The Wike Phenomenon, By Tunde Abatan
Take it or leave it, Nyesom Wike,the incumbent governor of Rivers state, has become a factor not only in the politics of the South-South region, but also in Nigeria’s politics as he has drawn attention to himself not for nothing.
Recall the South-South zones vote has always been the tool of winning election from time immemorial due to their minority status by the Northern power block against the rest of the South. This is in spite of their control of the economic fortunes of Nigeria.
Until now, they and their leaders are considered as tools to be used to get power since the first and second republic days as tool of conservatives to hold power.
Since the South -South zone are a minority in Nigeria’s power equation, the polarisation of Nigeria into six zones courtesy of it’s recognition by the late Sani Abacha constitutional conference of 1994 has made it necessary that for anybody to emerge winner, he must get at least the support of either of the two minority geopolitical zones in the South and North, that is the North Central and the South South zones.
Today, the North Central has 16.3% of votes in the country as per August this year placing it in the third position while the South South has 15.9% to place fourth in the number of registered voters in the country.
This means in essence, that with the situation of things today, either of the three leading candidates need the block votes of the two zones to make a difference.
This is so, because since both the North West and South West has between them a total of 42million registered voters and judging by their traditional block voting pattern, any of the three candidates that is able to get the block votes from the two zones stands a better chance of winning since the two has 42% of registered voters with twelve states.
What either of them only need to do is to campaign vigorously to get 25% in twelve more states from both the North Central, North East and South South.
Since, Peter Obi is undeniably very strong in the South East where he may poll at least 75% of the votes, leaving the two other candidates to struggle among themselves to get the remaining 25% of total votes cast, it is incumbent for them to scout for votes from the two other geo- political zones- South South and North Central, seen as free for all the aspirants as they are seen as swing states.
This now brings into focus, the Wike factor in the South South political equation.
As somebody who had the financial muzzle and structure to come second to former vice President Abubakar Atiku, in the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, presidential primary, it is instructive to regard him as a factor which he knows he is and which is the source of his unending threats, grandstanding, attacks and audacity especially since he is a second term governor who can make and unmake in his region where he has influence more than five other governors.
Yes, political watchers in the country may see in Wike a cantercarous noise maker who is attracting undue attention to himself, yet they have to be told that since circumstances have put him in position of influence ,money and power, he had the right and tendency to want to use same as negotiating tool for his own interest since politics is about interest .
This is so especially since a noticeable number of the Southern governors see in him,a leading figure who can lead their fight for a Southern Presidency.
The governors of Oyo state, Seyi Makinde, who is caught between his support for his parties choice in Abubakar Atiku and ‘ethnic’ commitment to Tinubu is a point of note.
Till date, ethnicity to a large extent still plays a significant role in voter behaviour in Nigeria.
Since Makinde knows that, take it or leave it, Tinubu’s emergence in South West will definitely rub- off on his own base, it is easier for him to want to be seen supporting another Southerner from his party and not a Northerner especially in the light of the level of ‘disappointing’ performance of President Muhammadu Buhari, a fellow Northerner like Atiku in the eyes of an average Yoruba whose vote brought him to power in 2015.
For Makinde, Tinubu’s candidature is easier to manage and hence queuing behind Wike at this time gives him a soft landing to reduce apparent threats to his second term in Oyo state.
Same reason and tactics applied for Benue governor, Samuel Ortom, whose people have equally suffered from Fulani repressions in the past seven years.
Besides,the likely persecution of his people should another Fulani emerge in person of Atiku Is not far fetched as he has never been considered a factor in Northern equation.
Wikes decision and that of his fellow governors and ‘secret’ supporters to further pummel PDP through blackmail of Senator Iyorchia Ayus resignation is the only saving grace since they would have permanently lost out in the PDP power game especially since it will be difficult to get Ayus leadership off their back should Atiku emerge President in 2023.
Hence, from whichever perspective you look at it, Wikes current battle is a battle of his life. Ironically, that battle coincides with popular clamour for Southern Presidency.
Openly talking about Ayu allegedly collecting One billion naira(N1bn) from an unnamed PDP chieftain, which is not reflected in the account of the leading opposition party, is a move to tear apart whatever integrity Ayu may have left within and among the top hierarchy of PDP who may start to ask questions.
While the alleged one billion naira may have been sourced for other purposes rather than building the party machinery, opening the can of worms is also an indication that perhaps Wike could have won if not for the largesse thrown at Ayu by the unknown PDP leader.
Hence, it is understandable Wike is pained by the other candidate from the North who obviously outspent him in the presidential primary ‘dollar’ jamboree.
Would Wike have opened the can of worms, had he won the primary?
That is a question begging for answer.
A question which calls to question the morality in Wike’s intransigence rather uncommon among political players from his part of Nigeria since the First Republic.
Historically, they are noted for acquiescence since the minority tag on them is not seen as a threat to those who believes it is their right to rule others.
Today, the only moral ground left for Wike and his supporters to stand upon is the apparent refusal to accept the breach of agreement between the North and Southern wing of the party on the need to rotate the leadership between the North and South which is the source of clamour for Ayu’s resignation since Atiku has emerged as Presidential candidate.
Wike unknown to many, may also be the loud voice of some silent believer in the need for power to shift from the North in the party and by extension the nation.
It could even be an issue that is fast growing attention across across party lines in the country.
That Wike has in his camp, the likes of Chief Olabode George, a noticeable leader from the South West and other noticeable leaders and state governors silently drumming support for him, is a convenience of sort.
This is because until now, Wike has always regarded SW PDP as not having enough political strength to contest leadership of the party from the South in view of it’s performance in previous elections.
This caused not a little breach of trust between the South West leaders who view Wike and other South South governors as conquerors from the South who wanted to dominate the party and determine its direction.
In spite of this, recent developments have revealed that both PDP supporters from the SW, and indeed SE, see in Wike, a rallying point for further negotiation since they have apparently lost out in the power game to rule Nigeria to the North which had held the baton for the past four years with possibility of another four years should Atiku eventually emerge as the next President.
Hence, the on going war of attrition between Wike and the PDP leadership on one hand and his camp on the other hand now surreptitiously embarking on political romance with the All Progressives Congress, APC, of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
This move should be seen as a bargaining chip by a power monger whose tenacious political and financial hold on his oil rich state and by extension other South South states is not in doubt.
Who will not.
Since the past three years, he is easily the most popular and visible governor from the zone who left no one in doubt as to his readiness to made himself available for leadership.
For other agitators for Souths turn to produce President, Wike remains their conscience even if he is seen by many as pursuing his own ambition, after all achievement of personal ambition is derivable from your support from your immediate constituency.
The unyielding stance of Wike by asking the PDP leadership to respect it’s own rules, may also be what is needed by other political parties to renegotiate Nigeria based on equity, justice, fair play and equality of all Nigerians in the federation in the face of mounting socio- economic crisis bedeviling it.
What is more, getting the Presidency to rotate to the South may be all what is needed to douse the separatist agitation by unrelenting forces in the South East and South West.