That Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has seized the headlines for over three months now is no exaggeration. In a way, his name now collocates with crisis, especially in his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). There is hardly a day that there is no story on Wike on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers.
Yes, many have described him as beautiful hot bride. But of what use is a bride that never really gets married by any of the thronging suitors or whose marriage does not survive the next summer?
The two most prized attributes that have traded the Wike brand in Nigeria’s political stock exchange is cash and courage. And there appears to be a surfeit of both.
Governor Wike practically sits on a cash dump, what with all the financial fortunes that have been his lot in recent years. Beside the huge earnings from being a leading oil producing state, the recent court judgement ceding the disputed 17 oil wells in Ndoni and Egbema (between Imo and Rivers State) to Rivers State has gone a long way in enriching Rivers State. The financial fortunes this transloads into the treasury of Rivers State is better imagined. This is aside the N78 billion the state got as refund from the federal government for the repair of federal roads in the state, last year. So, from all corners, the economic fortunes of Rivers State has been maximally buoyed and it all reinforces the confidence with which Governor Wike roars and rattles.
No doubt, the governor has engaged in several and multiple infrastructure development projects, especially flyovers, which are being commissioned, in phases, with so much fanfare.
With the resources at his disposal, Gov Wike, so-to-say, became the messiah for the PDP after the loss of the 2015 presidential election. Yes, Wike stood in defence and protection of the party, almost single-handedly. He saved the party from going extinct.
And that, in a way, has given him the inexplicable sense of entitlement in wanting to appropriate the party, forgetting that it is neither a private property, nor an extension of Rivers State.
It is this entitlement syndrome that made Gov Wike feel very strongly that he would win the Presidential ticket. Did you notice and remember the colourful road show of his many branded campaign vans, days before the PDP primary election? (I wonder where those buses are now). Little wonder he was so devasted when he lost.
The other attribute is the courage. Governor Wike has shown huge courage in many ways. The challenge, for instance, of the VAT deductions by the federal government in his state is clearly a show of courage. But who would have all those cash backings and not roar like a lion in a jungle?
But in the exercise of this courage, Wike seems to have crossed the lines of decency and decorum. Not for him the restrains of his office as a governor. He is a governor, but the ethos, aura and carriage of a governor are far from him. He speaks unguarded, what with his many barbed comments. He is even garrulous. There is nobody that he cannot attempt to browbeat in the crudest manner.
Gov Wike practically rants endlessly like a termagant woman. Nothing is spared. Nothing and no one is ignored. He fires back at every dart thrown his direction.
It was Winston Churchill, former American President who said, “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks”.
Wike appears to be that man hauling stones at every barking dog. Little wonder the presidency he sought to occupy will almost perpetually be a mirage.
In a way, his loss at the PDP presidential primary and the subsequent loss in the choice of who becomes the PDP’s running mate to the presidential candidate, has showcased, most brazenly, the character content of Mr Nyesom Wike, as he clearly lacks the presidential etiquette and accoutrements. Last May, while in a so-called church Thanksgiving service in Port Harcourt, he berated those aversed to his ways cursing out, “Thunder fire you”—in the church!
Ever since the loss at the presidential primary and the running mate nomination, Wike has been hurting and growling like a bruised dog.
He is being accused of being a bad loser, as he appears implacable. Rounds of reconciliation committees have been set up, meetings have been held within and outside Nigeria to appease him and woo him back to the party, but none of these efforts has yielded any fruit thus far.
All of these shenanigans were launched by Gov Samuel Ortom of Benue State, who is fast becoming like Wike’s Man Friday. Wike had indeed declared for the presidential race in Benue State. Ortom, it was who first fired hot volleys at former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who won the PDP presidential ticket, for not personally visiting Wike and courting him, instead of sending emissaries to him (Wike). And that was the intro needed to launch into the extensive drama show we have been seeing. Somebody has described Wike as an executive comedian, whose script content has not stopped entertaining the Nigerian public, what with those funny dance steps!
Wike argues that he oxygenated the PDP when it went comatose. True. But some people laid the PDP foundation on which Wike built on. Without the foundation Wike could not have built on nothing. He could not have added something to nothing. There was something before he came on board.
Indeed, the PDP made Wike. Almost everything in Wike’s Curriculum Vitae will begin and end with PDP. There is hardly any record of where else Wike has worked all his life beside the PDP and its tributaries. His first entry into public service was as Chairman of Obi-Akpor Local Government Area in Rivers State, then became Chief of Staff to former Governor Rotimi Amaechi and then a Minister of state for Education, and later (till now) as governor of Rivers State, all under the platform of the PDP.
So, his loyalty to the party, though commendable, is expected, as anything to the contrary would have been a great mark of betrayal and ingratitude, because it is not out of place to say the PDP made Wike, and not the other way round. That is why those opposed to Wike’s bossy carriage in the party liken it to a tail trying to wag the dog and not the dog wagging the tail.
The non-emergence of Gov Wike either as the presidential candidate of the party or the running mate to the presidential candidate should not result to the melodrama that has continued to play out since the party’s presidential primary ended last May.
No doubt, the prolonged crisis has delayed the take-off of the campaign machinery of the party, even as the campaigns will officially kick off at the end of this month.
Gov Wike has practically become a bone in the throat of the party, in a way that it is now debatable whether he (Wike) has been a blessing or a lesson for the other chieftains of the party.
He has ostensibly split the party. Some four sitting state governors: Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Seye Makinde (Oyo) Samuel Ortom (Benue) and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu) as well as former state governors like Donald Duke (Cross River) and Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), have formed a camp around Wike.
In no little way, they have helped to stoke the fire of tension and division in the party.
The party’s National Working Committee (NWC) meeting held yesterday. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin resigned his position to assuage the complaints of lopsidedness against the south. But would that suffice for Wike? Nobody can exactly predict what Wike will do. He shunned the meeting Atiku held with presidential aspirants two days ago. He has continued to demand the resignation of the party’s national President: Dr Iyorchia Ayu, from office. Ayu and many of the top leaders of the party, have sworn that Ayu is going no where, at the instance of Wike. As one of them put it, whether the cock crows at dawn or not the sun will still rise the next day.
That he operates in the mode of a brutal dictator is beyond argument. It is either his way or there would be a fight.
A few of his allies, like Senator Lee Maeba, Hon Austin Opara, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, who have decided to connect with Atiku directly, have been declared as saboteurs and wike is bent on “finishing them” Already, the filling station belonging to Chinyere Igwe, a member of the House of Reps and a relation of Austin Opara has been sealed on Wike’s orders. In the same vein, a hotel belonging to Ikenda Chinda, a relation of Austin Opara was also sealed, ditto the Lounge of Ogboda Jones. Their offence is relating with Atiku when, he the political emperor in Rivers has not given them the permission to so do.
Months earlier, he had thrown a governorship aspirant, Hon Farah Dagogo into prison detention for 62 days on the allegation that he (Dagogo) planned to bomb PDP secretariat where the screening of governorship aspirants in the state was taking place. He was released long after the primaries had ended.
The Rivers governor acts with the maximum grip of an emperor, even to his fellow governors. His fall out with Gov Godwin Obaseki of Edo State stems from the latter’s belief that Wike was turning out to be a bully.
He forgets that Opara and Maeba, for instance, are politically his seniors. Wike owns today, but surely not tomorrow. In about eight months from now, he probably will be in political Siberia
The resignation of Ayu cannot guaranty that there would be peace in the PDP. Wike could yet work against the interest of the party whether or not Ayu quits. Worse still, the constitution of the party requires that if the national chairman resigns or leaves, he/she would be replaced by the most senior member of the party’s NEC from that same zone. So, even if Ayu quits, constitutional provision would require somebody from the North central zone of the party to fill the space, and not somebody from the South, as being demanded by Wike and his ilk.
Wike was largely responsible for the emergence of Ayu, the same way he influenced the emergence of former Kaduna State governor, Ahmed Makarfi, and even his kinsman, Uche Secondus, as national chairmen of the party at various times. Whenever he wanted whoever out, he had his way. The way Secondus was ousted, at Wike’s instance, is still being challenged in the court. Wike’s critics are worried about his over-bearing influence in the party, especially as he carries on with the sense of a Sole Proprietor.
Many nurse the fear that Wike could remain in the party and yet serve the interest of rival parties.
They argue that Gov Wike may not openly decamp from the party, essentially because of his state’s governorship contest, but he would most likely work for another party during the presidential election. He is a suspect as far as the interest of the PDP is concerned.
Many have said the party should call the bluff of Wike, stressing that with or without him, the election will still hold, after all, even a bad clock is twice right in a single day.
Gov Wike has offered to help the party lose the election, if it won’t be serious. That sounds like an anti-party declaration. When you factor in the fact that he had held several hob-nobbing meetings with leaders of the other political parties like Bola Tinubu’s All Progressive Congress (APC), as well as Peter Obi’s Labour Party (LP), then you will take his threat to help the party (PDP) lose the election, a little more serious.
Early in the week, he was at Abia to commission a flyover bridge of Gov Ikpeazu. He told the Abia audience that Alhaji Atiku and Okowa, his running mate, have shared up prized offices among themselves, and nothing was left for Abia State. That was surely meant to create bad blood and hatred between the Abia PDP members and the party leadership, especially as it concerns the presidential election. If that is not anti-party, then I hardly can explain it.
Wike has just one vote. But he can influence thousands of other votes. That is his bluff point.
But right now, what are his choices? Will he decamp and risk losing the governorship of his state or will he hang out there in PDP, cause enough distraction and loss of valuable steam for the presidential contest? Head or tail, PDP elders will have to judge whether Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is a blessing to the party or a lesson to them all.