Fellow Nigerians, these are not the best of times for our dear party PDP, a party that prides itself as the largest political party in Africa, and rightly so.
My romance with PDP could be traced to the pre-2019 Presidential election when I voluntarily supported its candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, free of charge, without joining the party. I have always been more of a supporter of candidates rather than Political Parties. The reason is simple and straightforward. Political Parties in our country lack marked ideological differences, the reason it is easy to wake up in APC this morning and go to bed in PDP the same evening. No principle, no philosophy and no ethics. Our Political Parties, including the smaller ones are home to rampaging, itinerant and mostly unconscionable politicians who are only in pursuit of power and vainglory without the interests of the people at heart. Thus, it has been virtually impossible, and extremely difficult, for the few exceptional leaders to find solace, succour and anchor in any of these Political Parties.
It was with a similar view that in 2015, I supported Retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari without being a member of the APC. When I finally gave up on him later on, in his first term, I exercised my right of freedom of association by supporting Atiku, in 2019, hoping he would at least tap into his vast business experience and cosmopolitan nature to rescue Nigeria from the doldrums and the backwardness that the APC government had unleashed on our hapless nation. Unfortunately, he lost, under controversial circumstances.
Atiku was already over 70 at the time, and I thought he would retire graciously and peacefully, to enjoy the comfort of his family and friends, for several reasons. He is a Fulani man like Buhari, who by God’s grace should complete eight years in power, at the helm of Nigerian affairs, in 2023. He belongs to almost the same age bracket as Buhari. As Nigeria currently stands, I believe the country urgently requires a younger, youthful, energetic, visionary, cerebral, charismatic, decorous, humble, self-accomplished, tolerant, leader to re-unite our country and re-set it on the path of peace and prosperity. According to the zoning principle of PDP, power should move to the South, wherever the Southerners in PDP and APC decide to situate it. At that time, Peter Obi’s Labour and Kola Abiola’s PRP were not yet in the equation.
I did my permutations and assumed that PDP would have recovered from the blistering defeat it suffered as a ruling Party in government, in 2015, and learn new lessons that would help it recapture power from those who made grandiloquent promises that hoodwinked Nigerians, including myself, in 2015, but fell short on deliverables so soon after. I never imagined that PDP will studiously ignore an opportunity to rebrand itself as a refreshingly new Political Party that would open a window of fresh air and offer hope to already critically frustrated Nigerians at home and abroad. My confidence was also predicated on the emergence Dr Iyorchia Ayu, a famous scholar and distinguished politician as the PDP National Chairman. I had promptly dismissed the rumours in certain circles that he was installed to supervise and guarantee the coronation of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. I knew him as far back as the turbulent days of the June 12, 1993, Presidential election, which was won by Chief Moshood Abiola, but annulled by the military establishment.
I finally decided to join the PDP after my chance meeting with Dr Ayu at the home of Governor Nyesom Wike in Port Harcourt last year. Dr Ayu was in Rivers State to commission some of the landmark projects of Governor Wike, aka Mr Projects. While waiting downstairs for Governor Wike to come down, I was opportune to spend some quality time, and engage with the Party Chairman, on some serious conversation. I presented him three of my books and he appeared elated. He thanked me profusely because, according to him, he loves to read voraciously as a former university lecturer. By the time Governor Wike joined us, we had discussed a lot about the Nigerian polity, and we thereafter took a few pictures, and it was time to go.
That meeting convinced me that PDP was a better option to APC because the Chairman seemed earnest and sincere. I kept in touch with the Chairman a couple of times via WhatsApp and developed more respect for him.
Before taking a plunge, I knew I needed to speak to Governor Wike who had graciously engaged the Ovation Media Group for the rebranding of Rivers States. He was understandably a busy Governor keen on leaving a genuine legacy for his successor to build on, and for his people to enjoy. He was full of praise for our work, and I felt obliged to reciprocate his confidence in us by consulting with him and confiding in him first about my intentions. Unfortunately, once I sent a message about my intentions, it became mission impossible to speak to him. On one occasion, I spoke to our mutual friend, Mohammed Adoke (SAN), former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, who told him I had complained about his unreachability. Wike finally called me around 1.00am and said he was shocked to hear that I said he was deliberately avoiding me. “You should know me by now that if I had anything against you, I would have told you…” I then told him I needed to let him know of my plan to join PDP. Unfortunately, even after this encounter, Governor Wike became even more incommunicado. So, I decided to go ahead with my decision, after fulfilling that righteousness.
On Friday, October 29, 2021, I took a leap of faith, when I formally joined the leading opposition Party, PDP. The news came as a surprise to practically everybody, except my Wife and very close friends and associates. It went viral globally. It marked the beginning of my return to active politics since 2011. And I was truly elated and enthusiastic about using my extensive networks and public relations skills to re-energise PDP and galvanise young, first-time voters to our Political Party. One of my first self-appointed roles was to encourage online registration on the PDP membership platform for these new and young voters. So many youths responded positively but they were soon frustrated and discouraged by the cumbersome screening process and unnecessarily tedious verification exercise required by PDP in order to join a Political Party. I forwarded many of the complaints to our Party headquarters but not much changed or improved.
I soon discovered that there were several powerful and contending forces and opposing blocks in the Party. There was also the glaring North/South dichotomy. It was fashionable to hear of new and old members. You must be a Governor or a former big man for you to be recognised and respected in the party. All our education and personal achievements meant nothing to many of the staff at our national headquarters in Abuja, but my team decided to remain calm and steadfast and play the game to the very end. For us, every experience is a new lesson in the school of life.
It is noteworthy that most of our politicians can never see themselves as the servants of the people who pay for all the perks they enjoy ceaselessly and endlessly. For me, this unreasonable arrogance of our politicians is the beginning and end of our problems in a country overflowing with milk and honey. Since 1993, when Chief Abiola contested on the platform of SDP, I have observed that the Governors have been inordinately powerful. They were amongst those who misled Chief Moshood Abiola and forced him to pick their candidate as his running mate. Chief Abiola had even been ready to pick a Northern Christian as runningmate but was ambushed and dissuaded by the almighty Governors. Fast forward to 2022, the same Governors have become mini-Presidents and causing untold hullabaloo and unnecessary ruckus everywhere. Only a few of them are humble enough to climb down from their high horses to engage ordinary mortals like us. I often wonder that if they can treat those of us, who in our private capacity contributed immensely to the present Democracy that they are now enjoying, at a time many of them were still in school, with such disdain, how would they see the citizens of their respective states as humans who are worthy of their services not to talk of being accountable to those them. I was not surprised when former Governor Peter Obi broke ranks with the Governors and abandoned a Political Party that made him a Vice Presidential candidate in 2019. I heard horrendous stories of how he was snubbed by some of the Governors during his visits to many PDP controlled states as a PDP Presidential aspirant. Just imagine.
Let’s move forward please. The Presidential race truly divided our Party beyond imagination. I will not bore you with details but whatever tragedy has befallen our Party today was a prophecy long seen and definitely foretold by me. I saw it clearly and tried to help my Party, PDP, but the so-called big men were not ready to listen to “featherweights! They treated us with derision and openly derided and denigrated us.
I knew, as far back as early March, that Governor Wike was interested in running for the highest office, at a time many did not know it. Ovation Media Group was in the forefront of his rebranding process so I knew it could not have been for fun. The manner we suddenly became estranged merely because I had mentioned my intention to him via a phone message was also an indication of what was to come.
I knew, almost from the time I joined the PDP that the Party’s zoning formula was going to be jettisoned for the sole benefit of one aspirant, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. This was not a hidden fact and therefore did not need much deduction. I knew that the United States Dollar was going to play a prominent and crucial role in who becomes our Party’s candidate. A former Governor had boasted to me that Wike was going to defeat Atiku and go on to become the next President merely because he commanded a huge war chest that nobody could even remotely match. I told this ex-Governor that I was aware that Wike has the capacity to defeat Atiku but that there was going to be a massive gang-up against him, such that his financial armoury would eventually be reduced to nothing. My brother refused to listen to me despite my genuine and palpable love for him. He said I was not a politician. I could feel the irritation in his voice and body language as he berated me for telling him an obvious, evident truth. In all honesty, Wike is probably one of the best performing Governors in Nigeria, but many people complain that he is too volatile and irascible. Naturally, this got him incredibly angry when I told him this fact which is what most of his friends couldn’t tell him. I knew there was going to be a volcanic and cataclysmic eruption against Wike at our Party Primaries, but Wike and his team did not believe it was possible.
I knew Atiku could not win without some help from Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, and I told my team on the morning of our Party Convention that this was likely to be the scenario that would play out. But for the sudden stepping down of Tambuwal, Wike would have beaten Atiku black and blue in that contest. Tambuwal not only persuaded his supporters to vote Atiku, but his withdrawal also meant that the votes he would have received which would have reduced Atiku’s votes and made Wike the clear winner were residing in the Atiku camp.
Once Atiku emerged as Presidential candidate, I knew he would never pick Wike as his running mate. I’m surprised that big politicians who claimed to have the power of clairvoyance could not see this coming. It would have been a slap on Tambuwal, who had stepped down, for Wike to suddenly become a Vice President, according to those in Atiku’s camp. Additionally, they claimed Wike would be too strong for Atiku to contain and an Obasanjo/Atiku scenario would occur with Atiku being on the receiving end this time.
However, I believe Atiku should have made every effort to reach out to Wike by all means and make him offers he cannot resist or reject. There are positions more powerful than that of Vice President in Nigeria. Former Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, has been like a Prime Minister under the Buhari Presidency. Wike is too strong to be ignored. It is a known fact that Wike’s predecessor, Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, was a major factor in Buhari’s 2015 and 2019 victories. Wike is even much stronger today. Also, Atiku should have invited his co-contestants and carried them along in his decision, because no one is too small in politics. I doubt if the hasty decision to pick Governor Ifeanyi Okowa would not cause irreparable damage to the Party. I would have freely and gladly told His Excellency Alhaji Atiku Abubakar that PDP cannot ignite a passion in the Nigerian youths with a lukewarm team. Atiku has practically donated the entire South West, free of charge, to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the South East, a primarily PDP enclave, to the Labour Party candidate, former Governor Peter Obi and possibly even Asiwaju Tinubu, who is personally well respected there for his vision and industry, attributes which the Igbos recognise and respect. Apart from perhaps Delta State, I don’t know where else Governor Okowa has much influence in the South South. This is a sad fact and the bitter truth.
Lastly, many had asked me why I contested when I had no chance of winning the PDP Presidential Primary. My simple response. I did not believe that I could not win. It was my view that if the contest were free, fair and devoid of the money politics that overshadowed the Primaries, I would win. Moreover, I needed to demonstrate how to run a decent and healthy campaign. I needed to showcase the vast and diverse array of my uncommon network and my ability to reunite and secure Nigeria instantly. I’m glad that I did so to the admiration of many normal Nigerians.
Time will indeed tell our story in glowing terms!…