Patience Jonathan, Wike And Politics Of Succession In Rivers By Uche Igwe
The latest news in town is that the wife of the President, Dame Patience Jonathan, has anointed three of her “sons” to take over as governors of Rivers, Bayelsa and Bauchi states come 2015. To many of us, it is nothing new. Such information has been floating in the air for some time now. However, Mrs. Jonathan’s handlers have tried to partly deny it insisting there is no way she can dictate or install anyone into political offices but that those mentioned remain “loyal sons” of the President. The contradiction in the wording of the First Lady’s statement is obvious to every discerning mind but let us give her a benefit of the doubt. She is the First Lady.
The part of the news that she could not deny is her support for the Supervising Minister for Education, Nyesom Wike. Indeed, it has been widely reported that the First Lady has endorsed Wike as the next Governor of Rivers State. She has declared Wike as the PDP leader in the state who enjoys the following of his people and that her support was in line with the expectations of the people. For many, that is a very big boost in what has become the desperate bid of Wike to succeed his former boss at the Brick House. This is in clear defiance of the ban on electoral campaigns by the Independent National Electoral Commission. However, let us leave that for another day.
The exclamation of the First Lady exposed her and Wike in many ways. Since the political conflict between the President and the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, broke out, both individuals have tried to convince everyone that Amaechi is a “disrespectful arrogant man” who had an anti-Ijaw agenda. On the side of Wike, he had gone on air repeatedly to state that the main reason why he decided to fight Amaechi was because the latter was allegedly against Jonathan’s yet-to-be announced re-election bid. Many people believed him and began to see Amaechi as a “traitor” who did not want the Niger Delta people to enjoy the largesse of the Presidency. The statement of the First Lady about Wike has therefore exposed what all the fight against Amaechi has been about. It is now clear that Wike was merely using the name of the President to pursue his political ambition. On another plain, the First Lady herself is just interested in extending her political fiefdom for guaranteed access and continuous flow of patronage. Now that she has endorsed an Ikwere man to take over from another Ikwere man, it is left for the Rivers electorate to discern the real persons who are the enemies of Ijaw people and other groups in Rivers State who are aspiring to produce a governor in the state in 2015.
The endorsement of the First Lady is a clear signal of the shift in the direction of the lingering political conflict in the state. It seems that all the efforts to remove Amaechi from office have proved abortive and so the wise thing to do is to concentrate on handpicking his successor. The relationship between the President and the Rivers State Governor has deteriorated with the exit of the governor to the rival All Progressives Congress. The First Lady has therefore got enormous leverage to continue her husband’s proxy war. Underneath it, she is also expanding her own loyalists. She appears bent on recruiting “sons and daughters” to extend her motherly control, particularistic access to public resources and privileges as the spousal appendage of the President. That approach has been quite fruitful lately. At least, she got herself a pensionable appointment as a non-working Permanent Secretary in Bayelsa State, the President’s home state.
Wike understands the game. Give it to him. He must be smiling now with the public endorsement by the First Lady. It will definitely give him mileage to continue to confront his former boss. With the way things are going, he may end up procuring a few more endorsements that will make him the man to beat in the governorship primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party. He is hoping that with the presidential support, Rivers people will overlook that he is the kinsman of the current governor and file behind him in the next election. He is confident that he will sedate the big politicians in the state and silence the agitation that other areas of the state should take a turn and produce a governor too. Those who are opposed to this plan have already expressed it through the Third Force Movement. It is also said that the recent declaration of the former warlord, Chief Ateke Tom, to join the governorship election is not unconnected to a protest against the candidature of Wike. Whatever is the reason, the entry of such a person is beyond comic relief. It goes a long way to show the world the thinking of those who are bent on installing Amaechi’s successor and their determination to actualise their ambition.
While all these are raging, it is important to state that the All Progressives Congress appears the party to beat in Rivers State. This is obvious to all. During the last party’s registration, more than 200,000 adults were said to have registered in the Obio/Akpor Local Government Area alone, Wike’s alleged stronghold. Regardless of this clear picture, it is the democratic right of the First Lady to throw her support in any direction she chooses. Wike should enjoy it but how far such endorsements will take him remains a matter of conjecture. It is a well known fact that the First Lady endorsed both Chief Timipre Sylva and Chief Tim Alaibe at various times in Bayelsa State after which they were humiliated by forces loyal to Jonathan. The most tragic one was that of Sylva who was said to have procured assurances for a second tenure from the First Lady only to receive a shocker a few days later when he was disallowed from contesting the primaries. Wike may be right in his positioning but he must not fail to learn from Sylva and Alaibe. One thing is now clear from these permutations. It is that the forthcoming elections in Rivers State will bring interesting lessons to the table.
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