As the governor of Nigeria’s oil-rich Rivers State, life is bound to be bright and beautiful, and bubbly. If you are now predisposed to epicurean pleasures like Governor Nyesom Wike, bingeing daily on the
most expensive bourbon or champagne or cognac should not raise any eyebrow, no?
This must be Governor Wike’s response to the mass hysteria that heralded a viral picture of him, in company with Ayo Fayose, his social and political collaborator and former governor of Ekiti State—regally placed on a table before them was a bottle of Dalmore whiskey. Different commentators lampooned the governor for the brazen display of the whiskey especially those who remembered that in the wake of the presidential election, Wike had gleefully told a stunned nation that he was drinking a 40-year-old whiskey whilst his party members were protesting their electoral loss.
Indeed, some days after Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, APC was declared winner of the February 25 presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the People’s Democratic
Party, PDP, led leaders and members of the party in a protest march to the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Abuja, stating that the election was marred with irregularities.
Wike, typically, took potshots at everybody involved with the rally. He said, “As they were protesting, I just sat down and I took one 40-year-old whiskey. I called some of my friends ‘o boy, sit down. Make una sit down open 40 years. Then I put on television, see as dem dey do marching. They have become labour union, they have become students union ‘all we are saying…’ chai. You are saying what? What are you saying? That you have taken over the role of students’ union, aluta continua. That is what the party has become, aluta continua.”
Ironically, the protest was held around 11 am on Monday when rational and responsible people were at work and a dutiful and serious-minded governor was expected to be in his office attending to state matters. But, not Governor Wike. It was whiskey-o-clock on Monday morning.
Phrank Shaibu, a spokesperson for Atiku, addressed this in a strident statement. Shaibu advised the governor to stay off alcohol because it had “affected his voice and demeanour,” adding, “Governor Wike says he was drinking whiskey during the protest at 11:30 am on a Monday. This reveals the sort of man he is – a dipsomaniac who abandons his official duties on Monday morning to binge on whiskey.”
Aside from the shock and surprise that he was drinking on a Monday morning when his party had just lost a presidential election; the price of the drink threw many people completely off balance. Dalmore
whiskies tend to be on the upper end of ‘premium’, and well outside the price range of average whiskey drinkers. The ‘40year’ that Wike announced that he was drinking cost a princely $9, 500. In naira, that’s slightly over a gasp-inducing N9 million per bottle.
In retrospect, there might be a semblance of truth in what Wike’s predecessor and the immediate past former Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, alleged during electioneering that the governor spends
N50m on alcohol every week. Of course, the majority of those who read the report thought that it was not only incredulous and near impossible but that it must be borne out of envy, malice, and their long-drawn animosity towards each other. Amaechi and Wike are known to be sworn enemies, stemming from the former’s opposition to the latter’s aspiration to succeed him as Rivers State governor before the 2015 election. Before their bitter fallout, Wike served as Chief of Staff to then Governor Amaechi. So, they know each other intimately.
During one of his stumps for the All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship candidate, Tonye Cole, in the Ogba-Egbema-Ndoni local government area of the state, Amaechi was quoted as saying, “The person Wike buys alcohol from said Wike spends N50million every week on alcohol. The primary school we built is N112 million. It means that in two weeks, Wike has drank one primary school. When Wike talks, it is alcohol that is talking. And he’s so shameless about it. Wike told the whole world on live TV that he was drinking a very expensive 40-year-old whiskey in the morning.”
Even if many are not privy to the budget for the governor’s drinks, the viral picture puts paid to all doubts. Indeed, the worst kind of enemy has to be a friend that you have been through the trenches together, who knows your weaknesses and strengths and best-kept secrets. Amaechi knows Wike like the back of his palm. And there is a correlation between what Amaechi, an accustomed teetotaller, said about his former buddy’s utterances and the effect of alcohol, especially the type Wike fancies. Amid intense revelry, whiskey loosens the tongue and helps drop the reveller’s guard; and if you are not adept at controlling it, what the drinker utters will be unbridled and, sometimes, regrettable.
Though modesty and decorum are not exactly Wike’s strong suit, there must have been a regular, potent trigger behind some of the most absurd tales and tantrums, soundbites, and tabloid headlines that he treated Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora to in the run-up to the last general election. Governor Wike takes the cake for being the undisputed protagonist in the series of macabre dramas that happened
during and after electioneering. The story of how he lost the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, presidential primaries to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who also overlooked him for the running mate slot, preferring Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, is well documented. Also well-known is how he and his G-5 cohorts polarised the party.
Every other day, he had something to say about his party and those who ‘betrayed’ him, particularly, Iyorchia Ayu, the suspended national chairman of the party. Wike unravelled as something like a court
jester, a sore loser, and an absolutist lacking prudence and perspicacity. In many quarters, it was alleged that his unguarded, crude, and intemperate persona contributed to why he lost the PDP VP slot to Okowa.
The accretion of these perceptions made many conclude that Wike should be nowhere near public office. Yet, Wike had been in the corridors of power since he left law school in 1997. An only-in-Nigeria kind of
political success story, he was appointed the executive chairman of Obio Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State in 1999 and was in office till 2007. He was subsequently appointed the Chief of Staff to
Amaechi and served for four years. In 2011, former President Goodluck Jonathan appointed him the Minister of State for Education. Wike became a substantive Minister a while later. He resigned in 2014 to
contest the governorship of Rivers State and won. Now in the twilight of his second term, a shot at the presidency left him with egg on the face.
Consequently, that devastating loss made him change from one of Nigeria’s best-performing governors to a cautionary tale whose utterances belie his divine political trajectory and successes. But, warts and all, whiskey or no, Wike has achieved a lot in his political career, and he would prefer that Nigerians cut him some slack for his indulgences. His second term as governor ends on May 29. Luckily, he succeeded in installing one of his loyalists, Siminalayi Fubara, as the next governor of Rivers State. This means Governor Wike will not lack his favourite expensive whiskeys for some time to come. After all, one good ‘round’ deserves another.