By Wole Olaoye
Nyesom Wike’s day job is to administer the affairs of Rivers State as Governor. But in actual fact, he is more than that. He is the ‘bee’ of Nigeria’s leading opposition party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
The bee makes sweet honey and is loyal to its colony or beehive. The sweetness of the bee’s honey is only matched by the dreadfulness of the pain it inflicts on intruders or enemies. Bees are valuable because they produce the honey that titillates the palate and gives humans myriad health benefits. They also help in stabilising the environment by pollinating plants and preventing inbreeding.
Some analysts mistake Wike for a wasp. They are wrong. Whereas a wasp also stings like a bee, it does not leave a stinger behind after attacking the enemy. But a bee leaves a barbed stinger in your skin which, if not removed quickly, releases more venom, causing greater pain and inflammation. Scientists are unanimous that bees have a more complex venom which guarantees a cocktail of miseries.
But perhaps a more apt description of the strongman of Rivers State, considering the dogged way he has tackled his foes both within his party and outside it, is that he is more of a honey badger, the most aggressive animal on the planet. Although not bullet proof, honey badgers have a thick skin which shields them against most attacks, including dogs, arrows, spears, and even machetes.
Only a fool will dismiss the ‘badass’ honey badger as a mere thick skinned squirrel with an attitude. Even though it weighs between 6 and 14 kilograms and reaches 9 to 11 inches height at the shoulder, it is described by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most fearless animal in the world”. It is a strong, vengeful, ferocious, tough and savage creature.
Since losing the PDP’s presidential primaries to serial aspirant Atiku Abubakar, Wike has appeared inconsolable. To be charitable, he had always advocated that his party’s constitution which stipulates that the presidential slot be rotated between the northern and southern candidates, be respected. It would be inequitable for another candidate from the North to succeed the incumbent northerner, Muhammadu Buhari in 2023, he argued. His advocacy fell on deaf ears and the party threw the ticket open to all zones.
Since then, neither the winner of the primaries, nor Wike, nor the other members of the party have known peace.
Despite various attempts to paper over the cracks, Wike has been consistent in his demand that the chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu, vacate his seat for a southerner to make the party’s leadership composition more national. At the moment, both the presidential candidate and the Chairman of the party are from the geographical north.
Wike scoffs at the political sleight of hand that led to the current impasse: “Some people will always think that they are too clever. They came up with zone only the party offices, don’t zone the elective offices. How can you only zone party offices? You won’t zone elective offices? Some people believe they are too intelligent than others. Some of us say, look, that this at the end of the day will cause crisis for us.”
Wike is not alone. His camp is populated by some of the leading lights of PDP: Eminent founding members of the party, sitting governors, former ministers and top officials of government agencies. After a recent meeting at which the group announced its decision to renounce the nomination of its members into Atiku’s presidential campaign council, it became apparent that all the well advertised peace moves had failed and that the battle was entering another gear.
The group’s resolution read by a former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Olabode George, stated: “The published presidential campaign council list translates to putting the cart before the horse… Senator Iyorchia Ayu must resign as the National Chairman of the party for an acting Chairman of Southern Nigerian extraction to emerge and lead the party on the national campaign. Consequently, we resolve not to participate in the campaign council in whatever capacity until the resignation of Dr. Iyorchia Ayu”.
If you didn’t know the spelling of TROUBLE before now, it is up there for you!
Wike followed up the outing of his group with his own explosive media chat in which he glided between anger, copious narration, possible libel and very effective bombast to make his point. He is an injured man; an angry man who feels betrayed. But it is not a Wike Vs PDP affair. It is now a regional affair in which the geographical imbalance in the party is the issue at stake.
The kernel of his argument can be summarised thus:
- PDP’s Presidential ticket ought to have been zoned exclusively to the South.
- The PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, had promised to resign if a Northern presidential candidate emerged, but has refused to do so despite the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as candidate.
- Ayu abused his office when he convened many meetings to ensure that Wike did not emerge as the flag bearer of the party. He allegedly even vowed to resign if Wike won the party’s ticket.
- Both Ayu and Atiku have reneged on earlier promises made to Wike and cannot be trusted.
- But for Wike’s self-confessed love for the PDP, the party would have since unravelled.
- The convention that produced Atiku Abubakar as presidential candidate was deeply flawed.
- PDP needs restructuring. It’s present intransigence and inability to manage its crises is making Nigerians doubt its capacity to unite the country
- Atiku needs better advisers, not people like his Yobe State supporter, Waziri, who is of little electoral value
- The irreducible minimum demand is the resignation of Chairman Ayu, failing which the Wike group will not campaign for Atiku.
- Wike and his allies have no intention of quitting the party. If they are sanctioned for anti-party activities, they will activate their next (undisclosed) strategy.
- Ayu is corrupt. Wike is ready to make further exposés if further provoked.
- PDP should do the right thing and ease Ayu out of office.
Don’t all these give one a déjà vu feeling?
In August 2013, PDP split into two factions. A new faction comprising seven of the party’s 23 governors announced that it had taken over the party. Abubakar Kawu Baraje, a former acting National Chairman of the PDP, was announced as the leader of the new faction. At least seven governors of the party, including those of Kano, Sokoto, Rivers, Jigawa, Kwara, Adamawa, and Niger, attended the briefing.
PDP’s presidential candidate for 2023, Atiku Abubakar, was also in attendance. The National Secretary of the PDP and former Osun State Governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, was announced as the National Secretary of the new faction which later merged with other political parties and groups to form the All Progressives Congress, APC.
PDP went on to lose the 2015 presidential elections. Is history about to repeat itself?
Expectedly, APC is over the moon with the news of PDP’s troubles. The party in power has been given a chance to help PDP destroy itself and I don’t think they are so thick headed as not to recognise it. APC doesn’t really have to do anything. Just ‘sidon look’. Remember Napoleon Bonaparte’s words, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake!”
The problems of the leading opposition party are self-inflicted. The least the leadership of the party can do is make a bold move to manage the crisis. This is not the time to argue about Wike’s cantankerousness. And it has worked in favour of PDP in the past. Wike is not contesting the papacy. Politicians are not necessarily the best specimens of the human species. What Candidate Atiku and the party leadership must do now is weight their options. Apparently, it will be a tough call to ditch Wike and his allies and expect to win the forthcoming elections in February 2023.
Which is more desirable for the party — Ayu’s chairmanship or Nigeria’s presidency?
Wike is the fly perching on PDP’s unmentionables. Easy does it. Don’t take the knee-jerk decision to violently smack the file lest you damage the goods.
Doctors will tell you not to pop a pimple in the danger triangle of your face, the triangular region spanning from the bridge of the nose down to the corners of your mouth. “Doing so can lead to inflammation, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and scarring — and, of course, infection and, in extreme cases, death”, say the experts.
Nyesom Wike, the 54-year-old lawyer and politician from Rumuepirikom in Obio-Akpor, is that pimple. Will the PDP bigwigs pop it and unleash the grandfather of all political inflammation and unforeseen complications?
(Wole Olaoye is a Public Relations consultant and veteran journalist. He can be reached on email@example.com, Twitter: @wole_olaoye; Instagram: woleola2021)
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