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At a glance, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Rivers State chapter, easily passes the test of stability, peace and mutual understanding. But, looking deeper, all is not well with the party, which has dominated the governance of the state since the current democratic era started in 1999.
The reason for the party’s outward peaceful disposition may not be unconnected with the fear among aggrieved members that openly disagreeing with Governor Nyesom Wike, the party leader may affect their chances within the fold. They want to be in the good books of the generalissimo who has the knife and the yam and takes decisions on almost everything that happens in the party.
Most party leaders are said to be grumbling and bickering against the leadership style of Wike but lack the courage to voice out their frustration. They would rather speak in hushed tones whenever they gather as groups of like-minds.
Investigations revealed that one of the issues causing the internal rancour borders on preparations for the 2023 general elections and the governor’s succession plan. Though Wike has insisted that it is not time to begin the politics of 2023, party leaders doubt the utterances of the governor. They believe that Wike is doing everything possible to protect his political future and pave the way for whoever becomes his preferred candidate to emerge as the party’s governorship flag bearer with little or no resistance. Therefore, other party leaders complain that the governor has narrowed the political space and stifled internal democracy to frustrate any interest against his ambitions and plans.
The first major demonstration of public anger against the governor by party leaders occurred immediately after the congresses that led to the replacement of all the party structures, following the expiration of the Fred Obua-led executive committee. The governor, against all odds, ensured the emergence of Desmond Akawor as chairman. Wike’s foot soldiers also ensured that the governor’s loyalists dominated the entire party structures.
But, the governor was stunned that some party leaders summoned courage to sponsor their loyalists to file a suit challenging the emergence of Akawor as chairman. The leaders were said to have obtained a court order barring Akawor from performing the functions of his office, pending the determination of the motion on notice. The aggrieved members filed their suit in faraway Federal High Court sitting in Owerri, the Imo State capital, a situation that created legal and cautionary impediments to the activities of the Rivers’ PDP.
But, Publicity Secretary, Tambari Gbara indicated recently the court has thrown out the matter on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction. He said: “On February 19, 2021, the same Federal High Court sitting in Owerri, Imo State, having heard the arguments of both parties finally gave the ruling, declaring that the complaints were basically an internal affair of the PDP. Therefore, the court lacks the jurisdiction to hear the case and struck out the suit, putting an end to all the hullabaloo that came with the purported court document that was trending on social media”.
However, there are indications that the matter has further strained the relationship between Senator Thompson Sekibo, who represents Wike’s constituency, Rivers East Senatorial District at the National Assembly and the governor. The duo has been at dagger’s drawn, following indications that Wike is nursing the ambition to replace the senator in 2023. Also, the senator was also accused of sponsoring those who took the PDP to the Owerri court.
Though Wike has not named anybody as his successor, the governor was said to be monitoring the ambitions of party leaders. It was learnt that his war against the PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus is part of a long-term strategy to clear all identifiable hurdles against whoever will become his preferred choice.
The governor is said to be leading the move to remove Secondus as national chairman because he is reportedly planning to back some of his loyalists and kinsmen for the party’s governorship ticket. The national chairman is reportedly planning to draft a former Deputy Governor and his kinsman, Tele Ikuru into the race. Ikuru, who was deputy to former Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who is currently Transport Minister, owes his successful political adventures to Secondus. He is said to be warming up for the ticket and his chances are majorly dependent on the continuation of Secondus as the PDP chairman.
Secondus’ second choice for the party’s ticket is another of his kinsman, Major Lancelot Anyanya (retd), a former Chairman of the National Oil Spill Detection Response Agency (NOSDRA). Anyanya, a friend to former Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson contested the 2015 governorship primary against Wike. Despite the entreaties by a former First Lady Patience Jonathan, he refused to withdraw from the race. He has not been in good terms with Wike since then.
Therefore, the raging battle to deny Secondus a second term has snowballed into a full-blown internal crisis in the Rivers PDP. To loyalists of Wike, Secondus represents a big obstacle that must be uprooted to give the governor the liberty to midwife his succession plans. The governor has been removing all vestiges of Secondus in all PDP leadership structures in the state. He ensured that none of the candidates for the forthcoming local government election in Andoni, Secondus’ local government area, belonged to the camp of Secondus.
In fact, the efforts of the national chairman and his cousin, Tele Ikuru to deliver their preferred candidate and incumbent Chairman of the local government, Paul Lawrence hit the brick wall, as the governor’s foot soldiers went all out to stop them. Lawrence later lost out to Erastus Awortu, another loyalist of Wike.
In fact, Wike is reportedly monitoring the ambitions of Obua, the immediate past chairman, who led the party to the victory that saw Wike retain his seat for a second term. Obua, who wields tremendous influence in the party because of his generosity is said to be like a big bone stuck in the throat of the governor. Known as ‘Mr. Let it Go Round’, a sobriquet for his generous and equal distribution of money, Obua commands a lot of following and his governorship ambition is said to be causing ripples in the party.
However, the biggest odd against Obua is that he hails from Ogba-Egbema-Ndoni, the local government area of Dr. Peter Odili, who was governor for eight years. Though in the interest of equity, Obua may be convinced to drop his ambition, his teeming loyalists are demanding that he should be given the Rivers West senatorial ticket to replace the incumbent Senator Betty Apiafi.
It was gathered that, recently, the governor had a serious outburst with Senator Barry Mpigi who represents Rivers Southeast over his rumoured governorship ambition. Wike reportedly confronted the senator in Government House, Port Harcourt, and the situation led to a charged atmosphere as both leaders exchanged hot words.
Sometimes last year, a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Austin Opara was said to have held a stakeholders’ meeting to advance his governorship ambition. But, the deliberation was disorganised halfway by a strong PDP henchman, who drove into the venue. Opara, who hails from the Ikwere-speaking Port Harcourt City, is believed to be nursing a governorship ambition. Wike, however, is not disposed to supporting him to avoid creating a third political force in Ikwere land and to assuage the general clamour that power should be given to other ethnic nationalities like the Ogonis or the riverine areas.
In fact, most PDP stakeholders believe that Wike is doing everything possible to pave the way for a riverine PDP chieftain to fly the party’s governorship flag in 2023. Sources say the governor is mentoring his friend and Secretary to State Government (SSG), Tamunobaabo Wenike Danagogo, who hails from Abonemma in Kalabari area of the state.
Danagogo has shared a long-standing friendship with Wike, who worked assiduously to make him Minister of Sports at the twilight of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. He held the position for about six months. During Wike’s first term, though Danagogo had no official portfolio then, he was always in the company of the governor.
He was so glued to Wike that the public created an office for him as the friend of the governor. Wike’s appointment of Danagogo as the SSG in his second term is said to be strategic as the office is expected to further expose his friend to the requisite experience to administer the state.
It was gathered that to whittle down the resistance of the Ogonis, who have been clamouring for the governorship ticket, Wike is shopping for an Ogoni running mate. The Ogoni ethnic nationality is majorly found in Eleme, Tai, Gokana and Khana local government areas. Sources say Wike is weighing the possibility of making a former Deputy Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Dumene Tekor, the running mate to Danagogo.
Therefore, Wike’s desire to tightly hold all party structures, to check and frustrate those against his succession plans informed the decision he took that led to the emergence of the party’s candidates for this month’s local government election. Members with bottled up frustration could only express it by detonating dynamite close to the party’s secretariat during the primary.
So, loyalists of the governor eventually emerged candidates for the election, amidst power play that saw other stakeholders losing out during the primaries. The aspirants loyal to Secondus and former Governor Celestine Omehia failed at the primaries, as Wike tightened all noose ends ahead of 2023 succession battle.
It was gathered that notable loyalists of the governor could not return for a second term because stakeholders in their local governments insisted that they were no longer popular to win reelection as executive chairmen. Wike was said to have ordered mock primaries to authenticate the claims of the stakeholders. Those who lost at the mock primaries were immediately replaced with other loyalists of the governor.
Even Akawor failed to secure a second term ticket for his loyalist, Gerald Oforji, the incumbent Chairman of Oyigbo Local Government. It was gathered that many members were shocked by the unveiling of former Majority Leader in the Rivers State House Assembly and a three-time member of the House, Dr. Chidi Lloyd as the chairmanship candidate of Emohua Local Government.
Lloyd was reportedly given the ticket to replace the incumbent chairman, Tom Aliezi, as part of the fulfilment of the promises made to him when he dumped Amaechi and the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Wike and the PDP.
Many observers are wondering why Lloyd should condescend to become the party’s chairmanship candidate, after occupying higher political positions. It was learnt that the development was part of Wike’s succession plan.
Also, Omehia, it is said, failed to stop the second coming of Samuel Nwanosike, the incumbent Chairman of Ikwerre Local Government because Wike was disposed to his return. Though Nwanosike was known as a trusted ally of Wike, his outstanding performance reportedly endeared him to the governor.
The incumbent chairman of Khana Local Government, Lahteh Loolo lost the battle to contest again as Wike drafted the Commissioner for Special Duties, Thomas Bariere to replace him. In Wike’s Obio-Akpor Local Government, the incumbent Chairman, Ben Abel Ekeh lost the ticket to George Ariolu, a lawyer. For Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area Chairman, Ifeanyi Odili lost the ticket to Vincent Job Nwaobakata from Omoku.
Also, Confidence Dekoo replaced Paul Kobani on the ballot as PDP’s chairmanship candidate for Gokana, while Okpe Friday took over from Jacobson Nbina as the chairmanship candidate of Tai. But, Hope Ikiriko, the incumbent Chairman of Ahoada West was handed over the ticket for a second term.

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