By Femi Adesina
It came like a bolt out of the blue. Early this week, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, issued an advertisement, which went in a completely different direction compared to what he had always said of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Wike we knew was either usually crying wolf where there was none, alleging that the Federal Government wanted to kill him, or claiming that he was not answerable to the central government at Abuja in any way, or even pontificating that the President and his political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), had failed the country in diverse ways.
If not for the maturity, and the avuncular attitude of President Buhari to all state governors, it would have been easy for one to conclude that he and Wike were enemies. Forsworn ones.
There was also the then Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose, who had formed a tag team with Wike in the anti-Buhari tendency. The President could have dealt with them in many ways, either overtly or covertly, but he let them be. He was a father ready to tolerate his many children, irrespective of their differing idiosyncrasies, propensities and predilections.
A couple of weeks back, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), of which President Buhari is the Chairman, had approved the refund of N148 billion to five states in the country for repair of Federal roads. They included Rivers, Cross River, Bayelsa, Ondo and Osun.
Of the five states, only Ondo and Osun belong to the APC. The other three are of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Rivers, under Wike, was particularly combative, truculent, if not at times insulting. But the President did not let that influence his decision. He did what was right, fair and just, irrespective of party affiliations, or personal inclinations.
Rivers State got the highest figure of N78.9 billion, and I remember some people asking me why the President should give such money to a governor who would call him names the next day. But that was where Wike surprised everybody. Last Monday, he issued newspaper advertisements with the title, ‘Thank You Our Dear President.’
Dear President. False? True. Was it the Printer’s Devil? Not so. The Governor boldly appended his signature to the document.
He thanked the President for approving the refund, noting: “Mr President has by this remarkable and heart-warming gesture shown not only your love for the Government and people of Rivers State, but also, demonstrated expressly that you are, indeed, a President for every State of the Federation and all Nigerians.”
False? True. Printer’s Devil? Not so. The Governor went on:
“I assure you that the Rivers State Government is willing and ever ready to cooperate and partner with the Federal Government to advance the developmental aspirations of Rivers State in particular, and our nation in general.”
On seeing the above, I am sure millions of people must have cleaned their eyes, wondering if they were reading correctly. Having satisfied themselves that there were no cataracts, they went ahead:
“I wish to, therefore, appeal to Mr President to kindly oblige us a State visit when invited, to see what we have accomplished for the State and our people with the money.”
Wike, inviting President Buhari on a State visit. False? True. Printer’s Devil? Not so. He meant every word of it, and therefore appended his signature.
Many times, I had responded as spokesman to the President, to wolf cries by the Rivers State Governor. At a point, I began to ignore such cries, just as I did to Fayose before him. Mr President simply took all the wild allegations in his strides, and continued working for the country, all parts of the country.
In January 2018, there had been vicious killings in some parts of the country. States affected were; Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Yobe, Rivers and Zamfara. The President decided to embark on sympathy and solidarity visits to the states. All the Governors were receptive, except Wike, who said the visit was a smokescreen, meant to revive the dying APC in Rivers State.
“Apart from Jesus Christ, we don’t know of anyone who has risen a dead thing. APC is a dead party in Rivers State. No matter how you fast and pray, it will never wake up, “ he had said.
Again, he declared at another time, talking of the President: “We are the only state that the Federal Government refused to pay us our money used to execute Federal projects, because I don’t go to see him in the night, and I won’t go. He is not my friend, he is not doing well…”
When about 20 people were killed on New Year Day 2018, in Omoku area of the state, and the President wanted to visit, Wike demurred. He said there were killings everyday all over the country, and it meant the President must visit every State on a daily basis.
The circle has turned fully round, and Governor Wike is inviting the President to visit. He says he’s “a President for every State of the Federation and all Nigerians.” Wonderful!
Some people say it is N78.9 billion that is working, and the Governor is clearly inebriated by that windfall. But I don’t think so. Rivers is by no means a poor state. The amount is handsome, no doubt, but the state is oil rich, and can hold her own when it comes to finances. I rather choose to believe that Governor Wike had been playing a curious kind of politics all along, and now, fairness and justice have touched him in a positive way.
“He is not my friend, he is not doing well, ‘ he had said. Now, he is calling the man “our dear President “ asking him to be “assured of our profound esteem.” Wonders, indeed, shall never end.
There are millions upon millions of us round the country, who love President Buhari, and believe in him. We are called Buharists, and we have no apologies. They abuse us, deride and malign us, at times, they even threaten us. But we remain who and what we are: Buharists. Come rain or shine.
Why do we love the President, and unconditionally too. Is he a flawless, perfect man? Does he run a perfect, flawless government? Not exactly so, and I’ve not seen any in this world. But we stand by him, through thick and thin. Like Dr Okolo Oteri Eme, one of the Buhari Amazons posted on Facebook earlier this week, “We do not support him because we like him but because he gives us solid, verifiable reasons to love him on a daily basis.”
I see a man with solid integrity, honesty, sense of accountability, in a forest of crooked, perverse people, and you ask me not to follow him? I will follow him from Benin to Beijing, from Cape to Cairo, anywhere, everywhere.
I see a man bringing enduring change to agriculture, to infrastructure; roads, rail, bridges, airports, laying a $2.8 billion gas pipeline, money he could have craftily diverted for himself and for generations unborn, and you ask me not to believe in him? #We Believe! Ask Maryam Shetty, another Buhari Amazon.
I am glad Governor Wike has now seen what we had seen long ago, some of us as far back as 1983. And he has realized that it was time to stop the kind of politics he had played all the while.
My friend, Lorenz Mba, summed it all up in a message he sent to me on Wednesday. “For those who constantly maligned PMB, and called him all sorts of unprintable names, N78.9 billion is your answer. You simply won’t give those you hate N78.9 billion. I see that this gesture has truly humbled Nyesom Wike. Politics is all about propaganda. I salute PMB for his show of maturity in all these grandstanding by Southeast and South-south politicians. Go to Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, Onitsha-Enugu, 2nd Niger Bridge today. Talk was cheap. PMB showed up. Enough of rhetoric, Biko.”
We said it that President Buhari hates no part of the country. He has come to serve, and not to be served. He is fair and equitable to all. But they said our mouths were smelling, and we should shut up. Governor Wike has now vindicated us. We are glad. We Believe!
- Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, writes from Abuja.