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Between Obasanjo, Lamido and the President’s men.

June 19, 2009

The indignation of some of President Umaru Musa Yar’adua’s people at Governor Sule Lamido’s invitation to former President Olusegun Obasanjo last month to commission some projects executed by the Jigawa State government reminded me of an encounter between the Irish poet, playwright and wit, Oscar Wilde and an American socialite friend of his, who felt slighted at not being invited to a very important social event. Meeting the poet, the indignant lady complained bitterly about the “impudence” of the organisers for “daring” not to invite her. Amused by the lady’s reaction, he simply told her: “Lady, those who matter don’t care and those who care don’t matter”.

 In the eyes of the president’s foot soldiers, and even the generals, it was impudent of the Jigawa State Governor to invite the former leader-who, to all intents and purposes, appears to be out of favour with the presidency-instead of their principal who, for them, is the man of the moment, to perform what is perhaps the most important event in their calendar. And this may explain why two weeks after the May 30th event, the ‘Talakawa’ Governor still found it necessary to defend, (explain, for the Democrats) his decision to invite his political benefactor -his admission, not my insinuation- instead of the current number one citizen.

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One of the reasons advanced by the governor is that Obasanjo played a very significant part in putting his government in place, and extending the honour to commission the projects is his way of saying “thank you, sir”.
Governor Lamido’s reason, even if it is the only one, is good enough, not least because it is in the character of DECENT people to express their appreciation for a good-turn as best as one could, even if  the recipient of the return favour is not seen to be one. But that is not my reason for giving his action my imprimatur; my reason is more fundamental, I sincerely believe.

With the enormous task of taking Nigeria out of the sorry pass it has been dragged into and other sundry state matters that he has to contend with, the last thing President Yar’adua needs  , or has time for, is an unnecessary distraction; and taking hours, or even days, off from his very tight and, no doubt, punishing schedule to go to the states to commission their projects, is an unnecessary distraction, if ever there is one. Moreover, it is neither in the nation’s constitution nor his party’s or in Mr. President’s redoubtable Seven-Point-Agenda is it stated that only he must commission projects anywhere in the country. All he and his people need to, and should, worry about is giving life to the projects- what with the practical absence of any infrastructure worth the name in the country-and anyone can commission them afterwards.

Another point the President and his people have obviously failed to appreciate is the fact that we have so many former Heads of State and Presidents alive some of whom have all the time in the world, but with nothing or little to do with it. With seven of them in our midst, we are never short of those who will be only very willing to commission projects anywhere in the land.

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In more serious nations, they make conscious effort to keep their former leaders productively engaged. This they do either directly or by recommending them to, and encouraging local, foreign or international organisations to engage them in any dignified and dignifying assignment. 

More importantly, it is in the interest of the Yar’adua administration to keep our former leaders, nearly all of whom are stupendously wealthy, productively engaged so as to keep their body and mind busy enough to shun the temptation of mischief making, because, as the famous English novelist, Graham Greene, once observed; “time and money, provide an infinite capacity for mischief”. As the President knows very well, some of our former leaders have never been known to be averse to mischief making. Indeed, some are famed for it.
The President and his people, both the mighty and the not so mighty, would do well therefore to remember Wilde’s wise-crack to his socialite friend or, more importantly, Greene’s pointed observation about the negative purposes to which time and money could be channelled.

A word, they say, is enough for the wise.      
By Abdu Labaran Malumfashi

(08035981962)[email protected]

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