Life Abroad

The Damage Controller-in-Chief

When you are President of America and in deed in most other nations around the world, you are the Commander-in-Chief as well. Our own G. W. a chip of the old Block is not only a deserving Commander-in-Chief, he is also the Sneaker-in-Chief as well as the Damage Controller-in-Chief, given his track record in office and from my own unique perspective as somebody who is fascinated by Politics in America, and how it compares with Politics back at home in Nigeria.

I take off my hat for America and their founding father in George Washington, but more so, for the generation of leaders and followers who had taken over from the very first President who is now regarded as the father of the Nation by acclamation in America and all over the world. I am talking of the notable ones among those leaders and Presidents that have specially caught my fancy. They include Thomas Jefferson, the man who had put finishing touches to the eighth wonder of the World, the great American Constitution. My heart goes back to Abraham Lincoln, himself, a slave owner and one of the greatest beneficiaries of the Slave Trade, who had led the move to emancipate all the Slaves in America. He had then gone ahead to make the supreme sacrifice by becoming a victim of an assassin’s bullet for his beliefs and conviction.

I am talking of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt the man who dreamed up the great Public Assistance Program and Safety Net that his successors simply could not afford to shed, because it was fundamentally helpful to mankind and humanity. My heart goes again to9 Harry Truman the man who saw the dream of his predecessor come to fruition in creating the mighty League of Nations which is today called the United Nations. I can’t help but remember the great Allied Nations Supreme Commander in Europe who later became President in Ike Eisenhower. My heart goes out to the youngest American President and the first Catholic, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Ronald Reagan, William Jefferson Clinton and now George W. Bush Jnr who won the Presidency by losing it, and had been governing the country as if he was elected by a landslide Only in America!

That I am able to write this article and not wake up tomorrow morning expecting to be picked up by FBI or some assassins to come answer to some charges as to why I am criticizing the President, speaks volumes on the quality and caliber of American Democracy. I can assure I won’t have the effrontery to write half of what I write from time to time, if I have never left home. I am only taking liberty of my sojourn in America. I will be the first to admit that American Democracy is a long, long way from being perfect, but nothing better or more deserving has yet been found any where else in her other colonies which may now include the Moon and the Red Planet. In American Politics, nothing, absolutely nothing, is written in stone. A day in American Politics is sometimes too long, and could make the difference between life and death for those who shape it.

That statement is only true of America and some of the developed nations around the world. It is a different ball game however in much of the third world except India. In Nigeria, for example, even four years, do not a difference make, not to talk of one day. Results or the outcome of Elections are determined in Nigeria well in advance, and our leaders just work to the answer. Period. It makes no difference how a political Party or Government has performed, or what type of calamities or disasters have afflicted the nation under the Government’s watch. It does not matter what bombshell or scandal may unfold, the winner is almost always predetermined That was precisely how the PDP and Obasanjo had coasted to their landslide victory in the last Election, and most especially in the South West.

It is common knowledge the NPN or its successor, the NPN has always done very poorly in the South West which has been exposed to Awolowo’s dynamic leadership as far back as the 50s, and could hardly think of switching loyalty anytime Elections are held in their own territory. The South West had maintained that stance until it came face-to-face with the Obasanjo/PDP steamroller anchored on a strategy perfected by the duo of Olabode George acting in tandem with Atiku Abubakar who did their homework and crafted the magic formula that had worked in symbiosis with the plan of Obasanjo to polarize the AD in the South West. OBJ had done that by appearing to take sides with the Bola Ige faction of the AD by offering Ige a cabinet position in a PDP Government. OBJ had thus sponsored and secretly bankrolled the schism in the AD by backing Ige who had used the Congress of Yoruba Elders as an alternative to Afenifere.

The hope was that the Ige’s sponsored faction was going to eventually merge with the PDP to marginalize the Afenifere faction before the 2003 Election. But just like OBJ and PDP had his plan, Bola Ige also had his. He, sure, needed the might of the PDP Federal Government to take back his own pound of flesh from the Afenifere faction for staging a coup against him by going for Olu Falae who was considered a Johnny Just come (JJC) in AD, in the calculation of Bola Ige and all those who had were in the same frame of mind with Bola Ige. What Bola Ige did not think through is that Olu Falae was more than a JJC or an eaglet in Politics. He was a one man battalion at the time by reason of the positions he had held in the Federal Government prior edging out Bola Ige as the nominee of AD. He was not just a one time Permanent Secretary, he was for many years the pioneer Director of Central Planning responsible for crafting much of the Development Plans of Nigeria from the mid 60s. He had moved from there to become Permanent Secretary in the Manpower Department of the Office of the Head of Service. It was my job as Secretary, Staff Development, that was upgraded into the position of Permanent Secretary before Olu Falae was posted there.

It was meant to be a downgrading for Falae by the Shehu Shagari Government in 1979 because somebody had stigmatized him as an awoist. Olu Falae had managed to turn the disappointment into an appointment with some help from the Crown prince Abubakar Alhaji Alhaji. Olu Falae, if you know him, is an enigma of an individual. He is intelligent, unflappable razor-blade sharp, and above all, a lucky man who is gifted with uncanny ability to pick a needle from a haystack of ideas and policy with effortless ease. He had voluntarily retired from the Federal Service to become the Managing Director of the Merchant Bank. In all of those positions Olu Falae had acquired a lot of visibility and IOUs that are very critical to anybody aspiring to leadership in Nigeria. Olu Falae then came back as Secretary to the Federal Government under IBB and for six months as Federal Minister of Finance. it doesn’t get any better than that for any Southerner aspiring to leadership in Nigeria. With those accolades under his belt, it should have been cleared to Bola Ige, Olu Falae could have be an “Aburo” to Bola Ige by calendar age only. Olu Falae had seen himself as a real “heir apparent” to the nomination for President in the South West. He even believed he had better chances than Bola Ige, and he proved it when he left “Egbon” Bola Ige scratching his head at the end of the exercise.

Bola ige had therefore underrated Olu Falae going in, only to be embarrassed by the fact that he was beaten flat by Falae. In his desperation, he had to accept the red meat thrown to him by his good friend, OBJ who also misread Bola Ige’s central character and calculations. Once Bola Ige had already got what he wanted in the fact that Olu Falae had eventually lost the election to OBJ in 1999, and the Abdulkadir faction of the AD led by Bola Ige, was the faction now recognized in law by the Electoral Commission, Ige had now sought to go back to position that faction for a formal takeover of the South West from Afenifere, and in time to plan his strategy for neutralizing the Atiku/Olabode George/OBJ plans to rollover the South West with Bola Ige already in their camp as Federal Minister. They made a huge miscalculation when they suddenly found Bola Ige serving notice to PDP his own faction of AD was going to return fire for fire in the South West. That may well have been, if Bola Ige had not been taken out on November 23rd seven or more months to the Election time in 2003.

That was where Bola Ige had met his waterloo. The Omisore debacle only offered a perfect alibi for the devils to take out Bola Ige, and to take him out neat and clean. It would be a miracle, if anything ever comes out of the protracted probe and litigations on Ige’s death. Forget it. Sooner or later Omisore would have to be left off the hook or sacrificed to cover the trail of the real killers. He had only found himself at the wrong place at the wrong time. Please forgive me for digressing this much. I needed it just to illustrate my point that Nigerian Politics unlike American Politics, is a lot more predictable. In America what would happen in any Election is a factor of how much of a sneaker and a damage controller the major players in the game are able to make themselves, at any given point. Howard Dean candidacy is a perfect example that a day in American politics can spell doom for a player. Howard had started out as a heavy favorite to become the Democratic nominee several months ago. He had hit the right chord, and had found his rhythm. But he is today on life support, barely surviving, having lost all of the nine primary contests from one state to another and could be history if the Wisconsin Primary goes the same way for him. When it rains it pours for Howard Dean. The two Johns, Kerry and Edward are evidently doing well today, but their staying power could also depends on how much of a sneaker and damage controller they are able to muster. So is the incumbent President himself. That is vintage America, and you have got to love it like I do.

This article will now focus my reasons for calling Bush the Sneaker-in-Chief and the Damage-Controller-in-Chief. My point here is that Bush or John Kerry if he becomes the Democratic nominee, which is conceivable now, could still win or lose big time, depending on what happens between now and November. That is the beauty of American Politics, and that is where it is so different from our own brand of Politics in Nigeria, where you could be committing one blunder after another in Government and still record a landslide victory in Elections because victory in elections in Nigeria have nothing to do with performance, merit or quantifiable achievements. Shehu Shagari became President in the exact words of Obasanjo in 1979, because the best candidate has never won, and does not have to win in Nigeria. All Shagari ever wanted to be was a Senator or a local champion but he was catapulted into the big league by the powers that be in Nigeria. Of course, he had to fail woefully, taking the country along with him.

Those things don’t matter in Nigeria. If they do, IBB would not be planning a comeback in 2007. Obasanjo would never have contemplated running in 2003 not to talk of running again in 2007. By the same token, Atiku who is joined in the heaps with Obasanjo would not even be contemplating running in 2007. I guarantee you, that if Sani Abacha were still alive today, he too will be bracing up to run again without any question in my mind. That is Nigeria for all of us.

Now let us go to the score card of George Bush and why he could conceivably lose the Election next November, and why I think he may not, because he is the Sneaker-in-Chief and a Damage Controller-in-Chief, if you buy my logic or hypothesis. Usually, the last State of the Union Address in an Election Year is supposed to be a morale booster for any President in power in America. The last one by Bush was nothing but a morale booster. The President’s opinion polls number actually went down following that speech. You can call it a “morale downer” for Mr. President. The President had raised the prospect of America returning to the Moon in that speech in the hope of scoring a Kennedy jackpot. He had failed woefully in that effort as well. With the surplus left behind by Clinton now running into record deficits of red ink under Bush in four years, the Moon initiative by Bush was DOA (dead on arrival) from the get go.

Then came the War in Iraq. Majority opinion in America today is that the President lied, had manufactured or hyped the intelligence reports to get America into War that still continue had shed so many American blood, and had cost so much in tax payers money even after the President had declared “mission accomplished” That too has turned out to be another lie too many from this President. America is rebuilding the infrastructures in Iraq while infrastructures in America are crumbling and decaying. Nobody has been able to make that point more forcefully than Al Sharpton. David Kay had only come to add more urgency to the debate on whether or not the Iraq War was absolutely necessary.

The issue that Bush is acting as if he has had a clear-cut mandate from the 2000 Elections, to make drastic changes has again come up for mention in the primaries, because this President had won in 2000 by losing, and only because the composition of the Supreme Court is more Republican G. W. would not have been President today if the elections had been held any where else in the world. Then came the fact the man did not serve in Vietnam. He had managed to only serve in the Reserve where he did not have to fire a single shot. And for such a man to now be running against the real deal who had not only fought in Vietnam, but had ended up a War Hero, before going into politics. There is the issue of the Economy because most American voters always vote their wallet and pocket books. But this Economic recovery has been described, at best, as a jobless recovery making it a no win situation for a sitting President. While Bill Clinton had created 22 million jobs in eight years of relative peace and progress for America, President Bush can only talk of record losses and a jobless recovery, whatever that means.

Bush, coming in 2000, had told the nation he would never lie to the nation, come rain or shine. What exactly has he done? It is exactly the opposite. He had lied about the Intelligence reports telling America and the United Nations, he knew where the stockpiles of the Weapons of Mass Destruction were in Iraq. More than a year after the end of War and with spider man Saddam Hussein now in American custody, nothing has been found by way of such weapons. The Republicans and George Bush would be calling for an impeachment if it were Bill Clinton. What goes around comes around. If it was good for the goose it should be good for the gander. Bill Clinton’s lying did not kill a soul. G.W.’s lying is daily taking its toll on American lives and capital in the name of bravery and patriotism The credibility of America as leader of the Free World is totally in shambles as we speak.

What is worse is the fact that that preemptive strike of perceived enemies has now become an American Government Policy? You get them before they get us. How could a country as powerful as America be allowed by the rest of the world to do that? How can any sensible and rational country feel at ease with such a policy when you know that the countries that make up the United Nations of today are both weak and powerful nations like America, Russia, China and so many other European countries, and weaker countries like Gambia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Bahrain, Belize, Burundi, Comoros, Fuji, Grenada, Haiti, St. Lucia Tuvalu, Tonga and Vanuatu just to mention a few. It is simply an insane policy that would cause more problems than it is out to solve. Preemptive strike policy by the World’s only super power is nothing but a Pandora box, unless it is predicated and anchored on very accurate intelligence.

It is not right for a country as powerful as America, Russia and China to first of all destroy and destabilize a nation only to say that she is sorry because she has based her decision on faulty intelligence like we are now witnessing in Iraq today. It is neither good for America nor good for the rest of the world at large.

These are some of the issues on which America is very vulnerable under George Bush. If you have a good Democratic challenger that is able to frame these issues, and articulate them properly for the entire nation to understand, George Bush’s presidency may well be history by November. Before George Bush was here, the Republican used to describe the Democrats as the “tax and spend” crowd. Today, the Republicans under Bush can correctly answer the same appellation in a negative sense. Why? Because the Republicans under Bush are cutting taxes, but increasing spending, at the same time, which is even worse than the “tax and spend label” they have always placed on the Democrats. The Republicans under George Bush now create the deficits only for the Democrats to come clear it up and to then turn it into surplus like has happened under Clinton who had cleared all the deficits created under Ronald Reagan and George Bush the First, to produce a record Surplus which the second Bush has again squandered in four years of unnecessary and counterproductive wars.

George Bush does not deserve to win in recognition of these track records. The bad news is that he just might win again in November, if care is not taken. Why? Because Bush and those who work for him are just too sneaky, and G.W. is the best damage control president you have ever known. He would tell you he does not pay any attention to opinion polls, if you believe him, you miss the road. He lives and dies by opinion polls, as he well should do, and he takes very quick steps to make changes or find some ways to begin to minimize the damage. He is allowing Tim Russert of Meet the Press fame to interview him today for precisely the same reason hoping that his personal charm that has worked so well for him before, could now begin to turn the table again, especially now that he has an idea, that winning this time is no longer going to be contingent on those chads and dimples in Florida Ballot papers or another ruling of a Supreme court.

By the same token, G. W. is commissioning Laura Bush whom he has always wanted to package to the nation as another Barbara Bush, to now take the podium whitewashing his presidency. He might end up using his mum, Barbara Bush herself at some point, if he thinks things are not going his way. G. W. is that clever and sneaky. He now sees that landing on an Air Craft Carrier may now make him look more like a Dukakis in an armored vehicle in his possible epic battle with John Kerry. the articulate War hero who may well become the next President come November, if Luck and Destiny continue to smile at him all the way to the White House. With as much as 170 million dollars in his Campaign vault at the last count, Bush is going to go after John Kerry painting him black and turning his purple heart medal into nothing.

He would be drawing analogies between Kerry and George Macgovern and Michael Dukakis and if possible between Kerry and Bozo. Bozo is the American equivalent of Baba Sala or Baba Mero or Jacob Papa Lolo or Fadeyi Oloro. Bush is going to try everything in the book, believe me. As a loyal democrat, I have to alert Kerry about what he is up against between June and November if he gets the nomination which is now his to lose, given the realities of today.

Part of the damage control strategy of Bush is naming Chuck Robb a Democrat and a former Virginia Senator to head the Panel to investigate the Intelligence Lapses that lad led America going into an unnecessary war with Iraq. Setting up the panel when he said he would not, was another exercise in damage control when he found that his credibility was eroding fast, and he had to do something about it. He has wanted to do it, before somebody else would have to be the one to set the agenda for him. He has personally handpicked the members of the Panel whereas he should have allowed the Democrats to be the one to pick who can best represent their view point on the panel. That was point number one. Point number two is the “Terms of Reference” given to the panel. G. W. has carefully crafted the terms of reference to limit the Panel to certain areas and to a “no go” area. Point number three is making sure the Report of the Panel is only going to come after the next Election must have come and gone. What he cannot completely preempt is the debacle hanging over his neck like the sword of Damocles for the rest of the Election Year, and possibly convincing or persuading some of the independent swing voters who, otherwise might have voted for him to jump ship, and just go for the two Johns, Kerry and Edward in the Dream ticket…

I am not necessarily criticizing the President for doing what he is doing. As a matter of fact, I think I admire him for so doing. That he is doing something can only mean he is, at least listening and responding to the peoples’ wishes in a proactive way. How I wish President Obasanjo is listening like that in Nigeria. The whole nation is complaining the man doesn’t stay home to do his job. He is gallivanting around the world doing things that any of his officials could easily have done. Did he listen? Hell, no. To address the Security problem in America, G. W. has set up the Department of homeland Security and has provided it enough fund to do the job. On the contrary Obasanjo, earlier on, in his first term, had identified Corruption and Instability and distrust as major problems in Nigeria. What has OBJ done about it? He has done what Mandela had done in South Africa. He had set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Nigeria, but will not grant the Commission as much power as its South African counterpart, to do something concrete about the problems. What of the Problem of Corruption? The same answer, the Commission set up by Obasanjo to tackle the problem, has all but failed, because their hands are tied behind their backs, so to speak.

George W. Bush knows that for him to win in November he needs to urgently address the three important “M” in American Politics, namely Money, Message and Momentum. He is aware he is currently losing the last two, but has more than won the first “M” which is cash. He has raised no less than 200 million for this Election while all his opponent combined have only raised a fraction of that amount as we speak. But the beauty of American politics again is that money alone does not decide victory like it does in Nigeria. Getting the message and the momentum, and framing both in a way that is acceptable to the voters is yet another Herculean task. The two party nominees and their handlers are allowed to draw from the fountain of resources available to them from the country from coast to coast and from sea to shining sea. There is never a shortage of brains and geniuses in both camps. The choice is now left to who can better get the ears of the voters across the board on what really matters to the country as a whole in every Election

Year.

That is something Nigeria is yet to learn. All you hear from one election circle to another in Nigeria is who is going to keep Nigeria one, as if keeping Nigeria one is really all that matters in a country of 120 million where millions of children still go to bed hungry, where able-bodied adults are going around town begging for alms, where armed robbers tell you in advance they are coming to your house, and they come with clock-like precision. All of the High Ways are death traps. I was myself a victim because I lost my first daughter in similar accident, and a part of me had died with that adorable daughter, believe me. We are talking of a country where crimes and corruption have reached alarming proportions, and very little is being done to address them. We are talking of a country where Primary and University Education have all but collapsed.

We are talking of a country that produces oil and sells oil and electric power to other neighbor countries, but cannot meet the daily demands of her own people at home. We are talking of a country that makes Africa the corner stone of her Foreign Policy, whereas it is Islam. Our leaders are just too cowardly to tell the truth to their own people. Our country is today in OPEC and OIC (Organization of Islamic Countries) even though the two Organizations are known to have seriously undermined and compromised our best interest, all things considered. How I wish our own President can be a George Bush, be a Sneaker-in-Chief and a Damage Controller-in-Chief in a positive sense to make our country a better place for us all?

I rest my case.

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