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Wike: The weakness of strength

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
05 June 2022   |   4:14 am
The he-goat has no time for niceties: It is not romantic. All it knows is, give it to me, give it to me quick. Of all the enchanting perfumes in the world, none has come close to trouncing the he-goat’s fragrance in both pungency and pervasive presence.

Wike (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

The he-goat has no time for niceties: It is not romantic. All it knows is, give it to me, give it to me quick. Of all the enchanting perfumes in the world, none has come close to trouncing the he-goat’s fragrance in both pungency and pervasive presence.

The he-goat has its signature fragrance. It was given to him by the creator. He does not care how anybody perceives it. Like it or leave it, the he-goat carries his scent along with arrogant swagger, not minding whether it is being perceived as an odour!

With his signature perfume, the he-goat goes about intimidating the she-goats with the false sense of superstardom. But, sometimes, strength fails the he-goat, especially when the average she-goat stands up to its pugnacious demeanor.

Also, when confronted by either a fox or a Lion, the he goat cowers. Even his signature scent becomes a source of its endangerment. Even if it runs, it cannot hide, when the moment of its humbling has come.

The recent special convention of the leading opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the Velodrome of the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, relived the various aspects of the life and times of an average he-goat. But, only those that paid keen attention could trace the silhouette.

It all started barely one year ago, when PDP organised a premature national convention to elect a new set of National Working Committee (NWC) members. While the then national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, was embroiled in a wit-game with his state chapter, particularly his purported suspension by his ward executive, other members of the NWC were left in awe at the drama playing out at the party’s Wadata Plaza headquarters.

PDP was able to cut short the tenure of the Prince Secondus-led NWC in part because the then national chairman’s godfather, Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, was tired of his political godson.

Moreover, the foxy members of the northern caucus of the party knew that Wike, who had assumed the status of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of PDP was playing into their hands: They played along, knowing how far the Rivers state governor could go to engage in a street brawl with anyone who dares him.

The memories of Wike’s exploits within the party are legendary. Beginning from his infamous unilateral decision to draft Senator Ali Modu Sheriff into the party’s chairmanship after the late Ahmed Gulak succeeded in quashing Secondus’ occupancy of the office of acting national chairman through the courts.

By the time the dust raised by the dirty fight between Sheriff and Wike could settle, and two failed attempts to hold a national convention in Port Harcourt, Wike had ‘invested’ mindboggling sums of money. Whether in paying for lawyers’ professional fees, while the litigation with Sheriff lasted, or defraying the stipends of workers at the PDP secretariat, Wike’s rivers of cash kept flowing.

Puffed up by this Santa Claus handouts to the party, it was easy for the GOC to single handedly deliver his godson, Secondus, at the PDP national convention in 2017. Not only was he able to rebuff the genuine claims by Southwest zonal caucus of the party that it was their turn to produce the national chairman for the first time in the party’s history, Wike ensured that the zoning of the chairmanship to the South translated to South/South, briefly, Rivers State.

Having produced the national chairman, Wike’s efforts at domesticating PDP as the franchise of Rivers State continued to prosper. In the build up to the 2018 special convention to elect the party’s Presidential standard bearer, Wike roared like a lion whose cub was being threatened, when attempt was made to shift the convention venue out of Port Harcourt.

It was an open secret that the Rivers State governor was rooting for his Sokoto State counterpart, Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal to emerge as the Presidential candidate, ostensibly to pave the way for his (Wike’s) eventual emergence as Presidential running mate or power behind the throne.

But, with the image of the returnee former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar looming large as the potential winner, the fear in the Atiku camp was about a possible rigging of the process to throw up Tambuwal against the popular votes.

At the end of the day, the national chairman, Secondus, decided to stake his reputation rather than play the good boy. He conducted a free, fair and credible primary, which threw up the Wazirin Adamawa, Atiku, as the PDP standard bearer for the 2019 Presidential election. Unwittingly, Secondus had earned the ire of the tiger.

By the time the 2019 poll was won and lost, Wike began his second term with a sense of subdued triumphalism, even as he looked forward to a political future that smells of Nigeria’s Presidency. At least, he must have thought, one good turn deserves another.

Two years into his second term as governor of oil-rich Rivers state, Wike worked hard to reposition the PDP in such a way as to pander to his lofty dreams of a Presidential future. He devised a twin strategy: One, expand his political sphere of influence in South/South and then, remove the possible moral burden posed by the South/South, Rivers, national chairmanship while angling for the PDP presidential ticket.

If nothing else, it was the ferocity with which Wike pursued the removal of Secondus as national chairman that convinced PDP stalwarts beyond doubt that the Rivers state governor wanted to hijack the party structure for his presidential ambition. They humoured him.

In Secondus’s place, the northern caucus of the party presented an old political warhorse and an Atiku ally, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, as a smokescreen that the PDP Presidential ticket was meant for the South. And, as usual, in Wike’s mental image, anything South translates to Rivers of cash.

Many meetings were held, both in Nigeria and outside the country. Even the Ghana conclave, which was intended to resolve the issue of consensus Presidential candidate, ended without event.

As Wike prepared for the Presidential primary, he had fought those who could not maintain or sustain their membership of his circle. For Governor David Nweze Umahi, Wike said the Ebonyi state governor left PDP because he wanted to become President. Umahi had challenged the Rivers state chief executive to a debate to talk about their growing up years and character.

Later, Wike descended on Governor Godwin Obaseki, threatening to smoke him out and accusing the governor of treachery. Earlier, at the onset of his expansionist project, Wike had a verbal warfare with former Bayelsa state governor, Senator Henry Seriake Dickson.

But, after the warfare came time for campaigning for delegate votes. Wike moved from state to state, paying great attention to those states under the control of rival All Progressives Congress (APC). It was in Cross River that the Ikwere man could not have it easy. Governor Ben Ayade decided to lock PDP out of a booked venue for its electioneering towards a federal constituency bye-election.

At the build up to the PDP presidential primary, it was obvious that Wike had already lost three states from South/South, including Cross River, Edo and Akwa Ibom. While Cross River went to APC, Akwa Ibom governor decided to contest alongside Wike for the coveted ticket. But, in the case of Edo, Wike’s antagonism against Godwin Obaseki left the state without electors for the Presidential primary.

While his neighbouring South/South states were slipping out of his fingers, Wike was supporting far-flung states like Plateau, Gombe and Niger, with generous flow of Rivers’ petro-dollars. The highpoint of Wike’s disingenuous style was when he visited Anambra State delegates and descended on Mr. Peter Obi, a former governor of the state.

Perhaps, remembering his days as council chairman and political enforcer of Obio/Akpor local council area of Rivers state, Wike told Anambra delegates with a sense of brutish finality that voting for Obi would amount to wasting their votes. They clapped for him and collected his kola nuts.

But, deep down in the minds of the Anambra delegates was a reflection on why Wike should be contesting against Southeast instead of supporting the zone to reciprocate the zone’s support for President Goodluck Jonathan, whose wife helped Wike to become governor.

Yet, convinced that as far as PDP was concerned, whatever is meant for the South should belong to Rivers State, Wike went to PDP national headquarters and gave the NWC members some verbal flagellations. After underscoring the roles he played to bring them on board, Wike asked them for returns on his investment.

His words: “During the primary, do not look left or right, just move on. If anybody touches you, say are you Wike? Even if they push you, ‘Wike’, ‘Wike.’” There was no mistaking the fact that Wike was enjoying the laughter and banter he was generating, which to a large extent, were inspired by the American paper god he was wont to leave behind.

Then came the ‘D’ day. On the podium, Wike was brief. He told the delegates to give him power. But, like long-harassed and intimidated she-goats, the delegates hearkened to the voice of their greed and decided to call the bluff of the blustering governor. What emerged as the ballots were counted was as akin to when all the she-goats resolved to wave placards with the inscription: ‘Say No To Rape!’

However, in his lamentations after the defeat, Wike told his people in Port Harcourt: “I contested in the (primary) election based on the principle and agreement with all Southern governors and leaders of the South that presidency should go to the South this period.”

Wike knows that nobody argues with the man with a microphone. Otherwise he would have heard the reservations on the minds of PDP faithful in the South: “Are you South? When you grabbed the national chairmanship meant for the Southwest, the Southwest kept quiet. Now, that you wanted to appropriate the Presidency that should ordinarily go to the Southeast, you are crying ‘gang up’.”

What an average he-goat does not reckon with is that erection without discretion can lead to destruction. The PDP presidential primary left some humbling lessons for the Rivers State strong man.

Wike should know that, without the large financial accruals to Rivers state, which he superintends as governor, many Nigerians still see him as the council boss of Obio/Akpor LGA. And, having sacrificed an opportunity to be a kingmaker in a bid to become king, Ezenwo should learn to zip-up his mouth and imbibe the truism that power is nothing without control.