There were intrigues recently when the Rivers State Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) conducted its primaries for local government elections scheduled for April 7. Supporters of Governor Nyesom Wike, including the former Majority Leader of the House of Assembly, Dr Chidi Lloyd, and others clinched the tickets. Other party bigwigs like National Chairman Uche Secondus and State Chairman Desmond Akawor surprisingly lost out.
Loyalists of the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike have emerged as chairmanship candidates of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) amidst power play that saw other chieftains losing out of the party’s primaries.
It was gathered that some of the aspirants loyal to the PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, and former Rivers Governor Celestine Omehia, failed at the primaries as Wike tightened his grip on the party ahead of the 2023 general elections.
It was learnt that Secondus and his cousin, Tele Ikuru, who is also the immediate past deputy governor could not deliver their preferred candidate and incumbent Chairman of Andoni Local Government, Paul Lawrence.
Lawrence lost out to Erastus Awortu, another loyalist of Governor Wike. PDP Chairman, Desmond Akawor also failed to secure a second term ticket for his loyalist, Gerald Oforji, the incumbent Chairman of Oyigbo Local Government.
It was gathered that the party members were shocked by the unveiling of a former Majority Leader in the Rivers State House Assembly and a three-time member of the House, Dr. Chidi Lloyd, as the chairmanship candidate of Emohua Local Government Area.
Lloyd was reportedly given the ticket to replace the incumbent chairman, Tom Aliezi, who was impeached by his councillors, as part of the fulfilment of the promises made to him when he dumped the Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to join forces with Wike in the PDP.
Lloyd was sighted among other PDP chairmanship candidates at the state’s party Secretariat along Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway on February 11.
Though most people wondered why Lloyd condescended to become the party’s chairmanship candidate after occupying higher political positions, it was learnt that the development was part of Wike’s succession plan.
Also, former Governor Omehia failed to stop the second coming of Samuel Nwanosike, the incumbent Chairman of Ikwerre Local Government Council because Wike was disposed to his return. Nwanosike was known as a trusted ally of Wike. But, it was his outstanding performance that reportedly endeared him to the governor.
The incumbent chairman of Khana Local Government, Lahteh Loolo lost the battle to contest again as the Commissioner for Special Duties, Thomas Bariere replaced him.
In Wike’s Obio-Akpor Local Government Council, the incumbent Chairman, Ben Abel Ekeh lost the ticket to George Ariolu, a lawyer. For Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area Chairman, Ifeanyi Odili lost the ticket to Vincent Job Nwaobakata from Omoku.
Also, Confidence Dekoo replaced Paul Kobani on the ballot as PDP’s chairmanship candidate for Gokana, while Okpe Friday took over from Jacobson Nbina as the chairmanship candidate of Tai Local Government.
But, Hope Ikiriko, the incumbent Chairman of Ahoada West was handed over the ticket of the party for a second term. Reacting to the party’s primary and the explosion that occurred at the party’s secretariat, the APC said the wave of violent reactions was proof that the PDP was responsible for electoral disturbances in the state.
APC spokesman, Chief Ogbonna Nwuke said in a statement that the level of violence on the streets on account of the PDP had left many rational Rivers people in shock.
He said: “We understand the angry reaction that the high handedness of the leadership of the PDP has caused the people of Rivers State and the PDP membership in particular. PDP members are tired of the brazen use of power and the imposition of candidates which has taken place over the years. It is on record that the rights of party members to elect state officials of the PDP were snatched from them through congresses held last year that were not properly organised.
“The latest attempt is even more brazen. We are aware that the PDP in the most despicable manner issued one nomination form in each of the wards across the state, and also anointed those who would be fielded by it. This explains why angry party members have attacked the PDP State Secretariat.
“The extent of the violence that has been recorded, the broken heads and broken limbs that we have heard about, show how deadly the quest for power in the PDP has become. It is clear that the APC has never been and will never be responsible for the violence, bloodshed, arson, assault and battery that has been linked to Rivers politics.
“All said, we call on the Wike administration and the leadership of the PDP in the state to take immediate steps to restore law and order among its rank and file.
“The lives of Rivers people who have every right to go about their businesses matter. We demand that the Rivers State Government must wake up and ensure that these people who are not politicians are adequately protected.”
Meanwhile, the member representing Khana/Gokana Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Dumnamene Robinson Dekor has expressed optimism that the PDP would win all units in Khana Local Government Area, as the countdown to the April 17 local government polls begins.
Speaking after he led party faithful in local government to cast their votes at the party’s primary which held across the state recently, the federal lawmaker said his confidence stems from the fact that PDP has won the hearts of Ogoni having delivered the dividend of democracy to them.
Dekor declared that Governor Wike has, within the span of his administration, silenced all critics by providing people-friendly projects with more still in the pipeline. He said: “As a matter of fact, we don’t have any other political party to contend with. What we have are little groups and they are ready to collapse into what we are doing. Our chairmanship candidate would leverage on what our Governor has done for the people in all the nooks and crannies of Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State.
“As you can see, we are presently standing on the (Sakpenwa/Bori) Road that was just recently commissioned. This alone would attract as many people as possible in Ogoni to vote for the PDP. So, our party’s candidate would have a smooth sail in the April polls because he would leverage on what the governor has done for us.”
At the end of the primary, Dr. Thomas Bari-Ere won unopposed having polled all the 167 accredited delegates votes.
On the seemingly tranquil, rancour-free and general acceptability of Dr. Thomas Bari-Ere to fly the flag of the PDP for Khana Local Government Area, Dekor attributed the development to what he says is the overwhelming love that exists in the party.
The federal lawmaker said: “It is because we love ourselves. Of course, you know today (February 14) is St. Valentine’s Day. The people of Khana have come to demonstrate the fact that we love ourselves. And to that extent, everybody has said ‘let him (Dr. Bari-Ere) fly the flag of the party. You can see, we all thronged into this place and agreed that this is where we are going and we know we will not be disappointed.”
While urging all teeming party faithful and supporters to come out enmasse as soon as the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC) gives the go-ahead for campaigns, he expressed confidence that PDP would do the needful as victory would surely come in the end.