The national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party last December saw the emergence of the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike as the de facto national leader of the party. Will he end up a hero or a villain as the 2019 elections draw near? Segun James looks at the man and his politics
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) brims with colourful politicians whose showmanship cannot be equalled. But none of them has matched the sense of political showmanship of Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, the party’s new leader.
He swept into national fame and recognition from a â€œmereâ€ governor when he was able to take over the leadership of the PDP to the chagrin of supposed political heavyweights in the party.
Not only did he install one of his acolytes, Mr. Uche Secondus as the national chairman of the party, he even told the entire southwest caucus of the party that it did not matter as the region has nothing to offer the party but wanted the leadership of the party on a platter of gold.
To a lot of people in the party – both friends and foes â€“ the surprise rise of Wike has turned him into an enigma who must be respected or cut to size, depending on which of the divides they belong to.
If truth is to be told, Wike is the most powerful man in the party today. He will ultimately decide who becomes the presidential candidate of the party; and to a large extent, he will have a say on who becomes the governorship candidate of every state in the federation. It is a Wike world right now!
But how did he rise to this pre-eminent position in less than three years? Arguments about money are always tiresome, particularly when the sum is meagre, but when it is a mega sum, it is easy for all interests to measure their interest and benefit. Following the crisis that rocked the PDP, Wike allegedly became the major sponsor of the Ahmed Makarfi-faction of the party.
At a time when many were nowhere to be found. At a time when some had become pessimistic and were no longer sure whether PDP would be returned to them, Wike took the battle head on. It is to his credit that the party secured a major victory at the Supreme Court. He was the chief opposition figure to Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff faction. So when it was time to share the booty, few qualified to share as much as Wike. It was at this point he took over the leadership of the party as Makarfi and his team began to do his bidding.
By the time the Supreme Court affirmed the leadership of Makarfi, Wike was effectively in charge of the party. At the point, he demanded for and was given the national chairmanship of the party which he gave to his candidate, to the consternation of many.
Today, opposition to Wike and Secondus within the party is swirling up. To a lot of members of the party, the Secondus-led leadership is weak and has proved unable to assert its authority; a situation that is gradually leading to a silent disintegration going on within.
Many ambitious members of the party are afraid that, as situation remains in the party today, Wike will determine their future, a privilege they are afraid he would misuse. They are also afraid that since Secondus took over last December, the fortunes of the party have not improved as such. Members continue to defect to the ruling All Progressives Congress en mass. The consensus among many members of the PDP is that Secondus doesnâ€™t have what it take to move the party to the next level. Many are contemplating a change of leadership before the 2019 general election.
Furthermore, the battle of supremacy between Wike and the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi for the soul of Rivers state as well as his battle for a second term as governor of Rivers state will prove enough challenges for Wike. He may not have time to concentrate on the election at the centre.
Wike is a creation of his cousin, former governor Rotimi Amaechi who today is now his number one enemy. They have both engaged themselves in so many battles that and are both prepared to continue the battle. Observers fear that in the absence of a truce, Rivers state may again become a killing field during the 2019 elections. If past experiences are anything to go by, this fear is real.
There was never much doubt that it was greed, inordinate ambition, thirst for power and the belief that the partyâ€™s future is tied to the future of a particular person or group that was responsible for the leadership crisis in PDP today, but how this will play out will be determined by how Wike plays his cards.
Ezenwo Nyesom Wike was born on the 13th of December 1967. He is a lawyer. He is an Ikwerre from Rumuepirikom in Obio-Akpor, Rivers State. He was educated at Rivers State University of Science and Technology.
Wike was appointed Minister of State for Education on 14 July 2011 by then president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan. He was later appointed the Acting Minister of Education.
In 2014, he won the Rivers State Peoples Democratic Party primary and chose former Secretary to the State Government Ipalibo Banigo as his running mate for the governorship seat
He defeated Dakuku Peterside of the APC in the April 11 gubernatorial polls to emerge as governor.
Wike was born to the family of Reverend and Mrs. Nlemanya Wike of Rumuepirikom community, Rivers State. He holds degrees in Political and Administrative Studies as well as Law. After a brief stint with private legal practice, Wike was elected twice as the Executive Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area. He served his two terms in office from 1999 to 2002 and 2004 to 2007.
Wike also served as Deputy President, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON, in 2004 and was later elected the President of ALGON. He also represented Africa as a member of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Local Governments Forum.
As council chairman, he embarked on projects that re-defined council administration and, as ALGON National President; Wike played a pioneering role in national security and primary healthcare, leading all local councils to commit themselves to high level grassroots development across the country.
Between October 26, 2007 and May 28th 2011, Wike served as the Chief of Staff to Governor Rotimi Amaechi and was later appointed the Director-General of Governor Amaechiâ€™s re-election Campaign Organization. On the 14th of July, 2011, he was appointed and sworn-in as the Minister of State for Education.
Following a cabinet shake-up, Wike emerged the nationâ€™s Supervising Minister of Education on September 12, 2013. As the Minister of State for Education, he made impact in the basic education sub-sector, spear-heading a nationwide reform of the nationâ€™s education system.
The fundamental programmes that were driven by the former Minister of State for Education include the creation of access to quality education for 9 million Almajiri children in northern Nigeria through the construction of dedicated schools in affected states, construction of basic education vocational training schools for out-of-school children in Southern Nigeria and Special Girl-Education Schools for less privileged girls in 16 states of the country, while also championing free distribution of books across the nation. Over 60 millions of textbooks and library resource materials were distributed since 2011.
Determined to ensure that teachers have the capacity to deliver on the Transformation Agenda of the Jonathan administration, the former minister initiated the training of close to 500,000 basic education teachers and school administrators.
Wike took proactive measures to resolve key challenges in the basic and tertiary education levels. Under his watch, the Federal Government established four new federal polytechnics, with one sited at Bonny, Rivers State.
He facilitated the N1.3 trillion Intervention fund for public universities in Nigeria, the very first of its kind aimed at reviving university education in Nigeria. He facilitated the revival of infrastructure in 51 state and federal polytechnics and ensured the construction of micro-teaching laboratories in Colleges of Education in Nigeria.
His efforts have been recognized by stakeholders within and beyond the shores of Nigeria. He was conferred with the Best Performing Minister, 2011 by the Nigerian Pilot Newspapers, African Network Campaign on Education For All, ANCEFA, awarded him the Policy Champion Award for Africa to recognize his roles in the creation of quality access for Nigeria Children. The Abuja Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, conferred on him a â€œRecognition Award for Reviving Basic Education in Nigeriaâ€,while the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, conferred on him â€œAward of Performance in the Education Sectorâ€. He has received several other awards from reputable stakeholders in the education sector who appreciated his investments of energy and intellectual resources in the system.
On December 8, 2014, PDP delegates from all the 23 Local Government Areas of Rivers State unanimously voted for Nyesom Ezenwo Wike as the partyâ€™s governorship candidate for the 2015 election in the state.
A holder of several traditional chieftaincy titles, Wike is married to Justice (Mrs.) Eberechi Suzzette Nyesom-Wike, a high court judge with the Rivers State Judiciary, and blessed with three lovely children; Jordan, Joaquin, and Jazmyne.
â€ŽObservers fear that in the absence of a truce, Rivers state may again become a killing field during the 2019 elections. If past experiences are anything to go by, this fear is real.