The Return of a Dictator
It seems that members of the National Assembly should prepare to head for the courts almost weekly in their dealings with the President. As Dansadau and Mamman were quick to notice, the president appears deliberate in his actions that contravene the constitution. It is this resort to dictatorship and the penchant to execute undemocratic hidden agenda against the North by the President that is the subject of our discussion this week.
Once a Dictator…
It is pertinent to note what really determines the conduct of the President and his de facto vice-president, T. Y. Danjuma. The two had at different times expounded the thesis that no retired military general should ever preside over democracy in Nigeria. With this argument Danjuma vehemently opposed the presidential ambitions of late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua. Obasanjo himself discredited the ambitions of General Babangida on the same basis. But that was when both of them were weak and had never dreamt that the civilian political class would come to be so morally and intellectually bankrupt as to entrust democracy in the hands of retired military dictators like them.
But trust the Nigerian military elite. He is an opportunist to the core and never committed to any principle. With the demise of Yar’Adua, the two generals, Obasanjo and Danjuma, who do not have any political support in their respective home fronts, were quick to harvest the fruits of his political effort which they subverted a decade ago, thanks to the willful collaboration with his disciples like Atiku Abubakar. The two generals immediately discarded their previous thesis on role of military in politics as soon as the manna came falling over their roofs.
Unfortunately, the veracity of that thesis has continued to plague them, for its foundation was sound at least in the context of Nigerian politics. Nothing could be a better illustration than their reckless defilement of constitutional power in the present dispensation. The order issued to some parastatals to return to Lagos is another manifestation of their imperishable habit of military contempt for civility and rule of law. A ‘bloodless soldier’ in his typical martial flurry saw the journey towards building a new defense headquarters in Abuja too long to undertake. (Remember, the defense headquarters building was designed over eight years ago and the ‘bloody civilian’ consultants who designed the building were never paid). With his dictatorial instinct, he ordered the ‘bloody civilians’ in NPA and NMA, who had the patience to build their headquarters, to vacate them immediately and hand over their keys to his ministry. The ‘bloody civilians’ should return to Lagos within four weeks. The Precedent had no problem concurring with this arbitrary dialectic from the ‘bloodless soldier’ because they are birds of the same feather.
However, in his corroboration, the President saw an opportunity to achieve other political goals. The return to Lagos order would not have come as a surprise if Chief Olu Falae were the President. We are surprised because it is happening under the leadership of Obasanjo for a number of reasons. One, Obasanjo was one of the brains behind the relocation of the Federal Capital from Lagos to Abuja. For the same person to renege on that commitment justifiably puts his fortitude into serious doubt. It also questions his erudition in geography as a head of state then. Perhaps he did not know that there was no sea in Abuja in 1978 until when he found himself at Aso Rock two decades later.
Two, Obasanjo has throughout argued that he is a protector of the constitution. However, many of his actions represent flagrant violations of what he claims to protect. These actions could either be out of his contempt for the law or due to his ignorance about it resulting in a persistent ‘oversight’. I find the world ‘contempt’ too strong a word to describe Mr. President’s obnoxiously conspicuous flaws. I would rather prefer to say that he was ignorant of “the law.” But then, this questions his qualification as its protector. If not for his military background, he could have taken the pains to present a bill requesting an amendment of the decree establishing the Federal Capital by the National Assembly. This will accord him the expedience of executing his whims. After all, as we said a fortnight ago, he knows how to “approach” the National Assembly that has so far shown its strong enthusiasm to acquiesce to whatever he craves.
Three, people, including the Yoruba, have all along believed that Obasanjo has transcended the parochial and chauvinistic tribal stereotype that defines the political comportment of the Yoruba elite. Though most of us would like to retain that confidence, his actions since assumption of office on May 29 defy its veracity. In fact, we expect that Yoruba nationalists would like a return of not only NPA or NMA to Lagos but the entire capital once again, in line with Darwinian dictates. Sometimes, some races find the laws of biology too difficult to overcome especially when they cannot leap above that primitive plane in anthropogenesis.
Four, the President’s transformation from a military dictator of the seventies to a millennial democrat was postulated to be an irreversible transmutation. Here also, we are faced with two assumptions to contend with, both of them graceless. One, we can assume that there was no mutation at all to warrant such a conversion, compelling us to abandon our earlier postulation as too naïve to be accurate. The laws of biology do not seem to support us either. The genetic discrepancy that results in mutation takes place well before birth, not during advanced stages of growth, after the organism has become a general and head of state. His history is not also on our side because, as we said earlier, just a decade ago, Obasanjo himself did not believe that a military dictator would nurture a democracy.
The second assumption is that all these violations of constitutional procedure are a ‘hangover’ from his past military tenure. Only an incredibly strong intoxication could yield this extraordinary prolonged aftereffect of over two decades.
I would like people, including the President himself, to see the relocation order issued to NPA and other similar parastatals from these perspectives. They are impregnated with more excuses than blame for our beloved president.
The Return of Dayyabu
Frustrated with the woeful performance of northern political elders, some northern ‘radicals’ have sought political refuge in the Afenifere. In this category we can count Dangiwa Umar (the rebel without a cause, as correctly pointed out by Ujuddud Shariff) and Balarabe Musa, though the latter seems to be disenchanted with the group recently. Abdulkarim Dayyabu, the national president of Movement for Justice (Rundunar Adalci), is another. Here is a man that represented for long the dissent voice against military dictatorships of Babangida and Abacha. The latter once arrested him for his antagonistic political comments. He teamed with the Afenifere in the current political dispensation and earned the chairmanship of its political party, the Alliance for Democracy, in the Northwest zone. Like Dangiwa, he enjoys a lavish coverage of the Lagos media for obvious reasons. He dismissed the complaints of Northerners against their marginalisation in Obasanjo’s cabinet. Similarly, he rejects traditional theories on issues bordering on the interest of the “North.” Dayyabu has always posited one reason or another to justify any action that denigrates it politically. He once claimed to have enjoyed the audience of Mr. President who he maintained is running the country in line with the advice he gave him upon assumption of office. What a privilege is it to be a member of AD in this administration!
But the terrain of politics is rough, full of deceit and exploitation. He has published an article on the return to Lagos order just last week in his favorite Lagos-based media. Apart from concurring with his plausible arguments in the publication, I still see that piece as the beginning of the end of his romance with the Afenifere. That romance in the first place was born out of the naïve approach of newbreed Northern politicians to politics. Suddenly we are stunned to see our critic of “Northern interest” educating us through irrefutable data on the state of marginalisation of the North in the civil service and decrying the return to Lagos order. He opened the article by describing the northerners who are condemning the order as “eminent Nigerians” and concluded by saying “Northern Nigerians and in deed all Nigerians, beware! Here comes the time to count your friends”. On my part, I would wish that Dayyabu were in a position to count his brothers first, before advising us to count our friends. Do we have any?
The Blind Middle Belt
If not for their lack of foresight, people of the Middle Belt would have been the first to reject the return to Lagos order, not ‘northerners’ like Dayyabu.
In the rhapsody of their strange confraternity with the Southwest who favored them in recent appointments, this category of Middle Belters became purblind to the long-term interests of their region. Otherwise, how could Danjuma and Atiku and the Middle Belt in general support a government that orders a return of parastatals out of the belt back to Lagos? The location of the Federal Capital and its parastatals in Abuja and the dredging of Niger and Benue rivers are two projects with the incontrovertible potential of transforming the entire belt economically. But their incandescent desire to see the Hausa-Fulani humiliated has blinded them to this glaring fact. Not only love, politics too could be blind.
But as Umaru Dikko pointed out in his recent masterpiece published in the last edition of this weekly, these brothers of ours will soon return. He is talking an irrefutable history. Their foremost politician, J S Tarka, allied with the Action Group in 1964. But he soon found out that the Yoruba are no less ‘colonizing’ than the Hausa-Fulani. So during the Second Republic, he retraced his steps and preferred to dine with the ‘devil’ he knew.
Atiku’s Political Suicide
The President has always assigned Atiku the dirty job of convincing the North whenever he is out to assault it. We heard him defending his unpopular ministerial list by assuring the North that it was done on basis of competence, thereby implying that the North is incompetent. As I was writing this article, he was reported in the Network News defending the relocation order using the most illogical arguments. He offered that there is nothing wrong in doing so: that the Federal Government couldn’t afford N50billion to build a defense headquarters; that there are federal parastatals in Kaduna and Maiduguri; that the NPA headquarters in Lagos is wasting away; that, that .. Haba Turaki, take it easy. So let’s expect NNPC, Corporate Affairs, NEPA and other similar organizations to move out of Abuja because their buildings will lie wasted in Lagos. Atiku does not need to take the pain of explaining the margninalization of Hausa-Fulani in the recent postings by the Ministry of Defense. He would argue that it was done on ‘competence’, a quality the North neither possess nor deserve.
I wonder if this was the cause Atiku was fighting for with the late Shehu Yar’Adua. An orphan should not accept anybody as a father, if ever he had one. Does not Atiku think that one day he will be asked to account for these ‘political 419 activities’, or does his political carrier end with his tenure as a vice-president?
Anyway, Atiku may not bother. After all, he happens to come from the North where all it takes to win an election is not merit or principles but money; and where people have short memories and are politically oblivious. Let him pray that the North will remain in such a coma forever. But if he believes that it will regain its political consciousness someday, he could as well regard today’s act of political vandalism as playing the last card in his political gamble.
Meanwhile those in the Yar’Adua camp should advise the vice-president on what is its best interest. I think the guiding principles and goals of the group, if it has any, overrides the political interest of the vice-president. Dr. Okadigbo would not agree better.
Where is Jibril Aminu?
Some voices could just afford to go off the political waveband, for whatever reason. That of Jibril Aminu appears to be one. I have not heard his authoritative voice in the recent clamor over presidential appointments or relocation order to Lagos.
Well, it is now clear why Obasanjo could not pick him as a running mate because he just cannot play the game Atiku is playing right now, or so we assume. I believe that he will now be expressing gratitude to God for saving him the humiliating status of a zombie. But the gratitude aside, he must be regretting also his vocal support for the Presidency of Obasanjo with these incessant assaults on the cause of social justice he Aminu was seen fighting for in the eighties.
The silence of Aminu, Rimi and other prominent northern politicians is profoundly astonishing. May be that is the best way to support the President in his lopsided policies. Otherwise, silence is certainly not the best way to show their disapproval. If they were his brides, we could have adduced that “her silence is her approval.”
A Word of Advice
In concluding our discourse today, I would like all those involved in selling out their long standing principles for a dime, the press and politicians in particular, to listen to the advise of al-Motanabbi, the tenth century poet. He once warned, “the lion will one day prey on anyone that uses it as his hunting dog.” Centuries later, Niccolo Mahiavelli confirmed this in The Prince, describing it as “a general rule which rarely, if ever fails.” He asserted, “anyone who is the cause of another’s becoming powerful comes to ruin himself because that power is the result either of cunning or of force, and both these two qualities are suspect to the one who has become powerful.”
30 July 1999