At a time when the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in desperate need of leadership, the Rivers governor, Nyesom Wike, is stepping up to the plate just in time for the next election cycle. Wike is currently on a tour of states governed by the PDP, with visits to Bayelsa, Abia and Enugu already, and more to come.
At the beginning of the tour, he kept it simple – framing it as a promotion of inter-state friendship, peace and co-operation. It however did not take long before the campaigner in Wike began to manifest. His Abia stop was particularly note-worthy for his intense criticism of the All Progressives Congress (APC) government at the centre.
“So many promises were made by the APC, but none has been fulfilled,” he said. Everyday, what they have to say is corruption, corruption, no other statement. Corruption from day one they started and corruption till the day they will leave office. What have they achieved? No roads, no infrastructure. I could not come to Abia by road. It is not possible.”
What could potentially make Wike’s campaign effective is that unlike his Ekiti counterpart, Ayo Fayose, the Rivers politician is not tying his advocacy within the PDP around any personal ambition. Of course, he wants to be re-elected in 2019 as Rivers governor, but if that was his sole target, he would not need to spread himself across PDP states to achieve that.
In all his stops, Wike has been received with enthusiasm by his fellow governors. Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu state was at the airport to receive Wike when he arrived on Saturday. Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia called him a “special gift to humankind” and thanked God for “the kind of courage” Wike has been blessed with.
With Rivers being the most strategic, populated and financially buoyant state being controlled by the PDP, Wike is well positioned to play a kingmaker role in the buildup to 2019 – a fact that he is very aware of. But first he has to convince his fellow PDP governors on why he can be the focal point of the party’s next moves.
“PDP is ready. That is why they are working to see that there is disunity amongst the PDP governors. But we have realised that we must work together because of the country. The country is looking up to the PDP. We will do everything possible to make PDP stronger,” Wike said at one of his stops. “It is not by propaganda. No amount of blackmail will make the governors to shy away from taking Nigeria to the level Nigerians want it. We are going to work together to ensure that PDP emerges victorious in 2019.”
In 2015, Wike started almost the same way. Instead of sidling up to former Gov. Rotimi Amaechi and hoping for an endorsement, he began to:
- build broad consensus among party stalwarts at the national and local level, and
- build grassroots support through his movement – the Grassroots Development Initiative.
Despite Amaechi’s political savvy, Wike came out on top. It is a similar strategy he is attempting to adopt for 2019. Already a few mass rallies have been organised in his support in Rivers, and now he is on the consensus building leg of his strategy. Which ever way it turns out, the PDP will be relying massively on Gov. Wike’s deftness to mount an audacious comeback just one election cycle after the 2015 rout.