By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Opposition by former governor of Rivers state and current minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, to Nyesom Wike succeeding him as governor of the oil-rich state, reflectively, is more explicable. Given their friendship, Amaechi had the benefit of detailed knowledge of the Wike persona and psychosomatic makeup. If all had been well between him and former President Goodluck Jonathan and he had remained in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, I can bet my life that Amaechi would not have allowed Wike to pick the party’s governorship nomination ticket, let alone win the governorship election.
As a result of his smoldering disagreement with Jonathan, Amaechi had left the party for the All Progressives Congress, APC, where he played a leading role in the general election that upstaged the applecart of Jonathan’s presidency. But Wike bludgeoned his way to the leadership of the PDP in Rivers state and hijacked the entire structure, using his politically-correct relationship with Jonathan and his wife, Patience, an indigene of the state, for a gambit that paid off.
He deployed the influence of the centre and the south-south’s political sentiments to swim or sink with the PDP, even after Jonathan had lost the presidential election to President Muhammdu Buhari in the 2015 presidential election, to lock in the majority votes in the Rivers state governorship election and clinch victory at the expense of Amaechi’s candidate, Dr. Dakuku Peterside. The subsequent legal battle initiated by the APC to upturn Wike’s victory was sensationally resolved in favour of Wike by the Supreme Court after the tribunal and the court of appeal had given a verdict for a rerun election.
No sooner had his election received the validation by the apex court than Wike manifested, full blown, his essential personality traits, the most obvious being his loose tongue that sometimes portrays him as arrogant and unsophisticated. I have, in my solitary moments, whenever I consider the PDP trajectory since 1999, wondered how star-crossed the party has been to have fallen into the hands of a man whose politics is self-serving.
Reminiscing on the politics of Rivers state from 1999, I have also wondered why etiquette in governance, especially in pronouncements by successive Rivers governors, has been on the decline. Governor Peter Odili was evidently an exemplar in elegant communication, charismatic poise and consistent gravitas. Amaechi who took over from him was not as good. Although, suffused in arrogant mien, he demonstrated some measure of finesse in his pronouncements. But Wike is, arguably, deficient in all of Odili’s fine leadership virtues.
But with huge resources at his disposal in Rivers, he possibly perceives that he can always have his way in the party. His gung-ho attitude is fed by a sense of entitlement and expectation that having been smart to fund the party, the other governors and stakeholders should be dumb since they are not ready to put their money where their mouths are. However, he should realise that others who funded the party before him were not this reckless. If they had, there might not have been a PDP for him to hijack.
Wike should remember the Ibo proverb that those whose palm kernels had been cracked for them by the benevolent spirit should learn to be humble. With a chequered political odyssey that, perhaps, began with his chairmanship of the very rich Obio/Okpor Local Government, it is unfortunate that from the imperial majesty of his Rivers governorship position, he now talks magisterially to the party and its leadership apparatchiks. Much as he has the right to speak, he should have been decorous and allowed mutual respect to preponderate such interface.
His recent and widely publicized threat, to destroy the PDP if the presidential primary election, earlier fixed to hold in Port Harcourt, was shifted, smacks of sheer political rascality, blackmail, intimidation and brinkmanship. His reason of economic benefits derivable by Rivers would initially appear convincing when one considers the principle of quid pro quo in his heavy funding of the party, but his retort was crude and gangsterish.
For God’s sake, must Wike threaten to bring down the roof of the party on top of everybody just because some presidential aspirants were pushing for a change of Port Harcourt as venue of a presidential primary election in which he is not a participant? That raises the genuine concern that, beyond what Rivers state stands to gain economically, that there is more to his outburst and incendiary statements than meets the eye. Although he had reportedly apologized to the party at its last National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting that ratified Port Harcourt as the venue, he had already unraveled as a potential bull in the China shop.
In fact, the rumour doing the round is that Wike is interested in the emergence of one of the presidential aspirants as candidate of the party. He is said to be supporting and promoting the aspiration of former speaker and governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Tambuwwal. Having installed Prince Uche Secondus as national chairman, his obsession is to anoint the presidential candidate of the party. His reasonable expectation is to become the ultimate godfather of Nigeria’s presidential politics in the event his candidate wins the February 16 election regardless that Tambuwwal does not have the national appeal, clout and structure to defeat President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC.
Certainly, it is not too difficult to understand how the PDP came to this sorry pass of having some unsophisticated minds playing the Alpha and the Omega in its affairs. In any case, had the former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, smartly run his government and managed the party well, it is doubtful if Wike and his cohort would be in a position today to impose their diktats on the party.
The party has yet to recover from the impolitic scheme that produced his acolyte, Secondus, as national chairman at the expense of much better aspirants like the politically-sagacious Chief Bode George and intellectually-grounded Professor Tunde Adeniran from the south west zone. He had thrown his financial weight behind the party leadership to predetermine the outcome of the party’s national convention where he installed Secondus.
Against the run of play and commonsense, Wike had impetuously and in an adversarial fashion, acting in cahoots with the Governor of Ekiti state, Ayodele Fayose, eclipsed the southwest to which the party originally ceded the position of the national chairman. He had his way and his sense of hubris has since been evident. I guess that northern leaders of the PDP decided to watch Wike run rings round the southwest and the southeast on the issue since it was a southern affair.
But now that it is about the presidential slot ceded to the north, the much more strategic north is standing up to Wike and he has begun to fret and shout. Wike has the right to shout but the party leaders in the north should be single-minded to decide on what is right and in the interest of the party. Even if the primary election is held within the Rivers Government House or in the governor’s bedroom, the north can be trusted not to allow an outsider, whose stake in its affairs is self-serving, to impose his will on the region.
Although, there are genuine fears that Wike plans to manipulate and over-regulate the atmospherics and the nuances of the Rivers ecology to the advantage of his preferred aspirant in terms of accommodation and other logistics, it is expected that the northern leaders, both in and outside the PDP, would do the needful in the circumstance to shatter his gambit by shifting attention to an alternative that enjoys more acceptability in the north, if only to deride Wike’s bull-in-the-china-shop attitude.
Ojeifo, an Abuja-based journalist, writes via firstname.lastname@example.org