By Dele Sobowale
“Every hero becomes a bore at last” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882, VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 90.
I have had occasion in the past when I considered Governor Wike of Rivers State the hero among southern governors in the struggle for power rotation to the South. I once wrote that if a foreigner were to arrive in Nigeria and ask me to “please take me to your leader, I will not hesitate to take him to Government House in Port Harcourt.” That shows how much regard I had for the man at the time. I still respect him a lot for all he has done.
Our only point of difference being that I wanted the presidency rotated to the South-East; he apparently wanted the opportunity for himself. I have known for a long time that most politicians are to a great extent selfish. They are in business for themselves first; and for anything else (nation, region, religion, ethnic group etc) next. I am not particularly disturbed when a politician exhibits that trait openly. He is being honest with us. Wike is being totally honest with us.
Wike wanted the presidency for himself; and he went about it in a strategic way. He almost single-handedly brought the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, back from the gates of the graveyard where Jonathan had dumped it; and breathed new life into it. That astonishing feat required a lot of time, guts, ruthlessness and tons of money. He made all available to his party.
“It is quite impossible for those who want to gain power to avoid getting rid of those people who are most likely to form an opposition” – Critias, 404 BC, VBQ p 196
Naturally, he went about demolishing as many as possible, all those likely to oppose his quest for the ticket. He was the major financier of the party; he was the loudest antagonist of the Buhari government; he campaigned hardest against southern marginalisation; he went to court on account of Value Added Tax, VAT, (more for politics than anything else because even he knew that it was unlikely to be decided before end of 2023).
To pave way for his bid, he brutally brushed aside the former Chairman, who was a southerner and resurrected Senator Iyorcha Ayu, a northerner – in the hope that the party would not select a northern presidential candidate after that. He bullied fellow governors; meddled in the selection of delegates in some states. He forgot Fortune.
“Beware! When Fortune would elect to trick a man, she plots for his overthrow /By such a means as he would least expect” – Geoffrey Chaucer, 1342-1400, VBQ.
All seemed set for the “coronation” of Wike as the flag-bearer and the new de facto leader of the PDP – except for two things. The first was the group of northern PDP members – whose interests were threatened. The second was pervasive fear of Wike. Even those who agreed with him on every issue of principle are afraid of having him as President – with all the enormous powers in his control. Nigeria has never been a true democracy – with all the fundamental rights protected. But, even PDP party members, after observing the dictatorial approach to governance in Rivers State, shrank from conceding leadership to him. Nigerians might want strong leaders, but they detest uncompromising individuals who want to have their way all the time.
That was why, despite all the things going in Wike’s favour, I boldly predicted that Atiku and Tinubu would emerge their parties’ flag bearers. It was not money; it was fear of Wike which provided the margin of victory. Atiku would win every time if the contest is repeated a thousand times – unless Wike changes.
POST-ELECTION REACTION AND LOSS OF VP
“Accept gracefully what you cannot otherwise refuse.”
His reactions, after losing the presidential primary, account for the second reason why I think Nigerian politicians should leave Wike alone – which is the same thing as calling his bluff. He was not the only loser. While others quietly folded their tents, wound up their campaigns, Wike was the only one who denounced everything and everybody – as if he had been robbed of a personal heritage. He and his supporters might be labouring under the delusion that some people owe them favours.
But, if they have asked me, I would have reminded them of what the great German statesman, Clemens Metternich, 1773-1859, said: “Gratitude is not an active sentiment in politics. It is a mistake to take account of it.” Any favour, done by a politician to anyone, is almost always an investment – which might yield good or no dividends. It is a sign of political immaturity to shout about it or to threaten reprisals when you lose your investments.
If Wike had good advisers; and he listens to them, he might still recover part of his investment by retracing his steps. One thing he will never get after all the ill-advised “entertainment of Nigerians” is Vice President. He has again frightened everybody to the extent that no presidential candidate will want him as VP. So, he can go on having “meetings” in Lagos, London, Los Angeles, Luxembourg or Laos. He will still not be VP candidate. Incidentally, I think -Atiku, Obi and Tinubu (in alphabetical order please!!) have the right sort of individuals as their running mates. No presidential candidate needs a “Co-captain”. That is one reason everybody should stop wasting their time talking to Wike.
NAKED SELF-INTEREST ON DISPLAY
Wike vows to name candidates planning looting – Report
‘I’ll name my preferred presidential candidate soon’. Says ‘I know who can rescue Nigeria’ – Another Report. The two front page headlines appeared in two different national newspapers on August 30, 2022. Taken side by side with the ridiculous trip to London by some politicians, one cannot help having the feeling that the mainline political class and Obi have allowed Wike to turn this election campaign to a charade. Granted that Nigerian elections have always been shallow exercises, bereft of substance, but, must our politicians continue to make bloody spectacles of themselves?
What was discussed in London which could not be handled in Nigeria? Former governor of Cross River, Donald Duke, was one of the participants. One would have thought that this was an opportunity for him to showcase his legacy project – the Tinapa Tourism Resort. Scarce foreign exchange was wasted by some politicians and one old Baba, who should go and rest, only to arrive at no decision. Wike is still unpredictable and he is still holding everybody to ransom; that is, everybody who wants to be held to ransom by an overrated influencer.
Sometimes, being too close to a scene induces its own version of optical illusion. Without exception, the political chieftains in APC, LP and PDP operate as if Wike can single-handedly determine how everybody in Rivers will vote. Nothing can be further from the truth. Let me disclose two reasons for now. There are more. One, irrespective of who Wike chooses to support, almost 100 per cent of the Igbo vote in Rivers will go to Obi. Two, Rivers being almost totally a Christian State, no power on Earth will force the majority to vote for Muslim-Muslim ticket. Short of planning to rig in favour of his candidate, his influence is already severely limited by forces he cannot control. The London Tourists wasted their time chasing shadows.
Meanwhile, his promise to name candidates planning to loot is self-serving and even dishonest. If Wike intends to help Nigeria, he should name the alleged potential looters now, regardless of the political party to which they belong. Naming the prospective looters, after deciding on who to support, amounts to defamation – while hiding under immunity from litigation. He should name them now; offer his evidence; give them time to exonerate themselves – or keep the names to himself.
“Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried” – Brewer Stock.
For the various political parties, wasting time on Wike has its consequences. As an economist, I have long learnt that time is a resource – just as money and human resources – in any endeavour. Time is even more vital in one respect. It is finite. There will always be 24 hours in the day. The time between now and Election Day is already fixed. With no political party absolutely sure of victory, it would appear to me as a waste of time to continue chasing a deliberately slippery character. It is also an insult to the rest of the members and supporters of the party. Are they all saying that they cannot win without Wike? If so, they should turn the party over to Wike; go home and let us see if he can deliver all the votes in the six zones of Nigeria. He will be lucky to deliver 10,000 in the North-West.
“A fool and his money are soon parted” – Old adage.
Waste of time and waste of money go in tandem. Already, a lot of pounds sterling has been thrown away by the London Tourists. It says a lot about the quality of Nigeria’s political leadership that nobody asked: why can’t we talk here in Nigeria? The folly of their trip has been exposed by the fact that they all returned empty-handed – except Wike, whose wish to dribble others was supported by gullible and desperate politicians.
The best thing for all concerned now is to leave Wike alone with the media; for who he provides entertainment and front page material. They are amusing to a lot of people. I am not amused; to me it is now a boring distraction. Atiku was right to select Okowa; who is more matured and an excellent team player.