The issue is that the bruised ego of Nyesom Wike who feels so much mistaken that he is said to constitute the reason for the PDP’s return to power is hanging in the balance. Some leaders of other political parties woo Wike to join them, making her a beautiful bride.
The electoral value and popularity of Wike is beyond doubt. Twice, he won the guber election of Rivers, a swing state, by landslide. In his second term, Wike gently launched his presidential campaign by inviting many important Nigerians of all walks of life to commission his many completed projects in Rivers state. That way, he got for himself, deservedly or not, the appeal, Mr. Project.
As he embraces the klieg lights and the Nigerian public in the media blitz, pictures capture the hearts of many Nigerians. Aside from his early campaign, which may have been lost on Nigerians, Wike made a conscious effort to ensure that the former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, remained out of the picture while at the same time telling him publicly not to join the APC. or in the presidential race.
In a normal party democracy where party discipline works, Goodluck Jonathan is entitled to the first refusal to fly the PDP flag in 2023. Republicans in the US are still looking at Trump. But those like Wike whose excessive ambition to be President of Nigeria have turned big elephants in the room, destroying and trampling everyone in their path, will not allow democracy to take root in Nigeria. Even the strategic interests and unity of South Nigeria are not an issue to them. Wike is not alone; Bola Ahmed Tinubu can be seen also rocking the country’s democracy with his Muslim-Muslim ticket, which he wants to push down the throats of Nigerians.
Like Wike, Tinubu said the APC ticket was his and it became his. Wike says the same but unlike Tinubu, the PDP ticket cannot be Wike’s, and a man whose living ambition has been taken away from him deserves public sympathy, and that is what Wike got across his house now like a political Mecca.
But let’s leave Tinubu and his Muslim-Muslim suicide ticket here, and focus on Wike whose definition of right is in question. To be fair to him, Wike’s sense of entitlement is pretty reasonable. At one point, he was about the lone man standing. He became the main voice of the opposition and took the bullets for the PDP. It was also the time he pushed Ali Modu Sheriff, a dyed-in-wool former APC governor and senator from Borno, to become PDP Ag National chairman. Sheriff almost sank into the PDP. While he may have meant well, it nevertheless spoke of how rash the man Wike was.
Wike has traveled around the country, paid solidarity visits to PDP governors in distress, and shared millions of naira as interventions. He also visited Sokoto and Benue. He donated N500m to Sokoto state govt. during a catastrophic market fire, and N200 million in Benue during one of their many killings of Fulani shepherds. This display of solidarity is what made Wike fall in love with Gov Samuel Ortom and why Ortom wants Wike as Atiku’s running mate in everything.
Wike has been a pillar of the PDP and therefore the party has been there most of the time since they lost power at the center in 2015. But the PDP has at least a dozen governors that Wike must share the burden of keeping floating the PDP, which included Tambuwal and Ortom that Wike needed to help financially.
The experience of the PDP has shown that there is no political party system in Nigeria in the true sense of the word. What is gained is simply an iron law of oligarchy mentioned in a political theory developed by the German -born Italian sociologist Robert Michels in his 1911 book, Political Parties. He insisted that the leadership of an elite, or oligarchy, was an “iron law” within any democratic politics, meaning only a handful of men ruled.
In political parties in Nigeria, members do not pay fees and the party has wage charges for regular staff to pick up and keep the party running. Governors don’t care unless there’s something there for them like bribing railroad candidates they want to impose. This is the lacuna that Wike exploited in the PDP and became a huge political capital and blackmail tool. To Wike, therefore, the PDP presidential ticket is his for questioning.
Then, the race began in earnest for three years, reaching a frenzy with the works of two PDP zoning committees. The first is Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s committee on zoning PDP party offices. The Ugwuanyi committee was quick to tell the world that zoning in the president’s office was not covered by the committee’s appointment. While this is true, the question is: why isn’t the Ugwuanyi committee zone the PDP chairmanship in the North without aligning it with the divide that will yield the PDP presidential flag-bearer? The second committee headed by Gov. Samuel Ortom of Benue state was specifically on the zoning of the presidential ticket and, with the votes of representatives of all 17 Southern states without any exception, the Committee unanimously recommended discarding the PDP presidential ticket, which was only upheld by the PDP NEC.
One thing is undeniable – Wike shot himself in the leg. Here is someone with wide influence on both committees but could not insist that the ticket be zoned to the South. Many have wondered why? The reason is also quite visible: the Southeast factor. While the cry for the zoning of the PDP’s presidential ticket in the South has reached its crescendo, many have pointed to the fact that even the PDP Constitution stipulates the zoning of the president’s office which is between the North and South ever since the South- west and The South has alternated in making the president and the vice in this current dispensation among the people of Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, the zoning in this instance, should not only be in the South but in the Southeast .
Atiku Abubakar went one step further by offering to step down from the race if it agreed that the alleged zoning in the South would mean micro-zoning in the Southeast. Wike and the others will not be able to handle the Atiku challenge because Atiku will likely support Peter Obi, who became his vice-presidential running mate in 2019 and an ally. Peter Obi’s prospects of picking a ticket if the PDP zones in the South really persuaded Wike to go for an open tournament, believing he could pick it up ahead of Atiku, Tambuwal and Bala Mohammed, because of his large chest of war.
As it turned out, belittling Atiku Abubakar, a veteran of several presidential elections in 1993 and former Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, was a serious and fatal mistake of judgment. A day before D-day, Atiku will clearly take the day and the icing on the cake is his ultimate political sagacity in getting Gov Waziri Aminu Tambuwal, another front runner, to step down for him. This masterstroke, which only grandmasters can perform, happened during the last hours at the special convention and Wike had no chance to recover from such a TKO.
Political gladiators like Wike relied on their chariots and mammon rather than on solidarity and social justice. Even saying that politics is a complex game, Wike made the same mistake twice. One found out that he knew of the voting done by the committee that shortlisted the 3 running mates. That action was blackmail against Atiku trying to avoid the mistake he made in 2019 in his selection of Peter Obi as his running mate. What the committee should have done was give Atiku 3 names and highlight the strengths and weaknesses for each. But instead, they want to choose a running mate for Atiku, a role assigned to the president’s flag holders by electoral act.
Atiku chose Okowa instead of Wike and in doing so he avoided a storm in his presidency in case he wins with the man as vice president. The Vice president is a subdued office and the occupier must be seen and not heard, and in a presidential democracy, the VP is heard by his principal, the President of the country.
Wike, given the description of this job, though a great and famous man, could not have been a typical or good vice president; he is bound to rise as another captain on the ship. Atiku avoided it.
Atiku also avoided the possibility that Wike would depress PDP votes in the core North and Southeast. Wike pushed for some policies that most northerners interpret as anti-north. He went even further to tell the Igbo that he was not Igbo. These two factors will surely come in the heat of the campaign and Atiku will find himself defending Wike in the precious time he will use to sell his manifesto. Therefore, Atiku’s best decision was not to choose Wike.
Unless that’s why Wike loves the presidency, the only real thing in a vice president for someone like him is litigation safety while in office. As she enjoys her new status as the beautiful bride of Nigerian politics, she must accept responsibility for her fate. He lost the opportunity to fly the PDP flag when he worked against the South-East, turned his back on his Igbo ancestors, promoted anti-north policies and for his impolitical and alienating political approach. The damage he cared for, therefore, was inflicted on himself for which he had nothing to blame but himself.
Mefor is a senior fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought. He can be reached at 09056424375 or [email protected] He tweeted @DrLawMefor