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January 20, 2024

Wike’s Sumptuous New Year Lunch, by Muyiwa Adetiba

Wike’s Sumptuous New Year Lunch, by Muyiwa Adetiba

Wike

Minister Wike invited me to the sumptuous New Year lunch he had at his home in Port Harcourt in the first week of the year. It was an invitation I honoured – not physically since it was not a physical invitation – with an hour of my time. Many like me were invited when he chose to put it on national television and even boasted that he knew his political foes were watching.

Only a relative few though, his political allies and cronies to be precise, were actually called. But what I saw was enough for me anyway since it left very little to imagination.  I saw a big, elegantly furnished banquet hall that was fit for royalty. I thought it was an event center until a narrative claimed it was in his home. I saw an array of food and drinks which made my mouth water even as I participated virtually hundreds of miles away in Lagos. I saw waste at play and cronyism at work. Yes, I saw many things including a king’s attempt to dance naked in the market square – in this case, on national TV.

It was supposed to be a thank you lunch of sorts, ostensibly for surviving the year physically and perhaps politically – it was a year that revealed the character of the man as he literally threw his own party under the bus after his failed attempt to secure his party’s nomination. When he seemed to have gotten away with it and had neatly packaged a successor at the State level, the legs of the body he felt he had cased nicely in a coffin were found dangling, as dark clouds took over the political sky of River State in the latter part of the year.

It was also apposite I suppose, to believe that the lunch was arrangedto plead for calm and unity in the State. But it turned out to be more. It always does when a leader is given to loquaciousness. When Minister Wike mounted the rostrum, he spoke extempore – always a dangerous thing for leaders who like to shoot from the hip. What came across for me is a man given to hubris; a man who loves his voice and takes prides in his own erudition.

I also saw a man who would always want to be the godfather but who does not tolerate political godfatherism from anyone else; a man who loves power and would do virtually anything for power and relevance. What also came out in that roughly one-hour speech which his political associates should be wary of, is that this man does not keep secrets and could divulge any political secret as long as it is expedient.

Although he talked about loyalty, you got the feeling from his words that anything and anyone is expendable once they have served their purpose. And in detailing the intrigues that run through politics, what came across to me is the texture of politics in the country generally and the caliber of those who participate in it. It was embarrassingly clear that many of those in the hall on the day and indeed in political offices across the country, were in politics for what they could get out of it.

I felt uncomfortable that principles, conviction, and State interests, were swept aside for personal interests in choosing those to represent Rivers State.I also didn’t hear anything about talent and ability as conditions for office. I am not sure he expected any serious eyebrow to be raised when he said openly that he bought the forms for all the candidates – and probably financed the campaigns for many of them becausehe makes no bones about his wealth as his financial interventions in State and National party politics over the years have shown. And for a man who has spent the last two decades at least in one political office or the other, the link to this wealth leaves little room for conjecture. The body language I read is that of someone who believes that because he has served a rich State over the years, he should therefore, be rich.

One lesson I gleaned from his ‘after lunch’ speech is that those who handle leaders should always ensure their speeches are brief or scripted. Especially these days when words, when spoken, can never be taken back – the social media is full of Wike’s controversial and often contradictory statements, that have come to embarrass, if not haunt him. Leaders should also learn to manage their anger in public and refrain from angry outbursts.

Governor Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State is the latest victim of an angry public outburst that almost marred his righteous intentions in apprehending a traffic violator. I have always been alarmed at the impunity of the men in uniform when it comes to obeying traffic laws. In fact, having a uniformed officer in a commercial bus had for years been a license for impunity.That the apprehended okada man claimed to be a soldier at that point in time spoke to his mindset. As annoying and provocative as that declaration was, I believe the Governor should not have responded.

His job as a leader was done when he gave the order. The angry outburst and the torrents of words that followed were unnecessary. They were deemed to be arrogant and condescending. Unfortunately, they spoke to the Governor’s mindset as well. The abuse of the Governor in the social media was illiterate and misplaced. It seemed largely political and spoke to the mindset of some people who still don’t believe the election is over and will use anything as an excuse to get at the Governor.

We are in interesting times and those in public spaces should watch their utterances and actions so as not to ignite the already short fuse in the polity. The continuing outcry and outrage against the persons of Betta Edu and OlubunmiTunji-Ojo even after an investigation has been promised by government, is a case in point. It speaks to the mindset of many people against politicians in general and the Tinubu administration in particular.

The sheer vitriol against the person of Edu speaks volumes about the state of the country. She has been found guilty and dragged naked on the streets without hearing her side of the story or the outcome of the ongoing investigation. Did she act alone? Could she act alone? Who were those who facilitated the transfer and was it without precedence? Was she brazen or just naïve? Was the transferred money meant for the project or for those who invested time and money in the presidential election?

We would be kidding ourselves to think grassroot politicians are not settled one way or the other from the treasury. Already, grumbles from those who believe they have been sidelined after making the presidency happen are getting louder. Is Betta Edu the erstwhile Woman Leader just a conduit? Was her approach a brazen but ill-advised way of obeying ‘the master’s voice?’ We need answers to some of these questions before this brutal mediacrucifixion can be wholly justified.