One of Nigeria’s leading business information providers, BusinessHallmark Newspaper, has said it is delighted to name Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike its Man of the Year, 2020.
The honour is part of the yearly activities of the Newspaper’s tradition of recognising and honouring outstanding individuals and institutions who have affected the national development in productive ways.
In a letter to the governor signed by Akogun (Chief) Tola Adeniyi, a member of Business Hallmark Advisory Board and Co-Chair of its Public Policy Forum, the organisation said Wike was chosen in recognition of his developmental strides in the state, as well as his staunch defense of democracy.
Adeniyi said the governor “has become the lightning rod for good governance and true democracy.”
The letter reads in part, “Your choice was not only informed by your remarkable success in Rivers State, but mostly for your inspirational evolution as the poster card of true democracy in Nigeria.
“We recall that the immense challenges which confronted your administration at its inception, raging from insecurity, poor infrastructure and an insipid business environment. It is noteworthy that your Excellency has responded creatively to these challenges.
“Findings from our team of editors reveal that there is hardly any facet of life which your government has neglected. Most remarkably, your Excellency has remained steadfast and committed to the ethos of good governance despite the overwhelming and sometimes contrived challenges. Our board had no hesitation therefore, in selecting you for this well merited honour.”
Wike, the organisation said, has become an avatar, a powerful catalyst whose views, alliances and interests largely determine the flow of events both within the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and nationally.
Indeed, Wike has over the past decade, proved to be a master political strategist. it is largely courtesy of him that the opposition party is witnessing a rebirth and is poised to challenge the APC headlong in the 2023 general elections. He has stood up to the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration on several occasions, criticising when necessary and commending when appropriate. In the process, he has emerged almost effortlessly, as one of the most powerful Nigerians as attested by many political observers and analysts.
For Chie Rufus Jolaosho, however, Wike’s emergence as a major player in the nation’s political landscape should not be a surprise to anybody given that he “emerged from a political clan soaked in political intrigue, combat and ambition.”
The conventional wisdom among the crowd in the various centres of power in the country today is that Wike holds the key to a possible PDP victory in the 2023 presidential elections. Kolade Ajao, a political commentator captures it rather vividly, “it’s obvious that he is central to the future of the PDP. What he does, how he does it, who he supports and who he does not support… will all go a long way to determining the future of the party and outcome of the elections!”.
Wike’s rise to national prominence has left even his most ardent critics grudgingly envious. His achievements have since overshadowed that of his mentors.
“Wike’s courage and audacity is what the Niger Delta, nay, Nigeria needs to move to the next level,” says former member, House of Representatives, Hon. Tunde Lakoju. “He motivates the youth and shows the older generation why they must wake up from their sleep.”
As the country braces up for the 2023 general elections in just over two years, political punters are already assessing the alchemy of factors that will throw up Nigeria’s next most powerful and influential leaders. And top on the pecking order of a number of analysts is the ambitious, cerebral and streetwise governor of Nigeria’s second richest state.
“With the stupendous wealth at his disposal, Wike is in a position to buy whatever he wants. In fact, the APC leadership realizes the danger of having him and other oil-rich South-South governors with trillions of naira at their disposal to run riot,” says Chief Bayo Adedoyin, an APC chieftain in Lagos.
“With so much money at their disposal, Wike and his likes portend grave danger, not just to President Buhari and the APC, but to his opponents.”
The Wike mystique is as complex as the explanation of how water slides into the husky tomb of a coconut shell. It embodies brilliance, guile, shrewdness and, as some have claimed, ruthlessness.
“Wike is a principled and courageous man with a load of dexterity,” noted former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Austin Opara. “A reliable ally and that is Nyesom Wike.”
The sixth civilian governor of Rivers has all these attributes and more. He has achieved so much, so fast that his peers look like Lilliputians described in Daniel Defoe’s famous allegorical fantasy, ‘Gulliver’s Travels’. But what else would one expect from an ardent student of the famous Peter Odili clan?
His ebullient demeanour gives an insight into the enormous political strength he carries and reflects his true capacity to move issues along lines that suit his interest. It is an effective tool he has repeatedly used to the eternal regret of his political rivals.
“Gov Wike is a courageous man with a very large heart. He has added immense value to Rivers State, the PDP and Nigeria,” noted former governor of Imo State, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.
Wike is in fact an astute political strategist. As a result of his ever bellicose reputation, many unsuspecting political adversaries had, to their own peril, seen him as unstable and one to be ignored. However, many who have ignored him have done so at huge political costs.
An adept and ruthless student of politics, his emergence on the national platform was not without its challenges. It took a lot of patience and skill for the former Obio Akpor local government chairman to survive intrigues weaved against him by forces in both his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling APC.
A student of power, he learnt the ropes well from Odilli and Amaechi who dominated Rivers politics for more than 16 years and rose through the ranks from the grassroots, becoming Chairman of his Obio/Akpor LGA in 1999, deputy president and later president of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, whose link to the Commonwealth Local Government Forum allowed him to gain exposure beyond Rivers State.
From that moment on, it was clear that he would aim for more. It came as no surprise when Amaechi as governor in 2007, appointed him his chief of staff for four years. He went on to become the director-general of Amaechi’s campaign for the second term.
From there, he became a minister in 2013 and used the position to cement a good relationship with the then President Goodluck Jonathan, as well as building a formidable grassroots support for his governorship ambition.
In 2015, he achieved his ambition of becoming Rivers governor despite stiff opposition from his former principal, Amaechi. Since then, he has never looked back.
But perhaps, his greatest strength has been his ability to endear himself to Rivers with his numerous developmental projects. Regarded as Mr Projects, Wike has continued to perform infrastructure wonders in the state, and this performance has solidified his support base in the state he calls home. This was, of course, clearly seen during the 2019 polls when women, men and youths trooped out in their numbers to resist the military in their attempt to subvert their will and install another governor.
“He is visionary, forthright and does not seek from both sides of his mouth. Governor Wike strives for excellence and is passionately committed to leaving an enduring legacy wherever he finds himself,” said the State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim. “He is bold and courageous; stands for the truth no matter whose ox is gored.”
Even his former employees have only but glowing tributes for the Rivers governor.
“His achievements rest more in the road, education, health and sports infrastructure. His ability to put the PDP together at home and at the centre is commendable,” says Emma Okah, former Commissioner for Information.
“Positiveness, self confidence, courage, intelligence and smartness is what defines Gov Neeson Wike (the people’s Gov)
“He is focused, aggressive and tenacious in all his pursuits. A believer in God, friendship and fairness. Wike killed fear in annas of his life that is why he threads where others dread”, noted his former Special Adviser, Barrister Gloria Akor.
In the words of former Charge d’Affaires for the Embassy of Nigeria in The Hague, Netherlands and Consul-General of Nigeria in Atlanta, Georgia, Ambassador Joe Keshi, Wike is an interesting phenomenon, enigmatic and talented who is often misunderstood.
“I think people should try and understand him and see how they can work with him for the good of the state, the south-south and the country. ln this way, his real potentials will manifest,” Keshi stated.
The Man of the Year award to the Rivers governor, Akogun Adeniyi disclosed, will be presented at an elaborate dinner on Sunday November 22, 2020 at the Civic Centre, Ozumba Mbadiwe Street, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Previous winners of the prestigious Man of the Year Award include former Central Bank governor, now Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II; former Ondo State governor, Olusegun Mimiko; Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele; Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano among others.