Wike, VAT
Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.

By Donu Kogbara

I AM not going to impose ANYBODY on this state! I WILL NOT DO IT! See what happened in Edo State…See what happened in Anambra and even here in Rivers with somebody (Rotimi Amaechi) that Dr Peter Odili created (and was later humiliated by).

“You think me I will suffer the same thing? I am an experienced politician, I’ve seen it all. There is nothing you can do. People will change. If there is anybody you want to put in office that you think will do according to what you want, then you must be joking…”

Thus spoke Nyesom Wike, the Governor of Rivers State, very recently and very emphatically in a video that has gone viral online.

This is not the only occasion on which Wike has made this declaration. Both publicly and privately, he has repeatedly insisted that he has no intention of forcing a successor on the electorate because there is no guarantee that a protege will continue to be obedient when you hand power over to him and cease to be his boss.

Wike told me the same thing when I met him in Government House Port Harcourt in 2019. And I congratulated him for adopting this stance…which I regarded as realistic and laudably democratic.

And yet, two days ago, on Wednesday, Wike (who has hitherto taken pride in being brutally straightforward) did the very thing he said he would definitely never do: He shamelessly influenced the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, gubernatorial primaries on Wednesday and rammed a handpicked candidate down everyone’s throat. 

Worse still, he selected Mr. Siminialayi Fubara, a former accountant-general of the state and a political novice.

Fubara allegedly conclusively trounced 16 other governorship aspirants, most of whom are infinitely more popular than he is and seasoned household names (such as former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Austin Opara, former Minister of Transport Abiye Sekibo and former SSG Gabriel Pidomson).

Laughably, none of the above got a single vote while (even more laughably!) Fubara – who has no relevant track record or significant following, even in his village, – allegedly got a whopping 721.

Meanwhile, Wike allowed Isaac Kamalu, the immediate past Commissioner of Finance, to come second with 86 votes. It is interesting that Wike’s favourites – let’s call them the Heir and the Spare (who can take over the throne if the Heir gets locked up) – have both been deeply involved in money management matters….and know all about the cash inflows and outflows that make Rivers one of the richest states in Nigeria and Wike one of the biggest spenders.

In his acceptance speech, Fubara: “Grace is at work. It is not victory for Fubara. It is victory for the party. It is not just victory for the party, it is for moving the state forward (and for consolidating the success of the Wike administration)”.

What disingenuous poppycock from a wholly inappropriate fake “winner” whose emergence has tarnished my state’s image! 

Many Rivers people have been bitterly grumbling about Wike’s autocratic and tyrannical tendencies for some time. There is much dissatisfaction about his bullying leadership style both at home and within the context of the PDP, which he largely funds.

There has also been widespread embarrassment about some of his incoherent public appearances and the brash manner in which he has conducted his campaign to secure the PDP’s presidential ticket. But these complaints are usually whispered behind closed doors because the complainants are afraid of Wike.

Frankly, I’m really surprised that he has turned out this way because he used to be a nice guy! When I first met him, he was Amaechi’s chief of staff and so pleasant and humble. And I’ve said on this page in the past that I kinda owe him because he rewarded me very generously when I ran some high-level errands for him in the UK.

But Rivers State is far bigger than me or, indeed, Wike; and as he himself has pointed out, people can change dramatically.

Meanwhile, sages say that you cannot know a man well until you give him money and power. And the bottom line is that Wike has displayed a strong lack of respect for his constituents. And I am hoping that Rivers people – especially those who were big boys long before he won the 2015 election – will quit their annoying cowardice and refuse to allow him to get away with his outrageous misbehaviour and arrogant belief that he can do whatever he wants.

Long story short: the only way to show Wike that Rivers people are not slaves – and that our state deserves a credible new leader in 2023 – is to vote one of Fubara’s opponents from other parties into Rivers State Government House next year.

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