Umahi, Wike and the reimagination of nepotism


The decisions to name key state projects after their mother and wife respectively marks David Umahi and Nyesom Wike as champions of cronyism.

In Nigeria’s convoluted political space, there is always something to be done or said to keep conversations going. Every day, those who consider politics their forte congregate to learn something new or do something new about themselves or the political space.

In Nigeria’s political space where novelty still manages to somehow reel of obnoxiousness and notoriety, there are none more prominent in the past eight years than Nyesom Wike,the outgoing governor of Rivers State,and David Umahi,the outgoing governor of Ebonyi State.

Controversial, conceited, opinionated and loquacious, both men have been governors for eight years during which the tumult they have plunged their states into have only been tempered by a few projects meant to do nothing but paper over the cracks.

In Wike’s case, his loud vituperation, misplaced self-righteous and exaggerated achievements have endeared him to a few  gullible hearts. But a good number of discerning Nigerians have been able to see through his tricks. His antics during the last elections, where he clearly worked against the presidential candidate of his party, violating his party’s ethos and ethics in the process, shredded the last fig leaf of his fictitious character.

As with Umahi, there is no honour even among thieves.In Ebonyi State, a few developmental projects which have prompted some political prophets to describe a backwater as the Dubai of Africa has done little to disguise the reign of terror Umahi’s eight years in office have been.

Under Umahi, insecurity has spiraled out of control in Ebonyi, and even when he gave teeth to the now disgraced and disbanded Ebubeagu security outfit, it was soon found out to be a vehicle of harassment against political opponents.

With few days for Umahi and Wike to leave office, they have somehow succeeded to outdo themselves in infamy by delivering a coup de grâce to their long-suffering states by acts of corrosive cronyism.

First, Umahi built an international market and named it after none other than his mother Margaret Umahi. Now,it is no crime to raise a monument to one’s mother, in honor of her memory. Yet,when a public officer abuses privilege to do so with public funds, eyebrows must be raised.

Who is Margaret Umahi to the good people of Ebonyi State that an international market built with state funds would be named after her? What are her contributions to the state? Does the state not have citizens more deserving of being immortalized than a woman whose only claim to the honour is being the mother of the governor?

It is no surprise that Wike and Umahi agree on so many fronts. To play his part in what is undoubtedly a sore point for many, Wike decided to name a newly built magistrate court complex in the state after his wife, who is a serving judge in the state.

In defense of the choice, Wike broadly said that if he has been generous to others in naming buildings after them, why can’t he be generous to himself by naming one of the complexes after him?

Umahi and Wike may have been doing something so normal and common among public officers in Nigeria, but the fact that two of Nigeria’s public eccentrics were engaging in something so odious will never make it palatable for public consumption.

In a country where public office is synonymous with misuse and abuse, it makes for destitute optics that sitting state governors would name public projects built with public funds after their family members who have done nothing of distinction to warrant such honour.

There is a sweeping sense in which Nigeria remains where it is because of the actions of a few people who mistakenly meandered their way into power and have proceeded to treat public office like their personal fealty.

In Nigeria today, Umahi and Wike certainly fit into that category. Their actions and utterances have continued to give the very people they are supposed to serve away as gullible and even hapless.

At the end of the day, the choice of who gets into which office in Nigeria and when rests with Nigerian voters, who will do well to better scrutinize those choices before giving  their votes instead of voting first and lamenting for years.

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