By SOLA EBISENI
THE declaration of Ezenwo Nyesom Wike for the office of the President of Nigeria was the climax of a political career which he effectively launched at the resumption of democratic rule in 1999 and has since experienced no dull moment.
The 59 years old Ikwere-born lawyer who was called to the Bar in 1997 threw his hat into the political ring when he contested and was elected the Chairman of his Obio-Akpor Local Government in 1999 serving the maximum two terms, ending 2007.
Wike, as popularly known in the Nigerian political lexicon, stepped up same year becoming the Chief of Staff to Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi as Governor of Rivers State, through a decision of the Supreme Court which became a locus classicus of some sort in election cases, forcing the National Assembly to later tinker with the Electoral Act, insisting that only a person who has participated in all the processes may be declared winner of an election.
From the position of the Chief of Staff and when all was still well between him and his Ikwere kinsman and principal, Wike was appointed Minister of State for Education in July 2011 during the Presidency of Goodluck Jonathan and later Minister from where he later contested and won the PDP Governorship Primary in 2014 and Governor of Rivers State in 2015.
Not a little feather was ruffled by those who felt Wike should not have succeeded Amaechi back-to-back in the complex ethnic politics of the state, particularly typified by the Ijaw and Ogoni agitations. The politics of Jonathan’s second term, which never was ultimately, was the balm of Gilead that Nyesom needed in the warm embrace with destiny as governor. Entrenched in his gubernatorial majesty, those who felt they would soon uproot him needed some lessons on the herculean task of removing the ring from the finger of an errant chief priest.
If you think PDP has done so much for him, he also has justified the symbiotic relationship with the party by standing with it through thick and thin. After the 2015 elections, so much happened that it required great courage to ride on the PDP horse to battle. Though many would disagree with what they termed his overbearing influence on the party but could not deny his investment therein.
At the National Convention in 2019, both at Abuja and Port Hacourt for the choices of the National Executive Committee and the presidential candidate respectively, Wike was more than visible. He singlehandedly pulled the convention to Port Hacourt in the hope that his favourite and colleague, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State would have the day and when the result was short of his expectation, he nevertheless was no less enthusiastic and pushed for the party’s victory.
The son of Wike soon became an enigma and a force to reckon with in the Nigerian project. No obstacle is too high to surmount and no institution too sacred to dare in the task of leaving legacies in Rivers State and the overall task of reinventing Nigeria of his own dream which in recent times is both iconoclastic and activist.
He does not claim to belong to any opinion or ideology group but quick to be owned by all who feel obliged to align with Wike’s position in the fullness of time when his unilateral ventures blossomed.
If any other Governor or President in Nigeria invented the culture of inviting notable personalities to commission their projects, Nyesom took it to the highest plane, reaching out to such persons everywhere, including serving and former office holders as well as candidates at elections. The spectrum is so wide and spread across the country that it required not much discerning that he had something up his sleeves. All of a sudden, Wike adopted the national colour of the Tiv, the established symbol of resistance, nationalism and identity of the largest Middle Belt ethnic nationality. He wears the cap with this colour, even sometimes more than Samuel Ortom, that one begins to wonder what inheritance has an Ikwerre boy in Tiv land. But that is Wike for you. Check his case on VAT, which just hit the nation from the blues, that Lagos used to lead in such ventures and was caught panting, and had to reach pathetically for the hem of his garment with a joinder application. And in a jiffy, Wike became the darling of advocates of true federalism and those pent up with anger against the system but elect to err on the side political correctness. Talking about the national convention, we venture to say that had Wike become the choice of the PDP, the excitement would have been different and the North-South tension enveloping the nation now would not be this pronounced, if existent. Only those who see nothing in the health of the nation beyond political office will live in the denial of the palpable tension.
Had Wike been picked and he accepted the ticket of the running mate, he would not have been the bride he is today. More than anything, he would have been seen as not manly enough for the South. MKO Abiola at a point in his life closed his eyes to riches which would have been interned with his bones but chose name which now lives after him.
As he bears the burden of heroism, let Wike be assured that many of his compatriots across the country stand in solidarity with him. He should be more circumspect and resist the temptation of personally responding to agents-provocateur who are envious of his star on the national horizon and bent on dimming and diminishing him. This limelight is a burden he must bear with equanimity and even adroit political dexterity. Nigeria! We hail thee.
Ebiseni is Secretary General, Afenifere.