By Wole Olaoye
The rumour mill was abuzz recently with news that Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and his four other colleagues who constitute the G5 group of dissenting governors in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), had concluded negotiations with the candidate of the rival All Progressives Congress (APC) with a view to campaigning for the APC in the forthcoming presidential elections.
If you believe all that you have read, you are on your own.
Going over the stories in the different newspapers with a tooth comb, they appear too similar, as if they were all derived from the same raw original. Anyone familiar with the kinds of things that go on in the dirty tricks departments of presidential campaigns won’t be surprised by efforts to ghost stories and plant them in various news media as if they were the holy grail.
The meeting between the APC candidate ,Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Samuel Ortom (Benue) and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu) was supposed to have held at Tinubu’s London home. Whereas the G5 group were reported to have made some demands of the APC candidate (e.g. that the alliance field joint candidates in some of the states to reciprocate the gesture of the G5 governors campaigning for APC), Asiwaju Tinubu and his acolytes were reported to have rejected the suggestion on the grounds that there would be enough positions to share once he wins the presidency and therefore there was no need upsetting the electoral apple cart as presently arranged.
Some of the reports even claimed that the BBC was their source but they could not produce any link to the original story. One report quoted a press release purportedly issued by Governor Wike to the effect that the G5 had agreed to work for Tinubu.
Titled, “WE HAVE A DEAL WITH APC — Gov. Wike”, the story was robed in the garb of borrowed legitimacy as it was described as “Excerpts from Gov. Nyesom Wike’s address to BBC Africa in London, 28 December 2022, after the G-5 Meeting With APC Presidential Candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”
It was a figurative verbal prostration:
“I have instructed my colleagues in the G-5, the only party that can win the 2023 Presidency is All Progressives Congress APC, and we must do everything possible to approach the Southern Nigeria Leadership of the party under my immediate past successor and boss, His Excellency Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, and the Deputy Senate President, His Excellency Rt. Hon. Ovie Omo-Agege, to fine-tune all arrangements for that.
“We have met with the APC Presidential Candidate, Ahmed Bola Tinubu. He directed that we officially defect from the PDP to APC, which is a very impossible idea at the moment since some of my colleagues are having PDP Tickets. I personally told Tinubu to allow us stay in PDP and do the job, and after 2023 victory, I will collapse every remnant of PDP under my faction in Nigeria, beginning with Rivers State.
“On my Governorship Candidate Sim Fubara, all I have to say is, let APC win the Presidency and National Assembly first, that should be our priority as Rivers people for now.
“As to the rumour that we have endorsed Labour Party Candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, you should understand that we are talking about Presidency of Nigeria, not Traders’ Union nor Anambra Governorship election here…”
The fakery is quite amateurish and rude! I am surprised that presumably literate adults were sharing it on social media. One newspaper even quoted “a source close to the meeting” who revealed to the reporter that, “the governors are to remain in PDP and work for the actualisation of Tinubu’s presidency while pursuing their other political interests.”
Last Friday, on his return from his overseas trip, Wike was so livid that he described those who published stories about his purported meeting with Tinubu as purveyors of fake news. Firing on all cylinders as has become characteristic of him, he noted that the noble profession of journalism has been abandoned to mere pressmen who are in the trade for money. He wondered why those who alleged that he held a meeting with Tinubu, could not publish a photograph or video of the meeting. He revealed that he had only been holidaying with his family and that he took time off to meet with his G5 colleagues. He challenged anyone with evidence to the contrary to join issues with him. He also dared the PDP to wield its big axe. Trust the honey-badger of PDP, he has an ace up his sleeves.
On the heels of the salacious stories, Wike’s party, the PDP, was reportedly considering expelling the G5 Governors if they dumped the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and endorsed either APC’s Tinubu or Peter Obi of the Labour Party as speculated. The leadership of the PDP was said to be mulling over the possibility of dissolving the party’s structures in the respective states of the G5 governors and establishing caretaker committees to run the affairs of the party in the five states.
The PDP is also said to be banking on its ability to break the ranks of the G5 governors by playing on their individual interests. Governors Ortom, Ugwuanyi and Ikpeazu are contesting for senatorial seats under the PDP, being on the last lap of their second term as governors. Governor Makinde, on the other hand, is seeking a second term as governor. The rival APC challenge facing him in Oyo State is quite formidable. Although it is too late to withdraw candidates’ names, the party could make things difficult for them by dismissing them and following up with litigation to consign their political careers to the waste bin. But which party facing a national election will allow itself to be distracted by such processes?
Wike is not on any ballot but he is the arrowhead of the G5 governors and its larger body, the Integrity Group which counts among its ranks political notables like the former governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko; former Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayo Fayose; former Cross River State Governor, Mr Donald Duke; former Plateau State Governor, Mr Jonah Jang; former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Bode George; and several others.
While some of the rumour merchants have virtually signed off the Integrity Group to the APC, there are still some who, for their own separate agenda, want to ensure that Wike is not encouraged to cooperate with the APC so as not to jeopardise the chance of the APC governorship candidate. In the event of any kind of understanding between the APC and PDP in Rivers State, it is inconceivable that the PDP’s candidate (Wike’s nominee) will give way to his counterpart from APC. So, the APC devotees are playing up the impossibility of Wike and his former boss, Rotimi Amaechi working together. While there may be some truth in this perception, the key factor to note is that it is all in aid of self interest. It has nothing to do with the people. Every politician bases his calculation on the good old question: What is in it for me!
To further compound the maze that the politicians are weaving, there was some tittle-tattle about Rotimi Amaechi having a secret meeting with Atiku Abubakar as a prelude to Amaechi’s defection back to PDP. Although Nigerian politicians are notorious for being unprincipled, it sounds implausible that Amaechi would take that step at this time. Granted that he has not been active in the Tinubu campaign, it is perhaps uncharitable to compound his depression with crazy imaginings.
More than ever before, journalists have to be doubly circumspect in these dangerous times. God has not yet created a more desperate human being than a politician seeking power. A good newsman should endeavour not to be caught in the politician’s snare.
The G5 governors have a right to pitch their tent wherever they so choose. They cannot do so secretly because they would need to mobilise their troops to deliver on their goal. But until they make a move one way or the other, it is simply irresponsible to join the fake news industry spreading unfounded fibs about the group and its intentions.
Nothing that I have said is meant to suggest that the G5 is inviolate or made of some idyllic cherubs. They may as well go back to their vomit for all I care. Many analysts wish they don’t — for their own sake! And that is because as we step into 2023 and begin the countdown to the February 25 presidential elections, we are figuratively about to enter the night market.
Light up your lantern and, as they say in Warri, “Shine your eyes wella!”.
(Wole Olaoye is a Public Relations consultant and veteran journalist. He can be reached on email@example.com, Twitter: @wole_olaoye; Instagram: woleola2021)
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