Wike is a master politician and he cannot be caught unawares. But he is a team player of the highest order who believes in team work and collective decision.
“He wants to hear everybody out and see how a collective decision can be taken,” a close aide told our correspondent yesterday.
Source: The Nation