Does Gov. Wike have the Trump Factor?

Earlier this week, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike (PDP) declared his intention to run for president. For what was a serious announcement by a sitting governor of the oil-wealthy Rivers state, Wike’s announcement was met with laughter, and humor, and even a few chuckles from his allies.

Whether the levity is ill- or well-intentioned, it is fair to say that Wike is certainly not a wallflower. The Rivers governor periodically catches the attention of the press for his colorful criticisms—especially those leveled against former associates and fellow PDP members. His long-running feud with his former-boss-turned-turned-PDP-defector-turned-potential-presidential-rival Rotimi Amaechi gets plenty of airtime.

But he has also saved searing criticism for current PDP members, like when he said fellow PDP member and Edo governor Godwin Obaseki has betrayal and ungratefulness in his DNA. Most recently, Wike has fired a pre-emptive shot across the bow at other PDP presidential aspirants with the charge that they were the problem of the party when it lost the presidency in 2015.

In light of his tough talk, Wike’s critics call him illiterate, a Judas Iscariot, and implied him to be a drunk. However, his plain speaking clearly strikes a chord with some. In a political environment where pageantry can trump substance and candidates strategically flip-flop between parties, Wike’s supporters will no doubt portray him as a candidate who is tough but consistent. “A man given to living his words, Nyesom Wike does not suffer fools,” reads one laudatory profile from 2019.

As for his policies, Wike has vowed to make fighting crime and insecurity a key component of his campaign. Physical security will most likely be a key issue in the polls and, although the elections are almost a year away, the recent spate of terrifying attacks on transport infrastructure in Kaduna will rightly linger in the public mind. Expect close scrutiny over how the Rivers governor has handled his state’s security situation, managed the federal ‘security vote’ funds, and addressed the blight of oil theft.

At least on the surface, elements of Wike’s presidential ambitions mirror those of the earlier, similarly colorful presidential bid of Donald Trump in the United States. Laughter ensued, searing criticisms were leveled at fellow party members, a ‘tough on crime’ position was taken, and  a devoted and polarizing following emerged. With the benefit of an unconventional candidacy, Donald Trump turned the laughter of Hollywood elites into a spectacular electoral upset for the expected president-in-waiting, Hilary Clinton.

According to both his rivals and his supporters, the Rivers governor is a unique character. But at face value, that doesn’t guarantee a golden ticket to Aso Rock. Does Governor Wike have the Trump factor?

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