After May 29, What Next For Wike?

Given his peculiar style, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has earned the title of a political warrior. His politics are deliberately laced with negotiation, consultation and coercion to achieve his desired objectives. But, as he vacates office on May 29, after two terms as governor of the oil-rich state, what next for the acclaimed strongman of Rivers politics? Correspondent MIKE ODIEGWU asks

Rivers State’s Governor Nyesom Wike has no doubt had a meteoric rise since he joined politics. From a local government chairman, he became a chief of staff, a minister and currently an outgoing governor rounding off his second term in office.
Hate him or love him, Wike had always strived to make a difference in each of the offices he had held through his performance, swag and utterances.

For instance, since his emergence as the governor of the oil-rich Rivers, Wike has held the state spellbound with his leadership style. In performance, most critics acknowledge that he has transformed Rivers leaving his footprints in all local government areas.

His audacious projects usually televised live during their inaugurations earned him the most prestigious awards on infrastructures compelling President Muhammadu Buhari to bestow on Wike the coveted honours as an outstanding governor on infrastructures.

Coming from the ruling party at the centre to a governor in the main opposition party, Buhari’s award was the icing on the cake for Wike, who exploited it during the recent general election to solicit votes for his party.

Given his peculiar style, Wike has earned himself the title of a political volcano. His brand of politics is deliberately laced with negotiation, consultation and permissible coercion to achieve his desired objectives.

Those who know him understand that if you fail to agree with him politically, you should not be seen to be standing in his way. The Rivers State strongman, it is said, understands the power and deploys it. He has made many idle individuals relevant; he has also retired persons he considers a stumbling block along the way.

Wike proved his mettle and political sagacity recently with the choice of the candidate he supported during the just-concluded presidential election. He read the crystal ball, followed his conviction and led a group of like-minded governors in his opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) to reject the party’s candidate, Atiku Abubakar, on the grounds of equity, justice and fairness.

Against all odds, the governor threw his weight behind the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is now the president-elect. The Rivers governor formulated a strategy which successfully delivered winning votes for him in the state.

Chieftains of the PDP in Rivers who opposed Wike’s move, such as Celestine Omehia, Austine Opara, Lee Maeba, and Dr Farah Dagogo among others, lost out in the end. The party chieftains who were hitherto Wike’s friends had it rough with the governor when they chose to align with Atiku and tried to stand in the way of the governor’s decision on Tinubu.

The tension was so high that the PDP presidential candidate could not come to Rivers State to campaign. Wike singlehandedly, through his loyalists, worked for Tinubu’s victory even when notable APC chieftains in the state tried to deliver Atiku to spite the governor.

Come May 29, Wike’s eventful years as the Rivers State governor will come to an end. What will be the fate of the Rivers strongman?

Despite the speculations and insinuations of some persons, there are obvious indications that the Ikwere-born politician is not finished politically. Given his choices and hard work in the last election, Wike seems to have opened another political chapter for himself. He has succeeded in installing his anointed successor. With his kind of character, the outgoing governor may be the first “political Jagaban” of Rivers. His palatial country home at Rumuepirikom, Obio-Akpor will surely be the first “Bourdilion” of Rivers, a centre stage to make and unmake kings and to plot the political and economic directions of Rivers.

Besides producing his successor, Wike was able through his structure to deliver for Rivers PDP all the members of the incoming Rivers State House of Assembly, the three incoming senators and 10 out of the 12 incoming House of Representatives members from Rivers despite working for the victory of Tinubu in the APC.

Therefore, Wike’s country home is likely to be the rallying point for Rivers politics for a long time to come; with the outgoing governor sitting on the throne as the kingmaker. The governor will for a reasonable time decide the political direction of the state with the capacity to dethrone and enthrone, make or mar loyal and disloyal politicians.

For instance, the incoming governor is a political neophyte who will depend on Wike for a long time to handle political matters, while he concentrates on governance and administration. Undoubtedly, Wike’s loyalists will be planted around the incoming governor to guide him on political decisions and his cooperation will determine whether Wike’s structure will support him for a second term or get the ‘Ambode’ treatment.

Besides, Wike will lead a group of his friends in the PDP to determine the future of the party. Will the party survive? Will it disintegrate? Or will it metamorphose into another party or change its nomenclature? The outgoing governor will surely spearhead roles to determine the survival of the party. Therefore, upon leaving office, Wike, who has always professed his love for the PDP will remain a significant decision-maker within the PDP.

Most leaders in the Niger Delta believe that Wike is too relevant to go into political oblivion after May 29. They are of the opinion that the outgoing governor should be the political face of the Southsouth and a rallying point for the Niger Delta. A House of Representatives-elect from Ondo State, who spoke in confidence urged Wike to spearhead a movement for the development of the Niger Delta.

The federal lawmaker-elect, a member of the APC said Wike should lead other federal lawmakers from the region to champion a radical and pragmatic approach to Niger Delta development after May 29. He said: “I have followed Governor Nyesom Wike for a reasonable time. He has demonstrated class in his approach to politics and development. I agree that he is loquacious, but he is not noisy. He speaks for a reason.

“We need a leader like Wike to spearhead a total turnaround of the Niger Delta. I will personally want him to be a rallying point for all of us from the Niger Delta at the National Assembly, to champion the interest and development of the region. Wike is an asset and should not be allowed to retire politically after May 29.”

Undoubtedly, the outgoing governor through the role he played during the February 25 presidential election has warmed his way back to relevance at the centre in the coming administration of Tinubu. Wike is being tipped for a major role in the administration. Some say he may get an important position in Tinubu’s government such as the position of the minister of Niger Delta affairs or the minister of Petroleum. Others have also suggested that he may become the next minister of Works to replicate his performance in Rivers State at the national level. Despite the permutations, it appears certain that the outgoing governor will be busy handling a critical aspect of governance for the incoming president.

Already some APC leaders are reportedly making a case for Wike before Tinubu. Just recently an APC chieftain and Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, appealed to Tinubu to reserve a space for Wike in his cabinet.

The Ebonyi State governor said despite being a member of the PDP, Wike has a lot to offer Tinubu’s government. He said Wike played a crucial role in Tinubu’s victory during the presidential election by delivering Rivers State for the APC.

He said: “So, we commend him and I think that Asiwaju (Bola Tinubu) must know that he worked for him, and must also integrate him into the next administration. Asiwaju and his deputy, Senator Kashim Shettima must know that God used different sets of people to work for them; to actualize the will of God and actualize unity, equity and fairness. We are very grateful to God for that.”

The Ebonyi governor also praised Wike for insisting that a southerner must succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, adding that his stand paved the way for the electoral victory of the APC. He said: “God, directly and indirectly, made Governor Wike very much available. And so, there is no way the APC can conclude the success of the election without mentioning Governor Wike.

“I will be asking Asiwaju/Shettima to please bring Governor Wike to the core administration of the Federal Government. He has a lot to offer. He has a lot to offer for the unity of the country.”

Wike has since become closer to Tinubu than before. He recently led other PDP governors and members of his G-5 to visit the President-elect and pledge their support for him. Last week, Tinubu also honoured Wike’s invitation to inaugurate two iconic projects built by his administration. Rivers has become the first state to receive and host the President-elect on a two-day working visit.

Though Wike will be missed by many people after May 29 as a governor of Rivers, he is surely not ready for political retirement. He may simply take a well-deserved rest and return to pursue a new political chapter

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