“An election is a bet on the future, not a popularity test of the past” (James Barrett Reston).
In his current treatise Dr. Okey Ndibe writes like a man who does not understand Nigerian history and African politics. But of course that is not the case. He knows Nigerian history and understands African politics; but for whatever reason, he teeters on not knowing. Furthermore, he writes like a man who has never studied Obasanjo. At the very least, he should have known that President Olusegun Obsanjo is not a fool. He was not a Korofo. And he is not related to Gandhi or to any pacifist, dead or alive. The man may have miscalculated with his Third Term scheme; but not this time, as neither Atiku nor Babangida is going to be able to bloody Obasanjo.
When Ndibe said “all three of them labour under a profound ethical deficit,” I wonder what country and what society the three men reside in? Is it not in Nigeria? Forgive my pessimism, but in today’s Nigeria, who speaks of ethnics and morality? No one who joins in Nigeria’s politics “emerges as squeaky clean…and un-bloodied.” The difference is generally in the degree of blemishes. Come May or June 2007 only one of the three men will be standing — standing tall, standing proudly and with a smirk on his face — as the kingmaker.
There is never a time I think of the Nigerian political system when I don’t think of Hedrick Smith’s interpretation of power: “…the ability to make something happen or to keep it from happening. It can spring from tactical ingenuity and jugular timing, or simply from knowing more than anyone else at the critical moment of decision.” Knowing he can never be president again, Obasanjo is the one who is going to install, or at least handpick the next PDP presidential candidate. And even the next president.
Josef Stalin it was who said “The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.” And so considering Nigeria’s political landscape, Obasanjo will decide everything. If he doesn’t, his friends and critics and enemies will take him for a weak-willed nincompoop. Should he lose to Atiku, he’d be better off in exile than hanging out in Nigeria.
When was the last time a sitting African president lost an election, or failed to get his man elected? During the Zambian election, Kenneth Kaunda was “foolish” enough to be transparent; but where did he find himself after the elections? He ended up in a penal complex and suffered from the hands of his successor. As far as I can remember, Daniel arap Moi of Kenya and Jerry Rawlings of Ghana are the only sitting presidents who failed to get their men elected. From Tunisia to South Africa and from Nigeria to Mauritius, sitting presidents mostly never fail to direct the position of the crown. To think or expect otherwise of Nigeria and Obasanjo is to expect a snowy night in Lagos. As per the 2007 elections, nothing will happen against the wishes of Obasanjo. I don’t see Atiku or Babangida getting in the way of Obasanjo.
Maradona or no Maradona, General Ibrahim Babangida cannot warm or wriggle his way into the presidency. His days as a charmer are long gone. His days as a darling of the military and the security establishment are long gone. The man cannot even win a senatorial seat in Minna or anywhere else in Nigeria. Same can also be said of Vice President Atiku. Atiku became “dead-on-arrival” from the day he started insulting his boss and began making mockery of the institution he help presides over. If he had resigned and fought from outside, that would have been honorable — but to fight against his government and party and to then ridicule and abuse his boss? That’s political suicide. Besides, his excesses and blind ambition are simply too apparent, offensive and discouraging. He is lucky Obasanjo is not Abacha. Past the 2007 elections, Atiku’s name and likeness would be erased from the Nigerian political scene.
Here is my bet: as interesting and instructive as A Feud of Three Bulls is, my opinion is simple: Ndibe’s general conclusion is faulty. The history of the country and of the continent does not back his assertion; neither does a fine reading and understanding of the major characters support his thesis. Nothing in Nigeria happens in a vacuum and no Nigerian leader has ever come out of a political battle holding the short end of the stick…with his nose bloodied? Not this Obasanjo!