When Rotimi Amaechi broke away from Dr. Peter Odili in a rebellion to actualise his mandate as the winner of the PDP primaries and eventually returned as a winner, almost everyone who did not support his rebellion was scared of what he was going to do to them. Every one said ‘Amaechi never forgets a slight’. The sense of apprehension felt by a majority of the political class was better imagined especially as the man did not pass up the opportunity at every event to talk about the suffering he endured. There was no way to know, if he realized that all those who did not support his rebellion quaked silently with apprehension and a sense of embarrassment at his favorite stories. Vengeance was in the air. The worst political sin then was not to have supported Amaechi’s rebellion against the system which made him. Amaechi’s chief of staff Nyesom Wike was another matter. Unlike Amaechi, he was not at all burdened by such considerations as the need for reconciliation or the fact that they had just achieved the greatest act of ingratitude to the man Amaechi had described during his fortieth birthday as ‘the only man I am loyal to’.
Nyesom Wike was never a friendly face. He is proof that one does not need to win hearts in Nigerian politics. Once I had done a story exposing the mansion he built on Ada George Road as a council chairman and the next time he met me at Obio-Akpor council secretariat, he barked at me in his gravelly voice, ‘I read what you wrote. You can write anything you want!’ I have been on his black list ever since.
In his early days as Amaechi’s chief of staff, an assassination attempt was made against him around Port Harcourt’s Artillery Junction. His Toyota Prado Jeep was riddled with bullet holes but he emerged unscathed. His driver was shot and hospitalized. In such circumstances, any other Government House official would have been overwhelmed by a flood of sympathisers. In Nyesom Wike’s case most people kept their distance. He had already shown a terrible capacity for stopping people in their tracks. He would periodically come down to the lobby of the Governor’s office and bark at those who wished to meet with the governor, ordering most to leave. Most people feared that his bite would be worse. He was really the only dreaded figure in Government House Port Harcourt. Even commissioners knew better than to get in his way.
Once I had wanted to have an interview with him so I had followed him to his office. On nearing the entrance to his office in the magnificient Governor’s office complex built by Dr. Peter Odili, Wike whirled around and snarled at me, ‘won’t you allow me to get into my office first ?’. I backed away and I was never allowed into the office. He was the bitter, aggressive and blustery face of Amaechi’s Government House. He was also a bully because whenever he confronted other men of power or influence he became very nice.
Amaechi allowed too much power and influence to nestle in Wike’s hands. He was the only chief of staff in the history of the state to attend executive council meetings. As the 2011 elections neared, he had begun securing elective positions for his loyalist. Many of them are now members of the state assembly. When he had plotted the same for the national assembly, the governor was alarmed enough to step in. But Amaechi eventually made him his re-election campaign director which effectively put the PDP gubernatorial campaign structure into his hand. Wike’s aggressive exterior had always provided a great cover for his sharp analytical mind which he is now putting to harmful use against Amaechi. It is a new season of ingratitude. Odili is no longer the target. It is a mystery that the man Amaechi had depended on to do battle against Odili is the man now transforming into his nemesis. Their story is much like the story of two adventurers who went looking for a gold mine. They found it but not before they caught gold fever and the greed for more turned them against each other
Wike’s break-away faction now controls the Rivers State PDP executive council and probably enjoys the sympathy of the national secretariat while two thirds or more of all elected government officials from the Rivers PDP will stand with Amaechi for as long as he pulls the purse strings of the state. While this long and final battle for the soul of the Rivers PDP swells, Amaechi must begin to acknowledge that he is in this situation because of his wrong decisions. He should remember that no one challenged Odili’s leadership of the party until he left the governorship. Perhaps Amaechi now counts elevating Wike to chief of staff as one of his wrong decisions. Wike must also know that a lot of Rivers people have not forgotten the four years of vindictiveness which he spear-headed in Government House Port Harcourt.
Amaechi and Wike owe a lot of people a good apology and in the absence of that apology, a lot of people will still not forget Amaechi’s good deeds especially in his first term. There’s absolutely no record of any good thing that Nyesom Wike had done in Rivers State. This is just a mission of vengeance against Amaechi for not giving him what he wanted. While most people in the state are committed to Jonathan and are not comfortable with Amaechi’s rebellion against the president, they will go Amaechi’s way if Wike is the alternative.
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