·Fears, joy as Rivers ex-governor, Nyesom Wike, becomes next FCT Minister
By Ignatius Chukwu
Everything Wike evokes controversy for over 10 years now. Even to be made minister from his PDP base to a new base also generated huge controversies. Now, as he marched to Abuja to assume his seat as ‘Governor of the FCT’ talks still trailed him. Most of this was captured in BusinessDay report on Sunday. But, the next day, ex-Gov Wike seemed to justify the controversies by announcing at a press conference that he was going to roll out the bulldozers right away. That is vintage Wike. He throws stones in all directions, whether he lives in a glass house or not.
Rivers-born Nyesom Wike was minister for four years, stormed Rivers State to become governor for eight years, and is back to Abuja as minister. As simple as that? Now! Not so simple.
Rivers State and most of Nigeria are awash in speculations as to why Wike, of all persons, is the next Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Everywhere one touches the matter, it drips with controversy.
Many believed Wike, perhaps the most controversial politician in the present era, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, and a sold-out critic of the rival All Progressives Congress (APC), would never become minister in an APC presidency. This is more so as the last battle was between him and his erstwhile friend and perceived partner, Magnus Abe, from Rivers State also.
When the ministerial list was unveiled, all eyes looked out for Wike’s name, or the name from Rivers State. It was Wike’s.
Now, many concluded Mr Projects would naturally be named Works Minister since he was teaching the new president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, how to get the Ministry of Works right, and the formula for quick road projects execution (you must push not less than 75 per cent of cost out on day one because, he said, piecemeal budgeting was a disaster. The law must be amended to allow a governor or minister do so, he added).
When the allocations came out, Wike was to proceed to Abuja, not as Minister of Works, but as Minister of the FCT.
Many detractors hailed what they termed the ‘finishing’ or ‘humiliation’ of Wike.
Theories of Wike’s mission to Abuja:
As the news dawned deeper on Rivers people, new theories have emerged to prove that ex-Gov Wike’s posting to Abuja may not be to ‘finish him off’ or a ‘humiliation’. Most Rivers persons now claim Wike is on a special mission. They claim that a rerun is possible and he has been moved ahead to capture all structures of power in the FCT and get ready to deliver Tinubu 100 per cent this time around. They claim this task is not new to him and that the European Union election monitoring group confirmed this in their final report. In this case, Wike is believed to be ‘EU-certified’.
Another theory is that his new position would deliver documents of almost all his detractors and enemies of recent years into his hands to decide what pleased him. Many are already salivating over possible task forces that may emerge and demolitions that may happen. This reputation is said to be what stood El-Rufai out for years. Did people acquire lands illegally? Did anybody build on wrong lane as El-Rufai was once said to have suggested to his then boss, Olusegun Obasanjo, about Aso Rock probably being built on a Right of Way.
Another theory is that over the years, Rivers opposition politicians found Abuja as safe haven and thus moved any matter against their interest from Port Harcourt to Abuja. Now, with Wike as the new ‘landlord’ of Abuja, and with his very loyal political son holding full command in Port Harcourt, it may mean that his opponents may have no hiding place any more except they relocate to another middle belt state such as Nasarawa or Plateau State to access Abuja without fear.
Reactions from home:
Ibim Semenitari, perhaps, is the first important personality to openly congratulate Wike as soon as the allocation was made public by yet another Rivers son, Ajuri Ngelale.
When contacted, Ibim defended her position thus; “Certainly, congratulations are in order. First time a southerner is getting into the saddle since Abuja was created. However, there was a Northerner (Muhammadu Ribadu from today’s Adamawa) as Minister of Lagos Affairs (when Lagos was FCT).
The voices from home seem varied, just as the division in the state has been since 2012 when Wike seemed to pull the political rug from his former boss and Ikwerre kinsman, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.
Many have taken to social media to ventilate their opinions on the Wike saga. Victor Burubo said; “Those who fled PH to avoid him (Wike) will they also flee Abuja now that ‘Wike is coming’? I can’t laugh enough.”
Deinbo Briggs said: “One thing am sure Wike will definitely achieve in office in first month is setting up of Task Force. This is his area of specialization.”
Abiasiama Udousoro, supporting the opinion that Wike would be volatile, said: “They will need a rope around his waist.”
Dason Nemieboka supports the need for rope around their kinsman in Abuja, meaning he should exercise some restraint. His friend, Theophilus Igobobo, rather showed excitement, saying ‘Wao! This is trouble coming. Samuel Oguza mocked detractors with the Wike slogan, Ntoor.
On a more serious note, some notable personalities in the state have debunked notions that FCT is a dry portfolio without billions of naira to control. Ogoni-born Kingsley Nwinee joined in thinking Wike would be caged. “How many boards or agencies are under the FCT so as to empower the followers? In FCT 80 per cent of the stakeholders/residents are cabals and highly political. In FCT INEC conducts election into the six development councils unlike in the states where state electoral bodies superintend and announce the results. In FCT the Senate and House of Representatives legislate over them. The ministry even has a junior minister. FCT is more like Port Harcourt city with a master plan. It’s the seat of power with influx of visitors.
On fears that Wike may revoke plots belonging to his detractors all over Nigeria, the Rivers State APC public secretary, Darlington Nwauju, said: “The FCT is quite organized and has a Masterplan with a development agency in place. Can a Minister act ultra vires the existing laws of the FCT? No one who genuinely owns a property need fret.
Some however reminded him that in Port Harcourt, those whose property were demolished and sieged had genuine papers.
On her own, Oby Ndukwe, who stood for years for Amaechi and who was with Wike when they all worked for Amaechi, said; “It’s a system, not about individuals. There have been ministers before. Abuja is too big for one person. He is not any threat. Positioning Wike as FCT Minister could be for rerun purposes. He could help them to muster 25 per cent.”
A political strategist now based in Abuja agreed that Wike’s detractors should lose sleep. “Of course, it is vendetta period. Wike as minister of FCT will be like a punishment dispenser to his detractors and cynics.”
A media strategist and information management expert, Blessing Nwikina, said Wike’s briefs as FCT Minister are heavier than his brief as Gov of Rivers State. “This is because in the FCT he will be relating directly with the international community, embassies, high commissioners, consulate, etc, as per their presence.
“Wike knows that a diplomatic mistake is more dangerous than a political mistake. I see him toning down on politics, and doing things in line with due process.
“So, the issue of ‘politics’, ‘detractors’, ‘enemies’, will just fizzle out. Abuja is Nigeria-plus. There will be interests and policies that are larger than the space which he was used to in Rivers State.”
In case anyone was in doubt, a Wike supporter in Port Harcourt released the parastals under their former governor. “As the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Wike is now the Governor of FCT and number one citizen too.
“Also as the FCT Minister, he receives monthly allocation as other States, and the following parastatals are under him: Abuja Agricultural Development Project; Abuja Environmental Protection Board; Abuja Investment Company Limited (AICL); Abuja Property; Abuja Property Development Company (APDC); Abuja Urban Mass Transit; Agency for Mass Education; Area Council Pension Board; Area Council Services Board; Council for Arts & Culture; FCT Sports Council; FCT Water Resources; and Muslim Welfare Board.”
In years ahead, Wike’s mission to Abuja will remain the topic of discussion, if not speculation.