2023: GOVERNOR WIKE AND HIS OPTIONS

Nigerians have come to recognize the sad reality that the biggest influence in who becomes elected is the state governor. Like it or hate it, that is the kind of politics we play. Every politician who wants to vie for an election from the chairmanship of a local council needs the governor more that the voters in his local government.

The incumbent governor decides who becomes a delegate for every convention. The same person also decides or influences how the statutory delegates vote too. Nigerian governors see it as a birth right to choose their successors.

They even collectively decide who becomes president of the country. Regardless of the age, experience or background, the governors in the country are the most influential humans, walking and talking like gods. Unfortunately, some are reduced to mortality years after their reign.

In this report, our special correspondent, presents a studied analysis of the likely options that are open to the incumbent Governor of Rivers State, Chief Barrister Nyesom Wike. What would the powerful Governor of oil-rich Rivers State do politically after leaving office as the occupant of the Brick House.

With just over 500 days to the next general elections, top politicians all have their eyes trained on various seats and offices. For first term executives securing re-election for a second term is almost sacrosanct. For legislators and other elected officials, retaining their positions or moving a notch higher are the most probable permutations.

For Nyesom Wike, the helmsman in Rivers State who is reputed to be a foresighted politician, the time for playing the ostrich is over. The pretense of keeping his cards close to his chest has crystalized now. Even though he had earlier publicly rejected the idea of seeking the presidency in 2023.

He had declared that he was not going to run for the presidency of the country, claiming that those who tried to lure him in were only interested in milking him. Wike had said that political jobbers fraudulently lure former governors from economically viable states like Rivers, just so their resources would be spent.

So, observers had factored, on the strength of that declaration, that Governor Wike will not run for the presidency. They had also wondered if he will seek to go to the Senate after May 29th, 2023, Or just become a kingmaker since he was too active to want to retire from politics soon. If Wike was planning to go home to rest, would he be investing so much into the affairs of his party?

Nyesom Wike’s personality doesn’t give him away as one who is either going to run for the senate in 2023 or quit politics, even when the senate has become the hibernation centre for many former governors in Nigeria.

So, one can only conjecture that the Rivers State Governor is most likely going to be watching developments in his party, as they unfold, thick and fast, weighing his options, against his strengths and weaknesses.

The man who is popularly referred to as “Mr. Projects”, is hyperactive and so cannot be comfortable in the Nigerian senate, as some discerning pundits have opined. He is used to giving orders and issuing instructions, they contend.

But in the last few days, the Governor of Rivers State has shown that he is very much interested in who becomes president of Nigeria. In fact, his body language indicate that he is even ready to throw his hat into the ring and political watchers have suggested that his presidential ambition could well be the very reason he’s embroiled in a messy fight with the now suspended national chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus.

Now, would Wike be fighting just to get power back to the south, when he, an uplander, emerged governor after his tribe’s man, Rotimi Amaechi had serverd the mandatory two terms?The factor is definitely not the principle of equity but of personal interest.

The fight between the two Rivers sons, seem to be a proxy battle between political interests. In Uche Secondus, we see the interest of power retention in the North, while in Nyesom Wike you see the quest to take power back to the South.

Recall that these interests played out in the last PDP convention in Port Harcourt, four years ago, where Wike rooted for the Sokoto State Governor, Alhagi Aminu Tambuwal. Uche Secondus the new party helmsman was still fresh in office and was not bold enough to chest out and so his stance was unclear until the results were declared.

Four years later, now fully entrenched in power, his interest is obvious and sharply contrasts with Nyesom Wike’s interest. Should Secondus who wants to recontest for his office, do so and win, then it’s will be clear wave of bye bye to the presidential ticket by not just the south, but especially the Rivers Governor.

And so, Northern stakeholders like former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, would covertly support and encourage Secondus to explore and engage every legal and legitimate option to sustain his chairmanship status which, if he succedes, would in the first instance, completely nullify all that has transpired in the party, since after his suspension.

Both Wike and Atiku are highly strategic politicians, any who takes the other for granted does so at his peril. Yet, they must fight and more so for the soul of the PDP, for in this battle, there can be no draw, however. As politicians, they may eventually opt to negotiate, since both camps know that control of the party is useless for either, if it would not deliver the ultimate. Thus, the fight will not be to destroy the party but to make it stronger.

If by the end of the scheduled October 30th PDP convention, Atiku takes control, then Governor Wike would either adjust his ambition and seek consideration or ship out (as is widely speculated). But if Wike wins control of the PDP, he may fly the party’s presidential flag or encourage his ally from the North to clinch the ticket, depending on the pairing of the APC.

As for Atiku Abubakar, time and options are limited and so, he would have to work hard to take control, for the obvious reason that whatever happens, the Wazirin Adamawa may not be able to leave the PDP again.

When both men are rich, visionary and smart, experience may become the divider. Wike’s experience at the Port Harcourt convention may stimulate more creativity, just as Atiku’s many epic battles on the political turf could give him the edge.

Whatever happens, Governor Wike must have his backyard properly covered and the best way to do so is to promote a sense of unity and loyalty, especially as there are other forces to confront and contend with on the tricky and unpredictable political landscape.

Quite naturally for Governor Wike, just like every incumbent governor who has served the constitutionally prescribed two terms, the primary interest is to install a successor that he would consider loyal and capable.

Generally, State executive Governors have been known to say that they want successors who would sustain their achievements and possibly surpass them. However, the people believe that the primary objective of these Chief Executives, is to have someone who would protect their interests and enhance their political standing, when they leave office.

The greatest example of a former governor who had not just installed a successor but has continued to install governors in his state and beyond, is the national leader of the All Progressive Congress, Alhaji Ahmed Bola Tinubu. He has built and is maintaining a very formidable political structure even beyond Lagos State.

Certainly, such level of control over a state is the desire of every outgoing governor and Wike is not an exception. It is however instructive to note that in Rivers State, since 1999, no former governor has succeeded in picking his successor. Sir Dr. Peter Odili handed over to Sir Celestine Omehia in 2007. However, if Omehia was the preferred successor, he lasted only a few months and was replaced by his kinsman, Chibuike Amaechi.

Former Governor Amaechi after his second term, sought to handover to Dr. Dakuku Peterside but his bid failed. And so 2023 will be Governor Wike’s litmus test. Wike is often proclaimed as a record breaker and would very much want to break the jinx. He would very well want to have his man replace him as governor.

But it cannot be an easy task. Not easy because unlike in the days of Dr. Odili, when the political space was 90% PDP, the state is today divided sharply between the PDP and the APC. Even when the APC in Rivers State is still enmeshed in self-inflicted crisis, it would be costly to attempt to dismiss a party which controls the center at a critical election.

If luck favors Wike and the PDP, and APC is again kept off the ballot, there will be a repeat of the 2019 surprise popup. And so, the clever politician would prepare to tackle APC in its might. APC on its part, would be desperate and focused. After eight years in the cold, their determination to get it right this time would be strong.

So, if the better organized party and that with the best candidate would win, Wike must put his best foot forward, especially with the huge anticipation that there will be a proper election in 2023.

For Governor Wike, his joker would be whoever emerges as the PDP governorship candidate. The main task would be fielding a marketable player. And who will that be?

Journalists, social media regulars, political aides and armchair analysists have been throwing up names of governorship hopefuls in the last few weeks. Some for selfish reasons have profiled aspirants with the hope of projecting certain interests.

But those who know the man Wike, very well, insist that he can be tough but is often soft when he recognizes quality or intellect. Meaning that he knows when to adopt physical strength and when to appreciate competence.

He is a proud Ikwerre man, but also knows when to play the role of a statesman and leader. He is a generous friend but knows where to draw the lines. Governor Wike knows those who should attend the meeting at 4pm and those who would attend the second and even the third meetings afterwards.

There is enough evidence to support the conclusion that he will not field another Ikwerre because he is wise. The temptation will come again, the pressure will be turned on later, but Nyesom Wike has proved time and time again that he has the balls to say no, when he should.

There are those who Wike would encourage if only to scare and check those who have some entitlement mentality. There are those that he may consider if he desires to go to Brick House and play tennis afterwards. There are those who he will think of if he sees that the contest would be tough and so he needs to win at all cost.

Today, no politician in the PDP can talk about governorship publicly. That may prove costly at the long run. He needs the input of the party members and the public. The decision of who to support in the state would strengthen or weaken him at the center. There is a chance that he would win at both theatres, just as it’s possible to lose at both battles.

But what ever happens, Wike should at least win either at the center or in the state. And his decisions would either make or mar. The game may get to a point where he might move outside his first and second circles.

Take or leave it, Wike loves Rivers State and would want to see sustained development. He knows those who may want to compete with him if they have the chance, and those who can make personal sacrifices for the good of the state. Yes, Nyesom Wike can, under certain pressure, move to invite someone now regarded as an outsider.

Many Rivers State political watchers and analysts opine strongly that Governor Wike could need a candidature that would supply some extra influence to match the challenge and may require a candidate that he would market as experienced and surprise his followers by backing a green horn.

It is safe to assume that he would support a riverine candidate, but he would also have to manage his actions well because ultimately, an outgoing governor is not exactly the same as an incumbent Govenor.

This special report was put together by Dason Nemieboka, a social commentator, who resides in Port Harcourt

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