It is said that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled on humans was to make them doubt his existence. The quip, dating back to as far back as the 1836 book by John Wilkinson and memorably quoted in a 1995 Hollywood film, The Usual Suspects, is perhaps accurate only as far as Western society is concerned. The dirtiest trick the Devil has played on Nigerians is to make us believe that though he is an omnipresent source of mischief, he somehow manages to reside only in the people whose existence annoys us.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Since the Kaduna-based Muslim cleric and attention-seeking troublemaker, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, managed to grab some spotlight last week by describing the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, as “Satan,” it has been amusing reading his defenders’ denunciation. Of the plenty words available —from the printable to the cringeworthy—that Gumi could have selected, he chose an evocative one like “Satan.” If he had asked me very nicely, I could have helped his vocabulary range by supplying him with a few words that suit Wike’s crass character better. Since his days as education minister when he and the archenemy that has defined his politics, Rotimi Amaechi, were involved in a public contest of wills, I had determined Wike to be a clown and a mere vulgarian. If anything has improved since then, it is the intensity with which he proves me right.
Those who took offence at the “satanic” attack on Wike were quick to point out the provocation, and that Gumi’s intemperate language could cause religious divisiveness. Under some other set of circumstances, that could be true except that accusing someone of being “Satan” is hackneyed. As recently as mid-last month, a Peoples Democratic Party chieftain, Pedro Obaseki, described Wike as “Satan’s lieutenant” for how he diminished their party before joining the All Progressives Congress cabinet. Fine, I agree that the difference between being Satan himself and being his mere lieutenant is like a five-star review and a three-star. Still, Wike can at least take some consolation that someone thinks he is a social terror.
That said, what Wike’s defenders missed is that there is perhaps no other politician who has banalised identifying Satan in political exchanges better than Wike himself. There are many examples, but let us start with December 2016, during a Christmas service at the Rivers State Headquarters of the Living Faith Church in Port Harcourt where Wike announced to the church that, “No power can bring me down because I am solidly and comfortably rooted in God. My belief in God strengthens me at all times. We want you to continue to pray for this state because Satan is at work. If God be for us, nobody can be against us. We have had turbulent times, but we have always come out victorious. This state is a Christian state. Therefore, we shall continue to collaborate with the Church.”
Then, in February 2017, when Vice President Yemi Osinbajo visited Rivers, held a town hall meeting in the Government House with Wike, and then turned around to hold a stakeholders’ meeting with Amaechi, he criticised them saying, “Since the Acting President began his tour of the Niger-Delta, this is the first time he will be sleeping in a state. This is the first time he will be passing a night outside his region. What does that tell you? It means Rivers State is safe. But you know Satan will never sleep. Lucifer will always stay awake. Anywhere Satan sees light, he will always want to turn it into darkness.”
Please also note that on some occasions when Amaechi’s defenders stood up to Wike, they also accused him of using “satanic elements and witchcraft.”
In the same 2017, at an interdenominational service to thank God for the Supreme Court ruling that declared the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee of the PDP legal, Wike once again displayed his unique talents for identifying Satan when he said, “God saved the PDP because of Rivers State. We don’t have Plan B. Every other state had Plan B. Our enemies will be put to shame from time to time. Rivers State is the strongest PDP State. While we are reconciling, we must be vigilant. Nobody will take me unawares. Satan will never sleep. Satan will always find ways to cause havoc.” That same year, Wike tweeted that, “The APC is the house of Satan. They have brought so much problems to Nigeria. Nigeria has never been this divided.”
When he quarreled with his Edo State counterpart, Godwin Obaseki, he did not stop at accusing him of betrayal and lack of gratitude. He had to fall back on his go-to language of identifying the devil in them. He said, “Satan has agents. Most of the people you see are agents of Satan. I am not in the class of Obaseki.” Also, last year when Amaechi ridiculed the people ecstatic over Wike’s supposed achievements in Rivers State, his riposte was that those unhappy were the children of Satan. While still a presidential aspirant of the PDP, his campaign was liberally peppered with describing the APC using the idioms of satanism. In Jalingo, Taraba State, Wike especially blamed the growing insecurity in Nigeria on satanic operations perpetrated through his agent, the APC.
There are several other instances of him denouncing the APC as Satan or “agents of Satan.” If it were not Nigeria we are talking about, his serving in Satan’s cabinet would have been dramatic irony. But the turn of events surprises no one. Men like Wike have neither principles nor scruples. Their tongues are like wind vanes; it blows in whichever direction best assures power access. As inconsistent as he is, how Wike conveniently whips out “Satan” to confront political rivals also gives an insight into the nature of evil in political discourse. The Satan in our public culture is not particularly malicious nor wanders the earth to do evil for its mere sake. The Satan in our centres of power is gravely incompetent, lacks any moral convictions (or even the capacity for reflection), and wreaks havoc merely to keep busy.
A part of me wants to feel bad for Gumi that he could not find anything original to antagonise a man whose stock in political trade is satanising his rivals. Calling Wike “Satan” sounds rather desperate. While I can guarantee that attacking Wike will keep him busy for a while, he should also know that that man is going nowhere. Wike is not the FCT minister today because he has an original idea about urban development and regeneration, or even relevant managerial expertise. He came this far as payment for his role in helping the present government to power and as an APC ploy to systematically diminish whatever is left of the PDP. His endurance in that office will be contingent upon his playing both roles effectively. There is nothing the likes of Gumi can do about it.
Gumi’s desperation must have been so intense that he even played the 2027 election card. He did not base the reason the Bola Tinubu administration will not deserve a second term on its crushing dysfunctionality, only on the political symbolism it fails to sustain. Much of his rant in the press conference where he called Wike “Satan” was about how the spaces that “we” occupied but which have been shrunk by a new tribe of political grabbers. Little minds like him think Nigeria was made for them and everyone else is an interloper. He can cry all he likes, but the reign of this “Satan” will be long.
And if the silliness Gumi portrayed in that video is his best tactic for sustaining his relevance now that banditry no longer makes front-page news, then I am afraid he will be out of consequence for a long time.