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Soft spots

By Donu Kogbara

THE Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has just presented a certificate of return to Barrister Nyesom Wike.

INEC National Commissioner, supervising Edo, Bayelsa and Rivers, Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu (L), presenting certificate of return to Rivers State Governor-elect, Nyesom Wike

The certificate is an official confirmation that Wike, a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, stalwart, won the gubernatorial election in Rivers State and is expected to be Governor for the next four years.

In Nigeria, it is normal for political opponents to furiously cry foul and loudly allege massive malpractices when results don’t favour them; and Wike’s defeated All Progressives Congress, APC, rivals – and their African Action Congress, AAC, allies – are no exception. They are bitterly accusing INEC of bias and bitterly complaining about Wike’s personality/performance/methods. And I totally stand by APC/AAC folks’ democratic right to dislike and criticise Wike.

But I wish they’d stop deceiving themselves and insisting that they trounced Wike but are being deprived of victory by forces of evil.  I wish they’d analyse the situation more realistically and understand why they’d have lost, whether Wike rigged or didn’t rig!

Sure, some presidential and guber candidates are widely loathed on their home turfs. But most can count on substantial support from their people, especially when they are competing against “outsiders”.

Which is why President Buhari was likely to beat any non-northern candidate in the North. And why Vice-President Osinbajo was likely to beat any non-Yoruba candidate in Yorubaland. And why Wike was likely to beat any candidate who didn’t come across as indigenous and appeared to be representing “outsiders”.

Wike is a conk, down-to-earth Rivers Man who has a solid grassroots base in his own right and enjoys substantial additional support from Bayelsan-born ex-President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and his Rivers wife, Dame Patience.

The Jonathans, like Wike, are core Niger Deltans who are viewed with considerable affection by millions of natives of our geopolitical zone; and nobody who stood against them would have had it easy.

Even if APC hadn’t suffered any legal problems and had been able to field its star candidate, billionaire businessmanTonye Cole, Cole would still have lost in my opinion…because Cole is more Lagosian than local and was suspiciously regarded as Buhari’s representative.

And it’s not like Muhammadu Buhari is popular in the Niger Delta!

Anyway, dear Vanguard readers, if Northern and South-Western voters are allowed to have soft spots for their own kith and kin, why should South-South voters not also be allowed to have soft spots for their own kith and kin?

Conceding and reconciling

Wike has, on more than one occasion since his victory was announced, held out an olive branch to his main adversary, Rotimi Amaechi, ex-Governor and current Minister of Transportation. Amaechi and his camp have coldly rejected these overtures. I urge them to put their crushed egos to one side and do whatever might improve things for our state. Most Rivers people are sick and tired of perpetual conflict.

If Amaechi graciously concedes defeat and at least sincerely tries to reciprocate reconciliatory moves, he can add a lot of value.

Buhari’s revival

At various points during the presidential election campaign, President Buhari looked so tired and sounded so mentally drained that he reminded me of my mother who is ill.

I was particularly alarmed after watching him and his deputy being interviewed by Kadaria Ahmed. He came across as confused. Some VIPs who had met him face-to-face in recent months also said that they reckoned he was suffering from cognitive decline.

The same gloomy conclusion was drawn by many other individuals (including APC loyalists) who said that Mr President had appeared befuddled on several occasions. At the APC rally in Delta State, for example, he couldn’t properly identify the party’s guber candidate.

But guess what?

Mr President suddenly perked up and seems absolutely fine nowadays. He looks healthy and cheerful; and he sounds lucid.

Good for him! It’s nice for him and his fans (many of whom were so worried about him earlier on this year) that whatever was holding him back is no longer holding him back. The difference between him a few weeks ago and him now is almost miraculous.

Let’s hope that he will now have the energy to take his duties seriously and focus on getting rid of the myriad dysfunctions that are wrecking lives and depressing the hell out of many citizens.

He needs to become a firm but fair and genuinely caring father of the nation. He needs to dynamically tackle the security crises in various states like a skilled, no-nonsense military man.

He needs to be stricter in a positive way and more consistent morally. He needs to be less self-centred, less remote and more sensitive to public opinion.

He needs to wage a war on corruption in an even-handed way and not just spitefully target opposition people. He needs to respect the rule of law and make Nigeria feel less like a depressing police state.

He needs to make it clear to VIP miscreants – whether they are APC, PDP or whatever – that their destructive antics will not be tolerated.

He needs to encourage intelligent debate about burning issues like restructuring…which needs to be defined in a productive way and doesn’t necessarily have to be organised in a way that will put the North at a terrible disadvantage.

And, by the way, if he wants APC to be less loathed in the Niger Delta, he needs to woo Niger Deltans, not allow them to be bullied!!!

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