By: Israel Umoh
Many who associate with him will confidently confirm that Nyesom Wike, the democratically elected governor of Rivers State, does not blink for anybody who plays on his intelligence. As a politician, he goes for what he wants and does not allow shenanigans to play a fast one on him, else he will raise an alarm.
To realise this, he likes to make a controversial statement or take action. He would frown his face, vent anger and talk brashly in a coarse voice to achieve his aim.
For example, the standoff between Wike and the federal government over the management of Nigeria’s airspace on Monday, April 6 was typical of him and reignited his personality trait and controversial stuff, thus setting many tongues wagging.
Wike is alleged to have ordered the arrest and arraignment of pilots and passengers of Carverton Helicopters which flew into Port Harcourt for violating the state government’s lockdown protocol. Despite pleas that the flight was duly approved by the NCAA, the nation’s civil aviation regulatory authorities, he caused the court to remand them in the Correctional Centre.
Again, during the COVID-19 scare, he initiated a shutdown of land, air and sea borders to checkmate the spread of the pandemic in his state, an action that looked like arbitrariness. Thereafter, the Federal Government and some states joined in the lockdown spree.
Moreover, the governor likes to tread where lions dread. Wike was said to have summoned traditional rulers in Rivers for a meeting in Government House, Port Harcourt where he ceaselessly lampooned one of them seriously for encouraging crimes in his domain. This action drew flaks from some Nigerians for touching what, some believe, is a sacred institution. The man simply shrugged off such acerbic criticisms.
In addition, he is a dogged fighter. During the era of the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, INEC denied Rotimi Amaechi PDP governorship ticket in Rivers State and handed over to Celestine Omehia. Wike fought tenaciously to reclaim the mandate. Though Amaechi had fled to Ghana for safety, Wike stood firm and mobilised legal luminaries until Supreme Court adjudicated and returned Amaechi as the duly elected governor of Rivers State. He triumphed and was rewarded as Chief of Staff to Governor Amaechi.
An intrepid political soldier, he ably sharpened his battle knife during his governorship race. While gunning for governorship under Peoples Democratic Party in the days of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, he turned against his former political ally and boss, Amaechi, when the latter defected from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC). Rivers became a war front and a flashpoint during the election. He floored Amaechi’s man, Dakuku Peterside, to become the governor in 2015.
His middle name could be controversy. And his controversial stand on any issue is unmatched. Wike would have had a controversy-free year if he had not attended a crusade organised by The Lord’s Chosen Charismatic Church, Port Harcourt in June 2019.
At the crusade, he said, “Rivers is a Christian state and cannot be touched by anyone. I repeat once again without apologies, Rivers is a Christian state. That is why nobody can touch us.”
The governor’s controversial statement became a point of reference in August 2019 when he allegedly demolished the Rainbow Town Central Mosque, Trans-Amadi area in Port Harcourt.
The alleged demolition almost stoked religious tension in the country because of his earlier statement about Rivers being a Christian state.
While the mosque controversy was about to die down, the governor described his party, PDP as the “the most corrupt committee…”
The committee set up by the PDP on the illegal emergence of Ndudi Elumelu is the most corrupt committee ever set up by the party,” he said.
“The state has all it takes to withstand the PDP and fight the party to a standstill. Rivers governor is not one of those governors that anyone can cajole. He is not one of those governors that will kowtow to illicit activities.”
Relentless with the criticism against his party, the governor turned his verbal AK-47 rifle against his fellow PDP governors. “So many PDP governors go to see him (Buhari) in his house in the night,” the governor said while congratulating President Muhammadu Buhari over his victory against the PDP presidential candidate in the 2019 election, Atiku Abubakar, at the election petition tribunal.
Mr. Wike said it was better to congratulate Mr. Buhari publicly than to secretly visit the president at night, implying that his fellow PDP governors were living a double life.
The governor in September 2018, just before the conduct of the PDP presidential primary, had threatened to deal with the party over a “plot” to move its national convention from Rivers to another state.
“Nobody should dare Rivers State any longer. Enough is enough. PDP should know that we are not a punching bag. We are not people you can use and push. We are not harlots. Whenever you want, you come. When you finish, you push us aside,” Mr. Wike had said.
The PDP national convention took place in Port Harcourt, as scheduled.
Also in 2018, some five months to the 2019 general elections, the governor made a weighty allegation that some of the PDP presidential candidates were planted in the party by President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling APC.
He also accused Mr. Buhari’s administration of plotting to kill him before the elections.
“I see that I may not be alive. It is obvious,” Mr. Wike told PREMIUM TIMES in September 2018. “The government is determined, they have made up their mind, but we are ready to die.”
In October 2016, Mr. Wike physically prevented the operatives of State Security Service (SSS), from arresting a federal high court judge in Port Harcourt. The governor accused the SSS operatives of manhandling and injuring him.
On one occasion, he proclaimed “I don’t stand up against the federal government; I stand up against injustice, I stand up against marginalisation. It has nothing to do with you as the federal government.
“If this government is not in place tomorrow and another government comes in and perpetuates injustice, I will stand up against them,” Mr. Wike said of his frequent conflict with Buhari administration.
The governor is one political figure in the country many like to hear not because they like him but because of his daring stance on issues. As a choleric, he is frank and bold and ambitious. He does not play around what he wants, rather he goes for it. He bares his mind on state and national issues without caring whose ox is gored. By his action, he has succeeded in ruffling many feathers on issues which the Nigerian despots would have used to subjugate many. He has the spirit of a true democrat, though he is not free from autocratic tendencies..
Though controversial, Wike may not be as lucky as US Donald Trump, North Korean ‘Maximum’ ruler Kim Jong-un, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the late Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, and Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, who were and are presidents of their countries. Their clime is saner but Nigeria’s clime is dictated by ethnicity, religion, and parochialism, among other inconceivable factors.
Unfortunately, politicians of this hue do not go too far to the extent of grabbing the presidency. The fact is that the political tin gods and feudal lords abhor the bold, the fearless whom they suspect can rise one day to moot out populist programmes to outclass their legacies. Rather, the sycophants, political turn-coats, yes men, and imbeciles always rise to an unprecedented height in the bedroom of power.
During the military era, the late Major-General Tunde Idiagbon and retired Col.Abubakar Umar, among others were not too loved by the military aristocrats. In the political era, Senator Dino Melaye of Kogi West, Senator Shehu Sani of Kaduna Central and ex-Ekiti governor Ayo Fayose were feared and punished for being ‘recalcitrant.’ They stood up with strident voices to challenge the status quo, but their political rising was eclipsed.
Since a combination of blue and red colours produces purple, Governor Wike should continue to be audacious and be ready to pay the political price on his controversial stand after exiting from the office.