Wike’s absolute box office, by Bamidele Johnson –


Whichever way his spunky and protracted challenge of the Atiku-Ayu complex ends, Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers State, would have tattooed himself on our consciousness. In these socially and economically depressing times, his media appearances every two market days are joy to the world; a prodigious social media content factory, at least in the meantime.

It is, of course, silly to harbour the thought-however fleetingly-that the Atiku-Ayu arm of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with whom he is no mutual admiration society, is entertained by him or ever will be. The chances of the latter happening, whether or not Atiku wins the presidency, are skeletally thin.

It will not matter, as many are grateful to have been thrilled by and will remember him for a while. Unlike Atiku and Ayu, men whose ages impose on them the sedateness, Wike has got and shows juice aplenty, the reason he is box office. He is a big ball of bitterness, hostility, belligerence, loudness and obnoxiousness. He is incurably attention-hogging and publicity-addicted, which makes me fear for his mental health when the klieg lights go off at the end of his term. Very few on the current political landscape embody the qualities listed above, let alone in similar proportions. Ayodele Fayose, the former Ekiti State governor; and Dino Melaye, the cartoonish former senator, perhaps. But even the most generous adult delinquency assessors will list them as karaoke versions.

You may find the listed attributes revolting, but you would struggle not to admire how genuinely he does not care about making himself look a weapons-grade lout to the public as well as his wife and children. Familiarity tends to breed staleness, but not in Wike’s case. He predictably bonkers every now and then. Yet he keeps arresting attention, with the public unable to get enough of him. Any announcement of an impending television appearance is lustily amplified on social media platforms to draw more eyeballs. When post-appearance videos make their way online, they are hungrily feasted upon. He has inspired numerous memes. Let’s just say he is one of the most meme-able Nigerians today.

Wike is seismic in words and deeds. The offence he causes his opponents through his sense of grievance and the stridently hysterical way he expresses such are tempered by a staggering predilection for drama. Songs are a major tool in his hands. He renders them well-if your idea of a great voice is the frog croak. A remake of one of his diss anthems of choice, “As e dey pain dem” or “Agreement is agreement”, featuring 90s Jamaican dancehall star, Shabba Ranks, would quintuple the workload of the country’s ear doctors. Shabba’s booming growl atop Wike’s hoarseness would be ghastly to the eardrum. Dance? Holy shit! He does that, too, rolling his hands into fists and wriggling like a worm on a hook. He dresses like a box office star. Depending on his mood (never changes from surly even when happy), he could appear rigged up like he is going to the opera or look like a vacationing oligarch in a jacket and floral shirt.  He is also not averse to mobster couture with his jacket-floral shirt-fedora hat ensemble and trademark dark glasses to look like a mafia boss. These days, he is as much a celebrity as a politician.

 A little over seven years ago, long before he became drunk on himself and got in an unceasing funk, he was sweet-looking like a matinee idol: All smooth and chubby face, with an upper lip fenced by a thin moustache. That look has faded from memory. The jawline has faltered, with the face not just wrinkly but patch-marked like booli left too long on the coal pot. Age? Work-related stress? One or both may be responsible. The prime suspect, according to whispers, is liquor, which is thought to be doing to him something similar to what it did to Paul Gascoingne, the former England star footballer. His public conduct is thought to provide prima facie evidence in support of the charge of alcoholism. Once, while appearing on Channels Television, he looked somewhat worse for drink, as his words came out at the tempo of the late Yusuf Olatunji’s sakara music and was some streets away from coherence.

He has, however, been coherent in his demand that Iyorchia Ayu must leave his chair to pave way for a national PDP Chairman of southern extraction. For this, he has won the admiration of many, who see him as equity-minded, given that the presidential candidate of his party is a Northerner like the Chairman. He similarly delights opposition party supporters, who used to dislike him when he was attacking their parties and prominent figures. They are hoping that the tiff between him and the Atiku-Ayu camp will be to their benefit, as it will undermine PDP’s bid to win the presidency. The other side in the dispute has been largely been careful around him like you would when approaching a suicide bomber. They probably still believe they can get him onside. So far, no dice, as he keeps going off like a bomb.

He has continued to provide drama, which many will be sad to see an end of, and getting plenty of applause like a football team dominating possession. Possession stats are, however, not the be and all. Wike may, at the end, blow himself up with the explosives he has strapped around his body if the PDP wins next year. In the meantime, he is providing top-tier relief from tedium.

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