•Governors grumble as President’s wife back aspirants in Abia, Bayelsa, Delta, Bauchi, Kwara, Akwa Ibom, Rivers •Aide: it’s not true
No fewer than five governors are in a “cold war” with First Lady Patience Jonathan over her alleged moves to impose their successors.
But the Office of the First Lady denied the claim last night.
In the crises are Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Abia, Bauchi, and Kwara states, where the First Lady is believed to have anointed some aspirants for the governorship tickets.
A highly-placed source with deep insight into the challenges facing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said: “We have a crisis at hand, pitching some governors against the First Lady. It is a cold war which will soon become a major one, if President Goodluck Jonathan does not intervene.
“Even Bayelsa, the President’s state is not spared the looming crisis.
In Bayelsa State, the First Lady is said to be backing the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Domestic and Social Events, Dr. Waripomowei Dudafa, for governor of the state.
But Governor Seriake Dickson’s supporters are believed to be unhappy with the push for Dudafa, a plot that has become public knowledge.
Dudafa was Commissioner for Local Government under former Governor Timipre Sylva. He was to be nominated as Dickson’s running mate in the last election, until the decision was changed.
“In spite of denial by the Office of the First Lady, there is already a campaign office in Bayelsa for Dudafa called ‘The New Dawn.’ This is a derivative of The New Phase, which was Sylva’s campaign structure,” the source, who pleaded not to be named because of what he called sensitivity of the matter, said.
Dudafa’s purported endorsement has created tension, such that some Bayelsans are having a rethink on their support for the President, it was learnt.
The source said as a sign of this, the large turnout of party members and Bayelsans welcoming the First Lady to the state has shrunk.
Dickson, however, said Dudafa’s candidacy is a mere “rumour”. He does not think the First Lady is working towards supplanting him.
But Bayelsa is not the only state where the First Lady’s influence has sparked a cold war.
In Akwa Ibom, the First Lady is alleged to be teaming up with ex-Governor Victor Attah to back the immediate past Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Umana Okon Umana, from Uyo Senatorial District on the state as Akpabio’s successor.
Umana’s candidature is against the state’s zoning formula and power rotation pact. Akpabio is said to be unhappy about this.
Eket zone is favoured to produce the next governor, Umana is from Uyo district that produced Attah.
The governor is said to favour the SSG, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, although commissioners for Justice and Local Government are also in the race.
In Rivers State, Mrs. Jonathan is alleged to be interested in installing Senator George Thompson Sekibo, her kinsman from Okrika, as governor. There are fears that the First Lady may dump Minister of Education Nyesom Wike who has been the arrowhead of the “gang-up” against Governor Rotimi Amaechi.
Said a source: “Many stakeholders are not happy that Wike, an Ikwere man like Amaechi, might be sacrificed in the end after leading the anti-Amaechi battle.
“The party is also thinking of facing a dilemma in Rivers State because power ought to shift to Rivers Southeast, which include the Ogoni and the Kalabari.”
The popular thinking in Delta State is that the First Lady has sympathy for a woman as Uduaghan’s successor.
It was learnt that there is a plan to use Delta State for the experiment to produce the first woman governor.
The source said: “The anointed candidate is the Chief Executive of NSITF, Dr. Ngozi Olojeme.
“We learnt that a former minister and the wife of a former chairman of the PDP have been recruited to make a case for Olojeme,” another source said.
In Bauchi, Governor Isa Yuguda is opposed to plans by the First Lady to impose the Minister of FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed, as governor.
“We may witness a repeat of what happened in Bauchi State in 2007 if Mohammed is eventually made the candidate without Yuguda’s support. The opposition will gain from it,” said the source, who pleaded not to be named.
“Yuguda wants to produce his successor and the National Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, may not allow him because this is his own opportunity to take control of affairs in his state,” the source added.
Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State is battling to convince the party to pick his successor. One of those believed to be in Orji’s consideration is the General Manager of Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA), Aba Zone, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu.
But the First Lady might choose between an oil magnate and a retired military chief, although the businessman is rated higher.
“The First Lady’s mother is from Abia State; she sees herself as a stakeholder in the state,” the source said.
In Kwara State, Mrs Jonathan’s preference for Senator Gbemisola Saraki is creating tension in the party. Some stakeholders plan to work for the All Progressives Congress (APC), if the popular wish is not respected.
The First Lady’s Media Assistant Mr. Ayo Adewuyi, in an electronic mail to our correspondent’s enquiry yesterday, said: “The First Lady has no plan and she is not planning to instal any governor.
“There are party processes for primaries and election of governorship candidates and, to the best of my knowledge, she is not a member of the party organs responsible for that. It is, therefore another calculated attempt by mischief makers to use her name for their selfish interests.
“It is also expedient to state clearly that the First Lady does not meddle in the affairs and selection process of the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“Consequently, there is no way she can dictate or instal anybody in political offices. In the case of Rivers State, the First Lady wishes to state categorically that the Supervising Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, is the leader of the PDP in Rivers State and he enjoys the followership of the people of the state. The First Lady is solidly behind Chief Wike. The people of Rivers State are also solidly behind Chief Wike and are prepared to follow him.
“It is, therefore, mischievous to insinuate that Mrs. Jonathan is working to ensure that the governorship candidate comes from one of the riverine areas of Rivers State, which may not be where the people are going.
“It is also imperative to state that the First Lady is always with the people and will continue to go with the wish and expectations of the people.
“Mrs. Jonathan has not withdrawn her support for Chief Wike at any time and will always work for the interest and the good of Rivers people.
“The First Lady is also portrayed as positioning some other candidates to take over from the incumbents in Bayelsa and Bauchi states in an attempt to pitch them against the governors.
“Dr. Waripomowei Dudafa is not only a son to the President, but his employee and very close to the family. Dr Dudafa is not ready to quit his job to contest the governorship election. Similarly, the FCT Minister has been a competent and loyal appointee of Mr. President. Both of them are loyal to Mr. President and their governors.
“They are sons of the First Lady, as the mother of the nation, who also has very cordial relationship with the governors in question and will never interfere in any process that will lead to the emergence of governorship candidates in the states.
“Mrs. Jonathan appeals to the governors of Bayelsa and Bauchi states to ignore the mischief makers who are bent on disrupting the peace prevailing in those states.
“The First Lady is a mother of peace who believes in the supremacy of the party and democratic principles at all levels and does not dump her friends because of politics, whether they are contesting or not.
“She, therefore, urges all Nigerians to uphold the truth at all times, and not be swayed by actions of mischief makers.