By Umar Sa’ad Hassan
I know what good morals are but you can’t act like an angel when you are in hell… that’s suicide — Tupac Amaru Shakur
Like every Nigerian out there, I want what’s best for this nation, but the biggest problem one could possibly have is to lie to oneself. We practise the dirtiest brand of politics known to mankind; it would amount to lying to oneself to think otherwise. The most despicable things are what we have come to accept as being part and parcel of the ‘game’. The day you choose to become a Nigerian politician is the day you sign up for ‘civilized barbarism’. The weak get devoured or watch from the side-lines. The honourable ones bow out when reality creeps in.
Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan is probably the luckiest politician alive: he was a deputy governor who became governor when his boss got impeached; a vice-president who became president when his boss died. The first time he stood for elections was for the office of president. Whichever part of history he falls on, it would make a great read for the kids yet unborn. But on the downside, he didn’t acquire much ‘working’ experience at the very top tier of Nigerian politics. What’s more? He has a VP who is even less experienced — a man who got handed the governorship of his state on a platter.
GEJ struck you as a great guy in the beginning. The type you would want to visit every Sunday to discuss topical issues with, eat pounded yam and share a bottle of wine (if you drink, that is) with, and watch a soccer game with before you leave. The type to become your children’s favourite ‘Uncle’. Something in you just felt he would be better off serving in another capacity but he wasn’t only president, he was leader of the ‘largest party in Africa’. A party harbouring some of the most hardened dirt-masters ever.
The president exhibited traits of a man overwhelmed with the responsibility of running the PDP at first. He listened too much to his kitchen cabinet and wasn’t in firm control. Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo was said to have stepped down as BoT chairman after he sensed the president was being asked to put him in his place.OBJ has spoken several times of the bad company GEJ keeps.
The president as a leader seemed weak. His loyalists, unlike that of OBJ when he was president, weren’t kept in a tight leash. They did as they pleased and ‘Oga’ overlooked everything and seemed ever eager to play the ideal party man. Obasanjo had the EFCC and other means to whip everybody into line. I tell people, even if the body served as a political tool, history will remember him as someone who fought corruption. It was easy because everyone was dirty. Either way, he kept his house in order and scored points. That is an attribute of a strong leader who though like GEJ learnt on the job. No one can ever regard OBJ as weak.
The president’s wife engaged in a supremacy battle with the governor of her state, Rotimi Amaechi. Sadly, her man stood by her and when Bamanga Tukur started a war with Governor Murtala Nyako, the then governor of his state which was reportedly motivated by his desire to have his son, Awwal Tukur, become the next governor; it became apparent the president was steering his ship straight into a storm. Then the charade of a Nigerian Governors’ Forum election made it all look more pathetic. Everyone has his enemies in politics but when they are within, you need to tread with extra caution.
Take a minute to put OBJ in GEJ’s shoes and imagine what he would have done. He would have sacked Tukur if he was turning into a liability without flinching. I can’t even imagine a woman married to that man having the guts to publicly square off against a governor. He would have dropped Stella Oduah long before GEJ did and it would be typical of him to seize the opportunity to score a political point by having her prosecuted by the EFCC. The petroleum minister would have been long gone, and if she ever chose to fly a private, it would be from her pocket. I give the president credit where it is due but I still consider him the most corruption-tolerant president we have ever had.
The only major crisis the PDP has ever had was under his watch and he deserves all the blame for allowing Tukur last too long in office. Every politician in Nigeria is ambitious and power-seeking. One only needs to remember that Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State hasn’t resigned to understand what I am driving at. The rebellion against GEJ by the nPDP members, most of whom are in APC today, was born out of the desire to exploit the crappy way the party was being run for selfish purposes. The pioneers of that ‘struggle’ saw it as the perfect time to pursue their ‘northern president’ agenda. All they needed do was pick an excuse to kick-start the whole process — what better one than Tukur’s excesses? When the governors walked out on GEJ at the party’s convention at Eagle Square, you knew the elder had not been respecting himself. One couldn’t help but imagine how busy Ribadu and his EFCC boys would have been the next day if they dared do that to OBJ.
After all said and done, they moved to the APC which was ready with open arms. That crisis marked a turning point for GEJ. He became a man.
GEJ waited for the dust to fully settle before seeing Tukur off in a most courteous manner. He even said they wanted to give him a harder task. In doing so, he exhibited traits of a Lionel Messi in the dirty game of Nigerian politics.
There couldn’t be a better man than Adamu Mu’azu to replace Tukur. He had what it takes to rally the troops and keep everything in-house. He wasn’t a redundant ‘has-been’ who shamelessly showed the troops his only role was defending the president and nothing else. They worked hand in hand to fix their leaking umbrella. They set out to woo back some of their old members and disgruntled members of the APC who had been rendered less potent by the ‘Ghana-must-go-wielding ‘New Boys’. They kept all party affairs how they should be – low-key. The new chairman wasn’t one who wanted to be in the papers just for the sake of it.
The process of letting the world know the PDP presidential ticket wasn’t up for grabs was subtly and non-controversially done. Getting Peter Obi and Olusegun Mimiko to join the party was a master stroke. These gentlemen were the Trojans of the political landscapes of their states. Ibrahim Shekarau was a strategic addition as well.
The new stewardship of the party has faced a few tests which they passed in flying colours to shut up all ‘doubting Thomases’.When the governors held the party to ransom till they were granted automatic return tickets and the senators chose to do same, they faced a potential disaster before the polls. No outsider like me can categorically state in the clearest of terms how this problem was resolved. The only thing we know is some governors were forced to drop their Senate ‘retirement’ plans, and more than a half of the 73 PDP senators didn’t get the return tickets they were clamouring for. The only bickering we hear is that of the soon-to-be ex-senators.
The loss by a majority of the senators and some notable names in the governorship primaries including those of his ex-ministers except the Dame’s ‘anointed’ candidate, Nyesom Wike, the former minister of education, is rumoured to be a well thought-out move aimed at cleansing the party. The nPDP saga destabilized the party in no small measure and the president deemed the cleansing necessary. New faces would give the party a new look and, most important, they would be easier to control. Not a few people went to town with stories of how the ex-ministers lost and of how they were GEJ’s candidates. And I ask: Does anyone really think the president’s candidates would lose an election in his party’s primaries? I don’t think so. At least not Jonathan’s PDP of 2014 where he strolled into the presidential primaries, picked his ticket and kissed them bye.
Today, one would have to admit that if this man learned on the job, then, he learnt well. The party is firmly under his grasp and the only thing he will need to worry about is the opposition. You would be tempted to give him even more marks than OBJ if you put into consideration the subtleness of his approach. No jail bars and no courtrooms. At least not yet. The boy has turned into a man.
— Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano.