After The OBJ Primaries

by Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

No one who had keenly followed reports and analyses of developments
on Nigeria’s political terrain in the past couple of weeks would be
surprised at the emergence of the Katsina State Governor, Umar Musa
Yar’Adua, as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic
Party (PDP). Indeed, it had been clear to even the blind and deaf that
the whole noise, big and high profile campaigns, screening and
re-screening by several committees, and all the pomp and fanfare about
the so-called National Convention and Presidential Primaries were all
intended to give the nation the dubious impression that something
serious was really happening, or, rather, that some really serious
minded Nigerians were meeting to jointly take an important decision
with far-reaching positive consequences for the future of their nation.

But, at the end of the day, as any fool on the streets had long
known, that very important decision ended up a one-man affair, based,
not on national interest, but, solely, on narrow, personal interests
of just one man. Now, if by any stroke of misfortune the PDP wins the
presidential election next year, Nigeria would end up with a
president, chosen by one man, and installed by the same man, for his
self-serving considerations, irrespective of whatever the feelings of
the rest of Nigerians are on the matter or their stake on the Nigerian
project. Let’s not forget, too, that the election, would depend solely
on whether that same man thinks we deserve to have an election next
April or not. Another name for this sickening situation, I am reminded
is: “Reforms”! Or you may call it “Otta Farm Democracy”.

But the real surprise in all these is why it would take some
really earnest presidential aspirants — otherwise very intelligent
men — all that long to realize that they were mere props, in fact,
ordinary decorations, or just plain side-attractions, in an even
not-too carefully disguised grand design that had long been
successfully concluded. Why these serious and intelligent gentleman
would allow themselves to be cheered-on on a path they ought to have
known led nowhere would remain one of the wonders of our “homegrown”

On the eve of the so-called primaries in Abuja, Gov Victor Attah of
Akwa Ibom State, one of the PDP “presidential aspirants”, was on
Channels Television speaking too much grammar with his peculiar
accent, waxing hot about his ambition to become Nigeria’s President,
and informing prospective undergraduates who would be stupid enough to
want to study courses like Sociology, Religion, Journalism, etc., that
if he became president, he would immediately rationalize courses at
our Universities, and restrict the faculties that offer those
“useless” courses to just a few universities, so as to reduce the
number of people who study them each year. According to him, instead
of many students offering those courses and ending up on the
unemployment queue, he would rather they studied more meaningful
courses which will make them employable once they graduate.

I understand Attah is an Architect, and I suppose Architecture is
one of those “meaningful courses” he believes students should consider
offering. Attah’s thesis would serve to vindicate the glaring fact
that most of the hurriedly formulated policies that Nigerian leaders
plagiarize from other lands and impose on Nigerians only serve to
demonstrate their insufficient familiarity with the reality on ground
in Nigeria. Now, apart from the fact that there are several architects
and engineers out there either also begging bread or goaded by
desperation to offer substandard services that has led to the collapse
of several buildings around the country, with huge costs to the
nation, I think that Attah’s simplistic, lazy-man approach to the
unemployment issue would rather compound the problem he thinks he has
found an exceptional solution to. If the nation today is equally
finding it difficult to gainfully engage those who are already graduates ofthose “wonder disciplines” he is recommending to every Nigerian youth, what would happen when the number of graduates in those areas are multiplied through this skewed reforms he is advocating in the university system? Does that not serve to enlighten our “super scientist” Governor that the problem deserves a more creative solution than the one he has hurriedly dredged up from only-him-knows-somewhere, perhaps, from the dustbins of some back-street colleges in Britain, or wherever?

Well, this is not even my concern here, so let me not allow myself
to be distracted by some proud flaunters of some ill-digested
theories. Moreover, for now, Attah has packed up his presidential
ambition, warts and all, and returned to Uyo with is big dreams and
big grammar, where rumour has it that he has, in strict compliance
with the PDP’s degenerate tradition, anointed his son-in-law to take
over from him as Governor of Akwa Ibom State. And before he would ever have the opportunity of thinking of becoming president again, he would be well over seventy, and thinking of retirement!

Now, I don’t know when President Obasanjo called up Attah and
instructed (yes, that’s the word!) him to end the drama of wanting to
be president, since the curtain had been drawn. I suppose it was just
immediately he emerged from the Channels TV studious, after that
brilliant interview, feeling high and good with himself, because of
that primetime outing. And so, despite all the flowery declarations of
policy thrust, all the expressions of belief in popular democracy,
freedom of choice and particiaption, civil culture and all that, the
whole thing had all been hinged on the whims of one man, and once that
one man issued a very terse order, all the “presidential aspirants”
genuflected with haste, swallowed their ambition, and headed home.
That’s Nigeria’s democracy.

Now, did Governor Peter Odili of Rivers State, whose only claim to
political stature, and, in fact, hope for victory in both the
presidential primaries and the actual election, was hinged on the fact
that he “was the beloved son, in whom Baba was well pleased”, try to
resist when the instruction arrived at his doorstep that Baba has now
found another “son” in Katsina, and so, wants him to also end his own
comedy, put on his bowler hat and return to the waiting hands of Mary
in Port Harcourt? Well, what became clear was that as the day of the
convention threw near, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes
Commission (EFCC), swooped on the hitherto “forbidden and untouchable” territory of “Baba’s beloved son” and, reportedly, arrested and detained Odili’s Finance Commissioner, Mr. Kobani, two other
commissioners, Mr. Arumemi-Johnson, owner and founder of Arik Air, and the Speaker of the State House ofAssembly, Mr. Amechi.

Perhaps, the message was lost on Odili, who still continued to run
his campaigns with zeal and fanfare. Then reports began flying around
that Nuhu Ribadu and his men were now after him personally. In fact,
the Daily Times of Nigeria (December 15, 2006) captioned it’s report:
“Odili May Be Impeached Over 200 Billion Fraud”.According to the
paper, “If feelers from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission
are anything to go by, the Governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili will
soon join the ignoble list of impeached governors. Sources close to
EFCC investigators sieving through the books of the oil-producing
state say that the agency may have discovered the misappropriation of
over 200 billion naira.” By this time, Odili has already got the
message and quit the race for good.

Now, Yar’Adua has emerged the “winner” inthe PDP presidential
primaries. I just hope the Katsina State Governor would realize that

has enormous task on his hands. He must go the extra mile to
urgently commence the most essential task of correcting the very
unflattering image the Obasanjo anointing has unavoidably attracted to
him. Long before he featured in the many speculations about the PDP
presidential hopeful that would win Baba’s confidence,there have
been widespread reports that the only qualification that would earn
anybody the position Yar’ Adua has so effortlessly collected today
would be the willingness to “protect Baba’s interests” when he
retreats to his farm in Otta. Of course, Yar’Adua should know what
that means. He needs no one to tell him that what this implies is that
he would never dare to ask any probing questions about the stewardship
of his predecessor in office (if he wins the main election in April),
or pry into his sudden stupendous wealth and “legacies” located here and there. Most importantly, he must show that he would be counted upon not to reverse the “reforms”, which (as he must understand) actually means the auctioning off of Nigeria’s prized possessions to friends and cronies that became part of our recent history. “Reversing the Reforms”, therefore, means revisiting those scandalous sales and digging deep to find out whether those in power merely bought up Nigeria through proxies.

To ensure this arrangement does not backfire, the PDP constitution
has been hurriedlyamended. Now only a former president elected on
the platform of the PDP can become the Board of Trustees (BOT)
Chairman. And when I looked at the powers of the BOT Chairman as
reported in the papers last weekend, there is no doubt, that the
President in Aso Rock might end up being a mere errand boy to the real
president in the farm house. Especially, if that “farmhouse president”
is also the life-leader of his party, with overwhelming powers.
Democracy of one man, by one man, and for one man!

Dear reader, this is the Nigeria we have found ourselves in. For
while the Nigerian state has completely failed, those who call
themselves our leaders are only interested in their personal welfare
and comfort. In Lagos now, places like Agric or Barracks in Ojo Area
have become war zones. Hoodlums operate any time, anyhow, do whatever they like, kill whom they want to kill, spare whom they want to spare, while our rulers are busy jostling for power for self-serving reasons.
And from any fool can see, there appears to be practically little or no governance going on.

Now, if Obasanjo has read Robert Greene’s 48 Laws Of Power and
Nicole Machiavelli Discourses, it would have dawned on him that no
matter the extent of manipulations he indulges in to plant surrogates,
puppets and toadies in power, with the hope of teleguiding them from
his farmhouse, this is one risk bad students of power have always
undertaken to their grave disadvantage. If what the authors of these
books are saying are anything to go by, it is those same seemingly
pliable, loyal servants, who have been “yessiring” you all these years
that would look into your very face, when they have finally
consolidated themselves in power, and cut you to size.

To expect that an educated man (especially, one who was even once
known by his colleagues in the academia as “Comrade Yar’Adua”), who
also has his eyes on the verdict of history, and who might evenwant
to equally have his own minions to genuflect before him, and leave his
own “legacies” here and there, would agree to hold power in trust for
one godfather somewhere in a multi-million naira farm, and just be
content to be his mouthpiece, in this twenty-first century, would
amount to stretching uncritical optimism and wishful thinkingbeyond
their malleable limits.

Who would have told Chris Ubah that the seemingly pliable, “yessiring”
Ngige, would prove to be his nemesis once he ascended the throne?
Fredrick Chiluba is somewhere in Zambia, someone should hop across and ask him to relate his own experience. Na so this world be.

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Anonymous December 22, 2006 - 5:06 pm

Good Article Sir. Very well written.

Mr Goddy and his likes must be reading the article upside down.

I have observed that some elements within and outside Nigeria, are quick to label a writer a cynic. Obviuosly a well reasoned criticism is aliens to yes men. Even if it were so that these brilliant writers like Ejinkeoye are incurrable cynic. They and the rest of us have an absolute write to be cynical after 46 years of reckless abuse by the same crop of beggers or leaders

bennie December 22, 2006 - 3:03 pm

One is either an Optimist or a Pessimist; there's no inbetween and there's absolutely nothing wrong with being one or the other. An optimist believes or can see that "light" at the end of a tunnel. A pessimist, on the other hand, would swear that a rattlesnake infested dungeon is the only thing waiting for you. Maybe the author is just another Pessimist who simply sees the glass as "half full" rather than "half empty." The world is not full of happy, shiny people who can only see the bright side of everthing. Does a coin not have two sides? This is just my two cents; take it or leave it!

Reply December 22, 2006 - 6:50 am

I read through this long article and, once again, came off with this writer's habitual cynicism. As usual, what his articles project most often is that: all our leaders are bad…the country is doomed…everybody is in the country is horrible (except himself though). For God's sake, when is this guy ever going to see something good, no mater how little, in our nation? Does he ever think that all these constant negativity may somehow be a reflection on his kind of person?

Incidentally, I read his article just after reading the following letter on the guardianonline (Dec. 22, 2006). Although it was a response to another habitual cynic, I believe the letter can serve as a response to this guy's article as well:

Who says the President does not listen?

By Robinson Akiri.

SIR: Why do we wish ourselves calamity at the rooftops? That is the way I interpreted Mr. Luke Onyekakeyah's " 2007: Our future is at stake" in (The Guardian, Tuesday, December 18, 2006.) Is democracy a surefire means to electing good leaders? If it were, the pinnacle of democracy would not be in its present predicament.

What we should do is seek opportunities and strengths in our leaders, and us as a people and proffer solutions to perceived problem rather shout ourselves hoarse about impending dangers.

The media should advocate positive contributions from the people and shun habitual critics of anything done by our leaders. Truly most of the leaders are not deserving of the connotation but we are not good followers either.

Concerning the choice of the PDP flagbearer and his deputy, by now, if we are smart enough, we should know that President Olusegun Obasanjo is more than a 100 per cent smarter than he looks. We should see in him someone who wants to make a mark for himself even if you believe that he is offering nothing to the country. We should evaluate his guided choice of the PDP flagbearer in that perspective.

At the conclusion of the convention, I got instant inner peace with the substitution of Dr Goodluck Jonathan for the Dr. Peter Odili as running mate, courtesy of the intervention of Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, the Chairman of EFCC. That intervention by Ribadu may have changed the course of our country's history. The PDP duo has the potential to effectively handle the baton from the incumbent. We should give kudos to the EFCC Chairman for a job well done. Who says the President does not listen?

Robinson Akiri,

Philadelphia, USA.


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