By Olu Fasan
NYESOM Wike, the maverick Rivers State governor, is a toxic influence on Nigerian politics. Like all narcissists, he thrives on applause and adulation from sycophants and praise singers. His outsized presence in Nigerian politics is fuelled by the oxygen of publicity he constantly receives from the media even for his most infantile behaviour.
But after next month’s presidential election, whatever the outcome, and after he leaves office as governor on May 29, Wike would gradually fade into political irrelevance and eventually end up in the “dustbin of history”. It would be a good riddance!
If those words are harsh, well, it’s because they should be. Public life is too important to be the property of narcissists, of self-aggrandising megalomaniac, who see everything through the prism of self-promotion. Politics, democracy and the party system that underpins them must never be so personalised that any individual is too powerful and above party discipline.
In a system where only parties can hold political power, nothing undermines the robustness of an electoral democracy like when a major party descends into dysfunction, hijacked by self-indulgent rebels.
By forming a renegade ‘party’, so-called G5, within a party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and by working actively for the defeat of the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, in next month’s election, Wike engages in extraordinary anti-party activity and subverts the party system that is the foundation of electoral democracy in Nigeria.
Even worse, he’s doing so not for any unimpeachable moral principle but for pure self-interest and vindictiveness. The G5, comprising the PDP’s five rogue governors, who behave like Wike’s bag-carriers, calls itself Integrity Group. But it absolutely lacks integrity.
Why? Because the G5 members’ actions contradict the principles they claim to be fighting for, the principles that give them such a moral high ground that they feel justified to go for the jugular, working single-mindedly to make sure their supposed party loses next month’s presidential election. It’s unprecedented!
Unprecedented? What about the PDP’s G5 of 2015? Well, the G5 of 2015 worked against President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election, but they did so honourably. They left the PDP and joined the APC, helping Muhammadu Buhari to defeat Jonathan. But Wike’s G5 wants to stay in the PDP and campaign against its presidential candidate.
Think about it. Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, a G5 member, who is seeking re-election, is saying to Oyo State’s electorate:
“Re-elect me, but don’t vote for my party’s presidential candidate.” Similarly, Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Ifeanyi Ugwanyi of Enugu State and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, also G5 members, who are running for the Senate, are telling voters in their senatorial districts: “Elect me as PDP senator, but don’t vote for my party’s presidential candidate.”
The utter absurdity of these propositions is self-evident, as is the brazen breach of party discipline. An aggrieved politician can either fight his cause within a party or leave. But to stay in a party and openly support an opposition candidate is a no-no! A recent University of California study found that card-carrying Americans may disagree with their own party but won’t help an opposing one!
This played out recently in the US Congress. A core of 20 Republican members of Congress opposed Kevin McCarthy, a fellow Republican, as Speaker of the House of Representatives. They rejected him in 14 rounds of voting. The Republicans have 222 members as against the Democrats’ 212.
Given that only 218 votes are needed to elect the Speaker, just six Republicans could have voted for the Democrats’ candidate, Hakeem Jeffries, to become the Speaker. But none did. Despite their visceral opposition to McCarthy, none of the 20 Republican rebels wanted a Democrat as Speaker. Rather, after rejecting McCarthy in 14 rounds of voting, they elected him in the 15th round.
Party discipline prevailed. But Wike’s G5 would not only vote against their party’s presidential candidate, but they’re also asking Nigerians to reject him. Yet, as I said, they are doing so with absolutely no integrity because their actions contradict the principles they’re purportedly defending.
Take the presidency. They argue that on grounds of equity, justice and fairness, another Northerner should not succeed President Buhari. I agree. But based on those principles, where should power go in the South: South-West (eight years as president, eight as vice-president since 1999) or South-South (five years as president, three as vice-president since 1999) or South-East (nil since 1999)? So, why did Wike want to be PDP’s presidential candidate? Why didn’t he, on grounds of equity, justice and fairness, support a South-East candidate?
Recently, when Bola Tinubu led South-West APC leaders to Pa Rueben Fasoranti’s Akure home to solicit his endorsement, Governor Makinde sent his deputy to tell the group: “Although we don’t belong to the same party, we belong to the same race. I will do what Yoruba elders say.” So, on grounds of ethnicity, Makinde favours Tinubu over his own party’s candidate.
Indeed, Wike and most other G5 members also favour Tinubu. But do they think Tinubu’s candidacy is defensible on grounds of equity, justice and fairness? Are they blind to his exclusionist Muslim-Muslim ticket and the ethnic and religious tensions his presidency would engender, not to mention his acute character and integrity deficits? They are enemies of Nigeria!
Wike says his umbrage is against Iyorchia Ayu, PDP’s national chairman, who refuses to honour his vow to resign if a Northerner emerged as PDP’s presidential candidate. Fair enough. But what about Wike’s own vow. At the PDP’s presidential primary election in May last year, Wike said: “Let me vow today. Anyone who emerges here, I will support the person to the fullest.”
What about that vow? There are two Wikes. One angrily sprouts grievances and proclaims his victimhood. The other sees politics as performance art and provides a rolling circus of political entertainment. Well, there’s a third: a deeply vengeful man who’s working day and night against his party’s presidential candidate. Whatever the outcome next month, he’ll be a footnote in history. His toxicity is bad for politics!