Frantic maneuvering between Friday and Saturday nights stopped what could have been an epoch victory for Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, in the presidential primary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2023 General Election.
A former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, eventually won the contest with 371 votes from the 767 national delegates accredited for the poll. Mr Wike polled 237 votes to place second, followed by Bukola Saraki with 70 votes, Udom Emmanuel with 38 votes, Bala Mohammed with 20 votes, Pius Anyim with 14 votes and Sam Ohuabunwa with a lone vote.
However, Mr Abubakar’s victory was largely the result of a desperate intervention involving a former president, former military heads of state, former generals, former governors from the north, chieftains of the PDP from the north and a former intelligence chief to stop the Rivers State governor who intelligence report confirmed as the heaviest spender in the primary.
The power brokers were alarmed by information and conclusive analyses before the PDP Special National Convention began that Mr Wike could spend his way to nomination.
“They decided that the guy had to be stopped,” an inside source who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said on Saturday night.
“They do not see Wike as a presidential material, they believe he would totally run amok as president,” the source added.
A section of the PDP power brokers had met with the five northern presidential aspirants to broker a deal for a consensus candidate among them but only Mohammed Hayatu-Deen acceded to their plea for four of them to step down for Mr Abubakar.
However, they continued to put pressure on the others, until Sokoto governor, Aminu Tambuwal announced his withdrawal too and directed his delegates to vote for Mr Abubakar. Their analyses was that northern aspirants splitting their votes would hand the Rivers governor victory.
According to an aide of the governor, “Oga said he had never been under so much pressure before in his life. They told him that the fate of the party depended on whatever decision Oga took.
“They also said the APC was working for Wike behind the scene because they believe he would be easy to defeat at the general election,” the aide of the governor said.
Even as of the time he stepped into the convention ground, Mr Tambuwal had not made up his mind on pulling out of the race. He eventually did before the delegates began voting and directed his supporters to vote for Atiku.
Some political analysts believe it was Mr Tambuwal’s withdrawal from the race that tilted the race in favour of the former vice president.
The Sokoto governor, who also contested for the ticket ahead of the 2019 election, had campaigned aggressively and was widely rated among the top contenders for the ticket.
Party insiders said he had especially locked down votes from the North-west geopolitical zone, which has the highest number of delegates nationwide, and a few other states across the country.
But for his withdrawal, he would have divided the votes of the north and possibly opened the way for Mr Wike to clinch the ticket.
According to other sources, Mr Wike’s defeat brought a sigh of relief across the party as he was described as a lone ranger relying on brutal use of financial power in his pursuit of the PDP ticket.
Mr Wike left the convention ground on Saturday night once it became clear to him from the sorting of the votes that he had lost the race.
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