Wike, Tambuwal and Lessons for Southern Politicians

Ayodele Suyi

Ayodele Suyi

That former Vice president Atiku Abubakar won the PDP primaries held last Saturday in Abuja, I will concur, is not out of place. The way and manner he won is my concern here. On more than two occasions on this page, I had in the past expressed my worries about the division among the southern political class. I noticed very early enough the lack of unity of purpose among the politicians down south. I knew that when push comes to shove, the North can easily rally its men on the field together and get the result that will be beneficial to the region.

Such a spirit is lacking in the South. It cost the southern politicians in the PDP the presidential slot. I suspect with a very convincing spirit, that such a fate awaits the southerner politicians in the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, as it prepares for its convention in the next six days unless something is done.

The North, by the emergence of Atiku as the PDP presidential candidate, has demonstrated that it is the region to beat any day, anytime. That is quite sad for the South! It is even sadder for the South-East, which went to the PDP convention with about 95 delegates but got only 15 votes for its two sons, Pius Anyim, who got 14 votes, and Sam Ohuabunwa, who polled only one vote! Who did the other South-East delegates vote for? Can we then ask: how did Atiku do it?

The outcome of the PDP’s, convention is an eternal lesson in cohesive politics. And if there should be anyone who should learn and relearn the lessons of the convention, it should be an average politician down south – the region: South-West, South-South or South-East- is immaterial. The emergence of the former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as the presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2023 general election has once again confirmed that the North is far ahead of the rest of the country in strategic politicking. Yeah, we may have a huge preponderance of educated fellows down South. That it is where it ends for the Southerners. At any point in time, the North knows what it wants in politics and makes no bone about pursuing it to a logical conclusion.

At the beginning of the present political hurly-burly about who succeeds General Muhammadu Buhari at the end of his presidential tour in May 2023, the refrain down South has always been: “for the sake of justice and equity, the presidency must be zoned to the South”. Some people even narrowed it down to ask that the South-East, which has not been opportune to occupy the topmost position since 1966, should be considered and the presidency should be delivered to the Igbo Race bullet, barrel and powder. I honestly share that sentiment that the South-East deserves to be given the opportunity.

But, I knew, all along, that that would be a herculean task as politics is not about emotions and the ideal, especially in Nigeria. I have come to realise that Nigerian politics is driven more by personal gains, tribal sentiments and religious inclinations. Our politics is such that if an Angel comes down from heaven to contest with heavenly goodies and policies to better our lots, Nigerians will first consider from which part of the vast sky the Angel descended to mother earth!

That sentiment played out on Saturday, when the PDP gathered to elect its presidential standard bearer for the coming election. Political pundits had argued, before the convention, that the highest spender would carry the day. That permutation was strong and dominant in the public space such that the EFCC had to move to the venue of the primaries to monitor the movement of cash in and out of the premises.

The fact that nobody has reported a single case of arrest goes to show that the PDP convention was not money induced. You don’t have to believe me on that because I don’t believe myself either! But beyond money, what actually determined the outcome of the race is the issue of tribe, region, or place of birth. It was a race of no matter how badly configured the waist of one’s daughter is, you don’t decorate another person’s daughter’s waist with the expensive Benin akpolo (waist beads). In Yoruba, we call it “tiwa n’tiwa”!

The politics of the North is not about rocket science. It is a politics of collective interest of the region. An average politician from above the Rivers Niger and Benue knows that he is in any national political race on behalf of the North. They are configured with the eternal principle of “North first and other things follow”. According to sources, when it dawned on the PDP leaders in the North that Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and a contender in the race was going to be a hard nut to crack, the northern elders in the party did what they know how to do best – compromise. At the most critical moment of the contest, the leaders came on board and called their men on the field to order.

As reported in the media, the former National Security Adviser, NSA, General Aliyu Gusau (Rtd.), with the support of the former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, met with the northern aspirants and persuaded them to step down for Atiku. Gusau was quoted to have told the aspirants that he was speaking the minds of the entire northern leaders – not PDP northern leaders! The first to heed the “advice” was Mohammed Hayatu-Deen. Hours to the commencement of voting, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State also agreed to step down and he did that on the convention ground in a dramatic way, when he announced: “…I have appealed to my supporters to take this in good stride and for national unity and patriotism – not only that, those who are delegates here – should vote for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar”. General Gusau achieved the same feat for Atiku at the 2019 PDP convention in Port Harcourt, where the former Vice President defeated Tambuwal.

Looking at what happened in Abuja last Saturday and juxtaposing that with how Wike threw everything he had behind the aspiration of Tambuwal in 2019, I came to one conclusion: southern politicians are suckers for their northern counterparts. In the North’s political clichés, the maxim: “one good turn deserves another” is omitted by the printer. The North does not have any permanent friends when it comes to power equation. Northerners don’t know what is called equilibrium in power sharing.

Wike, after the 2019 convention fought all those who did not support Tambuwal to a standstill. But when it came to the most critical moment in his political career, Tambuwal remembered that he must “minimise rancour and jostling for power” in the party and the beneficiary of his “patriotic conclusion to step down my aspiration”, is no other person than his Fulani brother. In all his reckoning, whatever Wike did in 2019 had paled into insignificance. But you cannot blame him. Our elders say if you give a hoe to a mad man, he makes the heaps between his two legs.

And I will not blame Wike either. On this page on September 14, 2021, in a piece titled “Wike: Every Compound Needs a Tough Child”, I said this about Wike: “…I have never liked Wike’s ways in governance. His churlish, unpolished communication style has, to me, always left much to be desired… I find Wike embarrassingly nauseating in many of the video clips where he talked down on people”. I concluded my assessment of his personage in that piece by saying: “His recent position on the issue of VAT is casting him, in my opinion, in the mould of the proverbial mad child that every family needs to counter the mad child coming from outside”.

I want to add here today that with the outcome of the PDP presidential primaries, Wike has demonstrated uncommon courage and strong character as a consistent man. Neither Atiku nor Tambuwal can boast of the fidelity Wike has for PDP. Wike has been consistent and has defended the party with everything he has. In his relationship with people, he has kept faith with the principle of trust. He fights for his friends and supports their aspirations. But for Wike and his last minute world press conference he addressed at the New Festival Hall, Edo State Government House, the September 19, 2020 governorship election in the state would have been declared “inconclusive”, when the Returning Officer for Orhionmwon LGA disappeared with the result of the election, the PDP, having won 13 LGAs as against the five won by the APC.

After the 2019 convention in Port Harcourt, Wike fought Uche Secondus, the then National Chairman of the PDP because of Tambuwal. He did not rest until Secondus was shipped out of office. His resolve to swim with his friends against the tide of the sea is legendary and commendable.

His outing at the just concluded convention is also worthy of celebration. For him to have polled 237 votes, where Atiku scored 371 votes shows a strong character. If the PDP convention were to be a football match, I would have no hesitation in awarding him the Most Valuable Politician, MVP, of the contest.

To him, it does not matter if his “friend” or friends betrayed him. They have their conscience to battle with. Wike is like the proverbial chameleon. The gentle reptile says it has given birth to its litter, how it dances in the arena is left to it. When the roll call of those who have fidelity to friendship and principles are made, Wike should derive joy in the fact that his name will be on top of the list. “Indeed, every family needs a mad child”. The PDP should celebrate that it has a person like Wike in its fold. His never-say die attributes will be handy in the days ahead. And he has demonstrated enough sportsmanship to boot.

It is not totally lost for the South. The APC convention is around the corner. The southern aspirants in the party can still prune down the numbers. The only problem down South is the lack of a figure like General Gusau, who can tell the southern men that he is speaking on behalf of the entire southern leaders. Who is that Yoruba leader who can call all the Omo Kaaro Oojiire to order and ask them to step down for just one aspirant? Who has the goodwill in the entire Ndigbo that can pull the strings and ask Ndigbo sons in the APC to choose one of them? This is why nobody should give his father’s fallow land to a stranger to cultivate. Retrieving such farmland is always difficult. Who knows, maybe the lesson from this current season is for our future political engagements.

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Professor Jideofor Adibe


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