On June 30th,1934 the historic day of the Night of Long Knives,Adolf Hitler,the Fuhrer or Chancellor of Germany,scared stiff that the famed and notorious SA, the abbreviation for Sturmabteillung (German Assault Division), which had helped him to power, had become too,too powerful,and a danger to his continued governance didn’t think twice,ordering the mass murder of the SA leadership.Ernst Rohm, the very highly ambitious leader of the SA, who was plotting to merge the regular army to the SA,under his leadership was summarily executed.The SA was at that point in time, about 2 million, which was 20times,the size of the regular army.
Fast forward to 24th June,2017,same month of June,some 83 years later, but this time in Nigeria. Nyesom Wike,the Governor of oil rich Rivers State, facing an internal rebellion,an in house coup by some of his commissioners reenacted the Night of Long Knives. He swiftly crushed the in house coup,which confirmed his high political instincts,and a deep understanding of the nature of politics. Failure by Wike to have nibbled the in house coup,would have precipitated the beginning of the end of his administration.The dissolution of the State Executive Council was a political master stroke. When the State Commissioner of Information and Communication Austin Tam George,on 23rd June,2017 resigned,little did he know that his action would lead to an earthquake,that would also send his other colleagues home. The Governor,first announced with immediate effect the sack of Bathuel Harrison,the State Commissioner of Works and followed up with the sack of what was left of the cabinet.
Politics from the Greek word,Politiká: Politika,is the process of making decisions applying to all members of each group. More narrowly, it refers to achieving and exercising positions of governance – an organized control over a human society or community.Wike didn’t battle his good friend,Rotimi Ameachi,the Minister of Transport to a stand still,for the fun of it.It is beyond mere ambition,considering his political steps – Chairman of Obior Akpor for 8 years. Heading the Association of Local Government of Nigeria(ALGON), being Chief of Staff to his now estranged friend,a minister and finally governor. Not many people seem to be aware of his deep experience,so his deft political moves,consequently comes as a surprise to them.But Wike clearly understands that the name of political game is eternal vigilance.In net effect,what Wike had to battle was weak loyalty.Were it a parliamentary system of government,Wike would have been removed through a vote of no confidence.At the reception for Evans Bipi, Majority Leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly,Wike said,”You must work with those who are loyal. Those who are not loyal will be shown the way out. Those who are loyal will come back. When you are going into another dispensation, you have to put things in order.” A confirmation that he was indeed battling divided loyalty.
Most Nigerians have wrong notions of politics.They think politics is dirty. They think saints run governments.The reality of politics is what the former opposition All Progressive Congress(APC), is now contending with,having successfully dislodged the Peoples Democratic Party.It has proved itself incapable of even the simplest of tasks – holding a none elective convention.It can’t pay rent for its headquarters,light and water have been caught off. Yet many Nigerians continue to look forward to good leadership from the APC,which can’t take care of itself. Mao Tse Tung said “Politics is war without bloodshed,while war is politics with bloodshed”Politics is about survival. It is the romanticization of politics,that most times colour our reaction to events like that of Wike’s dissolution of his cabinet.And the antics of some Muhammadu Buhari’s aides in making sure,Nigerians don’t forget who the president is.
In the animal world,male lions mature around 26 months,but hardly ever get to mate until they are five years,and have the size to take over a pride, and with it comes the breeding rights,not due to “scarcity” of females.Of interest is the tendency of male lions to kill cubs,so as to bring the females back into heat.He lacks that patience to hang around until she comes on heat again,so he forces her, by his cold and efficient murder of the cubs. A female lion knows,that the arrival of a new king,is doom for her cubs,as the new king naturally wants his offsprings to succeed,to be the new generation. It was a strategic mistake for the commissioners to have confronted the governor,when they lack the necessary insurance cover. They should have learnt from the lions,to bid their time,before forcing issues,if there were.
Politics is about whose ideas that will prevail.Wike,like the lion, obviously wants to reshape Rivers State in his own image,which is why he contested.Donald Trump is so preoccupied and obsessed with repeal and replace of the Obamacare, in spite of the huge political capital it is costing him. The question is Why? The answer is not far fetched, Trump wants to leave his footprints on the sands of time,as the real and true Conservative that corrected the problem that is Obamacare. How about the President of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan? Erdogan through a series of very fundamental amendments,has transformed Turkey from a parliamentary democracy to American style presidential democracy. He has cemented his hold on power,until sometime in 2029. And the latest wiz kid on the block, Emmanuel Macron of France? The French president promised and is working on a “profound transformation” of France – a radical change in French Labour laws,overhaul of the parliament,,that would see a reduction in the number of members of parliament.This is why people run for offices and they must maintain control. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair,was ousted once he showed signs of laxity by Gordon Brown,his trusted ally,who turned out to be a jester.
Before the last week earthquake, that he precipitated, Wike had removed Wachuku, whom he had accused of living below expectation.”I have a covenant with the people of Rivers state to develop this state. And anybody who is going to work with me must work at my speed and not at your own speed. Nobody should come and drag me back like the former commissioner. Wachukwu is intelligent, but he could not meet up with the pace of work at the ministry”, he declared while announcing the sack of Wachuku. Five months after,Wike suspended four commissioners- Dr John Bazia, Chieftaincy Affairs; Mrs Tonye Briggs-Oniyide; Culture and Tourism; Dr Fred Kpakol, Finance and Mr Boma Iyaye; Sports.Also suspended was the Head of Service, Mr Rufus Godwin and Mr Anugbum Onuoha, Special Adviser on Lands. Though they were recalled the signs,were all over the place,that the governor wasn’t going to abdicate responsibility,signs that the Commissioners refused to read or read wrongly.
The crime of Jonathan was his weakness to fire.Alision D. Madueke,the Minister of Petroleum has been fingered as the biggest problem of the Jonathan administration. The APC was able to brand Jonathan as weak and incompetent,due to his failure to call her and some other ministers to order.Wike as a Minister,must have observed at very close range some of these events,which is why he is making it clear that the buck,stops at his table.Wike must have also read about Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater in the 1964 United States elections. After Barry Goldwater lost the 1964 presidential elections to Lyndon Johnson,several political writers embarked upon an inquest,as to why he lost,because there is that feeling that Goldwater would have made a much better president than Johnson,just as Donald Trump is making people have a rethink about his suitability for the presidency. The conclusion: was that “being right in the sense of being correct is not sufficient to win.You don’t win just because your heart is pure, even if you can prove logically that you are right”. They followed up with the logical question: What determines victory? The finding is the painful reality, that “the real world doesn’t work that way”. And the findings became the Bible of the Conservatives.Johnson trounced Goldwater,winning by 41 million votes to Goldwater’s 27 million votes.
The Commissioners who thought Wike ,after what he went through and is still going through,to be governor would surrender ” political power” to them,have poor political education.The grapevine has it that the root of the crisis are claims they are not “making money”. Which is understandable,with the scarce resources.But spreading political patronage for coalitions will always be a problem. Part of the crisis facing the APC,is the refusal of “Saint Buhari”to spread appointments,to his “unsaintly” supporters. It will always be a problem,but it is the political brinkmanship that makes the difference.
Wike must have read “The Logic of Political Survival” By Bruce Mesquita et al. In that seminal work,the authors argued that “A large winning coalition is detrimental to political survival,because coalition members will be less loyal to their leaders. They have less to lose if their leaders are replaced”. What will they lose if Wike is ousted? They will move on. Is this not true of the APC today? Not even its broken or is it cracked record,Professor Itse Sagay, believes that the war on corruption is not being fought,with any seriousness. So the APC today,is at war with itself,and with the larger society,because it has failed to satisfy any of its publics.Unlike Wike,who has aligned with the people.And they have so far,repaid him bountifully by voting for him in the various reruns.If Ameachi, had captured the State House of Assembly,Wike would have been history. Wike understands this fact.
Bruce further argued,that when winning coalitions are large,the cost of providing private benefits becomes unaffordably high,and that such a leader is better off going for “public good,to serve the larger public interest”, than narrow interests. Wike,must have learnt from the experience of his boss, former President Goodluck Jonathan,that “good guys” don’t succeed in politics.Yes leaders,political survival depends on their followers’ support, but the reality like Jonathan found out too late, is that spreading prosperity,and holding no political prisoners wasn’t enough to win and retain power.His nice guy image,didn’t help him. According to Bruce et al “Democratic governments appear to offer their citizens more peace and prosperity than autocracies do, but autocratic leaders stay in office roughly twice as long as leaders in democratic nations.”. APC has done several “unthinkables”, that the PDP never contemplated. And it is getting away with them. One exciting conclusion of The Logic of Political Survival “is that in many cases good policies are detrimental to political survival, whereas bad policies often enhance political survival”. Is this what the APC is thinking? Spreading poverty,to retain power?
Jonathan would never have perpetually detained Major General Saraki Muktar,the National Security Adviser to late President Unaru Yar’Adua ,like Muhammadu Buhari has held Col.Sambo Dasuki,his National Security Adviser without the heavens falling? But Buhari has gotten away with several blue murder. The poster boy of the Buhari administration Babatunde Fashola who like Nigerians will say “made so much noise” about the inability of the Goodluck administration to provide power,has been delivering darkness. The question is if Fashola delivers darkness, when due to the raining season,the hydro powers are expected to fire at full capacity,after the rains what will happen? Worse still Fashola hasn’t produced a roadmap that will form any basis of hope, that tomorrow will be better.Nor is the APC bothered about worsening economic conditions of Nigerians.
The battle for 2019 is already on.Rotimi Ameachi and Senator Magnus Abe, have kickstarted the free style wrestling, that is bound to be a million dollar thriller. But the indication is that Ameachi would have been spent fighting Abe,before facing his nemesis Wike. Or will it be a no contest? The dissolution of the cabinet is partly a reaction to that emerging political scenario. Wike will be politically naive not have taken interest in that fight,nor close his eyes,to the real fight,a repeat of the rumble in the jungle,between him and Dakuku Peterside , the preferred candidate of Rotimi Ameachi.
Wike is framing the appropriate arguments for 2019- enthronement of a new Rivers State.A Rivers State of new possibilities.He seems to be telling Rivers people,it is not about me,it is about you. Defeating Ameachi in 2015, was not a mean feat,but doing a double – home and away on him, which would settle the rivalry,will depend on him continuously delivering the goods to the people.It is obvious that Wike, clearly understands that this is what would guarantee him that victory.So the governor must continue to tackle the provision of infrastructure and human development in his strides.The critical question is where is the money for these projects coming from,especially with the dwindling resources from the Federation Allocation? The budget shows that it is the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR ).Figures indicate that the State has increased monthly revenue collection from about N3 billion to about N9 billion,which is what some states generate in a financial year.This is a testimony of Wike’s prudent management of resources.
Political observers must not take their eyes off Rivers State. It is a State to watch.