• Friday, June 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Toxic politics: Wike will be a footnote in history

Vice President’s residence gulps N22bn — Wike

Nyesom Wike, the maverick governor of Rivers State, is a toxic influence on Nigerian politics. Like all narcissists, he thrives on applause and adulation from sycophants and praise singers. His outsized presence in Nigerian politics is fuelled by the oxygen of publicity he constantly receives from the media even for his most infantile behaviour.

However, after next month’s presidential election, whatever the outcome, and after he leaves office as governor on May 29 and no longer controls the resources of Rivers State, Wike would gradually fade into political irrelevance and eventually end up in the “dustbin of history”. It would be a good riddance!

If those words are harsh, well, it’s because they should be. Public life is too important to be the property of narcissists, of self-aggrandising megalomaniac, who see everything through the prism of self-promotion. Politics, democracy and the party system that underpins them must never be so personalised that any individual is too powerful and above party discipline.

In a system where only parties can hold political power, the strength ad viability of political parties matters hugely. And nothing undermines the robustness of an electoral democracy like when a major political party descends into dysfunction, hijacked by self-indulgent rebels.

By forming a renegade ‘party’, called G5, within a party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and by working actively for the defeat of the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in next month’s election, Wike engages in extra-ordinary anti-party activity and subverts the party system that is the foundation of electoral democracy in Nigeria.

Even worse, he’s doing so not for any unimpeachable moral principle but for pure self-interest and vindictiveness. The G5, consisting of the PDP’s five rogue governors, who behave like Wike’s bag-carriers and serfs, calls itself Integrity Group, but it absolutely lacks integrity.

Why? Because the actions of the G5 members contradict the principles they claim to be fighting for, principles that give them such a moral high ground that they feel justified to go for the jugular, working single-mindedly to make sure their supposed party loses next month’s presidential election. It’s unprecedented!

Unprecedented? What about the PDP’s G5 of 2015? Well, the G5 of 2015 worked against President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election, but they did so honourably. They left the PDP and joined the All Progressives Congress, APC, helping Muhammadu Buhari to defeat Jonathan. But Wike’s G5 wants to stay in the PDP and campaign against its presidential candidate.

Think about it. Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, a G5 member, who’s seeking re-election, is saying to Oyo State’s electorate: “Re-elect me, but don’t vote for my party’s presidential candidate.” Similarly, Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Ifeanyi Ugwanyi of Enugu State and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, also G5 members, who are running for the Senate, are telling voters in their Senatorial Districts: “Elect me as PDP Senator, but don’t vote for my party’s presidential candidate.” Those three governors, as well as Wike, who imposed the PDP gubernatorial candidates in their states would also be telling voters: “Vote for the PDP governorship candidate, but not for the PDP presidential candidate.”

The utter absurdity of these propositions is self-evident, as is the brazen breach of party discipline. A political party is supposed to be a gathering of like-minded individuals. If an individual is aggrieved, he can choose to stay and fight within the party or leave. But to stay in a party and openly support an opposition candidate is a no-no!

A recent study by the University of California found that Americans may disagree with their own party but they won’t help an opposing one. This played out recently in the US Congress. A core of 20 Republican members of Congress opposed Kevin McCarthy, a fellow Republican, as Speaker of the House of Representatives. They rejected him in 14 rounds of voting. The Republicans have 222 members as against the Democrats’ 212.

Now, given that only 218 votes are needed to elect the Speaker, just six Republicans could have voted for the Democrats’ candidate, Hakeem Jeffries, to become the Speaker. But none did. Despite their visceral opposition to McCarthy, none of the 20 Republican rebels wanted a Democrat as Speaker. Rather, after rejecting McCarthy in 14 rounds of voting, they elected him in the 15th round. Party discipline prevailed.

But Wike’s G5 would not only vote against their party’s presidential candidate, but they’re also asking Nigerians to reject him and vote for the candidate of another party. Yet, as I said, they are doing so with absolutely no integrity because their actions contradict the principles they’re purportedly defending.

Take the presidency. The G5 argues that on grounds of equity, justice and fairness, another Northerner should not succeed President Buhari. Fair enough. But if you take those principles to their logical conclusions, if power returned to the South, where should it go: South-West (eight years as president, eight as vice-president since 1999) or South-South (five years as president, three as vice-president since 1999) or South-East (nil since 1999)? So, why did Wike, from South-South, want to be PDP’s presidential candidate? Why didn’t he, on grounds of equity, justice and fairness, support a candidate from the South-East?

Or take Governor Makinde. Recently, when Bola Tinubu, the APC presidential candidate, led South-West APC leaders to the Akure home of Pa Rueben Fasoranti, the Afenifere leader, to solicit his endorsement, Governor Makinde sent his deputy to tell the group: “Although we don’t belong to the same party, we belong to the same race. I will do what Yoruba elders say.” So, on grounds of ethnicity, Makinde favours Tinubu over his own party’s candidate.

Read also: How I built 12 flyovers, also pumped N17bn to build Law School campus in PH – Wike

Indeed, Wike reportedly led other G5 members to meet Tinubu in London. They clearly prefer him to their own party’s candidate. But do they think Tinubu’s candidacy is defensible on grounds of equity, justice and fairness? Are they blind to his exclusionist Muslim-Muslim ticket and the ethnic and religious tensions his presidency would engender, not to mention his acute character and integrity deficits? They are unpatriotic. They are enemies of Nigeria!

Wike sometimes says that he has accepted Atiku as PDP’s presidential candidate and the Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate, but that his real anger is against Iyorchia Ayu, PDP’s national chairman, who refuses to honour his vow to resign if a northerner emerged as PDP’s presidential candidate. But if Wike wants to undermine Atiku’s electoral chances because of Ayu’s unfulfilled vow, what about his own vow? At the PDP’s presidential primary election in May last year, Wike said: “Let me vow today. Anyone who emerges here, I will support the person to the fullest.” To the fullest? What now?

There’s a strong dose of Trumpism in Wike. In fact, he’s Nigeria’s mini-Trump. As US president, Donald Trump was a narcissist and a bully, who must have his way. When he lost the presidential election in November 2020, he stoked and encouraged violent attacks on Capitol Building in Washington. But now, out of power, Trump is diminished. In the recent US Congressional elections, most of the candidates he sponsored lost. That’s what, in the end, happens to narcissists and bullies in politics.

Since the PDP presidential primaries, there have been two Wikes. One angrily sprouts grievances and proclaims his victimhood. The other sees politics as performance art and provides a rolling circus of political entertainment. Well, there’s a third: a preposterously puffed-up egoist, who is so bitter and vengeful that he’s working day and night against his own party’s presidential candidate. Whatever the outcome next month, Wike is heading for the dustbin of history. His toxicity demeans politics!