Stripping Wike slowly
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State is easily one of the few governors in the country who, you can say, have the courage of their convictions. Since his defeat of Chibuike Amaechi and his allies in the 2015 governorship election in the state, Wike has become something of an enfant terrible in the politics of Rivers State. He bestrides the Rivers landscape almost like a colossus. He is, if you like, the Field Marshal of Rivers politics. He does not just exhibit courage, he is tempestuous, impetuous and plainly brash.
I do not know if Wike was like this before he became governor. But his governorship took off on a note of controversy. Since then, it has, predictably, been characterized by all manner of conflicts. When he is not slugging it out with Amaechi and other opposition elements in the state, he is embroiled in a battle of nerves with agents of the federal government who, he would say, want to ride roughshod over Rivers State and its peoples. Like a conqueror, he has been operating with the full force of his flapping wings. And he looks unstoppable. He is, clearly, a thorn in the flesh of those who seek to subdue him. The governor savours his brash disposition. He seems to derive some flagellation from it. And that has kept him going in spite of the huge odds stacked up against him. He delivers his message with a directness that borders on effrontery.
Like Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, whose tenure ended a few weeks ago, Wike’s displays approximate to that of a gadfly. He has the knack for irritation and provocation. But the fall of Fayose seems to be ringing the alarum bell for Wike. Fayose was the stormy petrel of Ekiti politics until he lost in his bid to install his successor. The loss stripped him of all his pugnaciousness. After the fall, Fayose was no longer the hawk that we used to know. He is now close to being a dove. He has beaten a quick retreat into his shell. And this has left many wondering if he has not been role-playing all the while. Was Fayose merely entertaining Nigerians with histrionics? That seems to be the impression that he has left us with.
Since Fayose quit the stage without ovation, political watchers have been analyzing Wike and his ways. Will he go the way of Fayose? Is he going to collapse like a pack of cards in the face of mounting odds? These questions and issues that appertain to them have become germane going by recent developments around Wike and his politics. In fact, are reasons to worry about the future of Wike’s politics. In recent months, he seems to have courted controversies that are not helpful at all. During the PDP National Convention of last December, Wike, it was believed, played a pivotal role in scuttling the quest by the south west to have the position of the national chairman of the party zoned to it. Wike did not just ensure that the office went to the south south, he taunted the south west aspirants because, according to him, their zone has not helped the cause of the party. Wike capped his control of the situation by ensuring that his nominee from his state emerged as national chairman. The south west bloc of the PDP took exception to Wike’s denigration of their aspirations and demanded that he apologize to the Yoruba. I am not aware that he did.
Wike’s influence in PDP does not end with his insistence in installing his acolytes, he has almost made Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital, a permanent venue for PDP national conventions. The party has held three national conventions in Port Harcourt since Wike became the governor of Rivers State. And when some members of the PDP opposed Port Harcourt as the venue of last month’s national convention of the party because of his obvious support for one of the presidential aspirants, Wike had nothing but derision for those opposed to the Rivers’ State capital. He described them as enemies of Rivers people who do not want the state and its economy to grow. When eventually Wike’s preferred aspirant lost at the primaries, he was said to have threatened south east delegates with a raw deal for not backing the aspiration of his preferred aspirant. The way the governor has been throwing his weight around, some concerned members of the PDP are worried that Wike might become the brand new headache that the party will contend with in the foreseeable future.
But Wike’s external troubles may not be his Achilles heel. What may expose his underbelly is the internal politics of Rivers State. The governor has formidable foes that cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand. Amaechi, his archrival, appears to be making dangerous inroad into Wike’s territory. The governor, it does appear, is not shepherding his flock diligently with the result that a good number of them are straying away. It is doubtful if the governor’s loyalists are still as committed as they were two or three years ago. Things appear to be falling apart within the governor’s fold.
One of the manifestations of the crack in Wike’s camp is the gradual and steady depletion of the rank of National Assembly members of Rivers state elected under the platform of the PDP. It is worrisome that all the three senators from Rivers state are now of the APC. This is in spite of the fact that the state is controlled by PDP. Just recently, the last of the PDP senators, Osinakachukwu Ideozu, defected to the APC. This state of affairs does not augur well for a party that is facing a supremacy contest. The life of the opposition seems to depend on dethroning Wike. Amaechi and his allies are dogged in this pursuit. Wike must guard his loins properly if he must laugh last.
However, going by the noticeable cracks on the wall of Wike’s political fortress, it can safely be assumed that internal dissent and resentment exist within the governor’s camp. The governor will not be able to seize the day if he tries to grandstand. To deal with the issue, he has to be humble in his approach. He has to close ranks with his allies. He must not alienate those who have shown him loyalty and commitment when it mattered most. He still needs them to weather the impending storm. Power, we know, has a way of corrupting the imagination especially that of those who wield it recklessly. But that is where wisdom and circumspection come in. The discerning and sensible will always remember that power is transient. They will not lose sight of the fact that there is life after power. This realization has a sobering influence on those who wield power. Wike will be helping the cause he is fighting for if he does not open his flanks to the aggressors.
Having taken care of the home front, the governor may do well to court less trouble. He should realise that no individual can be tough enough to withstand group aggression. Talking down on the south west or south east or any other zone for that matter is not a sign of bravery. It is impolitic. Ultimately, Wike has to be sure that he is not acting. He has to live up to the tough image he is creating. He must not, like Fayose, become a cold, impotent ash in the unlikely event of the wind blowing in an unexpected direction.