It is becoming clearer every day that Governor Nyesom Wike’s political and other investments in Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) are paying off. Tinubu’s known allies are said to be getting apprehensive that Wike is waltzing into space and may soon become the most powerful personality in Tinubu’s camp and government.
In politics, that is pure suicide for power brokers.
As if that is mere speculation, Wike announced last week that Tinubu, who just returned to Nigeria under heavy speculation he was not very strong, would visit Rivers State for two full days, ostensibly to commission projects.
Soon, the ‘threat’ which many saw as a flag, became real because Tinubu made the trip.
Now, many ask if Wike has gained enough ground around Tinubu to appropriate the next president.
How the relationship may have begun
The world may think Wike and Tinubu ran into each other in the fallouts of the 2022 primaries but most allies of the former governor of Rivers State and immediate past Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, believe that Wike and Tinubu began in 2015, not 2022.
The publicity secretary of the APC in Rivers State, Darlington Nwauju, a fearless man right from his activism years in the University of Port Harcourt where Amaechi studied, told BusinessDay it was Tinubu through late Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, who allegedly ensured that AAC’s Biokpomabo Awara was not declared winner of the 2019 election. “Kyari made sure INEC used one month to rewrite and rework the field results which showed AAC winning in 16 LGAs.
“The battle for the APC Presidential crown began in earnest in 2019 because Amaechi was seen as the only hurdle that needed to be cut to size by not allowing him to produce the governor of his state which would have given him far more mileage than any other candidate.”
Another Amaechi die-hard, Oby Ndukwe, a publisher and journalist, said Wike and Tinubu had that relationship since 2015. She said the moment Wike took over as governor, that was when they brokered that relationship, though, according to her, it was not a political relationship at all.
Insiders of both Amaechi and Wike suggest that there is a contract that a company known to Tinubu was awarded by the Amaechi government to the tune of about N15bn in the Greater Port Harcourt project. Some think the company was paid about N5bn as a mobilisation fee but there may be no evidence that the job was ever executed, or the money was ever refunded.
It is believed that Wike who combed the books when he took over in 2015 found this out. It is believed that he did not shout about it and may have used it to broker a relationship with Tinubu, the kingpin of the new ruling party. Wike knew how to wield power in the presidency because he was a power broker in the Goodluck Jonathan administration. A source said: “This formed their own little secret. Tinubu being smart, would prefer a working relationship with the new governor rather than a refund of any money. That was how the relationship started until it blossomed into a political one.”
On the other hand, Amaechi’s relationship with Tinubu continued to wane, and it was easy for Wike to use Tinubu within the APC to see how he could whittle down Amaechi’s influence in the APC, the source suggested. That relationship blossomed in 2019.
Amaechi’s allies continue to believe that Awara won the 2019 governorship election and that Tinubu may have made the phone call to INEC after 21 days to collate the results, though the law said if after 21 days the result was not called, it was void. “We learnt that Tinubu was one of those who waded in and INEC announced Wike. He has remained grateful to the Jagaban,” Ndukwue said.
The woman most persons call the Media FBI said: “Do not forget that Amaechi’s relationship with Tinubu had diminished. There were some battles which included the issue of Rotimi Akeredolu’s guber candidature in Ondo State in 2017 which Amaechi with the then APC national chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, had backed but which didn’t go down well with Tinubu who had his own preferred candidate.
“These reasons and others had affected the relationship between both men. Then the succession of Buhari, both of them knew each would run, so suspicion took over.
“So, for Wike, my enemy’s enemy is my friend. I think that is what he capitalised upon to build upon it. Even if Iyorchia Ayu had stepped aside as PDP national chairman as demanded by Wike, the Rivers State governor would still have supported Tinubu over Abubakar Atiku. Wike wanted to be president and when it didn’t work out, he knew he had to wait for another eight years, and he didn’t like that. What we do not know is that by supporting Tinubu, he also has to wait for eight years or more. It is purely an individual and self-interest matter. So, let us watch.”
Wike’s original interests
Close observers believe that Wike’s original interests were to cage Amaechi in the APC and in the Federal Executive Council (FEC) through Tinubu. The confluence of interest was said to have emerged between Wike and Tinubu in the circumstance whereby Wike needed Amaechi to be stopped from installing governor of Rivers State whereas Tinubu wanted Amaechi to be stopped from becoming president.
For this reason, Rivers APC was perpetually kept divided and crisis-ridden with the national leadership looking the other way. The courts in Rivers State and beyond seemed to get the signal and thus played a big role in caging Amaechi while factions ran riot without any fear.
Magnus Abe led a bitter faction that ensured that the APC in the state did not move one pole. He seemed to confirm the role he played and the full support of Tinubu when he stated on Thursday, May 4, 2023, the Day Two of Tinubu’s revelling in Rivers State at Wike’s behest thus:
“Now, we looked at it that if we continue our battle in the court at this point, we will end up in direct confrontation with the President-elect, who has clearly by his body language and the alliance between the APC and the G-5, taken a clear position as far as the issue is concerned.
“So, a lot of the support, a lot of the goodwill that we enjoyed in this battle, right from the APC into the SDP has been eroded by that alliance. If we continue with this battle, we will be continuing on our own and we will not be able to get any institutional support.” Many wondered if the institutions he referred to were courts and INEC.
Is Tinubu in Wike’s pocket?
Many think Wike and Tinubu have come a long way and share many secrets rising from contracts not being executed, money not refunded, various plots to cage Amaechi, the role of the courts, INEC, and APC national executive committee, among others. They suspect Wike is not bragging for nothing and may, in fact, be emerging as a power broker in the Tinubu administration. But, would this be by mutual consent or by manipulation or even subtle blackmail?
Wike seems to already prove his mettle. First, he boldly announced Tinubu would come to Rivers State and the world saw it happen. Next, he easily walks into Tinubu’s innermost caucuses and the world noted this. He and his supporters now dress in Emilokan attire with a cap to match even more than Westerners.
Another big sign is that most lobbyists in the South-South and East now flock to Wike’s private in Rumueprikon through the famous ‘brown door’. Many say Wike is now holding ‘half of the yellow sun’.
Both Wike and Tinubu seemed to achieve their major objective: Stop Amaechi from installing a governor so Wike gets his wish through; stop Amaechi from succeeding Muhammadu Buhari so Tinubu can have his way.
Wike ensured that Atiku lost five PDP states through the G-5. Wike also got very close to Peter Obi when the Labour Party was becoming a huge force and in fact, invested in the LP, an action that is now being viewed with huge suspicion.
Wike seems to walk with a swag these days because all his calculations may have worked: He has recaptured the Brick House, he has almost of the House of Assembly, he stopped both Amaechi and Atiku from Aso Rock, and may have, in fact, retired both from active politics. The threats of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over him may have permanently been quashed. What seems important now may be how much influence he would have to wield in the new government.
Those who think Wike would not be needed in the coming months may have forgotten that the National Assembly is a rainbow, meaning that no party actually is in full control. The minority parties with a strong presence in the National Assembly (NASS) are the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which has 102 seats, Labour Party (LP) which has 35, and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) which has 18, totalling 155 seats against the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that has 162. There are still 43 more seats to be determined by by-elections let alone many that would be decided at the tribunals. For now, the APC tops the minorities with only seven seats whereas there are 43 seats out there to grab and the minorities said they have big hopes to overtake the APC at the Green Chambers, at least.
So, the PDP and LP are the biggest members in the minority parties and Wike may be relied upon to bring them to dinner. Besides, more political wars seem to loom ahead needing the types of Wike as fixers. Will these make Wike more influential and maybe more assertive?
Sources say some real BATists are whispering caution in Tinubu’s ears over Wike. They think Wike does not play fringe roles and may want to take over. He has deep pockets, men who can fight, and garner secrets. He had always boasted to newsmen that he has informants in almost everywhere important and that he was one step ahead of everybody. Does this mean anything to the Tinubu caucus?
Testing the mic
Many think Wike was testing the mic when he demanded the physical presence of the president-elect, even at a time many thought Tinubu was being shrouded. The fact that Tinubu agreed and came must have gladdened Wike’s heart because it proved a point. This must be why many important persons came from across Nigeria. This too made Wike a star. Any dignitary that wanted a handshake with the president-elect owed Wike a piece of the deal.
Wike seemed to test the mic a bit further by demanding a refund for flyovers. Here, Tinubu seemed to come alive. He may have tried to show he is his own man.
Read carefully what Tinubu said
Tinubu first described Wike as a dependable ally, one who promoted the unity of Nigeria, and fairness, and championed Justice.
Without succumbing to gossip and speculations, Tinubu noted, Wike stood his ground as a principled man and worked for the presidency to come to the south.
“In His Excellency (Wike), I see a man of principle who took a principle stand that the presidency must return to the South and he had the courage to stand by his conviction, not minding whose ox is gored. He is indeed a man of great integrity. He did not choose to serve his own interest. Not about him, but rather the interest of the nation. You promoted unity, you promoted fairness, you championed justice. Thank you.”
Wike’s media unit reported that Tinubu commended the audacity demonstrated by Governor Wike in delivering quality projects to Rivers people to make them happy, create excitement for them, and enhanced development across the State.
The president-elect said the demand for a refund on the flyover bridges so constructed on federal roads, though a worthy request, should not be borne with the mindset that he is owing the state because the projects are within Rivers and are used by the people.
President-elect, Tinubu, however, said there will be a need for Gov Wike to further discuss the issues with him and intensify his lobby to secure the refund.
The president-elect recalled that he went through a gruesome campaign, fought hard, and with the likes of Gov Wike providing structural support, he won the presidential election squarely.
“Nyesom, I say thank you for your contribution to my victory. I couldn’t have done it without some structural support.”
Both Wike and Tinubu seem to have much already gained and much more to gain by remaining together, especially in a country where nobody asks questions about the past. They also seem to have many files only two of them can read, and they may need to protect these files.