My Stand on IBB, Buhari and the Emir of Gwandu
Dr. Aliyu Tilde
Expectedly, our last discourse was upsetting to His Highness, the Emir of Gwandu. He met with two of my elder brothers – Mohammed Haruna and Kabiru Yusuf – to complain about it and even threaten a court action. However, the elder brothers pleaded with him to give up the idea, and he yielded. I am grateful for their persuasion because, were it not for it, students and practitioners of Nigerian law of tort would have had a new case to study and cite in their schools and courts – Emir of Gwandu v Tilde. I would have been forced to publicly deny every word in the article and pay as damages a sum that is likely to be beyond my reach. I now remember Mutawakkil al-Laithi and pledges to be of very good conduct henceforth, at least in public.
However, one of the brothers – Muhammed Haruna - went a bit further, all in an effort to protect me. He lightly spanked me a couple of times, like anyone of us would do to an erring younger brother or son, saying, ‘you stubborn boy, do not court trouble again. If you do it, I will allow them to deal with you.’ That is my honest interpretation of the spirit with which he wrote The maligning of the Emir of Gwandu which appeared in his Wednesday Column of Daily Trust two days ago.
I have undoubtedly proved to be very stubborn, for that was the second time brother Haruna has spanked me for erring in public. As he once did so to correct me some months ago in reply to my Seven sins of Buhari, unfortunately, due to my fragility, he injured me with his long nail in a spot. I was shy to complain the first time. The wound has almost completed healing, as Ummi Kulthum would say in Fakkarouni, when this second time he mistakenly hit the same spot with the same nail. In addition to the refreshed wound, Haruna has mistakenly injured me in two other spots in his recent article. Though these injuries are not grievous enough to tamper with the admiration I have for him, in my discourse today I would nevertheless like to persuasively show him these spots such that next time he would set out to correct me, as Motanabbi would hold, he will be a bit careful on where to hit on my body.
The first wound was regarding IBB, about whom Haruna in his first article said I “hate” and recently said “Tilde believes is all vice and no virtue.” Haba yaya. How could a person be all vice and no virtue, regardless of his prayer, generosity and so on? I will not be surprised if the IBB himself and many of his friends believe the way Haruna does. But they are mistaken.
Let it be on record that I do not hate Babangida. Hatred is not my trade, at all. Haruna must take this word as honestly coming from a brother whom in his recent article he qualified as a “Malam, in the true sense of the word.” Let IBB and his friends also please believe in it.
If I hate IBB and believe that he is all vice and no virtue, I would not have ever written The North will vote for Babangida in which I called him to run for the presidency even if it were against the principles that I have been expounding in the column for two years then. Though I knew it carried the risk of contradiction and that of earning ‘intifadah’ from my dear readers (which they fairly did anyway, and so Atiku was not alone) I nevertheless went ahead and published it. (By the way, I have read that Atiku denied being stoned and booed at Kano. What then did the Emir went to Aso to apologize for then?)
I have realized that brother Haruna has quoted that essay many times in his recent article and it was his basis for diagnosing my problem as “confusion” over who should lead Nigeria – between “Buhari the idealist and Babangida the pragmatist.” I plead with brother Haruna to refresh his memory about what I said regarding Babangida in Goodbye Disappointed Reader, an answer to some of my readers who who staged an intifadah against me as a result of the first article. In it I placed all of us on the same spiritual plain as IBB.
Though confusion, contradictions and other ‘cons’ are part of the natural state of the human mind, and I am thoroughly human, I will still hold the view that Haruna would do his brother a better justice if he had quoted my article in its proper perspective. He should not, like Abu Nuwwas, say that “Your Lord has not said ‘curse those intoxicated (with beer)’, but he said ‘curse unto those who say prayers.” I have granted myself the allowance of explaining the seeming contradiction, on which recent political developments in the North have vindicated me completely.
In those two articles, I have given my reason for assuring IBB of the support of the North, were he to be the sole contender against Obasanjo in 2003. This is implicitly the stand that ACF took one year after that article was published. Someone is needed to stand against Obasanjo for the reason of survival, both of the region and the country at large. I have a strong belief that the corruption going on under Obasanjo is more than whatever we witnessed during IBB; the rate at which the units in the federation are becoming increasingly separated was alarming; the performance of the government was terribly poor; so much insecurity, poverty and so on.
It was reasonable therefore to think – and I may be wrong – that within the context of the aforementioned, IBB stood a better chance of gaining the support of the North than Obasanjo. A year later, I have heard people say that if Obasanjo and IBB were to contest, they will rather hold their votes. As for me, I still believe that I will vote for IBB. People may still feel that this is a contradiction, but it is a fact. For that reason, I will gladly serve under IBB a million times than under the Obasanjo that I know today. Under IBB at least people like Jibril Aminu, to my judgment, have in many ways performed well, far better than what the ministers under Obasanjo are presently doing.
I was disappointed that IBB was hesitant to follow the feelers he sent with action. To be precise, as many people know today, he has given up the question of contesting, to the extent that Obasanjo and his boys had a field day terrorizing us by saying that “there is no alternative to Obasanjo”, “no Mandela option”, “no vacancy in Aso Rock”, no whatever. This was terror. I do not know precisely when people started approaching Buhari, calling on him to develop interest in the presidential race. I was not at all in the picture until when hints of those efforts started appearing in our dailies, particularly Thisday. Believe my haste. I was fast in capturing the opportunity, quick in response. Without any hesitation, I lent my voice to that call. That was when I wrote Buhari, Please Join Politics Now.
People may now blame me, only with the benefit of hindsight though, that I was not wise enough to know that Buhari could be convinced to join politics. I doubt if Buhari knew that either, as he repeatedly said. But I know two things at least: one that God stand between man and his heart; and two, if it was certain that IBB will and can contest against Obasanjo, Buhari would not have bothered himself about the presidential bid. I am certain about the two.
But Malam Haruna, being closer to IBB than I am, knows very well the worry in the camp of IBB regarding his silence over this matter. It is a disappointment not only to the majority of people in that camp but also to us, who many believe are pythons that are full of venom, ready to spit against IBB.
However, I think I know the source of this disappointment. Part of it arises from the fact that IBB was once in power and he knows very well what damage an incumbent could cause to any opponent. Obasanjo is undoubtedly in a position to impair with IBB’s wealth and freedom, as he respectively did for the Abacha family and people like Bamaiyi. IBB is not a fool. He knows that among the thousands who have been enjoying his generosity, very few, if any, would risk to protest on the street or even write an article in his favor against Obasanjo. He saw it once happen to Yar’adua and Obasanjo. However, when everybody goes quiet, Haruna should not be surprised if it will be will be “confused” people like Tilde who will come out, “with all guns blazing” to the aid of IBB by writing “nasty pieces” against the selective justice of Obasanjo. The days are near, with the desire shown by the president, in compliance with the Afenifere conditions, to implement the recommendations of the Oputa Panel. Then brother Haruna will know that Tsiya ma da ranar ta. I think IBB already knows this potential in Tilde. That is why he has never bothered me. I like intelligent guys.
But I do not believe that Obasanjo is a fool either. Any incarceration of Babangida will further infuriate the North and lessen the success of his tazarce bid in 2003. What he is expected to do is to use any evidence he has against Babangida to coerce him into playing his game. And it is in this light that we clearly see the revival of the role Babangida played in the success of Obasanjo in 1999. That is the major message in the Privatization of APP: the joint bid of Babangida and Obasanjo which Haruna, to use his word, “thought was a nasty piece that unnecessarily antagonized General Ibrahim Babangida.” He must accept the rule uncertainty becomes certain with time because of the limited scope of our reasoning and the mistakes we commit. That is how the unpredictable Babangida became predictable since the early nineties.
However, a more fundamental problem of the article on Privatization of APP was that it accurately predicted and pre-empted the move of Obasanjo and IBB. It is nasty because that kind of information is supposed to be published only in confidential magazines that are restricted to top echelon political circles only. The public, especially in the North, have for long been denied access to such category of information. They come to know the truth ad post mortem, after they have been used and discarded. I owe my people, or at least the readers of this column the duty to tell them what I know, particularly now that the region has declared its resolution to work against Obasanjo’s second bid. It was not intended at all to “unnecessarily antagonize IBB”, Bafarawa, and others, to the detriment of Buhari’s candidature.
This brings me to the second wound. Haruna referred to my recent writings as propaganda which he defined as “the systematic spreading of deceptive or distorted information to achieve certain, invariably dubious, objectives.” It is a pity, that my brother does not know me well. The irony is that he reads this column always but he is yet to discern my personality. I will mention two things here. First, Haruna needs to find out personally the type of person I am. Though I recognize, as Abbas al-Aqqad said in Ana, that people may have an opinion about a person that is completely different from the one he holds about himself, Haruna should grant me the pleasure of immodestly to assert that “invariable dubiousness” has never been part of my habit or objective. So propaganda cannot be my tool.
The second thing is that what I said in Privatization of APP cannot be disputed. All the meetings I mentioned took place, in the way I described them; no one can deny them. As for the objective of the merger, it is clear now, as Haruna would confirm if he takes a peep into the ANPP presently, that the merger was a sell out, in spite of what anybody will say. Events have now proved that and more in the near future will affirm my stand. It is not propaganda. It is the truth. If Obasanjo is allowed to confiscate the ANPP, I know for sure that there will be two great losers: one, the North which will be demystified politically; and IBB who should expect a very rough time during the second tenure of Obasanjo. My words will not save him. That is my worry, and I can see many hands that are prepared to do exactly that job for their selfish goals. Forget about Buhari, who, if defeated at the primaries, will have every opportunity laugh last. He will look at us and say, “shebi I told you?”
The third wound is the charge of malicious falsehood against His Royal Highness, the Emir of Gwandu. I believe my article has done a great service to His Highness. I personally hold our traditional rulers in high esteem, though I am not blue-blooded in any way. I believe that there should be wisdom and decorum in the way they conduct themselves especially regarding political matters. The Emir has breached that in his desire to reconcile Buhari and Babangida. Going about gathering a congregation of Emirs at Arewa House or even going through ACF was not the best way of doing it, in my view.
I strongly believe that the two can reconcile themselves, if left alone. Nothing gives me this feeling other than the courage that Buhari had in preferring to pick the phone and call Babangida rather than allowing third parties (‘yan kai kawo) to arrange their meeting. I believe Babangida wanted to come, as he promised Buhari, but was prevented by people who go about town boasting that they stopped him from doing so. In addition, Buhari – supposedly the aggrieved party - has on more than one occasion publicly said he has forgiven IBB. What else do we expect him to do? To go about kissing IBB’s feet saying, I have forgiven you?
What role is therefore left for ACF and Emirs to play? Nothing. The role that remains is for people like Haruna and my humble self who appear to be close to the two. Let us prevail on them to use every chance to meet through the various opportunities that present themselves daily. It is through this that the gaps would be bridged, leaving out their fundamental difference like matters regarding worldview, personal principles, approach to governance, etc, which may vary as people vary in the length of their feet.
Still, if the His Royal Highness, the Emir of Gwandu, had felt that the rift between them necessarily calls for the involvement of a third party, he would have adopted the standard practice of the Sultanate. As Late Sir Abubakar Siddique once did with the seven northern presidential aspirants in the NPN in the Second Republic, His Eminence, the incumbent Sultan, also has the power to invite Babangida and Buhari to his palace within 24 hours and reconcile them. I am sure that both will listen to him and both will give him the assurance that they will do their best to improve on their relationship.
I often sympathize with Babangida. Though it is said that people are asset, sometimes – or most times rather – they can also be a problem, as the issue in question has shown. What IBB could do personally, people suddenly jump, for whatever reason, to offer their ‘assistance’. At the end the results are not always as bright as if he had taken the little inconvenience of doing it himself.
That is my view about the reconciliation. I was happy that about the meeting in Kaduna, we varied with yaya Haruna only in version. He heard one; I heard another. Both are now in public and people are free to believe whichever suits them.
Finally, just a small correction for my brother. Unlike what Haruna has said, Buhari has no problem with ACF. No, at least not yet. I believe if ACF will use the criteria of merit as expounded by the founders of the Sokoto Caliphate and which I once wrote about in 2003: Choosing a suitable candidate, he will have no problem even if the organization were to endorse someone better than him. It seemed before he could even go a third way through his article, yaya Haruna fell into the same trap of misjudgment of which he accused me of committing.
As I said in the beginning, I did not see Haruna’s recent article as hostile to me. He was calling his junior brother to order, in his effort to persuade His Royal Highness to abandon the idea of a court action.
If, however, I am wrong in my perception of Haruna’s motive, I expect him to pardon my credulity. If his intention was to expose my contradictions as regards IBB, he has done a futile job because I already believe, in spite of all the explanations that I gave above, in what Sidi Khalil said in his Précis, that no author is beyond mistake. For that I did not bother to write a rejoinder per se. This is not one. Had I wanted to do so, certainly, that would have been the cheapest thing – God willing and with all gratitude unto Him – which I could do even while asleep.