By Ben Ezenta
The loss by Governor Nyesom Wike in the PDP presidential nomination has been seen by many Igbo youths as payback by karma for his atrocities and involvement in the killing of Igbo youths in Obigbo.
Coupled with that is his subsequent foray into the PDP presidential nomination process knowing fully well that South East has been agitating to produce the next president. His venture into the process is regarded by most people in the South East as a betrayal. By throwing his hat into the ring, he emboldened contestants from other zones to do the same thereby weakening the South East argument. Even Abubakar Atiku mentioned that if Wike drops out, he is willing to concede the presidency to the South East. He took advantage of the fact that he’s a sitting governor ready to spend his state’s money towards his ambition and that South East candidates are all private citizens who cannot match the level of financial resources he’s willing to commit. He used River State money to induce the delegates including governors from the South East. I’ll say upfront that I’m delighted that he lost.
It is ludicrous to see Wike crying on national television that he was betrayed by other southern governors when he was the first to betray the South East. This is not to exonerate the southern governors who a couple of months ago were all demanding that the presidency must be zoned to the south or else….
May be those grandstanding were mere vapour and an attempt to attract dollars to their pockets. Even Governor Ifeanyi Okowa who chaired the inaugural southern governors meeting where that decision was taken, capitulated, did a u-turn and supported Atiku. What a shame.
Back to the main crux of this write-up. Sentiments aside, Wike is a formidable brash politician whose loyalty to a cause is unquestionable. He stood very firmly in 2015 when most PDP governors, legislators, and party members were jumping ship to APC. He was vilified, cajoled, and ostracized by the Buhari-led administration and he stood his ground. Such blind loyalty is rear in most politicians today. Hate Wike or love him, you cannot take away that enviable quality from him. Without him bankrolling the PDP in those distressing years and the likes of Senators Enyinnaya Abaribe and Ike Ekweremadu being the only lonely voices of PDP in the national assembly, it is doubtful if PDP would have been in existence today.
At a time when PDP was like leprosy and most politicians were running away from PDP as far and fast as they can, Wike remained loyal.
When Tambuwal contested for the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Wike stood by and supported him against all odds.
Another test of his loyalty would come in 2018 when he passionately supported Aminu Tambuwal the governor of Sokoto state who was contesting the PDP presidential ticket with 11 other aspirants from the north, Wike stood by Tambuwal. It was rumoured that Wike shared about $5,000 per delegate in Port Harcourt in support of Tambuwal’s aspiration during the PDP presidential nomination convention.
After thumb printing his ballot, he displayed it openly for all to see that his support for Tambuwal was not only in words but also in actions. He treated Tambuwal like a brother. He opened his arms, heart, River State treasurer and home to Tambuwal because of his loyalty to a friend and a course he believed in. When Tambuwal lost in the election, he did not sit on the sideline. He switched his loyalty to the Atiku/Obi campaign to make sure that PDP moved into Aso Rock. Again when Sokoto market was razed down by inferno, Wike visited Sokoto state to condole with his good friend, Tambuwal. He donated N500 million of River State money to the Governor and people of Sokoto State. To me, Wike is a friend to have who will go with you to the end of the world.
Fast forward to 2022, 18 aspirants including Wike, Tambuwal, Atiku and others purchased the PDP nomination form for the presidential ticket. In the course of the campaign, and in the heat of the South East agitation for Nigerian presidency, Atiku promised that if Wike drops out of the race, he will also drop out to enable South East produce the PDP presidential candidate. Wike reacted and attacked Atiku for abandoning the party when he lost to Buhari in 2019 and fled to Dubai only to surface a few months before the party primaries. Wike went further in his usual manner and sharpened his attack by robbing it in the face of Atiku, Tambuwal and Saraki for walking out on the party in 2014 because of zoning. This he said led to the emergence of President Buhari which has plunged the nation into untold challenges in all facets of our national life and development. He accused the trio of being hypocrites by engaging in the same political maneuvering they accused Jonathan of perpetuating. I don’t know if this was what soared the relationship between Wike and Tambuwal. Be that as it may, politics they say stop at the water’s edge.
When friends compete for the same position, there is bound to be acrimony. Such disagreement ceases most times after the end of the political fight. Friendship is about relationships and should go far beyond politics.
A few minutes before the start of voting for the PDP presidential nomination process, Aminu Tambuwal announced he was withdrawing from the race, pledged his support for Atiku and asked his pledged delegates to vote for Atiku. That must have felt like a dagger thrust through Wike’s heart. That action swung the vote in favour of Atiku and gave him victory. It was obvious that without Tambuwal’s support, Wike could have been the PDP candidate.
The fallout of Tambuwal’s action has more implications beyond the presidential nomination. I am happy that Wike lost Beyond that, other factors are also at play. A lot of people have attributed Tambuwal’s action as a masterstroke and another example of how the north is more politically sophisticated than the south. I beg to disagree. I see it differently. Tambuwal’s action shows the northern treacherous, cunning, unreliable, untrustworthy and diminished integrity attitude. While the southern politicians are more open-minded and play by the rule, the north, on the other hand, do not play by the rule and they do not love for any other person other than their kind. The fallout of the “Tambuwal gate” is going forward, it will be difficult for reasonable southern politicians to trust their northern counterparts. The same lack of trust may reverberate into the business and corporate world. A new paradigm that will resonate is “Trust no Northerner”. This development may create a north-south divide which may engender a permanent gulf between the two regions.
Tambuwal’s betrayal is not to exonerate the action of southern politicians and governors who have been shouting for months for a southern president only to turn around at the critical point in the process and supported northern candidates. So much for south speaking with one voice. Southern governors forum if it ever exists again will never be the same. It has been destroyed by greed and lack of patriotism.
The summary of the Tambuwal gate is “trust no northern”. They lack every sense of commitment to anybody who is not from their tribe. While the trust of this article is the betrayal of Governor Wike by Governor Tambuwal, there is a school of thought that the outcome of the PDP primaries was predetermined. That was why zoning was abandoned by the party. The plot from the beginning was to draft Atiku as the candidate. The sham election was just a coverup to give their selection a semblance of democracy. One thing is obvious, what comes around goes around. It is the South East today. It will be the turn of another tribe or zone tomorrow. Every section of Nigeria will taste the bitter pile of Nigerian injustice one way or the other.
Wise up southern politicians. The north is not a trusted partner.