” if you’re the smartest person in a room, you’re in the wrong room”
The sixth civilian governor of the oil rich state of Rivers, 54 years old Ezenwo Nyeson Wike, no doubt is among the most talked about politicians in Nigeria today as he continues to grab newspapers’ headlines, graces front pages of print media while he dominates and occupies the front burner of political discourse in both the orthodox electronic and social media. It doesn’t seem we are yet to sooner see the end of the political drama and all sorts of literary acrobatic displays by this controversial beautiful bride in the political firmament of Nigeria.
But as a writer put it, the beautiful bride should be cognizant of the reality that flowers do not blossom forever and that politics is a marathon and not a sprint, moreover, Wike still has age on his side.
To have a clearer picture of Nyeson Wike, a molecule that has been vibrating and reverberating in the political chemistry of Nigeria since the commencement of the present political dispensation, let’s quickly run through his political career :
Wike was an elected Chairman of Obio Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State from 1998 to 2007 when Peter Odili one of his political godfathers was the Executive Governor. It should be noted that Celestine Omehia, with backing of Odili was elected as the Governor of Rivers State in 2007 but his government was shortlived by Supreme Court judgment barely five months in office, precisely on 26th October, 2007, Chibuike Rotimi Ameachi, the then immediate past Speaker of the State House of Assembly, was pronounced the Governor.
You will recall that Ameachi had challenged the legitimacy of Omehia as the candidate of the PDP in the 2007 gubernatorial election and Ameachi eventually became a first civilian Governor in Nigeria, whose name didn’t exist in the nomination records of INEC and who did not stand among the gubernatorial choices at the general election but assumed position of a State Governor courtesy of court ruling which remains a judicial precedence till date.
The roles played by Nyeson Wike between Odilli, his political godfather and Ameachi, his childhood friend in the course of the gubernatorial legal tussle, were not that visible but what became obvious was that Wike emerged the Chief of Staff to Governor Ameachi when that government was inaugurated.
From being the Chief of Staff, he became a Minister of State for Education on July 14, 2011 and later as a Minister of Education under President Goodluck Jonathan, a position his friend, Ameachi claimed he practically begged Jonathan before he could accept the nomination but Wike has severally debunked the claim. What’s indisputable however, is that Wike later became a close ally of the first lady, Patience Jonathan and a political son to Mr President, Jonathan Ebele Goodluck, thus, it wasn’t too difficult for him to clinch the gubernatorial ticket of PDP in Rivers State in 2014.
When Rotimi Ameachi with four other errant PDP Governors pulled out of the party to coalesced with others to form APC in 2014, expectedly Wike stayed put in PDP and became a political torn on the flesh of Ameachi in Rivers State.
However, against wide expectations of tough contest in 2015 elections in the State, Wike’s PDP roundly defeated Ameachi’s APC in all categories of elections that year and since then Wike has swam over the political space of Rivers State like a colossus. Wike got re-elected the Governor in 2019, a tenure he will complete comes May, 2023.
A critical observation of political developments since PDP lost control of power at the national level to the opposition APC in 2015, showed that Wike has been a major financier of the party, sprouting up National Chairman of the party and kicking them out at his will, a case of his own kinsman Uche Secondus, is an example which Wike admitted to be the mastermind. His larger than heart roles in Obaseki’s re-election in 2020 was another pointer to the ubiquitous roles of Wike in PDP.
Since politics is interest driven, Wike erroneously thought, all seeds he had sown in the political field of PDP, would ordinarily come to harvest for him at the party’s presidential primaries coupled with the power rotational clause in PDP constitution, alas, it was a devastated blow to the long nurtured ambition. To equally rub salt to his political injury, the running mate slot to Atiku was neither given to him nor he considered relevant in the process of picking Delta State Governor Okowa as the Vice Presidential candidate.
Little wonder, he thereafter, choose to become a stirring tool in the political waters of PDP and stepped further, to throw spanner into the engine of erstwhile self acclaimed biggest political party in Africa.
As a corollary to the above, Governor Wike and four of his colleagues ; Seyi Makinde of Oyo , Samuel Ortom of Benue, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu and Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia States, have been at daggers drawn with the presidential candidate of their party, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar since the conclusion of the party presidential primaries in May 2022, over their insistence that lyorchia Ayu , the party’s National Chairman step down for someone from the southern part of the country in tune with the party’s standing rule of rotation of major political positions.
However, several efforts made by Atiku camp to reconcile with the aggrieved Governors have been in futility as they have consistently boycotted Atiku’s campaign rallies while Wike the leader of the G-5 keep inviting key leaders of opposition parties to commissioning of projects in his state, the latest being Adams Oshiomhole, Peter Obi and President Muhamadu Buhari.
Wike, has successfully been holding the G-5 together, at least in the last six months, providing courageous leadership to the group. His has been an example of exhilarating and gratifying ambition and determination which has cost him sacrificing some of his political friends and enormous funds. The four major contenders for the 2023 presidency, Tinubu, Atiku, Obi and Kwankanso had separately held open and closed doors meetings with Wike, trying to court the beautiful bride but no visible marriage is yet tied to any of the suitors.
If l have one piece of advice for Wike, it’s for him to read some history books that provide examples of strong leaders who left their marks for better or for worse. More importantly, he must know more about Napoleon and Adolf Hitler.
At a point, Napoleon haven successfully fought and annexed many territories, came to think he was invincible, he engaged in a pointless and costly war in Spain and also invaded Rusia, the mistake that led to his eventual downfall. Likewise, Adolf Hitler thought he was infallible, his inflated beliefs in his skills as a military tactician and his program of wagging a war of annihilation on racial and ideological terms were his undoings.
On the other hand, Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey was a rare leader who knew his limitations, issued a standing order that any instruction he gave in the evenings, when he liked to carouse with his friends, should be ignored. The bottom line here is that a leader must know what good timing is, which must complement determination, vision and sheer ability.
A Chinese proverb readily comes to mind, “if you must play, decide on three things at the start; the rules of the game, the stakes and the quiting time”. I want to believe the G-5 agreed on these three things abinitio, if not, it’s expedient they go back to the drawing board and do the needful because flowers do not blossom forever. They better be aware that graveyards are full of people whose tombstones must have read ” they thought they were indispensable”
A Scholar, Magret MacMillan from University of Oxford, at the 2017 World Economic Forum meeting, presented a paper titled, “Eight Leadership Lessons from History”
In the paper, leaders are admonished to learn from history but with a caution that the past will not provide the magic formula for how to become an effective leader.
MacMillan, taken through the qualities and undoings of so many erstwhile great leaders, went further to enunciate eight leadership lessons from history. In this same vein, another Scholar has identified seven signs of when to call it quit. I hereby juxtaposed the two papers using MacMillan eight points as follows:
i. Desire or strong resolve to want to lead, dream it and bring it to manifestation.
ii. Work out the key people to keep on side. Know the value of members of your team and don’t underestimate those not on your side.
iii. Be a good communicator and understand your audience
iv. Be a good listener, choose good and independent subordinates and sources of getting information. Know when what you are clinging to becomes uninspiring to followers and to self.
v. Intuit the way the currents of history are flowing. Know when and how to identify and read bad omen.
vi. Beware of the traps that power lays – it connotes that power may be benevolent and at this time dangerous and destructive.
vii. Don’t start to believe your own propaganda, your personal experience alone may not be broad enough to sustain you, you need more wisdom.
viii. Know when to step down, know when you hit your ceiling
Drawing from MacMillan lessons on leadership, l wish to round off this write up with a story of five friends ::
Five friends of diverse capacities, capabilities and interests but with common mission decided to embark on picnic into a deep forest.
Along the way, they noticed a nauseating dead body of an animal which they could not specifically ascertained the specie of the animal it was.
They held an impromptu meeting there and each and all of them started bragging with innate power and capacity they possessed. They therefore, agreed to begin to exhibit it on the dead animal.
The first one boasted, l can strengthen the limbs, as applauded by other friends, he restored the limbs. Just as the first friend finished exhibiting this uncommon capacity, the second proudly said he could bring back the face and organs therein alive and fresh and it happened as he professed.
The third friend, motivated by the prowess of the first and the second friends, pronounced that he could breathe live into the animal and with accolades from other friends he did as he said.
But the fourth friend, envisaging danger warned, saying friends it’s better we stopped at this juncture, the animal might be a wild animal. He advised that they should proceed or return to where they were coming from, “at least we’ve caught a lot of fun and demonstrated individual prowess and we’ve accorded ourselves respect, it’s time we move”, he strongly posited.
Rather than taking the wise counsel, the fifth friend said there was a need to bring agility and total strength back to the animal. In line with earlier demonstration of power by the first three friends, the fifthh friend invoke his power and brought the animal back on its feet, hale and hearty.
As the fifth friend was doing this, the fourth friend who had earlier counselled against going beyond dangerous line, quickly climbed a nearby tree.
It was at this point of perfectly bringing the animal alive that they sooner, realised it was a voracious lion. The lion sprang on the four of the five friends and killed them.
Moral : Little knowledge is a dangerous thing and men must know when and how to call it quit.
The five Governors have unique, individual and diverse capacities and capabilities with various aspirations and peculiar political environments. It’s better they go back and re-strategize before they awake a dead lion, that has capacity to devour.
Gbade Ademola, writes from Lagos.