How gullible are Nigerians?

There is a giant ruse in circulation in Nigeria: the notion that President Goodluck Jonathan is in trouble because he is under attack by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the man responsible for his presidency.

The former president has given the impression that he is terribly upset with Mr. Jonathan because the current president is guilty of bad governance and corruption.  

Is Mr. Jonathan guilty?  Of course, every Nigerian, even his own people within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), his own people in Bayelsa State, and his own people in the presidential palace admit it.  That is why even Nigeria’s weak and grossly-compromised press is able to report from very close to the president.

In other words, apart from the privileged information that Obasanjo enjoys, he is not really saying anything about the poverty of Mr. Jonathan’s leadership.    

Why, therefore, is he suddenly and firmly on the “offensive” against his protégé?  

Come back with me to 2006: Obasanjo’s “third term” gamble, upon which he had frittered away billions of Naira, had collapsed.    But in the years since he took office in 1999, Obasanjo had insisted that the PDP would rule for anywhere from 60 or 100 years, depending on which spirit seized him on the day.

Confronted with the reality that he would not be the president beyond May 2007, Obasanjo did the next best but most selfish thing: he single-handedly chose those who would take over power.  I phrase that sentence delicately: he handpicked men who would take power, not men who would take Nigeria forward.

The two men: Umaru Yar’Adua and Jonathan.

Yar’Adua was a sick man.  Obasanjo denies knowing that, but he has no credibility.  As it turned out, Yar’Adua could barely finish enunciating his seven-point plan before he died.  

But let us, for one moment, give Obasanjo the benefit of the doubt and assume that he had simply been seduced by Yar’Adua’s record as governor of Katsina State.  

But he then chose Jonathan as Yar’Adua’s running mate.  Jonathan had been governor for less than one year at the time that Obasanjo called him and said, “I am going to make you Vice-President.”

What was Jonathan’s record?  He had been a teacher and an environmental inspector before his adventure in politics.  His record was unremarkable, and he would never have stood out in a casual search for achievers.

But Obasanjo chose him for the vice-presidency.

What is even more astonishing is that as Obasanjo made that choice, he had in his hands the report of his 2006 Joint Task Force (JTF) on corruption, which, just months earlier, had indicted Mr. Jonathan and many other serving and former governors for breaching the Code of Conduct Bureau Act.

Members of the JTF were the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB); the Department of State Services (DSS); and the Nigeria Police.  

The panel was chaired by Mr. Nuhu Ribadu in his capacity as the chairman of the EFCC.  Among others, it indicted Jonathan for false declaration of assets, and he was recommended for prosecution.  

That is the report that was in Obasanjo’s hands in 2006 as he declared Mr. Jonathan to be the best person he could find in all of the South of Nigeria to become Vice-President.  

And Obasanjo, as the whole world saw, then rigged the 2007 election to ensure that the two men he had imposed on his party were also imposed on Nigeria.  

In other words, not only did Obasanjo know whom Jonathan was, he knew whom Mr. Jonathan could be.  

Of greater importance, he knew whom Yar’Adua and Jonathan could not be: swashbuckling and aggressive patriots who would come into office and combat corruption; implement fair, rigorous reforms, and national deploy resources towards resolving national problems.  

Indeed, in Jonathan’s case, Obasanjo was counting on it, because if he were to be any different, it is certain that people like Obasanjo would have wound up in jail.  After all, the same Ribadu who headed the EFCC and the JTF has said that the Obasanjo era was more corrupt than that of Sani Abacha, who Obasanjo hounded worldwide in death for corruption.

This is why only the gullible should believe the theory of a rift between Obasanjo and Jonathan.  It is a trap for the unwary because Jonathan is a trap that Obasanjo set for Nigeria.  That trap is fully in play.

What is the truth?  

At stake is 2015.  Jonathan wants to win the presidency again because as in the case of Obasanjo before him, he has found that it is the best place in the world to hide.  The reason why the so-called rift is just a ruse is that both Obasanjo and Jonathan realize that a genuine division between them would leave the door wide open for someone else: someone who may be really interested in doing things the right way.  

And both Obasanjo and Jonathan know that in such an event, Nigeria will become a hot place to live in.  Yes, Obasanjo is a smart man, at least smart enough to know that Jonathan’s incompetence, incomprehension and indecisiveness are a gift to him.  

I know that there are people who suggest that Obasanjo has changed.  They argue that what we are seeing is an improved Obasanjo who genuinely believes his criticism of Jonathan.

In that case, Obasanjo should begin by apologizing to Nigerians for the day he imposed Jonathan on them.  If Obasanjo now truly cares, if he truly wants to be a statesman, he should issue a public apology for the political processes and elections he rigged and benefited from.  

Unless he starts from that point, Obasanjo is the same as he has always been, and the so-called rift he has with Jonathan is a humongous, subterranean trick designed to ensure that Jonathan remains in office after the next election and way beyond his expiry date.  

Obasanjo is not a democrat.  He has never been, and never will.   During the recent Ghana election, he was exposed in that country by the Economic Community of West African States as a political fraud.  There is no democratic process that Obasanjo can support unless he can manipulate it, and he knows that for him to continue to walk free to dance his gangnam style anywhere but in prison, he cannot afford a true “rift.”  

In the end, Obasanjo ensured the enthronement of Jonathan not for his strength, but for weakness.  It is not true that that weakness is no longer enough.

That is why the objective of this public “rift” is to convey the impression that, when Obasanjo returns to Jonathan’s side, as he will, he would appear to have won victory for Nigeria.  That will permit Jonathan and the PDP to “win” in 2015.  Obasanjo’s masterplan of keeping the PDP in office for 100 years has neither changed, nor can he afford to change it.  

It is a clever little plot.  And we are gullible enough to buy it.

But my mumu don do.  Your mumu don do?

•    sonala.olumhense@gmail.com

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