Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State’s ongoing effort to ingratiate himself with the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, is believed to be his final political battle to grab the ministerial slot belonging to the members of the All Progressives Congress in the state and remain politically relevant after his failed bids to clinch the presidential and vice presidential tickets of the Peoples Democratic Party.
At the peak of his glory in September 2021 when he was bestriding the political landscape with boisterous confidence that he would fly the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general election, the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike had described the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as “cancer in stage four that can kill.”
Wike was responding to a call by the then Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godwill Akpabio for him to dump the PDP for the APC.
The occasion was the inauguration of a new police headquarters in Rivers State where Vice President Yemi Osinbajo represented President Muhammadu Buhari.
Reacting to the minister’s call, Wike said he preferred to live with malaria than with cancer.
“I prefer to stay where there is malaria than to go to where there is cancer. Cancer at the fourth stage, you are likely to die. So, I don’t want to die now,” Wike said.
Earlier while speaking in an interview with BBC Pidgin in March 2021, Wike had vowed never to follow the bandwagon and defect from the PDP to the APC.
Asked by the interviewer if he would ever contemplate leaving the PDP for the APC, Wike reacted in shock, saying: “Leave for where? I presently have malaria and is it cancer I will go and look for?
“Why are you talking like this? I have malaria that can be treated easily and I will go and look for cancer that will kill me immediately?
“Is the APC a party? A party that has killed Nigerians? No way, I can’t leave the PDP for such a party. Any fight we engage in the PDP is inside the PDP and that is where I will fight. If they like, they injure me there or I injure them but I won’t ever run away. Though I know they cannot injure me.
“That is where we will fight our fight but to leave the PDP that has common malaria for the APC that has cancer, no, it can’t happen.
“See, let me tell you, the APC has stage four cancer and when doctors say you have stage four cancer, just tell your God that it has happened as you can never survive. That is what the APC has. So, it will be impossible for me to defect to catch their cancer,” Wike reportedly explained.
On another occasion, during the build up to the elections, Wike had slammed APC presidential aspirants, including Tinubu, vying to be president because they wanted to continue the good job President Buhari has started if elected in 2023, The governor wondered what good job the politicians were referring to.
He said: ”When I hear people declaring for APC, saying that they want to continue the good job of Mr. President, the good job of people dying everyday, the good job of Naira falling everyday, I feel so ashamed that we have gotten to the level where sycophancy…people would come and say I want to come and continue the good job of Buhari…what is the good job of Buhari? Of hunger, is the good job? Of poverty if the good job? Of insecurity, is the good job? Or the economy falling is the good job? Such a shameful thing. I don’t believe that somebody would come out in today’s Nigeria and say I want to continue where Mr. Buhari has stopped. May God forgive. May never allow that people to continue to…”
However, after losing both the presidential and vice-presidential tickets of the PDP, a humbled Wike is singing a different tune, with his body and soul deeply in the APC, pending his likely official defection to the party, which many believe will be in a matter of weeks.
Wike had claimed that he was fighting for justice in the PDP but refused to see the injustice in not ceding the PDP ticket to the South-east, which is the only zone in the South that has not produced the president.
He supported the idea of throwing the ticket open because he was confident of emerging victorious, given the enormous resources he had allegedly mobilised to realise his ambition.
His greatest shock however came at the venue of the primary when one of the presidential aspirants and Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal announced his withdrawal from the race and asked his supporters to back former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
Wike had supported Tambuwal’s presidential ambition in 2019 and had expected that he would reciprocate the gesture.
After losing the ticket to Atiku, he started lobbying for the vice-presidential ticket.
When Atiku visited him at his Asokoro residence in Abuja to seek his support shortly after the primary, Wike was said to have pledged to keep to his word of supporting whoever won the ticket.
Though he had boasted that he won’t be the running mate of any candidate in the 2023 elections, a former senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye recently revealed that he lobbied to be Atiku’s running mate.
Speaking in a recent interview on ARISE NEWS Channel, Melaye claimed that Wike called him 19 times in two hours, lobbying to become Atiku’s running mate.
Melaye said: “He (Wike) will tell you he wants a southern presidency, that is why he is fighting but that is a bogus lie.
“Wike wanted to be vice-presidential candidate to Atiku. He called me 19 times in two hours when Atiku was going to mention his vice-presidential candidate, lobbying me with everything possible to influence Atiku to announce him as his running mate. I have witnesses,” Melaye added.
The governor has yet to debunk Melaye’s claim apparently due to fear of the former Senator’s threat to open more cans of worms.
When Atiku finally unveiled Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as his running mate, Wike rallied four other PDP governors to work against him in the February 25 presidential election without leaving the PDP.
Wike worked for the presidential candidate of the APC, the same party that he had described as “cancer in stage four that can kill,” the same party he claimed had “killed” Nigeria.
Many are surprised to see that the same Wike who had said all manner of ills about the APC coming to openly fraternise with the party and its members.
In what his opponents described as his desperation to grab the ministerial slot meant for the members of the Rivers APC, the outgoing governor has been fighting hard not only to ingratiate himself with Tinubu but also to endear himself to those who have the ears of the President-elect.
After inviting Tinubu’s associates to inaugurate projects in his state, it was the turn of the President-elect to inaugurate projects in the state last Wednesday and Thursday.
Wike’s opponents believe that while he may have the resources to lobby Tinubu’s strategists, the decision to appoint ministers rests with the President-elect.
Responding to Wike’s speech at the inauguration of the Rumuokwuta/Rumuola Flyover (12th Flyover) last Wednesday, the President-elect had demonstrated that he would not be moved by sycophancy.
Tinubu had bluntly faulted Wike over his request for the federal government’s refund of money spent on the construction of federal roads in the state, saying he owes the governor nothing.
Wike had requested that the president-elect should consider refunding Rivers State the money spent on all the federal roads in the state.
But reacting, Tinubu told Wike that he owed him nothing, stressing that the governor and his people were using the roads in question.
Wike’s traducers described his open appeal for such refund as a public show of sycophancy since a sitting president was still in office.
They argued that he should have made the request in a closed-door session.
However, whether or not Wike’s current gambling will pay off and guarantee him a ministerial position will come to light in the coming weeks.
(Courtesy: THISDAY, excluding headline)