By Ochereome Nnanna

DID Nyesom Wike, the Governor of Rivers State, really imagine himself a president of Nigeria? As a lawyer, former local government chairman, chief of staff to a governor, minister and now two-term Governor of Rivers State, Wike is eminently qualified. But his bad mouth, bellicosity and lack of temperance have just robbed him of a chance to at least secure the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and take it from there.

Wike’s 237-371 votes loss to Atiku Abubakar was a good show. The money which he threw around with mindless abandon went far but not far enough. There are things money cannot buy. Those are the things Wike lacked and Atiku possessed in abundance: ability to make friends and cultivate associates across the divides.

Wike thought that his style of bullying his way through Rivers politics would work at the national level. Tell me, how many past presidents bullied their ways into power? Even Obasanjo as a president had to kneel down for Atiku, his VP, to win his second term in 2003. Muhammadu Buhari adopted deception – “repented democrat” – in 2015.

He humbled himself before Ahmed Tinubu who then helped him to win the presidency. Buhari had failed three previous times because he thought the North alone could catapult him into Aso Villa.

Wike chose to fight individuals and groups rather than make friends and build bridges. He has been raging about being “betrayed”. Wike has also been accused of being a betrayer: he betrayed the South-East. I think his presidential ambition was an overnight fancy. He himself hinted so when he said he decided to run when the 17 Southern Governors resolved that the next president must be from the South. His ambition was a flight of fancy fuelled by his free access to money.

How can an Ikwerre man who desires to be Nigeria’s president distance his people from their larger Igbo national umbrella and hope to go far? The Igbo are among the three largest ethnic groups in Nigeria and among the top five in Africa. The Igbo nation was chiefly responsible for President Goodluck Jonathan’s defeat of Buhari in the 2011 election, which was why Jonathan, an Ijaw man, virtually became an “Igbo president” thereafter.

A wise politician of Ikwerre extraction would identify himself with such a large group, if not on ethnic grounds then for a big home base. Chibuike Amaechi, Wike’s Ikwerre brother, is toeing that path of wisdom and now loudly claims his “Igboness” though he had denied so in the past. Northerners do not talk about tribe. They talk about the North. This creates a sense of unity among them and helps them to dominate the fractious South. Until the Southerners learn to sink their differences and work together, the North will always override them politically and plunder their resources as they have done since independence. It will embolden them further to keep pushing their Islamic agenda towards the eastern flank of the ocean.

From 1999 till date, the South-West and South-South have each produced President and Vice President through the rotation and zoning policy. With the Southern Governors’ resolution that the next president should come from the South after Buhari’s eight years, the South should have come together to support the South- East to take their turn.

If that had happened, the North would have given their support. Even Atiku had promised to support the South-East if the party zoned the presidency directly to it. Why didn’t Wike and other PDP South Governors push for it? The South-East had supported the South-West, North and South-South when the presidency was zoned to them, but when it came to their turn, the likes of Wike decided to play spoilsport.

An unprepared and unfit Wike jumped in from nowhere. Not only that, he went to Anambra State to heap insults on Peter Obi, the most promising South East aspirant. He said Obi “cannot win”. Has Wike won now? He went to Edo State and took on fellow Governor, Godwin Obaseki, in his usual bolekaja  (come down let’s fight) way. He also took on his former Northern Man Friday, Aminu Tambuwal. There were media reports that they nearly took to fisticuffs! A presidential aspirant? Fancy having such a character in Aso Rock!

My word of advice for Atiku Abubakar: he is free to consider any Southerner for his running mate. Anyone but Wike. He has no business in the corridors of our presidency. He is too mannerless and divisive. I have my own idea of the future of Nigeria if I had my way.

Whatever Atiku chooses to do, he should be reminded that the PDP presidential ticket he is holding should have gone to the South-East based on the party’s entrenched zoning policy. However, I can understand why PDP did everything in its power to hand it over to Atiku. He is their surest banker for regaining power in 2023.

The party regaining power is more important to the PDP than worthless sectional sentiments. Only a party in power can implement zoning and make it fit. President Olusegun Obasanjo personally implemented zoning in 2007 and he made it stick. But for his failed government, Buhari could have carried out zoning without sweat. I am very positive that Atiku will do the right thing after his presidency if he wins in 2023.

It is natural that Atiku’s running mate should come from the South-East. Apart from prominent party members like Pius Anyim, Osita Chidoka and Ike Ekweremadu, there are also his longtime political associates such as Senator Ben Obi and Emeka Ihedioha. If Atiku still goes outside the South-East to pick his VP, he would be continuing Buhari’s policy of the zone’s political exclusion.

There would be consequences both electorally and otherwise.

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