Nyesom Wike as a cross-border distraction

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WIKE

Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, Minister for the Federal Capital Territory, is an extremely lucky man. The fact that he has remained a permanent fixture at various levels on the nation’s political canvas has been very well established.

From the nondescript corners of a local government chairman and chief of staff to his predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi in Government House, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Wike has consistently hugged the klieg lights of provincial and national politics.

As President in 2011, Goodluck Jonathan appointed Wike his Minister of State for Education. He subsequently functioned as “Supervising Minister” of the ministry when the substantive Minister resigned to pursue political interests.

Wike went on to become governor of the affluent Rivers State, a very important extension of Nigeria’s socioeconomic tripod, Lagos and Kano being the other two. Delta, Ogun, Oyo and Kaduna States could as well be the second concentric ring of the nation’s socio economic expansion. Wike has therefore featured in the politics of the Fourth Republic for a quarter of a century now.

Wike did well in the development of salient infrastructures in Rivers State. Nigerians were periodically entertained by live telecast of the commissioning ceremonies of many projects built by his administration.

Roads, flyovers, bridges, educational facilities in tertiary institutions topped the list of the attainments of his regime.

Professor of law, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN) and immediate past Vice President Yemi Osinbajo beaded Wike with the glowing moniker of “Mr Projects” to underscore the former Rivers State helmsman’s exertions in that sector.

Politicians and political figures of all hues queued for opportunities to headline participation in the inauguration of these projects. They were allegedly assured generous honoraria supposedly denominated in foreign currencies from Wike’s vaults courtesy of his oftentimes impulsive and reckless philanthropy.

Nigerian politics has no doubt been kind to Wike. From the little-known Port Harcourt attorney who barely practiced before launching into politics, Wike reportedly has grown a very deep pocket during his years as a most privileged public servant.

In the flux and frenzy which attended the conclusion of the presidential primary of the Peoples’ Democratic Party in May 2022, Wike pitched for designation as running mate to Atiku Abubakar.

The first Vice President of this republic won the primary, while Wike was runners-up. The imperative for geopolitical balancing impelled the choice of Atiku’s running mate from the South South zone. Sources close to Atiku have suggested that Wike purportedly offered to fund the presidential campaign to the tune of N50 billion if he was chosen.

If this presumption has any validity, it may offer a glimpse into how Wike has prospered in the last 24 years.

Wike has openly acknowledged that he worked against his party the PDP and its candidate Atiku at the February 2023 poll. It was his chance to pay Atiku back for overlooking him in the choice of running mate as the more sober, level-headed Ifeanyi Okowa immediate past governor of Delta State was favoured.

“From the nondescript corners of a local government chairman and chief of staff to his predecessor, Rotimi Amaechi in Government House, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Wike has consistently hugged the klieg lights of provincial and national politics.”

Having incinerated his “father’s house,” the PDP literally on which platform he grossed prominence and prosperity, Wike latched on to the tailcoat of President Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress who was pronounced winner of the largely controversial election.

He developed spontaneous fraternities with as many close associates of Tinubu as he could, all to ensure that he got appointed into the emerging administration at the time.

Wike covets the high stool. He is an undisputable power monger who has been so soaked in the soothing sauna of high office that he cannot conceive of existence outside of the power ring.

From campaign dais ahead of the general elections in 2023 to his countrywide consultations ahead of the PDP presidential primary two years ago, Wike was almost psychotic about the “power of the pen.”

In this instance he was not referring to the proverbial mighty pen of the journalist but that of an elected official, especially a governor or president. He is obsessed with the appurtenances of office, notably unfettered access to the public till, fawning security details around him, not forgetting the protocol architecture.

He loves the official lectern and those oftentimes meaningless live television interviews. Wike doesn’t cut the image of someone who can survive outside of public office.

Wike seems to have transposed his verbal incontinence and rambunctiousness from the provinces to the capitol. He is so all-knowing that he wouldn’t make himself available to meet with the senator representing the FCT, Ireti Kingibe, which he superintends on behalf of the President. But he will spontaneously obey parliamentary summons when seeking consideration and approval of his ministry’s budget.

Wike actually fancies himself some kind of “Michael Jackson” who is sought by many but who chooses those to dance for.

The Tinubu government had barely settled last year when Wike in November 2023, blew the bugle of the 2027 presidential election. Blabbing as usual during his self-serving television appeared; he restated his commitment to the success of the Tinubu government. To this extent he would subsume his ambition for the presidency in 2027.

Last February at a thanksgiving service for Barinada Mpigi, senator representing Rivers South East, Wike re-echoed his November trailer for 2027. He boasted about his uncommon political wizardry which had coalesced the APC and the PDP into a unified bloc in Rivers State.

He assured the 2027 polls will be a walkover under his marshal plan. Wike’s overly narcissistic politics is the variant rejected by the Yoruba adage to wit: *a ki je meji ni aba Alade.* This translates as “you are at liberty to choose between roasted yam or the boiled one in Alade’s hut. You are not permitted to savour both at once.”

Wike’s amphibious political brinkmanship reminds of *Janus* the double-faced god in Greek mythology. *Janus* is at once the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality and endings, concurrently.

Not content with his primary responsibility as FCT minister, Wike has been an agent of destabilisation in Rivers State, his last duty post. He claims he single-handedly installed Siminalayi Fubara former accountant-general of the state as his successor, yet he wouldn’t allow him a breather to operate.

In Wike’s most recent interview on Channels Television, he restated the fact of being Fubara’s benefactor. He said he was correct, insisting on a “50/50 sharing” of political offices and freebies between him and Fubara. Wike re-echoes the lines of Louis XIV of France and Navarre” on April 13, 1655, that *L’Etat, c’est moi,* which translates as “I am the state.”

He is the de facto owner of Rivers State as it were. The entire gamut of Wike’s political structure while he held sway in *Brick House* was initially wholly imposed on Fubara. This was before Wike’s recent proposal of a “50/50” template.

It has also been alleged that Wike left instructions for the remittance of a particular percentage of accruals from the internally generated revenue of the state to him in person. He is not satisfied with his implied derivations from his outpost in Abuja which budgetary allocation has for the first time in history reached and surpassed the N1trillion mark.

Wike’s voluptuous consumptiveness must be supplemented by spin-offs from Rivers State strong rooms. Wike purportedly exercises monarchical control over the two aircraft belonging to the state. For daring to dissent with some of these stifling terms and conditions, Fubara has been serially threatened with impeachment by the Wike segment of the Rivers State parliament. These and other developments have largely unsettled governance in the state, its pulse hallmarked by unending palpation.

Wike is at daggers-drawn with the political establishment in his state. He has disowned the most eminent first governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili who provided the springboard for his political ascendancy back in 1999.

He is at war with elders in his state, notably Rotimi Amaechi, his predecessor; Celestine Omehia, governor for a few months before Amaechi and Abiye Sekibo, a former transport minister.

He is sparring with Austin Opara, a former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives; Lee Maeba, a former senator and Uche Secondus, a former national chairman of the PDP; Tele Ikuru, deputy to Amaechi, among others. Not much of Chibudom Nwuche has been seen around Wike these days, so it is just possible both men have parted ways.

Wike has brushed aside key opposition elements in the state notably Tonye Cole who many assumed would have been favoured by Tinubu as the eyes and ears of Rivers State in the federal executive council. This is the kind of polarisation Wike’s belligerence and uncouth manners have bequeathed on Rivers State and its politics.

I decidedly described Wike as an extremely lucky man in the very first sentence of this essay. He is serving in the administration of a President whose capacity for restraint and accommodation can only equate the legendary thick torso of the hippopotamus.

I served in the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo and I can speak for the limited elasticity of his patience with any public official whose focus and pursuits ran counter to the core objectives and focus of his administration. Such an official was unceremoniously shown the door.

Obasanjo was the President who began the culture of requesting public servants keen on elective office to resign and concentrate on their ambitions. He also released senior appointees desirous of coordinating his own reelection in 2003 for instance from his cabinet.

Wike must be put on leash with immediate effect. He is neither an exemplar of the “renewed hope agenda” of the APC under which he presently serves, nor the PDP’s “let’s make Nigeria work again” theme.

Rivers State is too important to the socioeconomic life of Nigeria to be pocketed and unsettled by the malevolent desires of a control freak. Rivers State is the undisputable second place holder to Lagos in IGR aggregation for example. Beyond accruals from the federation account therefore, Rivers State capably augments such earnings with its IGR, in the provision of services and development for its people.

Wike’s knee must be forced off the neck of Rivers State so the geopolitical entity can breathe.

The FCT is in the grips of security and developmental challenges while Wike is trying to be a “Minister-Governor,” under a President, Commander-in-Chief. Come to think of it, the FCT minister is the face of the government in many ways. As minister of the capitol, Wike is the first port of call of many diplomats, respected international figures and eminent statesmen. I will be reluctant to honour a scheduled meeting with Wike if I only just watched his petulant interview on global television.

●Olusunle, PhD is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors.