On Thursday, January 5, 2022, two unexpected things happened in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital as the G-5 governors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and their allies under the aegis of the Integrity Group converged on the ancient city for the flag-off of Governor Seyi Makinde’s re-election bid.
One was the failure of the G-5 to unveil its preferred presidential candidate for the 2023 presidential election in line with the open declaration of its leader and the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, following the group’s rejection of the presidential candidate of the PDP, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.
The second issue was the announcement by the host, Governor Makinde, that another nickname for the members of the G-5 governors is monkey. While unveiling the introducing his guests, Makinde announced Samuel Ortom of Benue as the oldest monkey, followed by Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, Ifeanyi Ogwuanyi of Enugu as the third in rank of the monkeys and then the captain of the ‘monkey club’ and Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, while the baby monkey and Youth leader of the ‘monkey club’ is Makinde himself. The announcement of the monkey appellations of the G-5 governors is quite instructive and a clear indication that the group has been monkeying around with the future of Nigerians ever since.
In a major twist to the tale, the five governors of the PDP otherwise known as the G-5 governors or the Integrity Group, who have been in a running battle with the national leadership of the party ahead of the forthcoming presidential election, disappointed most Nigerians who expected the them to announce their preferred presidential candidate for the February 25, 2023 election, especially following their open rejection of the Adamawa-born politician.
The expectant public was left at a crossroads as all the five aggrieved governors side-stepped the sensitive topic.
For months, the G-5 and their acolytes in the Integrity Group including former Governors Ayo Fayose and Olusegun Mimiko, former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George, have been crying wolf against the PDP and Atiku, threatening hard to crash the PDP building since Wike lost his ambition of emerging as Atiku’s running mate in June 2022.
Though they have claimed that their major grouse is the PDP’s failure to allow a Southerner pick its presidential ticket to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, the whole world knew that the claim was merely a smokescreen and that Atiku’s refusal to pick the loquacious Wike as his running mate was the real offence.
They have also openly argued that since Atiku has picked the party’s ticket, the North should yield the national chairmanship of the party to the South, thereby persuading Dr. Iyochia Ayu to resign for a Southerner to assume the office in his stead, whereas discerning minds knew that the real agenda was to use their preferred Southern Chairman, who would have replaced Ayu, to frustrate Atiku’s presidential bid and ensure their hold on the party till 2027, when one of them would be ripe to pick the presidential ticket.
Ever since then, the G-5 governors have demonstrated a body language that suggested that their doors might be closed against Atiku and partially opened to the APC’s presidential candidate, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, with Wike, described by Makinde as captain of the monkey crew, always in the news, hitting the PDP, its candidate and its national chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, real hard. His Benue State counterpart, Ortom, also fire from all cylinders against the PDP leadership and Atiku, over what the G-5 claim is lack of equity and fairness in the party.
Many had thought that the Ibadan event would be the venue where the governors would finally take a stand, because Wike, in one of his rambunctious tykes last December, had threatened to announce the presidential candidate that the G-5 governors would support in January, amid reports that an agreement is already in place to back Tinubu.
But in what appeared to be a denouement, the governors, who spoke one after the other at the Ibadan event, all failed to hit the nail on the head. While some assumed it could be out of fears that such announcement would jeopardise Makinde’s second term ambition, others who were on the ground stated that the decision not to let the cat out of the bag could be due to extant reality that the crowd was unprepared to accept the announcement of any presidential candidate other than Atiku.
Whatever might be the G-5 governors’ reasons for not using the Oyo governor’s flag-off as the platform to finally dump Atiku, it becomes imperative at this point to state that their actions have been parochial and based on a somewhat tendentious reading of Nigeria’s body-politic. It is sad that individuals, some of whom have governed their states for close to eight years and have had the misfortune of sharing those eight years with APC’s Buhari and all the misnomer the APC federal government represents, could toy with the idea of allowing the APC to continue in office beyond May 2023. As a student of politics, one had followed the G-5 governors or Integrity Group members’ struggle against the developments in their party and wondered whose interest they have been trying to protect hitherto. But one’s curiosity had been settled on Thursday, when Governor Makinde, at the Mapo Hall event, chose the funniest word in the English dictionary to introduce his colleagues. The Engineer-governor introduced his colleagues as ‘Old Monkey, Second Old Monkey, Young Monkey’ and so on. That word-monkey appeased one’s agitated mind, as one came to the conclusion that the five governors have, indeed, been monkeying around [playing silly games, as the dictionary puts it] with Nigeria’s future and Nigerians’ well-being by touting the idea of backing the APC candidate to continue in office after Buhari.
The governor’s claim is that it is the turn of the South to produce Nigeria’s president and that if that cannot happen, then the national chairman of the PDP should come from the South. But one is forced to ask whether that is actually the most important thing that opposition politicians should be concerned with at a time that the APC-led Federal Government has plunged the country into huge and needless debts, with the external debt of the country now standing at over 37 Billion US Dollars. As of December 2022, the inflation rate in the country stands at 21.7 per cent, with the average household in the country finding it very difficult to feed, while most Nigerians have been going through untold hardship to get to buy fuel at exorbitant prices.
For a lot of Nigerians, the February 25 presidential election presents the best and fastest escape opportunity from the hardships imposed on them by Buhari and his APC, whose government has taken the unemployment rate to 33 per cent. Not a few Nigerians had concluded that changing the APC government remained the surest way to change the narrative and better their lives. Indeed, millions of Nigerians have put their hopes solidly in the PDP candidate, Atiku, a known investor and employer of labour, who has shown himself as the man who is most prepared and well cut-out for the rescue effort for the country.
However, the G-5 governors and their Integrity Group caravan, who should be fighting on the side of the people to bring succour to Nigerians, have busied themselves with struggling for the soul of the opposition party. If that is not monkeying around, then one does not know what it is. The saddest part of the development is that three of the five governors enjoy the trust of the downtrodden and the common people, having proved to be comrades-in-arms with the Nigerian masses in the past, fighting on the side of the people against the APC-led Federal Government. Benue’s Ortom, Rivers’ Wike and Oyo’s Makinde have led several charges against the APC in the past, making Nigerians wonder why they would ever contemplate working with the same party to further escalate the suffering of the Nigerian masses.
For instance, Governor Makinde, a digital-savy individual whose presence and acceptability on the social media rates highly, took the side of the Nigerian youths in June 2021, when the draconian APC administration banned Twitter. Ortom and Wike have always taken the sides of the people to speak against shenanigans of the APC-led Federal Government, the same government that enjoyed the backing of Tinubu for eight years and about whom Tinubu can never see or say anything wrong. So, how come these same people are contemplating supporting the APC candidate, who apparently supports every policy and programme of the Buhari government and would campaign with the same. Isn’t that monkeying around?
While one is not yet satisfied that the G-5 governors have come to their senses and fully realised that the path they were heading was not in Nigerians’ interests, it is important to declare to them that their constant grandstanding and hard posturing over the continued stay of Ayu in office as national chairman of the PDP as well as their unceasing threats to derail Atiku’s ambition are antithetic to their avowed love for Nigeria and the Nigerian people. Sadly, the decision not to work with Atiku, if ever taken, will not only affect the Nigerian people, it is also an ill-wind that will blow no good to any of the governors or their supporters. Do they know that working against the presidential candidate of their party amounts to cutting their noses to spite their faces? Do they genuinely think that there would be any succour for them when and if another party finally takes over the Presidency apart from the PDP? How can they assume that APC’s Bola Tinubu or Peter Obi would love them genuinely, accept them wholeheartedly and allow them the space to continue to wax strong? Have they forgotten what happened to Dr. Bukola Saraki, Hon. Yakubu Dogara and many others who worked to install the APC government in 2015 and what they faced in the hands of Tinubu, the same man the G-5 governors are mooting the idea of supporting? If anyone knows any of the governors in close quarters, one thinks it is imperative to speak in their ears and tell them, ‘Your Excellency; stop monkeying around with Tinubu or any other presidential candidate!’ A word, they say, is enough for the wise.