BREAKING: Tinubu, Wike Clash: A Coming Attraction

For reasons that often define the courses of different faces of politics in Nigeria, the turn of future outcomes is often easily predictable. In the same fashion is one of the trending political scenarios being the dalliance between President Bola Ahmed Tinubu the ‘Jagaban’ of Borgu Emirate, and Chief Nyesom Wike, a former governor of Rivers State and now the Minister of the Federal Capital Abuja, a matter of concern to not a few Nigerians. Considering the backdrop of runs in public office by Bola Ahmed Tinubu, whether as a Senator (1990-1993), or as governor of Lagos State (1999-2007), or even as the political strongman of Lagos State from 1999 to date, and even as a political leader of note across the country, including his role as one of the founding fathers of the ruling political party the All Progressives Congress (APC), he has never been known to tolerate ‘loose cannons’ as his followers. A follower either toes his line as leader as much as possible and in every direction, or drop off the wagon.

This streak has been played out in several instances including the dispensation of the election or selection of governors for Lagos State under the charge of Bola Tinubu. Immediately coming to mind was his role in denying Akinwunmi Ambode a former governor of Lagos State the opportunity of running for a second term in office in 2019. It is easily recalled that Ambode’s offence was trying to assert himself as governor, in a manner that suggested diminished subservience to the master. It is also instructive that the serving governor of Lagos State Babajide Sanwo-Olu, dutifully and correctly read the body language of the ‘Jagaban’, and played along during the March 2024 electoral campaigns, which gave him a second term in office.

It is against the backdrop of the assertive style of President Bola Tinubu that not a few Nigerians and foreigners alike are concerned with the nine month dalliance between him and Nyesom Wike a known ‘loose cannon’, with portends of a future face-off between the two men just a matter of time. It has remained a matter of public interest how the two politicians have striven to maintain before the public, the semblance of a harmonious working relationship when in actual fact, both are play acting, with each waiting for the other to play the fall guy.

This becomes obvious when the circumstances and factors associated with their dalliance are pieced together. In that situation, it does not require any attribute of clairvoyance to see the end game of a Tinubu/Wike dalliance as more of a collision than a docking outcome. For instance as President of the country, Bola Tinubu will readily be inclined to face as little resistance from opposition political parties and interests in governance. His abiding interest in sourcing malleable elements in opposition parties who could be bought over with juicy offers of political gains, therefore remains defined.

Meanwhile here was a man Nyesom Wike, who was rounding of his second tenure as governor of Rivers State, and was baying for continuity in public office, as if it was the oxygen for his living. Wike who just lost the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), even as he nursed an aversion to life outside public office in a manner that a fish would fear life out of water, and was desperate for a lifeline.  In desperation, Wike of the PDP, had sought private audience with Tinubu of the APC, even with flagrant breach of rules of his party.

Hence in one vein, here was Bola Tinubu then an aspirant to the Presidency who was keen on a totalitarian run in office if he wins. In the other vein was a man Nyesom Wike who was begrudged against his party and willing to sell and destroy his party for a price. The rest as they say is history as Wike landed a juicy cabinet office in Tinubu’s administration.

Some of the factors of interest are as follows. First, Wike’s early efforts at seeking accommodation with Tinubu, met with a rebuke by the latter who described Wike as a chameleon and himself as a leopard. In fact, Tinubu wondered aloud as he described a working relationship between both of them as comparable to a leopard working together with a chameleon.

Meanwhile, so far Wike has not disappointed in terms of sabotaging the PDP in every way he finds comfort, just to appease Tinubu. In this respect he has been striving to destabilize the Rivers State chapter of the PDP by recklessly stomping on any one in his path of perfidy and reaping the infamy of turning even his long standing allies into sworn enemies.

Among his latest missteps was the recent denigration of some of his most dependable allies and sponsors especially the revered former governor of Rivers State Dr Peter Odili and his wife Justice Mary Odili,  a retired justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

Beyond the terrain of conjecture, the latest attack on the Odilis, is seen across the Rivers State largely as perhaps the height of perverseness from Nyesom Wike, by the wider cross section of the political establishment in the state, and it should be of more than casual significance to Bola Tinubu as President.

While Tinubu may be enjoying Wike’s proclivities as a faithful agent provocateur, the dividends may be coming at a huge price. Seen in a proper context Tinubu may be sitting on a knife edge as far as the politics of Rivers State is concerned, as he is actually, facing a choice between Nyesom Wike and the political establishment in the Rivers State. If Tinubu choose to run with Wike, than the politics of Rivers State may elude his control as President. However, given that politics is eventually a game of numbers, Tinubu should recognise the advantage of siding with the Rivers State political establishment, and early enough.

Meanwhile, whatever be the president’s proclivity, not a few Nigerians are waiting for the coming attraction – drama or no show, that will be the exit of Wike from Tinubu’s cabinet.