Nyesom Wike, the outgoing governor of Rivers State, recently gave Bola Tinubu, Nigeria’s putative next president, an extravagant welcome to Port Harcourt, the state capital. Tinubu was in Port Harcourt to open a Magistrate’s Court complex that Wike named after his wife. Wike declared a public holiday and closed down shops so that Rivers people could turn out to welcome Tinubu. He later hosted Tinubu to a grand reception, a lavish banquet!
For a start, it’s unprecedented for a “president-elect”, not a sitting president, to be treated in that way. Secondly, the acts themselves were an extraordinary abuse of power, a crude display of prebendalism. How would you explain a governor naming a monument, built with state resources, after his wife?
How would you explain a state governor declaring a public holiday, closing businesses, thereby crippling commercial activities, so that someone could “open” the monument? And would any responsible incoming president be part of such abuse of office and waste of state resources?
But Tinubu and Wike are two of the same kind. They are cut from the same political cloth and have identical governance styles. Politically, they believe in power by hook or by crook. Their maxim is: “Political power is not served a la carte; at all costs, fight for it, grab it and run with it.”
That’s what Tinubu said before this year’s presidential election, and it’s what Wike practised with his political brigandage in Rivers State. Lagos, which Tinubu once governed and still controls as the feudal lord, and Rivers, where Wike holds sway, are the hotbeds of electoral violence and political thuggery in Nigeria, seemingly state sanctioned.
Wike is anything but principled; he’s a pathological opportunistic narcissist! Thus, Tinubu’s alliance with him and the G-5 is self-serving, misguided and utterly distasteful
And their governance styles? Well, they both have a reputation for capturing the state and turning it into a personal fiefdom. The sources of their stupendous wealth are unknown. Recently, Dino Melaye, a former senator, said Wike lent him his private jet when he ran for Kogi State governorship in 2019.
Wike has always been in public life, from local government chairman to minister and governor. So, how did he acquire a private jet? As for Tinubu, stories of his unexplained and inexplicable assets, at home and overseas, still rumble on.
The subliminal message in the Tinubu-Wike alliance is that likes attract likes, that birds of the same feather flock together. So, no surprises! However, the wider implications must worry true democrats and genuine advocates of integrity politics and good governance. For, truth is, the Tinubu-Wike alliance is having egregious impacts on democratic development and may pose real danger to governance.
Recently, Magnus Abe, a Tinubu ally and governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, in Rivers State, withdrew his election petition. Why? Hear him. “If we continue our battle in the court”, he said, “We will end up in direct confrontation with the President-elect.” He said Tinubu has “taken a clear position” on the issue.
Surely, Tinubu would also distance himself from the petition of his party’s candidate, Tonye Cole. So, because of his alliance with Wike, Tinubu is muzzling attempts to strengthen democratic development by ventilating grievances and evidence of alleged poll-rigging in court. It’s a bad for democracy!
Well, there’s also the danger to governance. Speculations are rife that Tinubu may give Wike a senior ministerial position in his government. All genuine advocates of integrity politics and good governance in Nigeria must be worried about a government based on an alliance between Tinubu and Wike, whose politics and governance styles are defined by naked self-interest, abuse of power, state capture and utter lack of transparency and accountability.
But why is Tinubu cosying up to Wike? I offer two reasons. First, Tinubu wants to push the narrative that Wike and his group of five renegades PDP governors, called G-5, helped him to “win” the presidential election, thereby arguing that his “victory” was inevitable. Second, by bringing Wike and maybe some other G-5 members into his government, Tinubu would like to give the impression that he’s forming a government of national unity, comprising opposition politicians. But both propositions are fallacious and untenable.
Take the view that Wike and the G-5 helped Tinubu “win” the presidential election. At the Port Harcourt event, Tinubu thanked Wike “for your contribution to my victory,” saying: “I couldn’t have done it without your structural support,” including “the pivotal role the great and wonderful people of this state played.” That’s utterly deceptive!
First, as widely reported, two reputable outfits, Yiaga Africa, a highly respected election-monitoring organisation, and Premium Times, an online medium well-noted for its credible investigative journalism, have shown, based on their analyses of results from the collation centre and INEC portal, that Peter Obi, not Tinubu, won in Rivers State, by a wide margin.
Indeed, at the Port Harcourt, Governor Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State implied so. He said that when Wike promised to deliver Rivers State to Tinubu in the presidential election, they wondered how he would do it, given that Rivers State had never voted for APC. But he said, alas, Wike “delivered” the state. Of course, for that read “he manipulated the results”, as the investigations by by the Yiaga Africa and Premium Times investigations now show.
But if Tinubu didn’t win in Rivers State, then, surely, the narrative that Wike and Rivers State helped him to “win” the presidential election falls flat. Rivers State becomes a metaphor for Tinubu’s questionable victory, for the sham presidential election.
As for the rest of the G-5, all the three governors who ran for the Senate lost their bids. Only Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State won his re-election bid. If most of the G-5 governors couldn’t win a senatorial election, how could they help Tinubu win the presidency? In any case, if despite their “contribution”, Tinubu only secured 8.8m votes, minus the bogus votes in Rivers, Lagos and elsewhere, and was rejected by 16.4 voters, which is 63 per cent of the total voters, how could the G-5 boast that they help make Tinubu president? They might say “a win is a win”, ignoring the critical issue of legitimacy.
Which brings us to unity government. Truth is, Tinubu cannot claim to form a unity government by appointing Wike and any other G-5 member as ministers. They are renegade members of the PDP. Any member of Tinubu’s party, APC, who behaved like Wike, and his gang, would be expelled from the party.
Read also: What would Wike not do for power?
Surely, if Tinubu brought Wike and his fellow G-5 rebels into his government, he would stand accused of undermining opposition parties and destroying the party system that underpins Nigeria’s democracy. Besides, the G-5 does not represent the 16.4m voters who rejected Tinubu. Those voters, who accounted for 63 per cent of the total voters in the presidential election, are the ones he must reach out to, through the parties they supported, if he wants to form a unity government, assuming he overcomes the current legal challenges to his election.
Shockingly, Tinubu described Wike as “a man of principle” and “a man of integrity” for “taking a stance that the presidency must come to the South”. What a total claptrap! Can Wike swear that if Atiku Abubakar had made him his running-mate he wouldn’t have run on the same ticket with him?
Of course, he would! In any case, if he cited fairness and justice to justify power coming to the South, why, on those principles, the South-West? And why, to him, was another Northern president bad, but a Muslim-Muslim presidency good?
Wike is anything but principled; he’s a pathological opportunistic narcissist! Thus, Tinubu’s alliance with him and the G-5 is self-serving, misguided and utterly distasteful. It’s not in the national interest!