Nyesom Wike is a man on a mission. One he has designed to wreck the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s chances in next year’s general elections. What he can’t get, he’ll work hard to prevent others from getting.
It’s said that those the gods want to destroy they’ll first inebriate with insanity. They assume the status of a god and begin to behave with extreme irrationality. Some of the unmistakable traits of megalomania. A man who celebrates himself virtually every day on television while putting others down with unsubstantiated allegations and generous doses of insults is a classic megalomaniac.
The Rivers State governor is never wrong and he knows it all. Ensconced in such delusion, he doesn’t listen to anyone. Yet he expects, indeed demands, that everyone to not just listen to him but accepts his supremacy and magisterial pronouncements as inviolable and, therefore, beyond questioning. He’s a frightening study in pathological self-absorption and a reflection of narcissism unbound.
As we have come to know him since he became governor in May, 2015, Wike is volatile, garrulous and very ill-mannered. And he takes no prisoners in whatever political fight he’s involved in, and verbally carpet-bombs anyone who has the misfortune to hurt his fragile ego. Who else would publicly denigrate a serving deputy governor by asking, “Who is his father?” Or threatening to “smoke” fellow governors out of the PDP?
Many people’s perception of him has morphed from admiration to consternation and revulsion for his constant tantrums and juvenile moaning over his bruised ego. He lost the PDP’S presidential primary election. Even though the odds were against him, he still put up a gallant fight and came a very respectable second after former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
Since then – that’s months ago – he has declared war on his party, engaged in conduct and spewed out utterances that amount to willful de-marketing of PDP and its presidential candidate. His daily vituperations, deliberately provocative and invariably bordering on the reckless, validate Abubakar’s preference for Arthur Ifeanyi Okowa, Delta State governor, as his running mate.
One of the many complaints fueling his acidic angst is his alleged betrayal of him by southern PDP governors. He has accused them of reneging on their collective decision, along with other southern governors of other parties, to fight for the next president to come from the south.
But this only shows his lack of self-awareness and his refusal to take responsibility for his failure to secure the presidential ticket. Having, at various times, insulted, threatened and treated his fellow governors with utter contempt, it’s delusional to expect them to line up behind him. That they denied him support was a clear message to him: you can’t eat your cake and want to have it.
Wike is justifying the dilemma he has foisted on his party and his own political self-immolation on the imperative of ensuring “equity and justice” in the composition of the party’s national leadership. He and all those backing him are insisting that Iyorchia Ayu, the national chairman, must step down for a southerner. The rationale for this demand is that it’s wrong for the presidential candidate and national chairman to come from the north.
On the face of their demand for some balancing between north and south, it seems very reasonable and straightforward. But a serious interrogation of their position suggests it’s probably a convenient cover for pursuit of other political objectives. And one question Wike needs to answer is this: Would he have pursued his present disruptive cause if he had been the one on the ticket with Abubakar instead of Okowa?
At a time Nigeria is facing some existential crises, particularly the pervasive insecurity and a collapsing economy burdened by an exponentially rising mountain of debts, Wike and his group believe a southern national chairman of their party will assuage the hardship, pains and anxiety the people are going through daily.
Since they don’t seem to know it, then it must be pointed out to them that their demand is an insult to southerners. And it demonstrates the complete disconnect of politicians from the people they pretend to serve.
How would a southern chairman of PDP help Nigerians to cope with the rigors of surviving every day in the midst of severe economic hardship? Or turn the tide decisively against the various terrorist groups that have made huge swaths of the country ungovernable?
Wike would have attracted loads of sympathy and mass support if his cause were truly altruistic. And he indulges less in throwing tantrums and celebrating himself in carefully choreographed events broadcast live, at huge costs, on two or more TV networks.
What the south and, indeed, Nigeria needs most urgently are competent leaders who can provide effective governance. Whoever emerges president next year would have to hit the ground running to arrest the country’s steady slide to a completely failed state.
This ought to be the over-arching concern of Wike and his group, if they’re really fighting for equity and justice. And not just ventilating their grievances and pursuing their own personal agenda and interests.
After losing the presidential primary, Wike, backed by his group, could have chosen to leverage his clout in the party to influence their campaign manifesto and make some serious demands that could really benefit the people.
How about getting Abubakar to commit to the following? Expansion and completion of the East-West expressway to traverse the whole of the south-south and connect to both the south-west and south-east; a modern standard-gauge railway to connect the south-west, south-south and south-east; (Instead of building a $2 billion railway to Niger Republic with borrowed funds as the present administration is doing.); development of one or two major seaports in the Niger-Delta; a serious plan to clean up the oil-producing areas where the environment has been badly degraded by oil pollutions; another plan to drive the industrialization of the region based on its carbon resources; restoration of sanity to Apapa ports complex and its dilapidated environs by, among other things, extending rail services to the ports; and, most importantly, demanding that Abubakar’s plan for restructuring the country be spelt out more and ensuring that their inputs are accommodated in it etc.
The list of equitable demands that can guarantee justice for all Nigerians is inexhaustible. If this were to be the cause Wike and his group are pursuing, their war against their party would have made lots of sense.
Most Nigerians no longer care where the president will come from, talk less of national leaders of the parties. What they want is capable leadership with the vision and commitment to change the present narrative of a country that’s abundantly endowed in many ways but has been let down by fifth-rate leaders drawn more to self-aggrandizement than serving the people.
That’s why Governor Peter Obi, the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, is generating lots of excitement among people of different age groups all over the country. He’s perceived as markedly different because of his simple lifestyle and plain talks. He’s constantly speaking to the issues that are major concerns of the people.
Wike has regularly excoriated his predecessor, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, for his alleged profligacy in deploying huge amounts of Rivers’ financial resources to help his party, APC, gain power in 2015. But he’s no better than Amaechi in this regard. He, too, has been very generous in doling out billions of naira from the state treasury to other states in pursuit of his own political ambition.
Even more disappointing is Wike’s glaring hypocrisy in retaining for his own use, the multi-million-dollar executive business jet that Amaechi bought brand new when he became governor. People had expected Wike to dispose of the jet and invest the money in developing the state. It has turned out that he too loves traveling in expensive luxury.
As Sule Lamido, former Jigawa State governor, recently reminded Wike, his tenure would end in less than a year. By then, he would no longer have the platform to throw his weight around and bully everyone into submission to his will.
PDP’s dilemma now is that, it cannot succumb to Wike’s naked blackmail without projecting weakness, which could be fatal to its chances of winning the general elections. If he’s placated with Ayu’s ejection from the national chairmanship, what would he ask for next to stop distracting the party and harming its cohesion at this critical time before the polls take place?
He was the major orchestrator of the removal of the immediate past national chairman, Uche Secondus from Rivers, even before his tenure ended. If he has his way with Ayu, other influential aggrieved members of the party can also take a page from Wike’s political-warfare playbook to demand their own pound of flesh.
PDP needs to stop irritating Nigerians with its internecine war, resolve the Wike conundrum and move on. Failing to do so will be telling the electorate that it isn’t ready to return to power.