watch Rise and Fall of Mugabe video
Inside State House in Harare, Robert Mugabe was in the tightest spot of his 37-year rule. Tanks were on the streets and troops had occupied the state broadcaster, from where the army had announced it had taken control of Zimbabwe.
Now that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has finally slunk back into the PDP once again, the party that he once helped found and twice futilely helped to kill, all absurd arguments to justify this third missionary journey into the party are been spewed by different characters across the nation’s political landscape. Only recently, the so-called Adamawa State PDP’s leadership and an amorphous group that calls itself Katsina State People’s Democratic Party Elders’ Consultative Forum are reported to have publicly pleaded with the erstwhile Vice President to come back to the PDP. The Katsina group implored him “to forgive former elements within the PDP, who forced him to seek further political relevance and justice in alternative political enclaves and return for a successful rebirth of the PDP.” The so-called elders hailed him as a “political son of Katsina State, who has made indelible contributions to the foundation and development of the PDP.”
While I do not here intend to dispute whatever contributions Atiku may have made to the PDP, I however reject the notion that he was maltreated in the party. Nobody treated Atiku unfairly; whatever happened to him in the PDP was the result of his own making! With an avid ambition for power, Atiku took many indecent steps to achieve his political self-interest, and many of these steps came back at him with devastating consequences. As a Vice President, he plotted against his principal by conspiring to unseat the president and take over power in 2003. It was an opened national secret that Atiku did not want Obasanjo to contest a 2nd term and took to so many subterranean antics to stop the president from doing so. Nigerians are not in a hurry to forget how Obasanjo on good ground accused him of conspiring with Ghali Umar Na’abba, a onetime Speaker, to serve him with impeachment notice in August, 2002 after failing to get the president adopt “the Mandela option” – i.e. not to contest a 2nd term and handover to his deputy! No sensible president would simply sit back and watch his deputy run him down the way Atiku tried on Obasanjo. Hence, Obasanjo’s defensive move of taking away PDP from Atiku’s grips and subsequently bludgeoning him against contesting under its platform were the results of Atiku’s own political misdemeanours to his principal and not the other way round.
So when he left the party in 2006 and desperately persuaded Bola Tinubu to join him form the AC and contested the presidency under its platform in 2007, Atiku was simply pursuing his own self-ambition. But, perceptively, events were not kind to him in that presidential election as he came a distant 3rd with a mere 2 million votes. Then what happened after he lost that election and lost at the tribunal was shocking. Without telling any of his compatriots in the AC, he sneaked into Abeokuta to beg Obasanjo for reconciliation! Not only Obasanjo did not forgive him, but he further lost the confidence of his AC compatriots who stood by him in his ill-advised fight against Obasanjo. That brought the end of AC, except that Bola Tinubu, being a man of will, foresight and means, restructured it into ACN and forged ahead to build a colossus political empire. And for Atiku, having betrayed his new-found compatriots, he creeped back into the PDP in July, 2010, shortly after the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua, in the hope of pushing out the supposedly weak and inexperienced President Goodluck Jonathan. But again events were not kind to him, for in the December presidential primaries, Atiku managed to scoop a mere 800 against Jonathan’s over 2000 votes.
So when in August 2013 Atiku, along with others, derisively walked out on the PDP at its national convention and subsequently joined the newly formed APC, which he described as his last and final political bus-stop, all those who understand his politics knew that he would still jump ship the moment the APC fails to satisfy his self-interest. Just like his returning to PDP after President Yar’Adua’s death was aimed at displacing the ‘inexperienced Jonathan’, his joining APC was also with the naive plan of using the power of money to defeat ‘poor Buhari’ and gain APC’s presidential nomination. Again, like in the previous two elections, events were not kind to him as he woefully lost the contest to a distant 3rd, after Buhari and Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso – thanks to Bola Tinubu who refused to allow himself be bitten twice by the same insect!
But of course the turn of events in all his three self-serving contests were just as they should be – you just don’t rip from where you did not sow! Agreed, politics is said to be a game of interests; but being a matter that directly affects the lives of people in society and determines the future of society itself, politics is indisputably also a game of principles. In playing the game, therefore, one just cannot pursue one’s interests at the expense of its principles. It is a standard universal norm that any political actor who pursues self-serving interest against public interests is acting against set principles of politics; and time has ascertained that such a politician is sure to fail. The politician’s skill or lack of it to distinguish the great disparity between self-interest and principles, and the ability or inability to balance these two elements, is what makes one a good or a bad politician, and consequently what decides the ultimate destiny of one’s politics. Characteristically, over the years, Atiku’s unprincipled politics not only failed to conform to these political dynamics but it also defines him merely as a self-serving politician.
This character trait didn’t start in the presidential villa – it started much earlier! Nigerians can recall that, by his own testimony, Atiku claimed to have joined politics at the behest of late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, who he always refers to as his political mentor. Although this claim did not prevent him from abstinently opposing the late General’s immediate younger brother, Umaru, when the latter emerged president, but for the purpose of the present discourse, let’s take him by his words on this. So together with General Yar’Adua, Atiku formed or joined several political associations and political parties, including PF, PDM, SDP and NCPN. In the process of building the NCPN, popularly called the Centre Party, his political mentor was arrested by the General Sani Abacha government, charged with treasonable felony and sentenced to death. While General Yar’Adua was languishing in jail on a commuted sentence of life in prison, Atiku had no qualms in abandoning the Centre Party to join the government-favoured UNCP and be given its Adamawa State governorship ticket. Shortly after, Yar’Adua died in jail.
And he has now again crawled back into the PDP with, no doubt, a vein political trajectory to get the party’s presidential nomination. He must have calculated that with the zoning of the party’s presidential candidate to the North, being obscenely wealthy, he will use money to secure its ticket. That may well be so, but it is also clear to all discerning analysts that the man has again not thought through this political gambit. Atiku has once again not only committed another morally repugnant action to advance his self-interest, but by it he also proved himself to be an undependable and unreliable political ally, both to the people he associates with and the political parties he joins. He neither embodies virtues Nigerians can emulate nor holds worthy moral and ethical principles upcoming generations may extol. But like all acts, we all get wiser after the events; he therefore won’t know the folly of his present move until the effects come calling. And, as sure as God made little apples, the universal truth of ‘what is morally wrong cannot be politically right’ will, as before, ultimately become the bane of his political failure. But, as the saying goes, time will be the true judge of all affairs.
I finally caught up, and had a most productive meeting, with one of my favourite Nigerian leaders, Donald Duke, in Lagos last weekend. I have steadfastly remained his fan long after he left power ten years ago as Governor of Cross River State. Not even his most fastidious and vociferous critic would ever suggest that he did not leave a monumental mark in that fortunate State. It remains a mystery why, and how, Donald Duke, was abandoned, and wasted, by his Party, PDP, and nay Nigeria. I have written endlessly, and campaigned feverishly, that Nigeria desperately, and urgently, needs many leaders in the mould of Donald Duke. So, it was a pleasure not only meeting up with him again but having time to discuss a topic we both fervently and passionately believe in, Nigeria.
I do not know if Donald Duke is a saint, since we seem to be obsessed with seeking, and finding, angels from heaven to lead us, but I’m very certain that Donald Duke would have performed and delivered once more. Successful and progressive nations are not governed by saints but by performers with uncommon vision, zeal and the determination to succeed where others failed. This handsome, charming, charismatic, cosmopolitan, suave, visionary, audacious and cerebral gentleman, has so much to remind us of a Barack Obama. It is one of those cruel ironies that many of those Nigerian youths who shout the loudest about wanting enduring change never remembered to fight for the emergence of the Donald Dukes of this world. They preferred to fight based on ethnicity, religion and raw cash, the very primordial things that have kept us, both, down and extremely backward.
I’m writing this article on a flight from Dubai to London, and there is no better time to get inspired and simultaneously angered about the disgraceful and embarrassing state of things in Nigeria. I have since come to the conclusion that Nigeria is in this peculiar mess because we have consistently and stubbornly continued to do and repeat the same nonsense and rubbish while expecting a miraculous change. Truth be told, a leader can never give or deliver what he does not possess. A leader can only be fired up by the limits of his education, background, worldview, experience and exposure. Age is also a factor, a man who made a mess of important assignments in his prime is not likely to make a success of it when he has become totally weak and dim-witted. It is not his fault but the natural law of diminishing returns. This is the difference between Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe. While Mandela surrounded himself with the brightest whiz-kids to shore up whatever shortcomings he had, having been out of circulation for 27 odd years, Mugabe, on the contrary remained the omnipotent and all-knowing leader even in his twilight years. This Messianic complex is dangerously perfidious.
It was with this background in mind that I was truly elated when Donald Duke accepted the invitation to meet me for a private session. The first thing that struck me on his arrival was his very good looks. Also, his confidence and poise. And, of course, as our conversation progressed, his sharp brains and wits. I had no doubt in my mind that Nigeria has been haemorrhaging to death because of our self-immolating lack of respect for the likes of Donald Duke and our preference for enthroning mediocrity. If we made mistakes in the past, must we continue to wallow in our foolhardiness? This was my starting point with Donald Duke.
“Oga, thank you for honouring my invitation at such short notice Sir. You know I have been your self-appointed Campaign Manager all these years. It is so wonderful to have you here finally, one on one…” I stated. “I cannot thank you enough Dele for keeping faith with me without seeing me. I cannot say we’ve been close friends, yet you mentioned me regularly in your column and I’m always wondering what I have done to deserve this honour from you…” he responded.
I told him how much I was fascinated by his incredible work in Cross River State, especially, how Calabar was fast becoming the Dubai of Nigeria. I was not unaware that his critics often lampooned him as wasting resources on building a beautiful State while his people languished in squalid conditions. But I knew such arguments came from people of limited minds and dreams. The living conditions of a people will never improve unless and until leaders learn to create huge dreams and gigantic activities that would ultimately generate jobs and opportunities. Donald Duke looked a bit pensive. “You won’t believe this; I was totally disappointed to hear supposedly knowledgeable people utter such words like ‘na Dubai we go chop’? It is this sort of warped mentality that has kept us where we have found ourselves… Lack of big dreams… Lack of faith in our abilities to build our own big cities and compete against the greatest nations… Nigerians are naturally brilliant, and we have the population to give us the power and influence of China, but we are not ready to change our ways of doing things…” he said, with sorrow in his eyes.
This dovetailed to my most important question: “Will you run the Presidential race?” He paused for a moment, measuring his thoughts and probably his choice of words. “Dele, do you want to hear the truth? I seriously want to run but my party, PDP, would have to decide on many things… Our party is well-positioned to win the next election if we can change our style a bit and beat APC at its own game. We must take advantage and benefit from our experience since 1999. Despite our apparent mistakes, Nigerians can now compare and contrast us with APC. What do we need to win the next elections? We must go to the field with our best candidates. We must learn from how we select our footballers. No one cares where you come from. Can you play well? Pronto. We must show clearly that we are more democratic. Zoning is good, but it has not worked well in Nigeria. The time has come to unleash the best brains from every part of Nigeria. We must galvanise our youths. They will never follow or support us if we can’t show how we are different and far better than APC…”
I told him how much I detest the idea of zoning and the way we’ve all accepted this unconstitutional act, unquestionably and horribly, like victims of mass hypnotism. I do not mind the principle of Federal Character in certain appointments and promotions, but it has no place whatsoever in elective office. Even Federal Character must be based on sound merit. No one should ever be appointed or promoted only because of tribe or religion. No student should be admitted or promoted if he cannot meet minimum requirements. We have now seen the result of promoting mediocrity, hypocrisy and laziness in Kaduna State where Governor Nasir El Rufai has practically guillotined the teaching careers of about 20,000 hopelessly and ridiculously dull teachers.
Zoning is undoubtedly one of the biggest scams in Nigeria. It was forced on us by some control freaks in order to direct and manipulate the system in perpetuity. If we break it down, we’ll see that it has favoured some states and regions more than the others, while some are at serious disadvantage. Nigeria has been led to date by government heads as follows: Tafawa Balewa (Bauchi, Moslem for 6 years) jointly with Nnamdi Azikiwe (Onitsha, Christian for 6 years), Johnson Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi (Umuahia, Christian for 6 months), Yakubu Gowon (Lur, Christian for 9 years), Murtala Muhammed (Kano, Moslem for 6 months), Olusegun Obasanjo (Abeokuta, Christian, two stints, for 3 years and 8 years respectively, totalling 11 years), Shehu Shagari (Sokoto, Moslem for 4 years and a few months), Muhammadu Buhari (Katsina, Moslem (two stints, for 20 months and currently 2 and a half years respectively, totalling over 4 years and counting), Ibrahim Babangida (Minna, Moslem for 8 years) Ernest Shonekan (Abeokuta, Christian for almost 3 months) Sani Abacha (Kano, Moslem for almost 5 years), Abdulsalami Abubakar (Minna, Moslem for about one year), Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (Katsina, Moslem for almost three years) and Goodluck Jonathan (Otuoke, Christian for 5 years). More significantly the North has held power for 34 years and shared power as the stronger of two heads for six years, whilst the South has held power for 17 years and shared power as the weaker of two heads for 6 years. Using religion, Christians have held power with 25 years to the Moslems’ 32 years. So much for zoning!
Furthermore, in reality, if zoning was a sincere and precise formula, Buhari should be seen to be completing Yar’Adua’s, and thus, the North’s, second term. After all, Yar’Adua spent three years in office before he died. If APC or PDP fields another Northerner and either manages to win, is that person going to serve one or two terms? Whichever way you look at it, those insisting the North must produce the next President are thus being clever by half. In fact, the South South has the right to insist Jonathan or someone from his zone should come back to complete their own second term. Just imagine such confusion and conundrum!
What is worse, zoning has never been of immense benefit to Nigeria or its utmost beneficiaries. Katsina has produced two Heads of State on three different occasions (Buhari, Yar’Adua and Buhari again). Kano has produced two (Murtala Muhammed and Sani Abacha). Minna has produced two (Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar). Abeokuta has produced two, also on three different occasions (Obasanjo, Shonekan and Obasanjo again). Have their sons turned their cities or States into Eldorado? The answer is a resounding No!
Donald Duke agreed with me that Nigeria needs to be reconfigured and repositioned urgently. We are respected globally for our brilliance, intellect, innovativeness and boundless energy, but we parade some of the worst leaders on planet earth and the global community wonders how and why we allow the dregs of our society to represent us. Duke believes things might change for the better if we don’t give up. He said there are times he feels frustrated about the Nigerian situation but wakes up the next day re-energised seeing the potentials instead of the horrendous challenges and difficulties. He said he would appeal to members of his Party not to waste this unique opportunity because history would not forgive them if Nigeria collapses so miserably.
He elaborated extensively on his vision for Nigeria. He said rebuilding Nigeria is not going to take rocket science but vision, passion and total commitment to the ideals of civilisation. According to him, this cannot be achieved if we keep Nigeria perpetually in the hands of those who play Nigeria like Russian Roulette. For such leaders, there is no hurry or any sense of urgency to develop. Theirs is to attain power by crooked means, warm the seats and quit without any tangible achievement. Nigerians seem comfortable in this ‘game of thrones’ that forces them to accept their bizarre existence as if it were God-ordained. We all complain but still do nothing to correct these foolish anomalies.
How hopeful is he that he, or people of his ilk and pedigree, may emerge in the next dispensation? His response was very calm and sober. “If I can get the ticket of my Party, I’m certain that with the support of our members and the youths of Nigeria yearning for urgent restoration of hope, we shall defeat APC. I’m certain Nigerians are anxiously waiting for a leader with proven record of vigour and excellence. They will come out en masse to vote if they see such a candidate. And I promise to join hands with my Party to free Nigeria permanently from recession, oppression and depression. We know what to do to unlock the potentials of our vibrant youths and we possess the most important gift of all, the trust in our ability to take development to every part of our great country and attract our most fertile minds back home from all over the world. Our international friends are also waiting to support the right leadership when they see one. It would be the dawn of a new era in Nigeria…” I couldn’t help but shout a loud Amen to that, as he stood up to take his exit.
I followed him to his car and I felt proud and privileged knowing that such a leader is available if ever we need him and are ready to avail ourselves of his quality services. The ball is in our court.
Let’s keep the conversation flowing as I search and serve you more leaders soon.
God bless Nigeria
We all heard about the director in Kogi State civil service who committed suicide after being owed his remuneration for 11 months. Another civil servant in Kogi was shown on social media weeping over his dead daughter, whose hospital bills he could not afford because he was being owed as well. I received two separate visitors in my office last week who randomly hinted that they think sometimes about killing themselves. One just lost a job, and immediately fell into penury, with no prospect of getting another job or a business going. The other has always suffered from serious financial squeeze as a lady entrepreneur in Nigeria’s brutal business environment. We cannot disparage them or call them weak. Not all of us will be strong in the same way, and so mere preaching to them can only help marginally. The reality is harsh. And it is not just a Kogi State affair, but a countrywide one.
It has been confirmed that at the 55th Ordinary Session of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which held in Monrovia, Liberia in December 2016, the Authority of Heads of States and Government of the member states of ECOWAS erroneously gave approval in principle to the request of the Kingdom of Morocco to join the sub-regional grouping. However, in view of the legal implications of the request the Authority has directed the ECOWAS Commission to examine the implications of Morocco’s membership of the ECOWAS within the ambit of the Revised Treaty of ECOWAS and to submit the results at the next session of the ECOWAS scheduled to hold in Lome, Togo in December, 2017