In what political observers see as a desperate attempt to outshine his rivals for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike Saturday afternoon returned to Katsina State after his first visit last Tuesday to woo the party’s delegates.
Insiders at the party secretariat told PREMIUM TIMES that the return visit was probably in reaction to an enthusiastic reception party leaders and supporters gave one of his rivals, Bukola Saraki, in the state on Friday.
During his first visit, Mr Wike had met Governor Aminu Masari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and lightheartedly pleaded with him to ask Katsina PDP delegates to vote for him. He said Mr Masari is the father of everyone in the state, irrespective of party differences.
“I am formally informing you that I am making myself available to run for the office of the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria, and I am here today to talk to the delegates who will make it possible on the 28th and 29th of this month, which is our national convention.
“We cannot say because you don’t belong to our party and therefore, we must not give you that respect. No, it is not allowed. By our tradition, party cannot divide us. Party is a vehicle that conveys you to the point of destination,” he told Mr Masari.
The party chairman in the state, Salisu Uli, said Mr Wike returned to Katsina because he could not “properly meet the delegates due to the number of supporters that filled the secretariat” during his earlier visit.
However, PREMIUM TIMES gathered that some of the party leaders backing Mr Wike asked him to return because they were uncomfortable with Mr Saraki’s popularity.
Why the repeat visit?
Most of Katsina PDP governorship contestants have taken sides with presidential contestants with Mr Wike being supported by Yakubu Lado, while Mr Saraki is backed by Ahmed Yar’adu’a, a former Managing Director of Federal Inland Waterways Authority.
Some PDP members PREMIUM TIMES spoke with said Mr Wike was persuaded to return to Katsina by Mr Lado to “get more funds and support from Wike” for his own governorship race.
“You know, Saraki pulled a large crowd when he visited and Yakubu Lado did not even come even as a top party stakeholder. I am sure they made him (Wike) feel that he needed to return to show some people that he is popular. But it all goes back to Yakubu Lado because all the crowd that normally comes here when Wike comes are sponsored by Lado himself,” an official at the party’s state secretariat said.
Governorship contestants like Salisu Majigiri and Muttaqa Rabe are yet to declare the presidential aspirants they are backing, but it is obvious that Mr Majigiri will follow the choice of his benefactor, former governor Ibrahim Shema. Though Mr Majigiri is known to be very close to Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto governor), it is not certain who their preferred aspirant is.
In the meantime, Messrs Lado and Yar’adu’a have been reaching out to delegates to convince them to support their candidates. But Mr Shema, as the leader of the party in the state, may have the final say on who the delegates choose.
Why is Katsina strategic
Katsina State PDP has 34 local government party chairmen, three zonal vice chairmen, 13 party executives and other top stakeholders like former governor Mr Shema and former national party secretary, Abdullahi Tsauri.
With Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states delegates being largely controlled by Mr Tambuwal, who is also contesting, and Kano State PDP chapter in disarray, contestants know that winning the votes of Katsina delegates can be critical in getting the ticket.
“Take Saraki for instance, the easiest state he can win convincingly in the deep north is Katsina because of his relationship with Shema and the late Yar’Adua. Wike has the majority of Niger Delta votes but he also needs the northern delegates and Katsina has the second highest number of delegates from this side of the north, only behind Kano. Saraki said it when he came here that he was starting from Katsina to show how important the state is.
“Wike even went to the stage of asking Masari to plead with his people to vote for him as the PDP candidate. Of course, he said it as a joke but we all know he means it,” Saifullahi Kuraye, a political analyst in Katsina, said.
Every PDP presidential hopeful visiting Katsina has been paying a courtesy call to the family house of the late President Umar Yar’Adua. In the state, the late president remains an important personality even in death. Irrespective of political party, visit by national leaders to Katsina without meeting Hajia Dada Yar’Adua, the aged mother of Mr Yar’Adua, is seen as incomplete.
PREMIUM TIMES reported that though Mr Wike was at the Yar’Adua quarters to greet the woman, he did not meet most of the family representatives.
Mr Saraki had also used the avenue to tell Katsina people that he was late President Yar’Adua’s biggest supporter and he helped him on several occasions.
“Katsina is my home. I see you as brothers and sisters. Anytime I come here, I remember my brother, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of blessed memory. I have come here to make my home people know that I am seeking for the position of the president of Nigeria. And there is nowhere to start but home. That is why I am here in Katsina State,” Mr Saraki had told the gathering on Friday.
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