(Vanguard of Sunday, September 4, 2005)
The dilemma I have in mind has nothing to do with the Turaki’s house in the United States being searched by the FBI. Have we not been told that it is a private affair of the Vice President? So our VP who is one of four untouchables in our arrangement (the others being the President, the Governor and the Deputy Governor), is a private person when he leaves Nigeria and can be subjected to searches on his person at points of entry into America, even be given the dog treatment, through sniffing his pants to be sure he has nothing funny on him. After all no Nigerian is respected today anywhere in the world, not because we are any longer a pariah state, but, and this seems to be worse, because we are a pariah people. Corruption is being fought, but corruption is fast becoming our surname. There is a raging battle against 419ners, but Americans themselves have refused to accept recommendations from their embassy here clearing genuine Nigerians who want to do business there.
The dilemma I have in mind does not also have much to do with the exaggerated disagreements between the President and his second-in-command. Atiku may have wanted to persuade people that the President was on his way out and would not stay a day beyond May 29, 2007. How better could he have done it than claiming that his boss had even sworn that he would quit? But trust us who report. We may have added two words to change the meaning to what angered the President. We may have said that Atiku said that the President swore to (or was it before) him that come 2007, he would quit the stage.
The President’s reaction was understandable. How could he take more than two oaths he had a commitment to take – the Oath of Allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the Oath of Office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? He even saw the claim of his swearing before his deputy as infradig… Who is boss in Aso Rock, OBJ or Turaki? Has OBJ not proved enough to anyone in doubt that he is boss? Once upon a time, we had two Presidents – Obasanjo (de jure) and Atiku (de facto). That was between 1999 and 2003. During the preparations for the 2003 elections, there was so much pressure on Atiku to confront his boss and beat him silly at the nominations that Baba had to pull every string he had access to so he could have the second chance. It was a few hours before the nominations that the tables turned. I told my friends that the first victim of the President’s second term would be his deputy. Baba does not forget at all, and does not forgive easily. Someone told me he would be Atiku’s stooge. Was it not Atiku who provided all the money for the primaries by ensuring that banks were open on a weekend? Even Governor Ibori who seemed to have been very visible in the campaign that the President was not marketable and that he was speaking for some 13 governors, was later to have the taste of those who remember the rough tackles and tacklers when they were playing a critical match. The organized liquidation of Atiku will continue, and with the PDP, all is fair in battle. Watch as the battle lines are drawn as we crawl towards 2007.
For Atiku who is being weakened through unhidden denial of patronage to those who support him; through tearing apart PDP structures in the states controlled by governors who have sympathy for him; through haunting those who are associated with him as business partners…, for the VP to tell the media that the President who should be enjoying the body and jugular blows he is inflicting with such visible and deadly effect, has come over to him, perhaps knelt down and pleaded on oath that he would be leaving in 2007, was something Baba could not accommodate. So he told the media chat team, and all of us watching that Atiku’s statement was a “mispresentation, misinformation and misrepresentation.” He went further to say that if anyone had an occasion to swear, it was Atiku who had been loaded with accusations of disloyalty to him. The President confronted Atiku with the allegations and produced two books, the Holy Quran and the Holy Bible. Swear, Turaki swear and shame the devil.
Because Atiku did not swear, the conclusion was inevitable. The refusal to swear proved that Atiku was disloyal to the President. This is the dilemma I am talking about. Lawyers would say non-sequitor. Does it necessarily follow that if Atiku refused to take an oath to prove his personal loyalty to the President, then the allegation of disloyalty had been proved? What if Atiku thought of the implication of swearing personal loyalty to the President? That would be swearing allegiance to the President, not to the people of Nigeria to do what is anchored in the seventh schedule of the Constitution. Atiku may have remembered the practice down south where loyalty to Godfathers is secured in the shrines that have become part and parcel of our political process.
I have told of my friend who wanted to be governor and a delegation was sent to him to register with the association of witches in the state. He said he was a Muslim, in fact an Alhaji. They looked at themselves and laughed. His friend who had led them to him was a Muslim! Perhaps there is a way of securing obeisance up North. But who says Atiku was not himself the godfather of the Peoples Democratic Movement, the core group in the PDP?
He must have had a more formidable reason for refusing to swear personal loyalty to the President. Swearing personal loyalty to an individual is equivalent to worshipping the calf. The Quran says you wrong yourself by doing so, and if you do, you must turn in repentance to your Creator (Sura 2:54). Many other verses may have flashed through his mind as he stood in front of the President and Baba was telling him, Swear, Turaki Swear and shame the devil. Verses like, Those that worship idols shall incur the anger of their Lord and disgrace in this life (7:152); and Be true to that which you have sworn (5:89) which Turaki would recognize as the oaths in schedule seven, not any oath to anyone.
I can see tapping and tugging at his heart the serious injunction in Sura 33:77: “Those that sell the covenant of God and their own Oaths for a paltry price shall have no share in the world to come. God will neither speak to them, nor look at them, nor purify them on the Day of Resurrection. Theirs shall be a woeful punishment.
See why Turaki may have chickened out? I would do the same rather than incur the wrath of the All Highest. “May we be denied the strength to scornfully persist in forbidden ways, so that we may not incur the curse, ‘Turn into detested apes’” (Sura 7:166)
(Published in Vol. 2 of Democracy Watch, A Monitor’s Diary by Tony Momoh, pages 25 -27; Lagos, 2008).