October 13, 2023

The rise and rise of Nyesom Wike, By Donu Kogbara

SERAP sues Sani, Wike, others ‘over failure to account for N5.9trn, $4.6bn loans, publish agreements’

FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike

While most eyes are on Chicago Wahala, I thought I should focus on Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. President Bola Tinubu’s most famous ministerial appointee has long been impossible to ignore.

As soon as he became Governor of Rivers, the sometimes turbulent and always complex premier state in the oil-producing Niger Delta region – on May 29, 2015 – a ubiquitous media superstar was born.

In the eight years and five months that have elapsed since then, he has been constantly mentioned in various print/online publications and TV/radio programmes, partly because he spends vast sums on publicity and partly because he is extremely newsworthy anyway.

Extremely newsworthy

Garrulous, witty, irascible, flamboyant, boastful, hedonistic, bold, brave, combative and clever, he’s a larger-than-life lawyer, sharp-suited swaggering showman, imperious bruiser and highly effective operator who attracts contempt and admiration in equal measures.

His enemies describe him in unflattering terms, including as one who specialises in buying influence.

His fans describe him as a straightforward, streetwise, no-nonsense strongman who bestrides his unruly domain like a colossus, quite rightly rules it with a rod of iron, only does drastic U-turns when evil adversaries are about to destroy him and doesn’t need to assassinate his opponents because he can easily outsmart them tactically.

Whether one loves Wike, loathes Wike or has a neutral attitude towards Wike, nobody can deny that he usually gets what he wants…and that he has pulled off a feat so audacious, astonishing and unique – seizing control of the two main political parties on his home turf – that when this era of our history is catalogued in books for posterity, Wike’s name will surely feature very prominently.

Many Nigerians were shocked when Wike opted to play a Tinubu Cheerleader role because he had repeatedly described Tinubu’s APC as a “cancer” that had seriously messed Nigeria up since 2015.  

But thanks to Wike, the APC was, for the first time ever, declared the winner of a presidential election in Rivers State this year.      

Meanwhile, Wike’s protegee (Sim Fubara) succeeded him as the PDP governor of Rivers State and the Rivers branch of the PDP wound up with numerous seats in local and federal legislative chambers.  

In a nutshell, Wike has cunningly manoeuvred himself into becoming the de facto boss of both PDP and APC in Rivers State. And it is not surprising that Tinubu regards him as a crucial ally.  

Whether Wike really won Rivers State for Tinubu or anyone else is still a hotly debated topic. Reports from respected foreign organisations such as the European Union and British BBC indicate that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, may have colluded with Wike and Tinubu to declare false results.  

In the meantime, Wike has bagged the Federal Capital Territory ministerial slot, a prestigious, quasi-gubernatorial posting that normally goes to Northerners.  

Wike and Tinubu have different styles – Tinubu is much smoother and is (unlike Wike) fond of talented sophisticated technocrats. But they still come across as being kindred spirits in fundamental ways.  

They are both clever, manipulative strategists. They both adore power. They both relentlessly pursue wealth. They both lavish inducements on useful individuals. They are both immensely ambitious. They are both famed for getting whatever they want.      

Tinubu, known as Jagaban – warrior leader – controlled most of his native South-West geopolitical zone for a quarter of a century.  

My guess is that Wike, a seasoned muscle flexer, will learn from his new master and try his best to build a solid base across the entire length and breadth of his native South-South zone.

Tinubu despite the endless embarrassments that are tarnishing his image, has gone from being a regional champion to running the Giant of Africa.

Could it be only a matter of time before Wike follows in his footsteps?


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