WikFG playing to the gallery with financial autonomy for judiciary — Wike e, Peterside, Rivers State

By Ochereome Nnanna

The Igbo name of the Governor of Rivers State is Onyesom (Who is with me?) Nwike (Strong or brave lad). But in his Ikwerre dialect of the Igbo language, it is written as “Nyesom Wike”. The Ikwerre are among Igbo groups which pronounce the alphabet “Nw” as “W”. Ngwa and Ukwa people in Abia sometimes do the same, thus “Jaja Wachukwu” (Nwachukwu) and “Adolpus Wabara” (Nwagbara). But we will call him Nyesom Wike as monikered in his native Ikwerre dialect.

When, as an Ikwerre person, Wike claims “we are not Igbo”, there are historical and cosmological contexts to it. General Yakubu Gowon created Rivers State in 1967 as a weapon of the British and Northern Region’s war to remove the Igbo as the controlling power in the defunct Eastern Region. They capitalised on the existing agitation for the Calabar-Ogoja-Rivers (COR State) to split the East.

READ ALSO: Wike, Rivers leaders give FG 48-hour to probe raid on Odili’s residence

The creation of Rivers State at the outset of the Biafra-Nigeria War also coincided with the onset of oil as Nigeria’s economic mainstay. For this reason, the North-controlled Federal Military Government, at the end of the War, did everything in their power not only to render the inland Igbo (former Biafrans) as “anathema” in Port Harcourt, but also foisted intense enmity between them and the indigenes of Rivers State.

Port Harcourt was the only place that the hate policy of Abandoned Property was instituted. Today, we know what that blood-soaked bribe has produced: the enslavement of the owners of Nigeria’s oil wealth. When they ask for “Resource Control”, Northerners threaten them with “war”. Military action is taken if they do more than asking. Broadly, Rivers State is composed of Igbo, Ijaw and Ogoni-speaking indigenes. But every dialectal group has transmogrified into an “ethnic nationality”. That is the template through which the “Rivers people” share their state’s oil wealth.

To some extent, you also see this in Delta State where the Ukwuani and sometimes Ika groups foot-drag in associating with the Anioma umbrella of Igbo-speaking Deltans. In the Delta Central region, the Isoko have successfully become a separate “ethnic nationality” from the Urhobo. The Okpe are also fighting to pull out of Urhobo for a better share of the state’s oil wealth. This splintering leaves the South East and South-South fractured and weak while the North which projects homogeneity dominates and plunders the South.

The “ethnic nationalities” of Rivers and Delta states are artificial creations to share, not to create wealth. Not all Ikwerre people reject their Igbo identity. Those who, after the Civil War, tried to artificially recreate their history by making spurious claims to an Ikwerre-Benin ancestry were recently disappointed. Benin people looked into their history and failed to locate Ikwerre roots in it. The Benin people resisted the temptation to opportunistically extend their ethnic reach into an oil-rich territory. They chose the truth.

Like Chibuike Amaechi his predecessor, Nyesom Wike has been on record rejecting the Igbo roots of the Ikwerre people. Indeed, he is believed to have initiated the failed attempt to link the Ikwerre to a Benin ancestry. Also, like Amaechi, Wike has recently toned down his truculent anti-Igbo rhetoric. It even shows in his manner of dressing these days. Amaechi and Wike now project the images of mainstream Igbo politicians.

I was particularly struck when, in his characteristic bold manner, Wike called for a fair trial of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu. He said though he does not believe in Kanu’s agitation for Biafra, it is Kanu’s right to agitate, provided he goes about it peacefully. No South East governor has summoned the guts to address the MNK and his Biafra agitation like that.

If you wondered why the Rivers people, irrespective of ethnic differences chose Wike, another Ikwerre man after eight years of Amaechi as Governor in 2015, you now know. Any other lesser mortal in the Brick House in the past six years would have surrendered the state to Miyetti Allah as Imo State’s Hope Uzodimma and Ebonyi State’s Dave Umahi have virtually done.

Wike also spearheaded the state collection of the Value Added Tax, VAT, which Lagos State quickly copied. The two wealthiest states are asserting their right to “resource control” within their constitutional reach. When Wike speaks, everybody listens. When he sneezes, those who have a case to answer catch cold! This is Wike: in name and action! In his bold assertiveness, he is an inspiration. While some governors of the South East and South-South are pussyfooting around in Abuja, wearing psychological pampers and being afraid of their own shadows because of personal cowardice and self-compromise, Wike stays home in Port Harcourt to mind the work he was elected to do.

The other day, the enemies of Nigeria conspired and corruptly obtained a search warrant to attack the home of the Hon. Justice Mary Odili. They did something similar to remove CJN Walter Onnoghen. Justice Odili is the second in command at the Supreme Court and stands to succeed retiring and ailing CJN, Tanko Mohammed. The enemies of Nigeria want to disgrace and push out Justice Odili to enable another of their northern acolytes to succeed Mohammed for their political interest in 2023. We even hear of renewed plots to keep Buhari in power beyond 2023.

Wike came on television with the who-is-who of Rivers State solidly behind him. He issued a 48-hour ultimatum for the culprits of the assault on the Odilis’ residence to be publicly named and prosecuted. He did not say what would happen if the ultimatum expired without action. He did not need to issue a threat along with the ultimatum. If 48 hours expires without the needed action, then it will be obvious the federal government ordered it despite orchestrated cheap denials.

Wike is often given to expensive excesses, but he is my type of leader; a strong lad in name and in deed.

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