A lot of us must still be feeling queasy and a sense of intense sadness at the outcome of the recent elections, especially the presidential poll. It’s not for nothing. You may also have wondered at the frightening human tendency of some politicians to sabotage their own party and betray their own ‘friends’ whom they dragged into a fight for personal, selfish interest. It is mighty difficult not to ask: How will history judge the G5, and in particular, their leader Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state? There is a fact about Wike that his army of devotees and detractors may not have noticed, or ignored. This fact is key to understanding what happened that made him to work against his own party, the Peoples Democratic Party, in favour of the APC presidential candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu, during the  presidential election.                               

Understanding this is to take a hard look at the game of chess. If you had played chess or even as a fan of it, it’s hard to find a better exemplar for competition than chess. Whether you are a lawyer, a journalist, businessperson, soldier or politician on the campaign trail – you will find at some point that you are struggling to come to terms with the 64 black-and-white squares and 32 pieces that make up a chess game. The rule is: We checkmate our opponents, and we are just like pawns in a game. There’s also something peculiarly and uniquely about chess. It’s a battle of skill and and will – in which chance plays little or no clear role. But the game is very compelling. And to be a chess champion, you have to be more than  a chess genius. Winning is about putting yourself in your opponent’s shoes and throwing him off balance.                                               

Wike may not , to borrow the words of Arise TV anchor Dr Ruben Abati,  have the “capacity and intellect” to teach him journalism, Wike probably has mastered the game of chess to achieve success in politics, especially in the recent elections. He was also able to outdo his friends he brought on board the so-called G5 that I  prefer to call the “Gang of Five Governors”. This is because people like Wike who may have no personal knowledge of the game of chess, has, instinctively, come to recognise that chess is unusual in terms of its intellectual and strategic complexity and intensity that it demands on players. However, this is where Wike offends the rules of the game. While a chess player requires skill and will to excel, Wike’s unique selling points are raw power and wilfulness. Unlike a chess player who is always calm and calculating, knowing that concentration is everything, Wike is a talker and a tackler with a short fuse.  I have taken some time since after the elections, and the role that Wike played and what he’s planning ahead, to come to the following conclusions.

In the pursuit of larger personal,  political gains, Wike simply vanquished the senatorial ambition of three of his gang in the G5 –  Gov Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia, Samuel Ortom of Benue,  and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu state. That Gov Seyi Makinde of Oyo state won his re-election , unknown to the trio of Ikpeazu, Ortom and Ugwuanyi, it was part of the larger end that Wike got in the deal with the Tinubu camp. Wike made himself ‘comfortable’ in the enemy’s territory, and sacrificed his friends in the G5. He has told us that very soon, he will invite Tinubu to come commission some projects in Rivers state.  Former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov would tell you that what Wike did in the elections was a ‘trick’ in chess parlance,  the height of human deceit and Mathematical intuition to win.                       

Don’t forget that in August last year, six months ahead of the presidential election, a chieftain of the APC and a placeholder for the Vice Presidential candidate position( before Senator Kashim Shettima was officially named),  Ibrahim Masari had told everyone who cared to listen, that Wike was working for the APC, and was in talks with Tinubu to help him win the presidential election. Masari told BBC Hausa service that Tinubu and Wike had met in London to work out the details of how the former would work against his own party(PDP). “The London and Paris meetings”, Masari claimed, were “basically on the 2023 presidential election, and by God’s grace, we are going to work with Gov Wike. He will assist us, and we are going to win the election with ease. This is because Wike is a big politician, and he has control in some other states apart from his state. If you will remember, it was APC that caused the failure of APC in Bauchi state in 2019”. Asked how Wike could sabotage his own party he had contributed so much for, Masari said: “Someone can assist you even without joining your party if he wants to”.                                                 

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Looking back now, Masari has been proved right. Is this Wike’s endgame to avenge his lose to Atiku at the PDP presidential primaries in May 2022?  The issue of “fairness and equity”, was a mere smokescreen. It also has nothing to do with removing Dr Iyorchia Ayu as PDP national chairman in the spirit of zoning. It’s all about Wike and what he stands to gain.  Who says our politics is not a fun to follow. But keep this in view : Wike is not done yet. His final destination in the months ahead is to feed the fire in PDP, bring the roof down, and perhaps cause irredeemable damage and disaffection among the National Working Committee (NWC) members. This is an ongoing plot. Watch out as it unfolds. Key members of the party are being ‘recruited’ to make this possible. The reported suspension of Ayu by his ward in Gboko, Benue state at the weekend, is just the beginning of the feeding fire.                                               

All of this boils down to what Robert Greene says in his famous book: “The 48 Laws of Power”. Of particular interest to every student of politics, Greene has this to say: “In your rise to power you will come across many breeds of opponent, sucker, and victim. The highest form of the art of power is the ability to distinguish the wolves from the lambs, the foxes from the hares, the hawks from the vultures. If you make this distinction well, you will succeed without needing to coerce anyone too much. But if you deal blindly with whomever crosses your path, you will have a life of constant sorrow, if you ever live that long”. He also advises that, “being able to recognize types of people, and to act accordingly, is critical”.                                                        

I also find very interesting, at least for the purpose of this piece, and the man in the mirror, one of the “five dangerous difficult types of mark in the jungle” that Greene identified that we should be extremely careful in dealing with. He calls that  “The Arrogant and Proud Man”. According to him, although this man may initially disguise it, his touchy pride makes him very dangerous. His exact words: “Any perceived slight will lead to a vengeance of overwhelming violence. You may say to yourself, “But I only said such -and-such at a party, where everyone was drunk…” It does not matter. There is no sanity behind his overreaction, so do not waste time trying to figure him out. If at any point in your dealings with a person you sense an oversensitive and overactive pride, flee. Whatever you are hoping for from him isn’t worth it “.                                                   Wisdom, the Bible teaches, belongs to those who seek advice(Proverbs 13:10). It is unfortunate that the hopelessly insecure men in the G5 followed the sucker and became his victims. They could not distinguish the wolves from the lambs. Prize and punishment are not of the same coin. What happened to the trio of Ikpeazu, Ortom and Ugwuanyi, are lessons in politics and leadership on how one should be judged by history. The starting point is to be mindful of what you do while in public office, and the need to create a favourable impression before your exit.              

Every leader must ask and answer this question: will I like to be remembered as a selfish narcissist or a selfless steward? Your supporters and friends will certainly recall these images if you devoted the final days of your tenure bragging about your accomplishments, grabbing goodies for yourself as if you are the sun around which all planets must revolve, and settling personal scores.  Long story short, how a politician handles himself or herself during his/her final months and weeks in power will have a big impact on how he or she, will be remembered. It pays to step down gracefully.