By Adagbo Onoja
I trust that you are your ebullient self at this moment. It must be so after you brilliantly dashed to Abuja to stop ‘them’ from responding to former President Obasanjo’s dramatic departure from the PDP in the sulking, childish manner typical of “our great party”.
Even from the social media response I can see, you scored a sharp distinction in that move, toning down the impact of thunder and such a terrible commentary on the PDP.
It is, of course, a terrible commentary because, as you rightly pointed out, everything as it is today about PDP is the OBJ version of that party, completely different from the more elevated PDP put together by a dozen or so of you even before ‘Baba’ came out of jail in 1998.
For the same Obasanjo to walk out on the house he single handedly built in that dramatic and pregnant manner must suggest to everyone that the house is now occupied by people he cannot live with. There are those who say his own private interest explains his being an impossible co-occupant. But can that be true even when his allegations against the invading occupants are also borne out by the facts on the ground?
His departure just can’t but be a terrible certainty. This is simple logical inference since no one else in the PDP got in there outside of the OBJ framework for recruitment and progress in the party, meaning that no one there can claim higher moral, organisational or ideological grounds as to say that it doesn’t matter that ‘Baba’ left.
Even if it were true that OBJ made his move just in time to pre-empt a disgraceful expulsion, the point is that he has beaten ‘them’ to it and such is what life is all about. The long and short of it is that his departure and the manner he executed it is part of what keeps him still referential in Nigerian politics to the chagrin of all those who hate, despise or have utter contempt for him.
You may now see the point in congratulating you for investing the remnant of the PDP with some prestige by saying that the party would go and beg ‘Baba’ even though everyone knows that no begging or ‘begging’ would change anything now. Having congratulated you on what no one should deny you the credit, permit me to also add that it is about time you formally and completely put what Chief Zebrudaya would call final full stop to your commitment to President Jonathan and his ill-fated re-election mission. You would be entitled to respond instinctively to this unsolicited advisory with three initial questions on your mind: who am I to tell you to close any commitment to the president; why should you do so and what do you do if you do not support Jonathan?
Let me dispose of the first one first. The reality is that, up till today, there are people who still call me trying to book an appointment to see you, for example. There are others who know full well that I am no longer in Dutse but do not believe it is a genuine separation. Some are waiting for me to join ‘them’ in bashing you on the pages of newspapers to believe that there is some distance between you and I.
When they read me giving you your due, they entertain doubts. That is their own headache, not mine or yours but what all these bring up is that, somehow, you and I are still tied up in popular psychology. I am in love with that in the context of the original force that bound you and I together. That is the spirit of saying No to nonsense, irrespective of the cost implication even to our own personal security, a trait which found organisational coherence in the defunct PRP’s codebook on popular rebellion. PRP is no longer in existence but its discursive consciousness lives on.
Not only that you codified power as a governor in that discursive consciousness, it was also in the spirit of that heritage that you blocked the late Abubakar Rimi from doing something comparable in a way to what you are doing today in respect of your commitment to Jonathan now. And it is in that context that we have to call you to order at this point.
You have many people around you who can or who should do this but none of them has the same reasons why it is I who is doing it. One reason for that is you, more than anybody else, knows that, although I could ask someone for financial assistance, nobody has ever bought me with money yet, meaning that, even in your sleep of sleep, you will agree that this is the most original and genuine voice on this issue that you can hear.
And, in case you would be tempted to say that I was opposed to Jonathan in 2011 and this is a case of someone who has difficulty in shifting position, let me make a distinction between then and now. In 2011, I would say that when you watch Jonathan on television, you would say exactly the same thing Henry Kissinger said about how it could have occurred to anyone that Ronald Reagan could be president of the United States.
Then you would reply by saying that the same Kissinger also said that Reagan surprised everyone by bringing down the Soviet Union. And you and I would go on like this until you would put my stubbornness in its place by jokingly asserting your primacy. Perhaps, I should acknowledge the point that you never minded the authority gap between you and I in this routine debate within the larger ‘rotation of power’ debate preceding the eventual endorsement of Jonathan for the 2011 presidential election. Now, this is a different opposition based on the Jonathan the world has seen in the past four years.
Your Excellency, nobody argues against the fact that you are very intelligent. You are, indeed, intelligent because I have seen your red biro on my drafts too many times, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Government House, Dutse. I am also aware that some senior citizens of this country call you an ‘enigma’, probably at your back and they do so because they wonder how Barewa College education could position you so intellectually.
As foreign affairs minister, yourself and Bola Ajibola never got on well. But Ajibola never failed to ensure that you had an encounter with the British media much of the time we were in or passing through London where he was the High Commissioner under Obasanjo. And the only reason is because he said he loved to hear you speak. And there are many such examples I can give, the logic here being that, apart from the ‘PRP’ consciousness, we follow brilliance in following you. Now, what is the iota of brilliance in the Goodluck Jonathan project? Absolutely none! That entitles us to complain that you are misleading us from the path of knowledge and brilliance to something else and against which we are entitled to rebel.
That answers the second question as well in terms of why you should end your commitment to Jonathan. At great strategic, political and moral cost, you have put yourself as a paradoxical ideologue of Project of Jonathan who, in himself, is a dimension of the Nigerian crisis. How could that happen?
The third and final question is what should you do then? I would be the last person to urge you to convert to being a Buharite. In fact, I was politically happy when you were not one of those who changed over to the APC. If you recall, I did a widely published piece on November 19th, 2013 titled “Time for Sule Lamido to Pull Back”, advising against your moving out of the PDP. I did so because I do not know any condition that would bend crayfish enough to where Sule Lamido and General Buhari would share a party together and it would work well.
If all the efforts to make the two of you become ‘friends’ between 2008 and 2011 didn’t work, how would such happen just because Lamido had to find just any space outside the PDP but in which he would have had to share homestead with Buhari?
Around 2008, a Buhari ideologue expressed solidarity with one of the early popular programmes you launched as governor. I expressed surprise that your government was getting such solidarity from such a quarter even as you were always at Buhari’s throat, although Buhari never hit back at you. The ideologue surprised me further by saying that we should not mind Buhari and Lamido since they were politicians and we should always support what was right.
That encouraged me further to start a process that would have culminated in a Buhari-Lamido trek through Kano, for whatever it was worth. Your reconnection with Buhari was considered important in the context of your being the most experienced Northern governor and, by implication, a leader and one who should, therefore, be able to reach and hold confidential dialogue with all other actors on the spectrum even as tendency or other differences might exist.
The process proceeded apace, including a chance meeting between you and the said Buhari ideologue at a wedding or some occasion like that at Azare in Bauchi State. But before anyone could say reconnection, you again went on a Buhari blitzkrieg and everything was completely rubbished. Thereafter, it became impossible to show that one was serious in what was being contemplated. And the plan died at that point.
When Buhari visited the Government House, Dutse in the course of his 2011 presidential campaign, you resisted all urgings to convert the conversation in the Holden Room to a deep session with Buhari about Nigeria, in spite of whatever differences. From that moment, I gave up in obedience to the wisdom thrown at me by the fellow who said, ‘leave those two Fulani men alone’, notwithstanding my media reportage of that occasion in a way that suggested that both of you overcame an undisclosed hostility. Nothing would, therefore, have prevented me from concluding that you had been bitten by the opportunism bug if I saw you hobnobbing with Buhari once he became APC presidential candidate. It was great you didn’t move over.
However, the matter as it stands today, is beyond that. Nobody asks you to go and campaign for Buhari even though that is what your conscience should propel you to do since what you say about Buhari in private is also what you say in public – that he is not corrupt but surrounded by some people you have your reservations about. I do not have a clear idea of whom you might have in mind. You might be right there because I personally see a particularly signed up fascist around him hoping to become a governor. But it is not up to you but up to the people of his state to decide whether to elect him or not. Moreover, there are also a number of quality people there who would counterbalance such elements in the Buhari architecture.
What I am trying to save you from is the tragedy of erasing the record of a life of individual and collective rebellion with your unwarranted conversion to being an ideologue of a Goodluck Jonathan and whatever interests pushes him. It is that contradiction that is the point about this letter. Otherwise, by now, the Buhari people are in no need of more voters and campaigners. Even though the vote has not been taken, it is the realisation that Buhari would have won with an embarrassing gap between him and the so-called incumbent that has moved the people in government to start juggling with election date.
That is another very dangerous attribute of the Jonathan moment in power – this idea of devaluing any and everything and bringing them to his own level irrespective of the consequences for the entire country. One would expect the society to fight such things but our society is not yet sufficiently out of the metaphysical constraints of pre-capitalist sociality to do so. The tragedy is that, in this divide, you are in the camp peopled by elements you have no history to share with.
You are not just there as a bench warmer but as a crusader of some sort, staging a march past where angels fear to even tiptoe, making such a comment as the certainty of PDP winning this election while responding to Obasanjo’s dramatic exit. Though more of political showmanship than substance, such statements still carry a discursive signification that can propel one strategic mischief or another. An incumbent cannot be dismissed in a power struggle in Africa and even the most committed supporter of Buhari must leave room for such a possibility.
Nevertheless, the statement completely fails to reckon with Shakespeare’s wisdom to the effect that certainty is the chief enemy of security. Above all, the statement does not reckon with nemesis. Yet, with virtually the same allusion in religion, in science and in Marxism, nemesis is the most frightening reality about life. It is as clear as sunrise that should PDP win without being right, the next thing it would meet would be nemesis. And nemesis in an age of fluidity is what nobody can even ‘guestimate’ its implications today. It would have been better not to try to win without being right or put any contraption. Of course, people in government would always claim that they have more information than the rest of us. Since 1993, that has been the response of every government but they always crashed the same way we, the less informed, have perceived.
But the point here is that you have no business belonging to any cabal that either does not know or does not care that there is a conjuncture. Of course, there is and it shows nowhere else more than Obasanjo as PDP’s critique. Obasanjo, the grand author of the essential PDP has renounced it obviously for several reasons but the most central of which MUST be this Jonathan’s commitment to certain actions even when he knows or MUST know that they are destructive of the Nigerian spirit.
For example, why has he virtually declared a state religion, symbolically and empirically? It is neither in the interest of Christianity nor of anybody at all. That is just one example and anyone in the country today can name several of such nation- debasing praxis. This is the action of somebody who is reading the letters but cannot understand the spirit of the idea of “the end justifies the means”. The country can go to hell as long as Jonathan is in the Villa and goes by the title President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Your Excellency, let me end this letter this way: Jonathan is not worth anybody’s worth, certainly not yours, whatever fears or idiosyncrasies you might be manifesting. This is not because the people in APC are any qualitatively different from the PDP but because the APC has beaten the PDP to it this time the moment they have been more popular with the people. You need to perform an act of renunciation of cabalistic intrigues going on in the government today, not for the attention of anybody in APC but for history to show that, although you missed your way into the wrong camp for quite some time, you eventually made peace with the people of Nigeria by being on their side.
It doesn’t matter if you do this a few minutes before the final hour. In this regard, take your bearing from Obasanjo rather than from Jonathan. Obasanjo has certainly been part of the rot in Nigeria but Nigeria forgives him because, in that moment in history when the concept of nation-state has been undergoing severe interrogation and the suffering and misery that comes along with that for the majority, he stands rock solid for the preservation of this extraordinarily beautiful but over-raped country.
Today, the degree to which Nigeria has been raped is a source of embarrassment for everyone. Imagine being at a lecture or a seminar in which Nigeria is the referent in global statistics of poverty and infrastructural primitivity. And this happens all the time and everywhere, turning one’s happy, life-time encounter with knowledge into sadness and unconscious brooding. How could a country so permanently say No even when its Chi permanently said Yes? Buhari may not reverse this hopelessness dramatically but the idea of a change in the people leading this country at this moment would, in itself, mean so much in the possibility of moving toward where one could ever proudly introduce oneself any and everywhere as a Nigerian.
In terms of the possibility of moving Nigeria where one could feel proud, there is a global approval rating that cannot be dismissed when thinking about Buhari. What that global rating conveys to everyone is a cautious statement that there has been found someone within the Nigerian establishment who could discipline Nigerian capitalism and save the system from radicalisation, be it radical nationalism or terrorist radicalisation. Otherwise, how would the ultimate articulators of the interests of the liberal World Order such as the International New York Times or The Economiststake their pedigree in preferring Buhari?
They must have seen strong chances of his leadership in moving the country forward, in every sense of the word, particularly if Buhari quickly and successfully liberates himself from the stranglehold of PDP propaganda. I am referring to the kind of stranglehold which made him deny himself the golden opportunity to define the terms of negotiation between Boko Haram and the Federal Government in a way that would have embarrassed both of them; the stranglehold that would make him begin to wear somehow funny dresses just to show to people that he actually mixes and the stranglehold that might make him uncritically embrace Neoliberalism as to end up a caricature of himself.
Other than some of these, there are no reasons why a Sule Lamido would not prefer a Buhari to the Jonathan we have seen in the past four years. It is not a matter of your right to choose who to associate with and not to because I believe that if you should find me behaving completely different from the ONOJA you knew too well, you would equally be alarmed and call me to order. And I would note that someone is talking there.
So, once again, it is “Time for Sule Lamido to Pull Back”, this time in a different direction. If you insist on not ditching Jonathan for reasons of information you may have which I wouldn’t have, advise him to seek a ‘negative security guarantee’ from Buhari if his information is that he cannot win the impending election fair and square. That means approaching Buhari to say: hey, can we work out the succession rites in such a way that I don’t end up in jail?”
There would be nothing new in that. It has been grudgingly grabbed from conflict management into mainstream statecraft to accommodate the multi-dimensionality of power and complexity of life itself. As things stand today, this looks the least complicated of all the other tricks that are clearly being contemplated in the Villa. One hopes they know the limits and potentials of each and every tricks they are considering in today’s changed global and even domestic environment.
Domestically, the dynamics appears to have worked out in such a way that Nigerians have found out that a Buhari is actually who they needed, at least compared to Jonathan. There is no wisdom at all in going against the people. After all, is democracy not the foolishness of the majority becoming the wisdom of the age once expressed?