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Wike’s London Rendezvous, By Kassim Afegbua

Nigeria’s power acquisition process is a crazy adventure; each candidate exploiting every available space to make in-roads for political  gains. A Nigerian president appears to be the most powerful on earth in terms of abuse of office and power; and goes scot-free each time the constitution is trampled upon. The Nigerian president presides over the country using body language, sign language and /or other nuances to convey his impressions; leaving the hapless citizenry to interpret the signs based on their understanding of him. The constitution of the country is often forgotten or better still suspended, as we all defer to the President’s body language to make meaning of his conduct. The Inspector General of Police, the Chief of Army Staff, the Chief of Defence staff, the Air Chief, the Naval Chief, and heads of every other security apparati of government hardly ever derive their inspiration from the Constitution but more from the body language of the President. So the awesome powers of the president make it a delicate and desperate venture for those who are seeking to occupy the Aso Villa. It is the reason Alhaji Atiku Abubakar ran to London to meet Governor Wike to patch up a relationship that was already decaying from the inner sanctuary of wrong political choices. Having ignored Governor Wike after Governor Okowa’s emergence as his running mate, Alhaji Atiku has eaten the humble pie and now kowtows to Wike’s promptings; for instance by visiting London for discussions. 

The Atiku Abubakar that a lot of power wielders know does not forgive and forget easily. His looks alone convey the impressions of a man that is angry with himself, a sadist and if you ask me, one who wants to extract a pound of flesh from a lot of people who may have stepped on his sore toes in the past and present. He harbours vindictiveness for those who sacked him from office, those who cut short his political influence as a Vice President, and those who reminded him of his vaulting ambition against the run of play. To have swallowed his pride to meet Governor Wike in London must come with a price. Whatever agreement and commitment that was consummated in London will never sail. They are called political talks. No depth, and no loyalty to details. No commitment. They enter the ears from the right, and escape through the left side. Politicians who are desperate for power can deploy all manner of strategy to railroad themselves into power. Once in power, they are ready to twist the tales, confuse the focus, distort the commitment, distract the agenda and create a new world of uncertainty to rubbish whatever agreement and political commitments they had sworn to. In short, for them, It is easier said than done. The saliva in the mouth of a politician seeking for power had better be checked if they do not become poison like the snake’s venom. Tales abound of how politicians often changed the goalpost in the middle of the game with ridiculous rationales to justify their vaulting interest. How would an Atiku Abubakar who has been looking for presidency for 32 years, suddenly endorse a one-term if by accident he gets into office. Wittingly, he would amend the constitution through the back door to legitimize a lifetime presidency, if the odds favour such. He will rewrite our destinies as a people, and launder himself into being  the last father of the nation. So, if Governor Wike, known to be wise, conceded to a dubious one-term proposal, then Atiku must have done voodoo on him!!

Governor Wike has gradually become the conscience of the South, but it comes with a huge cost. He needs to be tactical and diplomatic. He needs to be firm and futuristic. Those who claimed he was unfit for the VP position cannot suddenly try to sneak into bed with him without latter day consequences. The Atiku I know can swallow his pride to bow at Wike’s altar, but when he secures his interest, Wike would be made to perceive the smell of his anus. It will be akin to President Obasanjo’s articles of trade when he was on his kneels to secure a second term following Atiku’s behind the door political game. In 2002, Atiku picked the interest form of the PDP and tried to hoodwink The Generals to back his ambition. He had the support of the PDP Governors, led by James Onanefe Ibori of Delta, but that wasn’t enough for him; he waded his way into the murky waters of military politics. He wanted to play smart, but the generals were smarter than him; by more than half! The G4 pulled the rug from under his feet to back their master, General Obasanjo, secure a second term and avoid a disgrace to one of their own. Then Alhaji Atiku told president Obasanjo that  he really wasn’t interested in the ticket, but it was the generals who wanted him to give it a shot to undo his boss, Obasanjo. Later,  when General Obasanjo was shown Alhaji Atiku’s nomination form, which Atiku had obtained secretly, he was livid with anger. That was the beginning of Alhaji Atiku’s problem with his boss, President Obasanjo. And president Obasanjo made sure he checkmated him to the maximum when the 2007 electoral contest became instructive. Once he got in, Atiku was cut off from the levers of power and made to pay for his sins without equivocation. He was in power but without power. He became a spectator in a  government in which he served. Obasanjo completely annihilated him and till date, Atiku still nurses those left over anger that dominated the politics of that era. 

So, Wike must be circumspect in his dealings with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the latter’s last effort to get a position that has been on his radar for 32 years. Governor Wike, no doubt, has cutting edge political mental rectitude and acumen to dissect the dynamics of the present arrangement. He knows that those who are seeking his support are pretentiously doing so all to the end of getting votes. I hope that  Wike will show that he is not one to be taken for a ride. As a grassroots politician, he knows how to swing the votes by performance and delivery of electoral promises. He has delivered impressively on his mandate with the people. He has stood firm to defend the Southern interest irrespective of what his colleagues had done through the back door to shortchange the Southern zone. He has remained resolute in his belief that it was the turn of the Southern axis to produce a candidate that would slug it out with the APC candidate in the interest of furthering the unity and cohesion of a country that is presently polarised. Alhaji Atiku would have none of that. His personal ambition is more important than the collective interest of the country. If anything, the unity of the country can wait, insofar it pleases the interest of Alhaji Atiku. The position of the APC Governors to allow an opportunity for Southern candidacy has further enhanced the rating of the APC amongst the Southern politicians and voters. It is only natural to champion an interest in building a cohesive nation with equal opportunities for us all. Governor Wike must not lose sight of the bigger picture of ensuring that Southern Nigeria does not play the second fiddle, especially at a time that the algorithms of power appear skewed against the South. 

The London Rendezvous presents an opportunity for Governor Wike and his colleagues to robustly engage the issues holistically without being detained by parochial interest. That much Governor Wike said when he returned from his London trip. He stated without mincing words that he was looking at the bigger Nigerian picture by engaging with all the major candidates in critically analysing the problems of Nigeria with a sense of patriotism. Governor Wike must think outside the box. He must be mindful of those pretentious friends around him who laugh with him in the morning, and dine with his political foes in the night. He must be circumspect and tactical in his approach. Whatever decision he intends to take, he must ensure that he delivers his Governorship candidate and must be aware that internal sabotage is not impossible. While he could look elsewhere when it comes to the presidential candidate, he should see a Southern interest as the necessary ultimate elixir that would cushion the internal tensions within our system. After President Buhari’s eight solid years, the natural law of justice, equity and fairness dictates that a Southerner should emerge as the president of the country to balance the books. The level of political schisms and mutual distrust has gotten to a crescendo, such that if not properly handled, may set the alarm bells on the path of explosion. A plural society like Nigeria ought to consciously and deliberately balance its political equation to avoid skirmishes that may hurt the union. To ignore those sentiments is to miss the character of our plurality. 

The leadership of the country must consciously be nurtured along the path of collective bargaining and constructive engagement. Atiku’s albatross is his desperation for power, his sense of entitlement and his capacity to attempt rupturing the flow of discourse in the opposite direction. Atiku is driven by his 32 years old ambition steeped in self righteous indignation. If Atiku fails in 2023, as it is most visible to the blind, he surely will contest in 2027 by which time he would be clocking age 81. If he fails in 2027, he will contest in 2031 when he would have clocked 85. No matter his age, Alhaji Atiku would contest presidential election until he seems weak to prosecute any presidential project. When ambition drives the flow of a man’s life, nothing makes sense to him other than such vaulting ambition. Once desperation sets in, the commonsense to rationalise political choices and decisions often become decimated. So, in confronting the politics of 2023, Governor Wike must factor in the interest of the larger interests; the South particularly the South-South, in the emerging political equation of the country. The frontal role that Governor Wike is playing to properly and effectively situating the South to earn its pride of place must be encouraged. His bravery is a marked departure from those who have since become black sheep of the Southern solidarity. Politics of the new age ought to be interest common to all, and not selfish and egocentric interest that easily fertilises injustice. For Governor Wike, his political trajectory has just been set aglow.

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