By Salome Durugbo
Did Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers intend to shame his colleagues from the Niger Delta states when he recently asked their constituents to demand accountability from their respective governors on how they spent the refunded arrears of 13 per cent derivation? I doubt. But I praise his guts.
However, if his intention was to ridicule his colleagues, he obviously got more than he bargained for. He got short shrift. To put it another way, he got his hand caught in the fire. The reason is simple. Wike is not the leader of the Niger Delta region. He’s not also the constitutional ombudsman to supervise the region. First and foremost, he is not the poster boy for good governance in the Niger Delta or even in Nigeria.
To properly situate the Wike blip in context, it’s germane to examine the circumstances under which he made the comment. Granted that Wike is a showman who loves to grab media attention and please the gallery, the real Wike could never have made the comment if he was the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, or if he was picked as a running mate to the eventual winner of the party’s presidential primary, Atiku Abubakar.
He only became a self-appointed umpire and chief foreman over the Niger Delta states after losing both the PDP presidential ticket and the slot of running mate. Both occasions, as is now clear, brought out the other side of Wike, a governor who enjoys hearing the sound of his own voice, even if it’s all noise devoid of logic.
More, critically, Wike’s sudden outbursts since losing his party’s ticket were borne out of bad blood, jealousy and anger. This questions his democratic credentials. All over the world, democracy thrives on the rule of law, the mores, and the decisions of political parties; not on the dictates of one man, no matter how powerful such a man may be or the overbearing power he arrogates to himself. For this, I praise Wike for sowing for himself a flowing garment of self-conceit.
In America, whose presidential system we follow, party members compete in feisty contests for their party’s ticket, sometimes laced with insults and ascerbic jibes, but as soon as one is picked over the rest, all the once ferocious contestants will team up to support their party’s chosen candidate. That’s democracy.
The majority will always win, and the minority will always have a say. In a democracy, the party’s decision is supreme, no matter who’s hurt. In the case of Wike, the PDP threw away its zoning arrangement of North and South prior to the primary. All the contestants knew this before agreeing to participate. Wike was well aware of the situation before embarking on a tour of the country to meet with court delegates.
Other contestants also wooed delegates. But politics is about compromise, concession, persuasion, and alliances. If Wike and his Southern PDP members were ever serious about bringing the presidency to the South, they would have reached a compromise; they would have formed a formidable alliance; and one would have stepped down for the other. But they preferred to run on their individual servers. And, predictably, they all failed.
For whatever reason, Wike felt a sense of entitlement. It should have been him or nobody, not minding that a former President of the Senate and number three citizen in Nigeria, Anyim Pius Anyim; a performing governor like Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom; and other political high flyers from the South also contested for the coveted PDP ticket.
None of these people are begrudging the party or bellyaching over the outcome of the primary. Wike cries for equity, justice and fairness. Good ideals, but is he an apostle of such fine ideals? The answer is blowing in the wind. The answer can be found within the confines of Rivers State, where Wike, an Ikwerre man, succeeded Rotimi Amaechi, another Ikwerre man, leaving the Ogoni, Kalabari and others as bystanders in a state in which they ought to enjoy a sense of equity. The answer is in Wike’s political appointments, which are dominated by his Ikwerre people.
Here in Rivers, the governor concentrates on building flyovers and roads, leaving out the key pillars of human development, which are education and healthcare. And we know why he uses a particular foreign contractor for his projects, undermining the Federal Government’s policy on local content. We also know why Wike spends hundreds of millions of naira to show off his flyovers in the media.
It is the lot of egoistic merchants who would spare nothing to prove that they control the levers of power. The governor should, however, take a trip around the same Niger Delta states. If he visits Akwa Ibom, he would feel ashamed that the quality of projects, including education and healthcare infrastructure, undertaken by Governor Emmanuel far surpassed his media-hyped projects. He would realise that Emmanuel has created more jobs and empowered more people than himself without making a whimper of noise.
Wike should be invited to take a tour of Delta State, where Governor Ifeanyi Okowa is working from the uplands to the creeks; creating jobs, making entrepreneurs and lifting people out of poverty. All of this without any paid media hype. Wike should copy the Okowa template of diversity in development, in the distribution of development across the three senatorial districts of Delta.
He should copy the Delta template of skill acquisition, empowerment and seeding startups with take-off grants to become employers of labour. Okowa, just like Wike, has built roads (he’s called the Roadmaster) and bridges, including bridges to link hitherto cut off riverine communities, quietly and without the vain fanfare of media hype. Has the governor ever wondered why Delta has won the National Sports Festival six times in a row under Governor Okowa, and why, on all occasions, Rivers has never finished in second-place?
The answer is simple: Okowa is investing massively in developing human capital. He’s not playing politics with development. He’s doing the same in education, both cognitively and technically. Wike should stop acting like a little boy denied candy by his parents. He should stop attempting to supervise his peers.
He has done nothing until he makes Rivers the leading state in educational and sporting excellence, until he makes Rivers the leading producer of techies and nerds capable of meeting the demands of the 21st century. Any Jack can build roads and flyovers. The military did. However, only great leaders develop men into change agents like India, China, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia and others are doing. This is what Okowa, Emmanuel and other governors in the region are doing; not dancing Azonto and Shaku-shaku in a primitive circus show. But I still praise him for his uncommon dancing skills.
Mrs. Durugbo, an entrepreneur, wrote from Port Harcourt