Fresh details have emerged about the meeting between the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and select members of the Peoples Democratic Party’s Board of Trustees when the latter visited him in Port Harcourt on Tuesday.
Acting BoT Chairman, Adolphus Wabara; former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations, Tanimu Turaki; ex-Kogi State Governor, Ibrahim Idris, and four others were in Port Harcourt earlier in the week in search of peace following a lingering crisis that showed no sign of abating.
However, there are indications that the BoT might advise the National Chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu, to resign as all entreaties made to Wike so far have fallen on deaf ears.
Sources told The PUNCH on Thursday that during the meeting, Wike wasted no time in telling his guests how the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, had serially failed to fulfil all the promises he made to the five governors who are insisting on the removal of the party chairman.
A former national officer of the party said Wike, who spoke on behalf of the aggrieved governors, left the PDP BoT members speechless after narrating all that had transpired, including how the PDP standard bearer had disappointed the Southern bloc of the party over and over with many unfulfilled promises.
The PDP chieftain, who served in the Uche Secondus-led executive, told our correspondent that the governor vowed not to have anything to do with the PDP Campaign Council unless the embattled national chairman resigned from office.
Before Atiku selected Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate, Wike was said to have nominated a former governor of a South-South state to serve as the vice-presidential candidate but the party’s standard bearer reportedly insisted on the Rivers State governor.
The source said, “Wike told them Atiku disappointed him. He said he didn’t bargain for vice president; it was Atiku who begged him. When he eventually agreed and he expected them to work something out, he came back to say he had picked Okowa.
‘’But when Atiku chose Okowa, he didn’t come back to them (Wike and other governors) to say anything. And the speech he made when he was unveiling Okowa was very disappointing,” the ex-PDP official quoted Wike to have said.
Continuing, the party chieftain said, “Wike also told them that Atiku came to London and assured him that Ayu would resign to balance things. He also complained about the gang-up and sharing of positions which they had already done. Ayo Fayose and Dan Orbih were present during the meeting.’’
According to him, “By the time he told them all that, they (BoT members) were speechless and they were convinced that Wike had been wronged. He told them how he took care of the party when all of them left and how he never abandoned the party for a day.
“After hearing all that transpired from Wike, they asked him the way forward. Wike replied that the only way forward was for Ayu to resign and that if Ayu does not resign, nobody should talk to him about PDP again. He vowed not to leave the party but at the same time he would not work for Atiku.”
The PDP chieftain also said Wike told the Wabara-led reconciliation committee how Atiku’s loyalist insulted him publicly and the former vice-president failed to caution them to order.
“Wike complained that there was a time Sule Lamido, Babangida Aliu and Tom Ikimi—all Atiku loyalists—were abusing him and Atiku refused to checkmate them until it got out of hand,” he added.
Meanwhile, a member of the BoT Reconciliation Committee, Shuaibu Oyedokun, has disclosed to The PUNCH that a meeting of the advisory body would hold as soon as the committee’s report is ready.
Having visited all the governors in Wike’s camp as well as Atiku and his running mate, Oyedokun said the committee was now set to compile its report, preparatory to presenting it to the BoT.
“After compilation, we will submit our report to a larger BoT meeting which will consider it before submitting it to the NWC. The working committee will in turn present it to NEC (National Executive Committee),” Oyedokun said.
In a separate interview with The PUNCH, former Jigawa State Governor and NEC, Lamido, came short of ruling out an immediate solution to the crisis saying, “It (reconciliation) is a continuous process up to the elections and even beyond.”
Like Lamido, a former National Vice Chairman (South-West) of the party, Eddy Olafeso, wants Nigerians to be patient with the party, stressing that the crisis would become a thing of the past in no distant time.
On when NEC was likely to receive the report of the reconciliation committee, Olafeso stated, “When they are done, they will give their report to the NWC and from there to NEC for deliberation. The party is one and we have established positions. We are on course in the desire to reconcile all members of our party.’’
Wike de-recognises Omehia
Meanwhile, the crisis between Wike and some of his estranged political friends took a new twist on Thursday as the Rivers State House of Assembly passed a motion delisting Celestine Omehia as a former governor of the state.
Following the development, he is required to refund all the financial entitlements he had received, estimated at N600m benefits and N96.5m monthly pension as of September 2022.
Omehia, a former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives; Austin Opara, and a former lawmaker representing Rivers South-East senatorial district, Lee Maeba, are staunch supporters of the PDP presidential candidate in Rivers State.
The trio had fallen out of favour with Wike when they paid a solidarity visit to Atiku after he secured the party’s ticket as the presidential standard bearer for the 2023 elections.
Omehia is the latest casualty of the crisis in the PDP as the Rivers State government had on August 19 sealed off the properties owned by allies of Opara.
The affected businesses which were sealed off on the orders of the Rivers state governor include a filling station, a bar and a hotel.
The motion to delist Omehia was moved by the member representing Obio-Akpor Constituency 1, Martin Amaewhule, during plenary presided over by the Speaker, Ikuiyi Awaji-Ibani, and supported by all the 21 lawmakers present.
By the passage of the motion, Omehia’s portrait will be removed from Government House as a former governor.
Presenting the motion on the floor of the House, Amaewmule, who is also the House Leader, urged the lawmakers to reverse an earlier resolution of the 8th Assembly on June 30, 2015, which compelled the state executive council to recognise Omehia as a former governor and accorded him all the entitlements, privileges and benefits due to a former occupant of the office.
The motion was seconded by Anslem Ogugua representing Ikwerre Constituency in the 32-member state legislature.
The document dated October 6, 2022, was titled, “Motion to rescind the Rivers State House of Assembly resolution on the recognition of Sir Celestine Omehia as a former Governor of Rivers State and the restoration of all benefits and entitlement due to him.”
Amaewmule recalled that on June 30, 2015, a motion was moved, seconded and debated upon and a resolution was passed in favour of the recognition of Omehia as a former governor and for the restoration of all privileges and entitlements accruing to former governors of the state.
The House leader further said in line with the resolution, the state government vide an instrument published in the official gazette of the Rivers State of Nigeria No. 5, volume 52 of March 2016 under the hand of Governor Wike recognised Omehia as a former governor and restored all his privileges and entitlements.
The House noted that Omehia later received a lot in financial benefits and entitlements from the government, including N600m benefits and N96.5m monthly pension as of September 2022.
Amaewmule further recalled that the Supreme Court in the case of Amaechi vs INEC had declared Rotimi Amaechi as the valid governorship candidate of the PDP for the 2007 general elections and referred to Omehia as “a pretender to the office.”
He stated that the Supreme Court held that in the eyes of the law, Omehia was never a candidate in the election, let alone the winner.
According to Amaewmule, “The continued recognition of Sir Celestine Omehia as a former governor of Rivers State and the continued granting of privileges and entitlements accruing to all former governors of Rivers State to him is not in tandem with the highlighted pronouncement of the Supreme Court and the provision of the 1999 Constitution.”
He called on the house to rescind its resolution of 2015 and called on the state governor to derecognise Omehia as a former governor.
Amaewmule also asked the House to call on the governor to terminate all privileges, benefits and entitlements accruing to all former governors currently being enjoyed by Omehia.
He said the House should direct Omehia to cease forthwith from using the title accorded to him by the state, “His Excellency,” and the suffix, “Grand Service Star of Rivers State,” used only by governors and former governors of the state.
He further said Omehia should be directed to refund all monies paid to him by the state government as benefits and entitlements, particularly N600m benefits and N96.5m monthly pensions to the treasury of the state government within seven days from the date of the resolution.
The speaker directed that the resolution should be passed to the governor for rectification and onward implementation.
He said, “The law that emanates from every society is a product of the socio-cultural, political and economic conditions of that society. Either a combination of these factors or in isolation can produce what becomes law in that society. That is exactly what you find in legislation.
“That is exactly what you find in legislation. That is why no legislation is absolute,” he added, recalling that the ‘doctrine of necessity’ adopted by the National Assembly to resolve a political stalemate was part of legislation.
After putting the four prayers as captured by the mover of the motion before his colleagues and following their responses, the speaker then ruled: “Final decision of the House: those in favour, 21, against, nil, absentia, nil.
“Therefore, the House has resolved that the four prayers as canvassed by the mover are hereby agreed upon and the House has so directed that the Governor of Rivers State should endeavour to implement the resolution of the House as contained in the prayers canvassed by the leader of this House today.”
Meanwhile, Wike said he would sign the official delisting of Omehia as a former governor of the state on Friday (today), following the resolution of the state legislature.
This was contained in a statement issued by the governor’s Special Assistant on Media, Kelvin Ebiri, and made available to newsmen in Port Harcourt on Thursday evening.
The statement titled ‘Government announcement,’ said, “The signing will take place in Government House, Port Harcourt on Friday, 7th October, 2022 by 12 noon.”
Omehia and his allies, Opara and Maeba could not be reached for comment as calls to their phones rang out. They have yet to respond to the text messages sent to their lines as of the time of filing this report.
PDP expects landslide
Amidst the controversy surrounding his continued stay as PDP national chairman, Ayu has boasted that the party’s presidential candidate would win the 2023 presidential election by a landslide margin of seven million votes.
He stated this while speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting held on Wednesday at the Multi-Purpose Indoor Sports Hall, Bauchi.
Addressing the stakeholders from the North-East, Ayu said that the PDP doesn’t want to be strong on social media nor does it want to be strong based on manipulated images on television.
He, however, confessed that he had fears that the venue of the rally would be empty with people refusing to attend.
He said, “While we were coming here today, I was apprehensive that perhaps when we come, the North-East will not come out. A political party is the people, it is not just the leaders, sometimes, we lay too much emphasis on the leaders.
“Today, we saw that PDP is the strongest party in Nigeria. For those who have been building imaginary rallies, today, it was not a rally, it was a reception but we saw the number of people that came out like bees. That is to tell you that the PDP is strong on the ground, we don’t want to be strong on social media, we don’t want to be strong only on manipulated images on television, we want to see the real people.”
Ayu admonished the people to come out en masse and vote for all the candidates of the PDP from the State Assembly to the President in order to shame the enemies of the party who had been doing all they could to divide the party and been lying that the party was divided.
“And today, it was clear that PDP is a strong party. There are enemies of the party who are determined to cause division among us, who are telling lies about divisions in the PDP.
“I want to assure you that they will be disappointed because at the end of the day, this party will come out en masse and vote for all our candidates from bottom to top, not from top to bottom but from the bottom to the top – all our House and National Assembly candidates, all our governors will come back to office.
“And of course, having stayed out of power for eight years, the PDP is marching massively to Aso Villa with President Atiku Abubakar. He will resume back to the place where he has experience there as a Vice President and assisted ably, by Vice President Ifeanyi Okowa,” he stated.