Some reactions to a political disappointment could amount to anti-party activities, writes Bolaji Adebiyi 

It is becoming increasingly difficult to understand the ways of politicians straddling the political firmament of Nigeria. Largely unprincipled and inconsistent, they flow with the tide and seldom play by the rules except when it suits their purpose. They say one thing and do the exact opposite.  

Take Nyesom Wike, the governor of Rivers State and failed presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party, who lately has been throwing tantrums up and down since he was worsted in the party’s nomination convention in May. Delivering his speech at the convention shortly before the casting of ballots by the delegates, he pledged to support whoever won the contest. 

But since he lost the contest, he has been implacable, calling his party leaders all sorts even as he accused some of his brother governors from the South of betraying him. His outbursts clearly contradict the commitment he made to be of good behaviour in the event of a defeat. Wike has met with some South-west governors of the opposing All Progressives Congress, including Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (Ondo State), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti State) and Babajide-Sanwo-Olu (Lagos State). Although what they discussed was not made public, his outburst when he played host to Sanwo-Olu earlier this week indicated his direction. 

Showcasing one of his seven flyovers, which Sanwo-Olu inaugurated, Wike threatened that those who took him for granted would be dealt with at the polls. “If you say Rivers State does not matter, Rivers State will tell you that you don’t also matter at the appropriate time,” he said, adding, “Nobody will use our votes for nothing. Our votes will matter and Rivers State must benefit from anybody that we are going to support.” 

All of these, his guest said, was a clear message about the direction in which his host was headed. What is the direction? A possible alignment with Bola Tinubu, the APC presidential candidate, who needs a foothold in the PDP-dominated South-south. Ordinarily, this would qualify as an anti-party activity, a euphemism for organizational indiscipline.  

But isn’t Wike exaggerating his worth and influence, equating his personal ambition with the interest of the state? No doubt, as the governor, he wields a lot of influence and could sway substantial votes in one direction or the other. However, he would be mistaken if he thought he could take the people for granted. His capacity to control the people would depend on his relevance to their political aspirations. For instance, will the people who are essentially PDP faithful obey a possible instruction that they should vote against their party at the presidential poll but revert at the gubernatorial election two weeks after? Not likely. 

In 2014, Rotimi Amaechi, then governor of the state, picked a quarrel with President Goodluck Jonathan. “There are fifty-something other parties we can go to,” was his usual refrain. Eventually, he ended up in the APC, which he helped to form. Even with the entire 82 Division of the Nigerian Army at his disposal, his APC lost both the presidential and governorship elections with a humiliating margin.  

Wike is approaching a similar scenario, if not worse. Following his imposition of a civil servant without root in the party as its governorship candidate, many of his former allies are seething with anger. Many more of them have been antagonized by him since he lost out at the presidential primaries, accusing them of gravitating towards his Waterloo, Atiku Abubakar. The chances are that the PDP loyalists, who are opposed to him, may resist his pro-APC presidential moves, deliver their candidate and proceed to injure his gubernatorial candidate later.  

Meanwhile, the APC is not without its own rebels, who have been complaining all over the place, attempting to distract Tinubu, the party’s presidential candidate. Disappointed by the choice of a Muslim running mate, Babachir Lawal, former secretary to the government of the federation; and Yakubu Dogara, former speaker of the House of Representatives, have turned themselves to the Wikes of the APC, complaining that northern Christians have been marginalized by Tinubu’s choice of a fellow Muslim.  

They even visited Wike some days ago. For what purpose? Not clear as usual. But what is clear is that they are most probably confused. They are complaining about a Muslim-Muslim ticket in their APC yet they choose to visit a fellow who is gravitating towards the same ticket they are mobilizing the Christian North against. Or do they intend to form another party with their fellow aggrieved ally? 

Before the visit to Port-Harcourt, the duo had conveyed a meeting of Northern Christian leaders to press their case against the APC Muslim-Muslim ticket. What they obviously have not realized is that their campaign offends the law and breaches the constitutional right of Tinubu to choose his associates. What they are doing amounts to a political campaign based on religion, which offends section 97 of the Electoral Act 2022 and makes them liable upon trial and conviction to a one million naira fine or imprisonment for 12 months or both.  

It says, “A candidate, person or association who engages in campaigning or broadcasting based on the religious, tribal, or sectional reason for the purpose of promoting or opposing a particular political party or the election of a particular candidate, commits an offence under this Act and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of one million Naira or imprisonment for a term of 12 months or both; and in the case of a political party, to a maximum fine of ten million Naira.” 

Besides the infringement of the law and the constitution, Lawal and Dogara exhibit the typical moral malady of the Nigerian politician. Being northern Christians, they had hoped that they would be nominated as running mates. The practical reality of the need to deviate from the convention of religious balancing meant nothing to them. Yet, Lawal remained accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of converting resources meant for rehabilitating internally displaced persons, most of whom are Christians, to allegedly non-existent grass-cutting contracts. 

Adebiyi, the managing editor of THISDAY Newspapers, writes from    

Related Articles