Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, yesterday, said he would have won the May 28 presidential primary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) if the process had not been manipulated. Wike said this when his political associates and Rivers elders, led by the chairman, Rivers Elders Council, Chief Ferdinand Alabraba, visited to felicitate with him on his 55th birthday.
The governor said he was proud of the impact Rivers State was able to make during the presidential primary in Abuja. But he insisted that there was no rift between him and the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Notwithstanding, Atiku, his running mate, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, and PDP governors congratulated Wike on his 55th birthday.
The Rivers State governor reiterated that the crisis in PDP had to do with the demand from the southern stakeholders that the national chairman of the party, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, who hails from Benue State in the North-central, should relinquish his position, since the presidential candidate was from the same region. He maintained that the demand that the north should relinquish the position of national chairman to the south remained a panacea to the problems rocking the party.
Wike recalled that last year, the Rivers elders had urged him to contest for the office of the president of Nigeria. He said he heeded the advice and almost clinched the PDP presidential ticket, but for the manipulation of the process.
The governor stated, “I don’t regret I ran for presidency. In the name of God, I am happy to make Rivers State proud. I am happy, as far I am concerned. If they had allowed it to be what it is supposed to be, I would have won the election. But it’s okay. It has happened.
“People said because I lost election, it doesn’t matter. I didn’t lose election. This is my first time of trying to run for the president of Nigeria and we made impact. If it is easy, let them go ahead. Are they not the ones begging?
“I have no problem with the presidential candidate. All I am saying is, what is the interest of Rivers people? What is the interest of the South-south, and the South?”
He said the reason some of his Ikwerre kinsmen, like Celestine Omehia and former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Austin Opara, were begrudging him was his insistence that it would be morally offensive for an Ikwerre man to succeed him or even emerge as PDP candidate for Rivers East senatorial district.
Wike explained, “I called Austin (Opara), he sat here and I said, ‘look my, brother, leave it, it will not work.’
“I don’t want to cause crisis in our system. Amaechi finished eight years as governor, I’m going to finish eight years as governor, too. It will be difficult to sell another Ikwerre person as governor for another eight years. Omehia said he wants to go to the Senate, I said leave it. Ikwerre has gone, Ogu has gone, leave Etche to go.
“You people said I should go (to Senate), I said I won’t. Allwell (Onyesoh) could not have stopped me. Yes, today we are majority; you don’t know what tomorrow will be. I never did anything to undermine anybody. We must understand that.”
Wike described as sheer hypocrisy the allegation that he foisted the Rivers State PDP governorship candidate, Sim Fubara, on the party. He said Fubara’s emergence was a collective decision reached after those who had indicated interest to succeed him failed to reach a consensus to produce one candidate.
He said, “When O.C.J Okocha comes back, we will publish the agreement signed by all.”
The governor urged PDP leaders to remain steadfast and focused, saying the sterling performance and transformational leadership provided by his administration since 2015 would help the party to win the 2023 election with ease.
Meanwhile, congratulating Wike on his 55th birthday, Atiku said, “As you turn 55 today, I pray that all lines fall in pleasant places for you. Enjoy your special day.”
Okowa also congratulated Wike in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Olisa Ifeajika, in Asaba.
The Delta State governor said Wike, as a leader, was worth celebrating for his impressive achievements in the governance of Rivers State. He commended the Rivers State governor for his contributions to the growth of the polity as a chieftain of the PDP and statesman.
The governor said Wike had left bold footprints on the sands of time with his numerous landmark achievements in Rivers State, particularly, in Port Harcourt, where he had successfully renewed the city’s landscape with key infrastructure, including flyovers, bridges, and roads.
Okowa stated, “On behalf of the government and people of Delta, I congratulate my dear brother and Governor of Rivers, Nyesom Wike, on his birth anniversary. The people of your state, the South-south and Nigerians are proud of your sterling and laudable accomplishments in the administration of Rivers.
“As you celebrate this year’s anniversary of your birth, it is my prayer and that of the government and people of Delta that God grants you greater wisdom and good health to continue rendering service to Him and humanity.”
Similarly, a statement by Director-general of the PDP governors forum, signed by Cyril Maduabum, said on Wike’s birthday, “The Forum joins members of his family and friends and, indeed, all citizens of Rivers State, to celebrate a man of many dynamic parts, who has redefined the essence of performance in public office through the provision of massive dividends of democracy in an era of scarce resources to government at all levels. Governor Wike has been a standard bearer in leadership and creation of the enabling environment for purposeful development of the state.
“As the governor of Rivers State in the past seven years, he has transformed the landscape of Rivers State with life impacting projects, a feat that has won him numerous accolades globally, including the Distinguished Award in Infrastructure Delivery of the Nigerian Excellence Award in Public Service, NEAPS, presented by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2022.
“In road and bridges construction, Governor Wike has been outstanding since 2015, culminating in the recent avalanche of commissioning activities across the state by prominent Nigerians. The biting Port Harcourt traffic gridlocks have today become a thing of the past following massive flyovers projects executed by Governor Wike.
“His initiative in sports development has been catalytic in empowering the youth of the state to make a career out of sports and powered Rivers United FC to emerge the 2022 Nigeria Professional Football League Champions, among others.”