A man whose life ambition eluded him deserves sympathy. Days ago, the governor of Rivers state Nyesom Wike held a national press conference on the crisis he is visiting on his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He said not much that was new. But he re-emphasised that his grouse was that the South has been shortchanged by the PDP allowing a northerner to emerge as its presidential flag-bearer.
In order words, Wike presented himself as speaking for and defending the South. How true is Wike’s posturing? The truth can be found when the persons who blocked the PDP presidential ticket from coming to the South and threw the presidential ambition of the South-East under the bus are unmasked.
Wike shouldn’t be clever by half. It was obvious he feared that if the ticket was expressly zoned south, national sentiment favoured the South-East and Atiku was most likely to back Peter Obi and chose to beat a tactical retreat. Talk of perfidy and concentric circles of conspiracy in politics.
Let us interrogate just three historic moments that begged for Wike’s interventions on behalf of Southern Nigeria in the build-up to the PDP presidential primary. First was when the PDP set up the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi committee on the zoning of party offices. The Ugwuanyi committee told the world then that zoning of the PDP presidential ticket was not within the purview of the committee’s assignment. Wike ought to know that the Ugwuanyi committee position was a technical blunder. If the committee had paired the party chairmanship with the presidential ticket, northern aspirants, including Atiku, would have been zoned out.
Recall also that Wike brought both Ali Modu Sherrif and Uche Secondus as Chairman of PDP. Sherrif almost destroyed the PDP. Wike also forced Secondus out of the office ostensibly to pave the way for the PDP chairmanship to move for the South to produce the flag-bearer and was also instrumental to the recruitment of Iyorchia Ayu as national chairman.
Wike didn’t speak then. And today, he is harping on Ayu’s promise to quit if North got the ticket. Ayu’s promise cannot stand against the PDP constitution, which prescribes that for the party to have a new chairman from the South, there should be a national convention that will cost the party a huge amount of money and time. The party does not have that luxury of time with the presidential campaign kick-starting in a matter of days.
Second, Governor Samuel Ortom’s committee on the zoning of the Presidential ticket. Each state of the federation including the FCT was represented in the 37-man committee. What this meant was that the 17 southern states were represented in the Ortom committee, including Rivers represented by a man directly nominated by Wike. Yet, the 17 representatives of all the southern states voted that the PDP presidential ticket be thrown open. This historic decision included the man who represented Wike and Rivers state. Again, Wike said nothing.
If the 17 representatives were outvoted by the northern representatives, why did they not submit a minority report to the PDP NEC or protest when Ortom told the world that the committee recommendation was a unanimous decision of the 37-man committee? Even the one man representing Wike was enough to submit a one-man minority report but no. Once more, Wike uncharacteristically kept quiet.
Third and perhaps most important, while the debate to have PDP respect its constitution (2009 amendment) raged, Atiku Abubakar threw a challenge, which one had expected would be taken up by Southern PDP leaders. Atiku told the party that he was ready to step down from the race if the zoning to the South would be micro-zoning to the South-East, as the only zone in the South yet to produce a President of Nigeria or Vice in the current dispensation. Wike again remained mute.
Wike in his interview referenced called for the invocation of the doctrine of necessity to have a new national chairman to replace Ayu, which would be ratified by the party convention at a later date. This recommendation appears plausible at its face value if Ayu’s office is the only one that would be affected. For example, the National Secretary’s office held by Senator Sam Daddy from Imo state will also be affected because the South cannot hold both the national chairman and national secretary at the same time and Wike knows it. So, even if Ayu resigns he has to resign along with the entire PDP national executive committee and every sane person could see the confusion and conflict such a decision will cause for the party.
So, the claim of Wike that he is speaking for the South is evidently self-serving because when it mattered, he kept mute for personal gain. In the said interview, he also said the PDP presidential ticket going to the North was illegal. Yet, he participated in the said illegal primary, thus validating it. Talk of re-probating and approbating at the same time.
Truth is: once one condones illegality, he loses both moral and legal rights to condemn the same offence. Or, is Wike saying he would have rejected the primary if it had produced him as the PDP presidential flag-bearer? Fact is: he is now a latter-day saint for failing to clinch the ticket and therefore plotting to benefit from his perfidy.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with anyone having ambition. Wike having the ambition to fly the PDP presidential flag is noble but the way he went about it has all the conspiratorial trappings. On national television before the PDP primary, Wike described himself as a candidate and not an aspirant. Such a sense of entitlement is wrong and has made Wike’s ambition inordinate and unacceptable. Now that his gambit has failed, he dons the garb of pro-south Nigeria activist even after acquiescing that the presidential ticket should be thrown open at the expense of the South-East particularly.
Wike’s conduct before and after the PDP presidential primary is typical of the reason many call politics a dirty game. Politics can be a noble game if only the men and women who play it are noble. For the money he committed to the party, Wike saw the PDP as his. Much like Emperor Napoleon of France who said: I am France, and France is me! Wike carves such a tragic figure.
There are insights offered by psychologists that help shed a light on Wike’s reaction to his self-inflicted injury and how he has gone about nursing it. In clinical psychology, delusion is a false belief and believing what nobody else believes despite the evidence existing to the contrary. Delusions of grandeur or expansive delusions are a subtype of delusion that occur in patients with a wide range of psychiatric diseases, including two-thirds of patients in a manic state of bipolar disorder, half of those with schizophrenia, patients with the grandiose subtype of delusional disorder, frequently in narcissistic personality disorder and a substantial portion of those with substance abuse disorders.
Delusions of grandeur are characterised by fantastical beliefs that one is famous, omnipotent, wealthy, or very powerful.
One is not suggesting that Wike has already lost it. After all, around 10% of healthy people experience grandiose thoughts at some point in their lives but do not meet the full criteria for a diagnosis of Delusions of grandeur. So, Wike could still be normal. However, if such subjective distress persists and defines the individual’s pattern of morbid thoughts and actions, it could grow to become a psychotic condition.
Apart from delusions of grandeur, there is yet another group of disorders called defence mechanisms, one of which is called regression. Regression, according to psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, is a defence mechanism leading to the temporary or long-term reversion of the ego to an earlier stage of development rather than handling unacceptable impulses more adaptively and progressively. In psychoanalytic theory, regression occurs when an individual’s personality reverts to an earlier stage of development, adopting more childish mannerisms. Wike’s behaviour fits in here neatly and can therefore be equated to a cry for maternal help.
These conditions help in understanding why Wike is saying ‘it is my way or the highway’ (much like Tinubu’s emi-lokan – it’s my turn). Nigerian politics is filled to the brim with narcissists. Narcissism is a self-centered personality style characterised as having an excessive interest and preoccupation with one’s self-interest, often at the expense of others.
Narcissism exists on a continuum that ranges from normal to abnormal personality expression. While there exist normal, healthy levels of narcissism in humans, there are also more extreme levels of narcissism, being seen particularly in self-absorbed people, or people who have a pathological mental illness like a narcissistic personality disorder.
Both Wike and the discerning public know where Wike falls on this continuum. But more importantly, Wike knows he is not being statesmanlike by destroying his party and its chances in 2023, and inadvertently paving the way for the APC to retain power.
Wike should emulate Dr Alex Ekwueme who accepted his fate with equanimity when he was shortchanged in Jos PDP presidential primary in 1999. Ekwueme worked even harder for the PDP to win the 1999 presidential election. That is the stuff real leaders and statesmen are made of. Those close to Wike should help him regain perspective to avoid lifelong regret when this election is over.
- Dr Law Mefor, a Forensic/Social Psychologist, is a Fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought and can be reached via Tel.+234- 913-033-5723; Twitter: @DrLawMefor; email: email@example.com.