By Ayo Esan
In the months leading to the 2023 General Election, the five aggrieved state governors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), also known as G-5 Governors’, who alongside other aggrieved members of the party formed the ‘Integrity Group,’ recently made a desperate move to get the attention of President Bola Tinubu and possibly gain favour from him.
The group caused a major division in the PDP after demanding that the then National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, step down for a southern replacement as a precondition to support the ambition of the party’s flagbearer, Atiku Abubakar, in the February 25 presidential poll.
Both Atiku and Ayu called the governors’ bluff and did not succumb to their demand.
The then Governors of Oyo and Rivers, Seyi Makinde and Nyesom Wike, reportedly played supportive roles to ensure Tinubu’s victory in Oyo and Rivers States against their party’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Of all the five governors, four of them – Wike, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Samuel Ortom (Benue) and Okezie Ipeazu (Abia) – have completed their second terms in office.
Ugwuanyi, Ortom and Ikpeazu contested the senatorial elections in their various states and lost. Although he did not contest for an elective position, Wike is believed to be unsure of his political future.
The governors did not resign their membership of the PDP, yet they continued to boycott the activities of their party, even after the court had removed Ayu as the National Chairman of the party.
President Tinubu has been in office for less than 30 days, but Wike and Makinde have visited him three times in the Aso Rock Villa. Many have interpreted this as a sign of desperation, especially on the part of Wike, to get political appointment. Critics described it as a strategy to facilitate the G5’s absorption into the APC. The latter were proved right when, about two weeks ago, Tinubu held a meeting with the G-5 Governors at the Presidential Villa. Those in attendance at the meeting were Makinde, Wike, Ortom (Benue), Ikpeazu and Ugwuanyi. The current governor of Enugu State, Peter Mbah, was also present.
Also, many stalwarts of the ruling APC were present at a thanksgiving service held to mark the end of the governorship tenure of Wike in his country home.
The event was more like an APC gathering than that of PDP and many analysts believed that it spoke volumes about the political future of Wike and other members of the ‘Integrity Group.’
All members of the G5, including Wike, Makinde and former Governors Samuel Ortom, (Benue); Okezie Ikpeazu, ( Abia) and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu) attended the event.
Another member of the Integrity Group and former Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose; as well as Acting National Chairman of the PDP, Umar Damagum; former Governors Peter Odili (Rivers), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano) and James Ibori (Delta) were also in attendance.
President Tinubu was represented by Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. Serving Governors Siminalayi Fubara (Rivers), Caleb Mutfwang (Plateau), joined the long list of Very Important Personalities at the event with high-ranking APC stalwarts and members of the 10th National Assembly, including Deputy Senate President Barau Jibrin, former National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole; ex-Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi; member representing Borno South Senatorial District, Ali Ndume; amongst others.
Speaking at the reception, which was later held at Wike’s private property on Ada-George Road, Rumueprikom in the oil-rich Obio-Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State, Senate President Godswill Akpabio urged Wike and his friends in the G-5 to form another group within the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to ensure that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) wins the 2027 presidential election.
Akpabio said, “I want to thank you for all your efforts to bring justice to Nigeria,” Akpabio told Wike who backed the return of power to Southern Nigeria and supported APC’s candidate Bola Tinubu against his party’s choice, Atiku Abubakar, in the 2023 presidential election.
“And I want to thank the G5 Governors,” the Senate President said whilst addressing the G5 and the Integrity.
“We are very delighted, we are proud to have G5. Please, ensure that in 2027, another G5 emerges so that APC will continue to do well in this country. And if you like, you can add two more, make it G7 and not only G5,” Akpabio added.
Addressing Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, who is also one of the G5 members, Akpabio said, “Your Excellency (Governor) Makinde, you know I predicted that you are going to be a governor when I met you with the late Alaafin, may his soul rest in peace. I just saw the way you were walking and I said, ‘This man walks like a governor.’ I wasn’t surprised when you became a governor.”
Makinde spoke about a rift within the PDP, subtly mocking Atiku Abubakar’s claim to being a unifying factor in the party. He described Wike as the true unifier.
Makinde made the remark while noting that the gathering at the event was full of politicians from different political parties.
It would be recalled that during the February 25 presidential election campaigns, Atiku consistently referred to himself as a true unifier, of which, but he refused to honour the yearnings of the southern bloc of the PDP who were demanding the chairmanship position of the party for the sake of equity and justice.
As the group continues to fraternise with the APC, it has shunned all activities by the PDP. Nigerians are wondering why it is delaying to decide whether to remain with the PDP or move to the APC.
Wike was conspicuously absent from a one-day retreat for elected officers on the platform of the PDP, which was held at the Banquet Hall, Government House in Bauchi State, about three weeks ago. Other members of the G-5, except Makinde, abstained from the retreat.
The PDP’s efforts at reconciling the aggrieved members of the party suffered a setback as G-5 Governors and other members of the Integrity Group failed to attend a meeting scheduled to take place in Abuja last Tuesday. The meeting was aimed at kick-starting the reconciliation of all aggrieved members of the party.
Speaking at the event where 183 members were invited, the National Organising Secretary (NOS), Umar Bature, said that the PDP leadership carefully and deliberately called for the meeting to douse the tension within the party.
Bature pointed out that the gathering was not a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, but one intended to jump start a reconciliation process.
“This party believes that Atiku Abubakar won the last presidential election, but we are in court and without prejudice to what the court will decide, we will keep it aside. Let me acknowledge that this meeting is not a NEC meeting, but an interactive meeting with the aim to jump starts a reconciliation process.
“Let me give a preview of our performance in the last election. In the state House of Assemblies, we have 342 members. We have 116 members in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, we have 36 members and we have 13 governors. We believe strongly that the ongoing tribunal cases in Kaduna, Nasarawa, Ogun, and Sokoto states will be in our favour,” he said.
Speaking on the discussion at the meeting, Bature said, “We started these meetings with the ex-officio where we briefed them on our performance in the 2023 election and gave an update on the level of party management. We also discussed the challenges of state chapters. We also looked at the issue of vacant positions within the state chapters and other various organs of the party because of swinging membership. Some people went to other parties and all that. We sought suggestions on how to improve the party.
“We are here today and everyone knows what happened in 2023. We contributed both individually and collectively. If you rise to speak, I beg you to spell out your own role in 2023 elections, either positive or negative before you jump to accuse someone else either negative or positive.
“Everybody had a role to play. When you rise to speak, please, tell us the role you played. You can accuse anybody here for playing pro or anti party activities. The aim is when we are through; we will have an idea of what to do with the party before we move to other organs like the national caucus, NEC for the way forward for the party. I believe there is hope for the party because our membership is still very strong.”