Wike’s Odyssey, By Dele Agekameh
The point is not about who did what to whom, as the political class involves similarly inept individuals. The issue is about getting politicians to refrain from using the forces and agencies of government for frivolities and personal vendettas.
Nigeria is currently locked in a cycle of misrule and arbitrary use of power in government. From what is going on, it is quite clear that the political class has converted the machinery of state into a weapon for perpetuating dogged vendettas and settling political scores, thereby derailing from the real objectives of political office. The end result is that Nigerians are left with a system in which their interests are sidelined for party-driven agendas and misadventures of the political elite.
And it appears that there is no shortage of avenues through which political pressure can be exerted on anyone. This is because all agencies of government, including the police force, have become mere tools by oppressors in power to attain their political objectives. Surprisingly these objectives have nothing to do with serving the people but are more geared towards incapacitating perceived enemies.
One curious example is Nyesom Wike. The governor of Rivers State has recently come under fire from multiple directions in what is thought to be a carefully orchestrated campaign against the governor by the federal government through its agents. Whether this is true or not, one material fact remains that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has hold of power at the centre. In Nigerian terms, this means that all things and all people connected to the opposition, are fair game for agents of the federal government.
The present probe by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) into the alleged fraud and embezzlement orchestrated by the Rivers State governor, is considered as an example of the many instances of a power tussle by the political elite. The power game is openly and, sometimes, shamelessly perpetuated using the full machinery of the state that ought to be used for the people’s benefit. In addition to the EFCC probe, a leaked audio tape that allegedly contains a conversation where Wike threatened the lives of some officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and admitted to bribing others, also emerged some time ago.
Wike has always been a controversial figure. Besides, Rivers State politics (and hence, politicians) is generally ‘muddy’ as it is. The political scene in the state has witnessed a bitter struggle for power between Wike and Rotimi Amaechi, the former governor of the state. And the friction between the duo appears to be eternal. In truth, Amaechi, an APC member, and Wike who belongs to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are both representing the interests of their larger political parties.
Today, Wike’s administration stands accused of the mismanagement of funds amidst similar allegations against other serving and current PDP governors. But his arch nemesis, Amaechi, who has been named in more than one alleged bribery investigation, is sitting comfortably within the ranks of the ruling party untouched for now…
Amaechi notably endured many indignities at the hands of Wike, then a minister of state for education, who had the support of the federal government under former President Goodluck Jonathan. Now, the APC has unseated PDP at the centre and appears to be using the “federal might” to hound Wike, just like the PDP did to Amaechi in the past. One does not need to be a Wike apologist to see the trend that is taking shape, especially amidst rumours of selective investigations and prosecutions in this administration, which has seen far more PDP casualties.
Ibrahim Idris, the Inspector General of Police, who was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari, has now launched a full investigation into the leaked tape. All focus of the investigation appears to be on implicating Wike and not necessarily carrying out a comprehensive investigation which might implicate many others, including APC-affiliated individuals. Also, from a statement issued by INEC, as at Sunday, February 12, 2017, INEC said it was yet to receive a notice or report of allegations of bribery against any of its staff. This almost shows that even with INEC’s track record of collaborating with politicians to rig elections, the police somehow have shown less interest in moving forward with investigation of its officials. This has made the picture clearer that there may be a vendetta against Wike in the offing from the centre.
Recently, after Republican Donald Trump won the US presidential race through the electoral college vote, his rival on the side of the Democrats, Hillary Clinton, was graceful enough to concede defeat and attend his inauguration in the spirit of peace. Her graceful carriage after the loss came after a tough and bitter contest. Unfortunately, Nigerian politicians are not as graceful. Today, Wike’s administration stands accused of the mismanagement of funds amidst similar allegations against other serving and current PDP governors. But his arch nemesis, Amaechi, who has been named in more than one alleged bribery investigation, is sitting comfortably within the ranks of the ruling party untouched for now, while his party enjoys primacy.
It is almost certain that if power were to change hands in the next elections, PDP will do the exact thing to APC governors and other officials. And the cycle of vendetta will go on and on whilst weakening government apparatus further. Now, we all know about the immunity clause for sitting governors in section 308 of the constitution and will prevent any prosecution of Wike until after he ceases to be governor of Rivers State. If the allegations are so crucial and substantial, the only other option will be to submit a report to the Rivers State House of Assembly who can then deliberate and either impeach the governor or dismiss the allegations. The campaign of calumny that has been employed instead belies a sinister, rather than sincere, motivation for the move against Wike, who, as has been hinted, is no saint.
Apart from the partisan flavour of the investigations and probes, there is the almost comical truth about individuals within the present administration who have been accused of numerous acts similar to the allegations against Wike, but of which no investigations have been launched.
There is no substitute for a stable government, undisturbed by frivolous investigations. Perhaps, this is why the immunity clause in the constitution exists; not to protect the people that enjoy the immunities, but to protect the system; and to preserve the machinery from unwanted distractions. The problem with our politicians is that they get busy playing politics at all times and paying little attention to the demands of the job they actually got elected or appointed to do. Nigerian politics is complicated enough and should not be so driven by vendetta so much that the real aim of governance is sidelined. The truth is that the oppressors in this episode are every inch as corrupt as the oppressed. Regrettably, no matter the grandstanding by the incumbent IGP, the police itself is an agency with next to zero public confidence due to corrupt practices.
Also bothersome is the new foundations for abuse that are being set in this administration of “change”. Dangerous precedents like using the Department of State Security (DSS) to perform all manners of tasks against public and private citizens, for non-violent matters that have specialised agencies already assigned the roles. Precedents like mass, coordinated ‘attacks’ on individuals and the knack of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) for overreaching, should not be encouraged in a system that is notorious for repeating old mistakes. Already, there are allegations by Rivers PDP that the federal government is planning a scheme to interfere with the management of funds by the Rivers State government. This, if there is any truth to it, is a dangerous game to play.
Apart from the partisan flavour of the investigations and probes, there is the almost comical truth about individuals within the present administration who have been accused of numerous acts similar to the allegations against Wike, but of which no investigations have been launched. Instead, a sitting governor is being investigated. Still, there can be no pity for Wike, who, if the roles were reversed, would employ the same tactics or more. The point is not about who did what to whom, as the political class involves similarly inept individuals. The issue is about getting politicians to refrain from using the forces and agencies of government for frivolities and personal vendettas.
It is clear that there is a campaign against PDP politicians all over the place, using tricks from old playbooks that we have seen in the past. Even Jonathan’s regime had untouchables who have now been ‘touched’ and dragged in the mud. It is high time the entire playbook is discarded and this cycle of vendettas and shameful politics be put to bed.
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