Wike, PDP and the burden of leadership 

Wike, PDP and the burden of leadership 
June 24
13:13 2020
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BY PAUL OBI

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” – Theodore M. Hesburgh 

Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike of Rivers State is a fighter, a protector and hates injustice from all fronts. He could sometimes be combative, politically confrontational and unperturbed about the perception of naysayers. In all these, he is unapologetic about what you may think. He is more focused on confronting Nigeria’s suffocating federal system that deliberately cage the states – as federating units but benefits and profits cabals, elite and oligarchs in Abuja.

Wike is dazed by the prevailing squalor and lack in the Niger-Delta in the midst of plenty and even as the proverbial golden egg. Since his emergence in the national limelight, no one has doubted Wike’s intentions, agenda and prowess. Being the Governor of oil rich Rivers State, had meant that he has to fight doggedly to ascend the thrown. With Port Harcourt as the centre of the Niger-Delta and South-South, Wike has effortlessly been crowned as the indisputable leader of the South-South. In fact, every Niger-Delta citizen kowtow to Wike as their political leader. Given his enormous contribution to the rejuvenation and sustenance of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), the Governor wears a double crown as Nigeria’s main opposition party leader and behemoth.

Yet, in all these lofty and admirable leadership roles bestowed on Wike, it appears, the burden is becoming overwhelming by the day. While he continues to receive applause from oppressed citizens of the South-South in standing up to the shenanigans of the federal government and the ills of Nigeria’s feeding bottle democracy, his constant squabbles in the PDP – a party that the people see as redemption path from today’s political quagmire sends spines and shivers across.

Going by these endless confrontations with party members, many are constantly asking if Wike has a Political Adviser or SA on Public Affairs. This is crucial given that the constant display of some level of garrison politics – sometimes even garrulous is a great disservice to his teeming supporters across the Niger-Delta, this writer inclusive. While many of his supporters are appease with his good governance credentials as exemplified so far, such as infrastructural development, Covid-19 intervention and his sincere agenda to change the face of Rivers State, his reputational capital is always at the lowest ebb.

The gall part of it, is that, this sordid part of his style is curable and can be tamed forthwith. Since ascending the office of Governor of Rivers and the Chief Benefactor of the PDP, there has never been any occasion in the party that Wike has not fiercely attacked members of his party. A party, that is surviving because of his own foresight and magnanimity. A party that has Gov. Wike’s ‘Man Friday,’ Prince Uche Secondus as the National Chairman. From his outburst on the venue of the convention in 2019 PDP’s Presidential Primaries, to attacks on some presidential candidates, to who becomes the PDP Minority Leader in the House of Representatives to the recent verbal exchange of missiles on the Edo State forthcoming Governorship candidate in Edo State, Wike has a spare no thought for decorum in flogging and knocking the PDP – his own baby with severe punches.

Given the precarious situation and exigencies of ensuring that the whole South-South returns back to the PDP’s umbrella, is it the right time to engage in such outbursts? Haba the Lion of Niger-Delta! What ever happened with in-house negotiations, consultations, consensus, give and take politics?

As one of the leaders of PDP, there are several channels and platforms for Wike to vent out his angst and discontent in whatever form. The resort to public squabbles often leave damages on the chances of the party. In the case of Edo State, already, Gov. Godwin Obaseki has consulted with Wike. The Rivers State Governor appears to be leading the South-South charge to ensure that Edo State returns to original stead of the PDP.  Any attempt for saboteurs to truncate that plan ought to be frowned against with all zeal one can gather. It’s a complete distraction for the PDP National Working Committee(NWC) and Wike to engage in verbal fisticuffs in the public.

In a democracy, when a ruling party like the All Progressives Congress(APC) has bungled up the chances of sane politics and good governance, it is the duty of the opposition party to rise up to the occasion and rescue the country from the shackles of deprivation and oppression. With this in mind, the PDP has its hands full to deliver on that mandate. Any form of distraction and unnecessary squabbles would fizzle out that rare opportunity away and set the country in disarray.

For Wike, while it is his constitutional right to express himself, his support base are also keen about how he navigates the murky world of Nigerian politics with his reputation intact. Perception matters in all of these. The vision of Wike’s leadership should not be the one that starts and end in Rivers State. Many are looking up to him to continue to provide that fearless leadership in the future. But it should not come with antics of a perennial trend of self-induced conflict, unyielding political posturing and lack of compromise. It should rather be strategic, tactful, encompassing, inclusive, respectful and futuristic.

The expectations of Wike’s followers is to see a leader with decorum, leading the charge in many political and developmental projects, providing discreet leadership. Many want to see Wike showcasing his leadership qualities like when he led Rivers State Government to donate N250 million to a fellow PDP state, Benue when they were attacked by herdsmen. They want to see more of him intervening to resolve political logjam in Bayelsa, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Edo States. The least they want to see is to watch him lampooning members of his own party with derogatory labels like ‘tax collectors’ notwithstanding the level of provocation.

Strategically, the role of an opposition party is an essential part of how democracy flourishes in a society. The top echelon of the party, alongside their members must guide this role jealously with all sincerity. To ensure victory in any political contest, unity and harmony are imperative. It therefore behoves on Wike and the PDP NWC to sheath their warring sword and embrace unity for the battle ahead. As 2023 approaches, Nigerians are looking up to PDP for practical answers. The road to 2023 rescue mission of Nigeria starts with the September 19 Edo State Governorship Election. Wike and the PDP must not falter.

Obi is a journalist and political communication expert based  in Abuja

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