Nyesom Wike and the Ecstatic Edge of Political Confrontations

It was William Ellery Channing, renowned American theologian and public analyst who said that every man is a volume if you know how to read him. But looking at the personality of Nyesom Wike, Governor of Rivers State, one sees a volume in a man that is difficult to read. With him, nothing sits on the fence. You are either here or there. His perceived petulance leaves so much to wonder.

Although it is not unusual to witness intraparty wrangling in Nigeria’s political space, the latest fisticuff between Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, and top Peoples Democratic Party leader in the north, Aliyu Babaginda is quite compelling. Their rift became public when the Rivers State Governor, notorious for his bluntness and insouciant approach to issues, called the PDP stakeholder, Aliyu Babaginda, a mole and a liability in the party.

While speaking on 24 May 2021 at the government house in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, Wike said it was rather sad that the PDP still allows Aliyu Babaginda to remain a member of its highest decision-making body after he publicly admitted to working against Jonathan. In the words of Wike:

“Aliyu Babangida is a mole in PDP. These are people who get information and in the night, they go to the ruling party (APC) and give them the information. The same Aliyu, in 2017, was one of those who opposed Secondus to be chairman of the party. He only came on board at the dying minutes when he knew Secondus was coasting to victory.

“In 2015, what happened to him? He insisted his own boy will be governor. In 2019, he insisted again and PDP lost. Who is the dictator? Up till now, the reason why the state (Niger) congress cannot take place is because he wants to dictate who will be chairman of the party.

“If Aliyu says he will leave PDP today, nobody will shake; nobody will even bother. But if I say I will leave PDP tomorrow, you will know the consequences of it.”

Governor Wike has always taken on his counterparts in the political space without compunction. His brawl with the former governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi of APC, was only a few months ago and now he has extended it to a top member of his own party. Although his commentary on Aliyu Babaginda is said to be a rejoinder to the latter’s claims that a certain “dictator in Rivers State” was behind the travails of the National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, because of a “personal ambition to either become Vice President or a political godfather”, Wike has always been a rabble-rouser that one is tempted to ask what eggs him. What inspires him? He seems to enjoy getting involved in political confrontations. Some have said it could be part of politicking or that touchiness that forms part of the sensibilities of Niger-Deltans.

This is particularly true in view of the fact that in spite of his audacious disposition, Wike has emerged as Governor of Rivers State twice. This is his second term in office and he has always enjoyed the political patronage of his people.

One minute he is being praised. The next minute he swerves the ride to stir up mixed reactions. For instance, last year May, his approach to containing the spread of COVID-19 in his state was second to none.

After he declared lockdown in the state, the very first day it came into effect on 7 May 2020, Wike led a patrol team, arresting over 200 people, while impounding over 20 vehicles for failing to adhere to the lockdown measures. All the people he arrested were charged to a special mobile court which started convicting over 170 persons on the first day.

Governor Wike made it clear that any hotel that had existing guests must send their lists to the Governor’s Office for approval. In the midst of all the lauds he got for these measures, Wike decided to raise the tempo to a crescendo by ordering the demolition of two hotels following their violation of COVID-19 protocol. The interestingness is not in what he did. But the reactions his action generated. The incident which gained traction in the media space drew a lot of supporters on both sides of the fence for and against his actions.

While some queried why he would shut down sources of revenue from other sectors in view of the fact that every economic activity contributes to the GDP, many others praised the governor for placing the lives of Rivers State’ residents first.

This was the same governor who brazenly doled out 10 million naira to every artiste that performed at Grammy winner, Burna Boy’s Homecoming Concert hosted by the state. The governor, praised for his stern measures towards COVID-19 at the time, was said to have been without a facemask at the same event.

Observers will never be in a hurry to forget the way he talked down on a monarch last year January during a quarterly meeting of traditional rulers at the government house? The governor had initially asked the traditional rulers who had their staff of office to stand up, saying it’s disrespectful for them not to carry it around.

“It’s not for you to take it (staff of office) and go and keep it in your bedroom or put it in your shrine, for those of you who worship at various shrines.

Read Also: Governor Wike bans Protest in Rivers State

“It’s for your coming out for an official function, you come with it. That differentiates you from any other chief.”

The monarchs responded by clapping but he interrupted them saying: “Stop clapping. You are being selfish. Stop clapping. It’s the right thing to do. It’s not because of you because you won’t be there forever. It’s to protect the institution. So, don’t clap because you are there now.”

Continuing his tirades, he called out one of the traditional rulers: “Stop shaking your head’ that’s sycophancy. You are one of those causing problems. They gave you chieftaincy but you are a young boy so you don’t even know what to do with it. And then when I’m speaking you are shaking your head like this because you think I will be happy.”

Meanwhile, it was Jesus Christ who made the famous statement on the implications of in-house divisiveness. According to him, a house divided against itself cannot stand. The consequences of Wike’s tirade, for the PDP, are better captured in the concerns of the Niger Delta Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), Youth League. According to them, his remarks on former Niger Governor, Babangida Aliyu is capable of weakening the party’s strength in the North.

The PDP youth league in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Don C. Rigz, called on the party’s leadership to be wary of Wike’s activities as it could be quite detrimental to the party’s survival.

According to the statement, “It is dangerous for genuine PDP members to sit by and watch the party go under during Wike’s leadership that is characterised by political brigandage and tactless approach to critical party matters.

“For the avoidance of doubt, party leaders such as Babangida Aliyu who against all odds remained loyal to the PDP all through the hurricane of the last six years ought not be toyed with by militants like Wike.”

The league had alleged that Wike is acting the script of the All Progressives Congress by becoming an irritant to genuine moves to rebuild its capacity to reclaim power in 2023.

Whether he is the reason why former party members like Ben Ayade left is not clear. But one thing looks obvious, and that is the fact that given his protean predisposition, Wike’s attacks on Aliyu Babaginda could be his usual serenade of attracting attention to himself as he gathers momentum for his next controversial political action.

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