It has been sad to watch the past few months as the PDP disintegrated month-by-month under the leadership (or lack thereof) of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The other day, GEJ was at the Eagle Square, Abuja, for a mini-convention of the party which was aimed at reconciling warring factions. While he was still seated, adorned with all the paraphernalia and appurtenances of President and Commander-in-Chief, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, the celebrated fugitive from American judicial system, led a group of “dissident” governors on a walk-out. The most that GEJ could do, reportedly, was to wear a morose look and shake his bowed head like a defeated man.
The level of disrespect of this man was so palpable that many who did not care about his political fortunes or misfortunes had to, at least, rise in defense of the exalted Office of the President.
No matter what you thought of Olusegun Obasanjo’s leadership of the country and the PDP, you almost wished that OBJ was back in charge; for he had a strong spine. I cannot imagine ANY governor walking out on OBJ. That governor was not yet born when OBJ ruled. That governor would have eaten his pounded yam as ordinary yams. That governor, for good or ill, would have found himself in so much trouble he would curse the day he was elected. And this was the case largely because OBJ knew his onions. He paid attention to the minutiae of government; not just at the Federal level, but to some degree, even at the State level. So, when OBJ barked, governors and ministers trembled because they knew he could also bite hard. Those with skeletons in their cupboards accused him of being too dictatorial, and that he forgot he was no longer in the military. It was cheap blackmail and OBJ saw it as such. He was not having any of that nonsense. He believed that Nigeria, at the time, needed a leader who was “feared rather than loved”; for Nigerians only loved if they had something to gain personally. Those who doubted the potency of OBJ’s teeth did not live (politically) to tell the story. Those who underrated his political acumen did so at their own peril. Ask Tafa Balogun, Abubakar Atiku et al.
Almost as broke as a church rat in 1999, OBJ broke out of jail and rode on the backs of the naïve PDP founders straight into Aso Rock. All the bigwigs who founded the party thought OBJ would show his gratitude by laying low and accepting the presidency as Yoruba’s (June 12 mandate) placation gift. But no sooner had he settled in office than he rolled up IGP Tafa Balogun and carted him off to jail, making him regurgitate most of his loot on the way out.
When Balogun did not move fast enough on his way out of the courtroom on one occasion, his police escorts beat him to near-pulpiness. Remember, it was the same Balogun’s police force that oversaw the massive election rigging that brought OBJ to power. But OBJ was smart enough to keep his hands clean during the exercise, letting the so-called PDP founders do the dirty work. OBJ then set up the ICPC and EFCC. For most of his first term, OBJ hardly employed either of the two organizations. He allowed them as free a reign as possible until the start of his second term. And by then, many of the would-be thorns in OBJ’s flesh had so soiled their hands with corruption that none could withstand his withering assaults when they came.
If the senators planned to curb OBJ by impeaching him, the man was several steps ahead of them. He started by making an example of their leader, Adulphus Wabara. Nuhu Ribadu’s EFCC accused then Senate Leader Wabara (and four others) of demanding and receiving N55 million bribe from Fabian Osuji, then Minister of Education. Wabara ostensibly shared (or planned to share) the money with other senators as condition for passing the 2005 education ministry’s budget. After Wabara got his hands full of EFCC arrests and invitations and eventually lost his job in the Senate, all of the remaining senators became born-again, and all accepted OBJ as their Jesus.
To the best of my knowledge, GEJ has not gotten (and cannot get) nasty with any of the politicians questioning his authority. Even with governor Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), GEJ had to hire surrogates (including his wife) to fight his proxy battle. He has forgotten that if he wins the proxy battle, he would be unable to claim the victory directly. And, therefore, he would still be viewed as a weakling. GEJ operates as if he is forever unable to assert his legitimacy because of his indebtedness to all those PDP governors that helped him overcome Turai Yar’Adua’s cabal. That cabal almost successfully denied him the presidency when President Yar’Adua died. That cabal is well and alive. And because of GEJ’s lack of confidence, the cabal has grown exponentially with the infusion of the Atiku machine.
OBJ was different. OBJ embarked on the systematic annihilation of his enemies so that he could govern in peace. When former Plateau State governor, Joshua Chibi Dariye, who worked assiduously for OBJ’s election in 1999 and his re-election in 2007, started to flex his muscles, he did not know what hit him when OBJ’s train came through. Dariye had helped himself to, at least, $9 million of his State’s money. For that, OBJ set the London Metropolitan Police after Dariye. They arrested him in London in 2004. The former governor jumped bail and escaped to Nigeria where, as a serving governor, he had immunity from prosecution. OBJ did not relent though. He knew that Dariye did not steal all that money by himself. He had to have had some members of his state’s Legislature in cahoots with him. OBJ then applied the “Alamieyeseigha’s Tactic”: blackmail the corrupt state legislators with the threat of prosecution for corruption and promise them leniency if they would impeach the governor. Of course, by November 2006, Dariye was impeached and the odious stench oozing out of Plateau State was cleaned out. In the same State, former Second Republic NPP governor, Solomon Daushep Lar, who was also Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) when OBJ was president, found himself on the receiving end of OBJ’s koboko (or bulala, if you are Hausa). Lar supported then Vice-President Atiku’s quest for the Presidency, and that was reason enough for OBJ to get him removed as Chaiman of BoT.
Lar has since gone into political oblivion. Even his Vice-President, because he was so steeped in many vices, was unable to extricate himself from OBJ’s trap. Atiku spent most of his second term under OBJ fighting off the EFCC, the Interpol, the FBI, or the Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland police departments. Atiku had led an insurrection (much as he is doing right now) to deny OBJ a second term, therefore, OBJ set out to teach him a lesson about insubordination and disloyalty. That Atiku is not currently languishing in jail is a testament to his supreme survival skills.
For much of OBJ’s second term, he kept the proverbial Sword of Damocles hanging on the heads of governors Bola Tinubu (Lagos), Diepreye Alamieyeseigha (Bayelsa), Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti), Orji Kalu (Abia), Chimaraoke Nnamani (Enugu), Peter Odili (Rivers), Lucky Igbinedion (Edo), Ahmed Sanni Yerima (Zamfara), Jolly Nyame (Taraba), Boni Haruna (Adamawa), George Akume (Benue), Attahiru Bafarawa (Sokoto), Adamu Muazu (Bauchi), Victor Attah (Akwa Ibom), Bukola Saraki (Kwara), and Rasidi Ladoja (Oyo). They all had to switch their bedding spots every night and slept with one eye open in case OBJ’s EFCC showed up. Only Donald Duke (Cross River) was openly absolved by the EFCC at that time.
Also, at some point, IBB’s supporters egged him on to challenge OBJ’s stranglehold on the party. And for a while, it appeared IBB was going to bite. But once the EFCC arrested his son, Muhammed, and asked him to explain how he came about the multi-billion naira shares he held in Globacom when he never worked a day in his life, IBB simmered and became an apostle of OBJ’s political catechism.
OBJ had one thing or the other on most of the governors. They dared not look him cross-eyed or challenge his authority in any way, let alone walk out on him. That respect…that gravitas that the office of president carries (whether you are president of the Republic of Sao Tome and Principe, or you are the president of the United States of America), is what GEJ lacks. It does not require clairvoyance to know that GEJ, in spite of his adroitness as a politician (he did not become deputy-governor, governor, vice-president, and president in succession all on sheer luck) is a much maligned and compromised character. You can tell that most of the governors know GEJ lacks any moral authority to threaten them with the EFCC, or even an ordinary definitive suspension/expulsion from the party. Only under GEJ could a person like Atiku retain the right to call a press conference in broad daylight, at a public arena, and make demands. Under OBJ, Atiku was humiliated and so marginalized to the point that OBJ withdrew his official aides! Atiku had to hire media aides from his personal purse!! Now this same man has grown a pair of cajones (testicles) big enough to challenge GEJ so brazenly. Only under such an enfeebled and cowered ruler could the Atikus of PDP still thrive.
It was even reported that the so-called G-7 governors who staged the walk-out and later formed their own “New PDP” had the temerity to demand, as one of their conditions for making peace with GEJ, that he orders the EFCC to desist from probing them! What!! I will not be surprised if the G-7 announces tomorrow the expulsion of GEJ himself from PDP!!!
After begging OBJ to intercede in the PDP internecine squabbles, GEJ, out of frustration (and again through surrogates), now reportedly blames OBJ for being the fomenter of the many fratricidal feuds in the party. Who is to blame if, as the de facto leader of the nation and the ruling party, GEJ had to rely on OBJ to periodically help mediate his many fights? A couple of Yoruba proverbs here: “I’d rather not be king if I wield no authority over the people”; “If you are a hawk and you can’t scoop up a chick, you are worthless”. Next time we have a president, he better be somebody imbued with limitless courage, boundless wisdom and a spotless character so that no one is able to take him hostage.
By Abiodun Ladepo Los Angeles, California, USA, [email protected]