Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State on Tuesday said then President Goodluck Jonathan pleaded with former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar to support his re-election bid in 2015 but the Adamawa-born politician rejected the entreaties of the former Bayelsa governor.
Wike stated this when Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State commissioned the Akpabu-Itu-Umudiogha road in the Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers.
According to him, Jonathan travelled to the Dorchester Hotel in London in 2015 to meet Atiku but rather, the former VP “embarrassed” Jonathan and told him to relinquish his ticket to him.
Wike, who contested the presidential primary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won by Atiku in May, said he is not asking Atiku to step down as the party’s presidential candidate for the 2023 elections. He said, instead, Atiku should ensure the removal of Iyorchia Ayu as PDP national chairman for a southern replacement.
The Rivers governor said, “We forget history. In 2015 when Jonathan as a sitting President, I am not talking as a presidential candidate but as a sitting President, when he had won his primary, Jonathan went to London to Dorchester Hotel, he went to plead with Atiku Abubakar to come back to the party and support him.
“You know the condition he (Atiku) gave Jonathan? He should relinquish his ticket not to run as the President of Nigeria. That was the presidential candidate of a ruling party. He gave him a condition, telling him to relinquish that ticket.
“Today, we are not saying the presidential candidate should relinquish his ticket; we are not being selfish, we are saying since you are now the presidential candidate, let our people take chairmanship.”
Jonathan, the PDP presidential candidate in 2015, had lost his re-election to Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Atiku and his running mate, Ifeanyi Okowa, had visited Jonathan at his Abuja residence on November 17 to resolve the crisis within the PDP but nothing has been heard of the former President.
With the 2023 presidential poll about three months, there are fears that the intra-party squabbles between Wike and Atiku over the chairmanship of Ayu would affect the chances of the Adamawa-born politician at the polls next February.
Wike and four other PDP governors known as the G5 or the Integrity Group want Benue-born Ayu to step down for a southerner over what they called the dominance of the north within the party.