2023: Wike’s The Ataturk New Nigeria Needs By Louis Achi

THE founding father of modern Turkey was Field Marshal Kemal Atatürk who undertook firm, sweeping progressive reforms which modernized the country into a secular, industrialized nation. He boldly birthed deliberate disruption to change the Turkish story. He died a revered hero in 1938.
Incidentally, when Atartuk became Turkish President in 1923, another statesman and lawyer Lee Kuan Yew, the transformational founding father of Singapore was born. He served as the Prime Minister of Singapore between 1959 and 1990 and changed the Singaporean story.
Going forward, a new Nigeria badly needs an Atartuk and Yew combined in a single individual who should be the successor president to retired Muhammadu Buhari – to birth a new Nigeria. This successor-in-waiting under focus is lawyer-nationalist Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. Here’s why.
Today, the stakes are extremely high, and Nigerians are mindful that failure to achieve a transparent, democratic leadership transition that will incept a totally new bold, visionary leadership may imperil the country’s future as a coherent state. Nigerians are also very uncertain about their values, their leadership and their safety.
Citizens nurse a badly diminished confidence and extreme lack of certainty which flow from the disastrous governance spawned by President Buhari’s last seven years in office. Within this period, the social contract between the ruled and the ruler has been broken in many fundamental ways that diminish the meaning of democratic governance. Insecurity of lives and property particularly stands out in stark relief.
Not surprisingly, the breadth and force of peoples’ revulsion at the condition of the Nigerian state at the cusp of a democratic national leadership change has perhaps caught the world and the most politically astute of analysts by surprise.
There has been a shockingly total lack of governance guided by an understanding and anchored on a set of principles that reflects a sense of the permanent destiny of the Nigerian state. Being Africa’s demographic and natural resources centre of gravity, Nigeria ought to lead the journey of transformative change on the continent. She ought to provide the leadership to raise Africa to her next level. But the outgoing administration has failed abysmally.
And this is why and where a Nigerian Atartuk – Governor Nyesom Wike is urgently needed. With the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s scheduling of February 25, 2023 as the presidential Election Day, the jostling – both overt and covert – of who should succeed the Muhammadu Buhari presidency is gaining momentum. In effect, the countdown to the 2023 presidential election has willy-nilly begun.
The transformational Rivers State Governor Wike has kick-started his journey as a potential successor to President Buhari by observing the due processes as he is wont and striving to pick his party’s ticket in the  upcoming presidential primary.
Beyond stoutly holding forth in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party’s darkest hour and boldly moving to revamp its flagging spirit, he notably compelled the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, to review its gratuitous assumptions and to ponder its clearly endangered future.
Tough, focused, demonstrating inner steel and at times brash, he is certainly the poster boy of the opposition PDP. Through his tenacity and uncommon governance focus he has reaffirmed the enduring fact that, indeed, justice is the first condition of democracy.
Tracking back, Wike, a renowned lawyer and unpretentious nationalist with a distinguished career, set sail with a legitimate vision: “To build a state that is truly united, secure and prosperous with boundless opportunities for everyone who lives in it to peacefully pursue their goals and realize their full potentials in dignity and happiness.” On the surface, this appeared a tough call. Indeed, it is but has indisputably brought out the best in him and readied him for higher political responsibility.
Since he assumed office on May 29, 2015, as the sixth democratically elected governor of Rivers State, he has leaned on his large vision of life and totally devoted himself to the well-being of his people and the total transformation of the state. This is informed by a deep belief that what affects Rivers State, affects his strategic region and Nigeria – for good or ill.
On 14 critical governance fronts, Wike has indeed redefined what democratic administration ought to mean in a human development-hungry milieu, in a third world country. Some of the sectors under reference include: Agriculture, Citizen Engagement, Economy, Land Administration Reforms, Education, Environmental Protection, Healthcare, Housing Development, Judiciary, Road/Transportation Infrastructure, Power, Security, Water and Waste Management.
Specific development data often glossed over by many of his peers affirm the passion, sincerity, focus and discipline of the man, especially coming on board at a critical period in the history of the state and major changes on the political chess board of the nation.
A particularly novel approach to governance is his inclusivity and firm citizen engagement strategy which ensures that government decisions are guided by the knowledge, experience, views and values of the citizens. During his tour of duty which he about concluding, he made his state a huge construction yard, injecting over 50 per cent of the state’s capital budget to the funding of roads and other critical infrastructure projects. This lacks precedent.
The governor’s investments in education, reforms in land administration, environmental protection agenda, healthcare footing, housing development and strengthening of the state’s judiciary speak to his passion-driven energy and sense of urgency. His remains a transformational administration.
Clearly, Wike brought bold dynamism and compelling focus to the arena of governance in delivery of democracy dividends in Rivers State and of course made impact nationally. His development philosophy which drove his stewardship since 2015 is what Nigeria badly needs.
Within the ambits of democracy, he authoritatively imposed a new order in the governance arena of his state, pushing a compelling model for emulation in his challenged region. He also drove a new stern reformist agenda for the state, courageously unmasking/weeding retrogressive forces that has held the state to ransom.
Under his guidance, he re-conceptualized an infrastructure revolution to re-oxygenate the state and eventually moved Rivers State to ‘safe habour,’ in the challenged Nigerian project. It bears repeating that Wike provided courageous leadership which has largely caged crises driven by untoward political agenda and deliberate mischief and has re-instilled confidence that the state will not collapse but bloom and progress. This is the leadership Nigeria badly needs.
Like Turkey’s Atartuk, Wike is not a man that could ever be perceived as sitting on the fence or appearing timid in the face of critical state, national, constitutional or security matters. He leads from the front. Again, this is what Nigeria needs today. As Nigeria’s next President and Commander-in-Chief, it will be inconceivable for security chiefs to be given directives and return with fairy tales. The consequences for such, with Wike are predictable. He always articulates his positions meticulously and challenges injustice boldly.
According to Dr. Sam Amadi, Director of Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts, “Nigeria needs to be disrupted…. we need to pause and pay attention to the hopeless prospect that Nigerians face beyond 2023.”
“Since 2015, things have got worse. Boko Haram and ISIL are in charge of many communities in northern Nigeria, collecting taxes like a legitimate government. Bandits are raiding communities at will, kidnapping, and killing many Nigerians. On the average, more than 50 people are killed or kidnapped weekly by bandits. As at today, Nigeria has overtaken Iraq in the number of ISIL attacks.
“Before, 2015, the Southeast was declared the most peaceful region in Nigeria. Today, it is arguable as violent and insecure as the Northeast.” The nifty social scientist further stated that “We have seen several disruptions in the global political economy that have further damaged the institutional integrity of the Nigerian state.”
Pushing further damning facts, he revealed that on the economic front, Nigeria is worse than distressed: “It has over-borrowed and continues to borrow because it is suffering acute decline in productivity, and therefore does not have enough revenue to finance development and sustain essential public services. Nigeria is a broken state, verging towards bankruptcy. At a point in 2019, Nigeria spent about 98% of its revenue to service its debts…
“About 100 million Nigeria are in acute poverty and over 50% of working age youths either cannot find jobs or are underemployed. The national grid collapses every now and then because it has actually collapsed.”
Today, Nigeria indisputably needs a leader to alter its dangerous national trajectory and restore healing and hope. Governor Nyesom Wike, the Nigerian Atartuk, ahead of 2023, certainly presents incomparable hope for new national transformation.
Achi, journalist and public issues analyst, writes from Abuja