It is now clear that those who want to succeed the current governor of Rivers State would have to “box it out”. Governor Nyesom Wike who came short of saying that the race would be a brawl for the fittest spoke at a government function in Port Harcourt.
Recall that the Governor had recently told Orashi people that the one who would take over from him must have the capacity. Many in the State who listened to the Governor on that occasion were shocked by Wike’s reference to capacity.
Wike’s latest comment appears to have thrown more light on what a gubernatorial aspirant within the PDP must do to develop capacity.
Insisting he would not involve himself in the choice of who would take over from him when his tenure is over, the governor said he clawed his way through to power and said those who want to occupy Brick House must “box it out.”
Those who operate in the APC might be lions, but the tigers that are being linked to the race in the PDP are formidable any day. They include Austin Opara who has had a shot at the governorship before now, the State Chairman of the PDP, Felix Obuah aka “Go Round”, Tammy Danagogo, current Secretary to Government and former Deputy Governor, Tele Ikuru.
None of these men has so far declared interest in the open, but most party members figure that they are likely to be front runners.
Tele Ikuru’s supposed ambition is believed to have the backing of the National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus who is likely to belong to the ranks of those who think that power should rotate. In Ogbolo territory, Ikuru would be invisible, but the Ogoni areas as well as Opobo/Nkoro might prove tricky.
As Deputy Governor, Ikuru enjoyed goodwill. His strength might lie in his ability to come up with a riverine agenda which might give him access to the Ijaw speaking settlements who are beginning to think it is time to go for the governorship.
But Ikuru may have to contend with Tammy Danagogo, a Kalabari who is likely to have a head-start in the three Kalabari speaking LGAs.
Danagogo has served as council chairman in Akuku Toru, served as Commissioner under Governor Amaechi before joining Goodluck Jonathan when Ijaw sentiments in support of the former President became rather high. He would later emerge as the Minister of Sports during the Jonathan era.
He is currently the Secretary to the State Government, a portfolio which, if skillfully utilized,the way Senator Magnus Abe did, perhaps with the connivance of the Governor, might spin support in his direction.
Wike may not agree that he has any role to play in the emergence of any candidate, but Austin Opara whose name appears to be on every lip is a member of a group known as the Cardinals. The cardinals who are part of the governor’s inner caucus are top players whose voices are respected.
Of all whose names are popping up, Opara possibly has an advantage. He has run for the governorship against Amaechi in the past and so, has strong political links that he can depend on to drive a gubernatorial ambition.
Years back, he enjoyed the backing of men like Chief Abiye Sekibo, Prince Uche Secondus and Barrister Celestine Omehia. Time changes quite a lot of things and it would be interesting to see how old friendships would play out this time.
While at the National Assembly, Opara served as a Deputy Speaker and some of those who are allegedly on their way to the PDP from the APC are men who are comfortable with his rumoured ambition. The implication is that this class of politicians are more likely to work for him even when they remain embedded in the APC fold.
Besides, he is an Ikwerre and in this era when the Ikwerres appear to have acquired a strong lust for power at all levels, six out of ten persons who are from his ethnic nation might queue up behind him when the time comes.
Felix Obuah also known as “Go Round” who was recently crowned Eze Orashi isn’t someone to toy with. He is an astute politician, with an ear to the ground. Like Wike, he served as a local government chairman under the Odili administration.
Both men purportedly collaborated actively in snatching the chairmanship of the State PDP from late Chief G.U. Ake when the initial plan to set aside Amaechi’s influence was hatched by Wike.
Somehow, Obuah has a cult followership in the Orashi region that is astonishing and of recent, he has succeeded in extending handshakes across the Orashi, establishing what is seen in some circles as excellent contacts with youthful elements within the PDP, serving council chairmen and other appointees, especially former ones.
As one of tigers on the prowl within the PDP, Obuah’s greatest asset is his calculating silence when it matters most.
Yet, there may be dark horses as well. One of such men might be Senator Barry Mpigi. He is a General and political actors agree he has the heart to do battle when it is needful.
Barry is building strong bridges in the Ogoni axis, bridges that are stretching from Tai to Khana, Gokana to Eleme and all the way to Oyigbo.
That’s a combination, analysts think, should be watched. But what is clear is that the man who is serving in the Senate isn’t showing any interest in the guber race for now. He has come this far by knowing how to read the political terrain; how to cultivate friendship; and how to follow his heart.
For now, Wike continues to enjoy fine reviews particularly in the popular press because of his position which opposes the imposition of candidates.
Wike who describes himself as a student of history says that any plan to impose a successor can only end in confusion. He drew attention to what played out under the Odili administration and the dying days of the Amaechi administration and what is is currently happening in Edo State where Adams Oshiomhole and the incumbent Governor, Godwin Obaseki are engaged in a wrestling match.
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