Highlights

WIKE’S LEGITIMACY AND POPULARITY ISSUES

Rotimi Amaech succeeded his boss, Peter Odili. He won the Rivers PDP gubernatorial primary of December 2006. When Peter Odili stood up at Shark’s Stadium to signal his support for his protege Rotimi Amaechi, the other major gubernatorial aspirant Austin Opara lost hope. Amaechi’s victory was as good as sealed. Though eventually Amaechi had to do battle to the Supreme Court to claim the PDP governorship, his legitimacy was never in doubt. More so, as he was installed by the Supreme Court.
Nyesom Wike unlike Amaechi went for the governorship without the blessing of his predecessor, the same Amaechi. Infact he ‘stole’ the party from Amaechi through a court judgement that should make the list of one of the most reprehensible court verdicts in Rivers history. But one may also say so of the verdict which installed Amaechi as governor. Wike had also played a key role in obtaining that verdict.
He prised the Rivers PDP out of Amaechi’s grasp, initiating the process which eventually forced Amaechi’s formal exit from the PDP and eventually unleashed a super planned unscrupulous electoral operation, blowing away the Rivers APC guber candidate, leaving the man’s proverbial boat up the Opobo creek and without a paddle, bushwacked, robbed and defeated. Wike messed up his former boss and his protege the Rivers APC guber candidate of 2015, confirmed that he was an unscrupulous super-planner, took the governorship but never really gained the legitimacy in the public opinion despite court victories to validate his mandate and subsequent electoral victories for his party in the state. He has proven his determination, deal making readiness and formidability but the memories of the electoral brigandage which he unleashed in the general elections of 2015 persist. He is certainly the most dreaded democratic governor in Rivers history. Even the Port Harcourt media dreads to take on Wike as lightly as they would have attacked his predecessors. Many have retreated from the duty of holding up the administration to its promises or complying with the budget. Indeed, one of Wike’s stalwarts explained recently that the budget which should be a public document but had really been elusve was kept kept under wraps to protect it from being hacked. Gobsmacked by this explanation, a publisher who is a well known Amaechi ally and a former comrade of Governor Wike referred to that incredible stalwart of Wike’s as ‘ishi kom-kom’ an Ibo or Ikwerre rendition of ‘tin head’. The governor’s recent parting of ways with an ally, a well known civil activist who confessed to having innocently aided the governor in alleging corrupt acts against Amaechi brought the budget into the public discourse because the activist alleged also that the governor operated without a budget. The 2017 budget has since been made available to the public in an image laundering measure.
The Governor’s spin doctors have worked on this issue of legitimacy and respect, making much ado about the governor’s achievements after two years in office. Achievements which are really dwarfed by the records set in Amaechi’s first year when Governor Wike was chief of staff. It is also true that the Wike administration is not getting up to 50% of the revenue which accrued to the state under Amaechi but perception, visible projects are more important than government data. The shock resignation of Wike’s commissioner for information who is the administration’s spokesman has added to the image problems of the governor. People still remember the alleged audio tape of the governor threatening to deal with an electoral officer if he does not return the bribe he received to deliver victory to the PDP in his area. Though this has been strenously refuted by the governor and his aides, he is already widely perceived as a politician who is ready to buy favors and stories exist of his legendary generosity with funds during elections.
Wike has presided over billions of naira from his days as council chairman of Obio-Akpor which is reputed to be the second richest council in Nigeria, after Lagos Island. From Obio-Akpor, he became the most empowered Government House chief of staff where he ran into problems with the EFCC and was detained. From there he became a very empowered Education minister in the Jonathan administration, leaving a trail of allegations of embezzlement of funds before embarking on at once the most notorious and celebrated part of his political career, confronting and upstaging his mentor Rotimi Amarchi to take Rivers State. He has been very successful but his methods have been considered unscrupulous. He has won the wars but lost the narrative, being tarred darker as the story evolved. There lies his achiles. It is possible that he has been misunderstood.
Perhaps, his political foes have seized opportunities to make him look really bad. During the electoral season, many ordinary people spoke volumes about his thunderous generousity, doling out thousands of dollars to those he met. Yet there are many others with dreadful stories to tell. Nobody should judge a book by its cover. Perhaps people judge him by his mien. Perhaps, he is just like other empowered men, betrayed by his cupidities, renowned by his strength. After Odili, he is the most faithful of husbands, among Rivers Governors. His focus is admirable. Perhaps his legitimacy issue is the opportunity cost he has paid for the harsh acts and the dark deals in the story of his rise to the governorship. No matter how he tries to purr like a cat, many will see the languid prowl of a tiger, the high tension before an explosion.

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