(Vanguard of Sunday, August 24, 2008)
The meeting of the National Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party at Abuja on Tuesday, August 5 marks the beginning of the losses that await former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the next few months. Some key figures who may have been there may have decided to keep our former head of state, life leader of the PDP and maker of modern Nigeria, company outside the venue. They were mainly governors of the southwest whose grudging support for Obasanjo has never been hidden; Senate President David Mark who has been a faithful ally was not there; so also House Speaker Dimeji Bankole whose presence Obasanjo would, in any case, have detested and discountenanced.
He once had him walked out of a caucus meeting. Ogun State Governor Gbenga Daniel did not have to be there to prove that he was no longer in the good books of Obasanjo. His presence would have been pushing salt and pepper into a gaping and bleeding political wound. Not even just political, but also economic and social. But loyal Andy Uba was there, and so also was Bode George that many did not know EFCC had been stalking. But the important thing to note was that the five-star general who is the only military leader in the history of Nigeria that accessed political office at the highest level and was there for eight years knew what awaited him at the National Executive Committee meeting of the party he seized control of in December, 2005.
And at the height of his power, he transformed into the Leader of the Party, the Founder of Modern Nigeria, the Sole Dispenser of favours… His image loomed larger than the country that gave him a pedestal to stand on, to speak from. And he spoke as if no one sent him! And instead of standing on that pedestal and immortalizing his name for him to be regarded as the leader among our heroes past, by restructuring a country that needed to be better and more properly managed, he wanted to strengthen the centre to continue to rule. Greed replaced service and the bodies he set up to defend the weak were turned into instruments to weaken the strong.
He had his hand in every pie, did what he liked with the budget, obeyed what laws he wanted do obey, used security agencies to do his bidding, ran his government as if there were no ministers, aside of the fact that he held the key ministries in the energy sector to his chest for the period he was in office… His leaving office was the first step he took on the way downstairs. What that PDP meeting did showed clearly that Obasanjo’s time is up as leader of the party, as chairman of the Board of Trustees, as the sole determinant of who in the party gets what.
I am frightened for Obasanjo in spite of the fact that he is a cat with nine lives. Can’t you see that if you put a number to the lives of cats, you have cause to worry because the end draws nearer the closer you are to the number 9? As the outcome of a war is determined by who the gladiators are, what is happening shows clearly that the military cannot cope with politicians outside recourse to the sheer force of material weaponry. That fact is not only true with Nigeria; it is true world-wide because the word “politician” is the description of one whose armoury contains weapons for scheming.
Even those who have been part of coup-making in Nigeria have confessed that they were prodded by politicians, most of whom have never seen more than dane guns in their life. Look at Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. He is the most recent victim of the deadliness of political panzar onslaught that only politicians can organize and execute. Their weapons are words, and they specialize in using them to maximum effect. It was an American politician who told his colleagues in congress when he was being taken on for misconduct that, like every other of his colleagues, he was exercising his prerogative as a politician to tell lies. Yes, telling lies is the motto of the politician, but there is no end to his seeking to put power behind the words he utters.
Only last week, we were reading the deadly impact hypnosis can have on those who have handed themselves over to prayer warriors and native doctors. Former NDDC chairman Sam Edem is now in court charged with handing over N800 million of the commission’s money to a 34-year-old native doctor who claimed that his religion is paganism and that he is spiritual consultants to many of our top leaders. But who knows if some of the weapons fashioned against Edem who had been Nigeria’s high commissioner to Canada and our ambassador to Senegal, was not the potent weapon of obedience without question buried in the tongue! We were told when we were growing up that powerful men powered their utterances with invocations and incantations. Every politician seeks this weapon of control and uses it to advantage. Someone stole my walking stick when I attended a political meeting at Abuja. Someone said the thief must have thought it was there my power lay! I wished he had also taken away the pain in my knee the stick was meant to be a support for!
Imagine how helpless and subdued Musharraf was when he opted to resign as president of Pakistan instead of facing impeachment proceedings that opposition groups had packaged. He was a maximum ruler for the better part of nine years. He was associated with killing, maiming, assassinations, blackmail, and ruthlessness in dealing with challenges to his authority. So effective was he that even the United States of America found use for him in their definition of democracy. But when the politicians had put their acts together, Musharraf discovered a gaping hole in his upbringing. His dependence on force had robbed him of the opportunity to learn the ways of those who depend on the tricks of foxes.
He knew not how to play political chess. Did you watch him deliver that boring parting speech when he said he was leaving his future “in the hands of the people”? Those were the same people he had ruled with an iron fist, the people whose protests he broke up when they told him about the irreducible minimum demands for taking part in democratic elections. He said he had consulted his lawyers and advisers before he decided to throw in the towel, yet he had, in his days of glory, dismissed senior judges of the judiciary who had opposed his decision to remain in office as military head of state and presidential candidate. In answer to mass protests of the people, he had declared a state of emergency in his country and set rules for electioneering! And this is the man looking straight into television cameras and saying he was leaving his future in the hands of the people! How are the mighty fallen!
What is happening to our Baba Iyabo is not different. Someone who said the way he is being treated by his party would never have been contemplated by the Opposition has a point. But many things seem to be so wrong in the boldness with which Obasanjo demonised this country that even his son would have risen against him. That he did was for another reason! But killing his political children one by one is a more painful way to destroy our mother hen. Look at the demolition arrangement—Nuhu Ribadu and his sudden need to be trained at Kuru, El Rufai and all those lands that were allocated to Obasanjo at a time when those allocated to former heads of state were revoked; the arrival of Etteh as Speaker of the House of Representatives and the decision of the House to remove her even after Baba himself had intervened; the replacement of Etteh with a candidate Baba was directly and still opposed to; the cornering Iyabo, his daughter in the Senate for an offence I still believe is a non-issue; the different national assembly probes that are showing up rot unprecedented in the history of governance anywhere in the world; the arrest and temporary incarceration of two of his political sons he assigned to the aviation ministry and empowered to help sanitise the sector; decision from the blues to demote Ribadu and 139 others for reasons that had been there all the while; the reversal of most of the economic decisions he had taken, many of which, understandably, were meant to create image problems for his hand-picked president and vice president.
And so on and so forth. The latest as I packaged this piece is the removal of the last Obasanjo man standing in the presidency, Dr. Gbolade Osinowo whose position as the acting chief of staff has been scrapped. The Punch of June 11 had published that President Yar’Adua was under pressure to scrap the Chief of Staff post. Who pressurized him? Why are you asking me? The fact is that if our president has achieved nothing for you to see since he took office in May 2007, he has through a policy to have a country that is not ruled by one man, given us one that is ruled by a group. The composition of that group, and how spread they are to reflect what the constitution demands is an area the servant leader must find time to reflect on. As is, it will be difficult for the centre to hold.
No, I am not wicked telling of what fate awaits our man who came, saw and goofed in every department of his tenure. What I am doing is part of the progress report you are entitled to. Some people were angry with me because of my claim in my March 16, 2008 piece entitled Fixing Mr. Fix It that Chief Tony Anenih’s days had not been numbered because of what was happening to him then in the struggle to control the PDP in Edo State. I said then that people were looking at the crescent of the moon, not the full moon because I saw clearly the war games that were being played country-wide and I knew that Anenih belonged in the group that would castrate Obasanjo.
With all the decisions announced after the August 5 meeting, decisions reflected in a communiqué that may well have been written before the NEC meeting, who is in doubt about where the wind is blowing? If you still doubt that the nine lives of the cat infer limitless tenure, then let’s keep up with the waiting game. Time speaks at the end and we will all be there, hopefully, when the trumpet of explosive changes in the PDP sounds.