Baba’s new racket
Their Baba is off to some new racket: in Jigawa Governor, Sule Lamido, he is well pleased as Nigeria’s new president, come 2015. He said that himself.
But some deep throats have added the racket is a twin-gambit: Baba that pushes for Alhaji Lamido in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), may also be pushing for Kano Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, of the rival All Progressives Congress (APC)! It is dawn of a great presidential straddle!
As the Yoruba would say “Eyi je, eyi o je” (roughly, “head you win, tail you win”, perfect hedge!). It is the high-octane power equivalent of playing the lottery, Baba Ijebu!
Despite the fiasco of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s earlier attempt at presidential selection, it would appear morning yet on his presidential creation day!
Nigerians endured the ruins of the Umaru Yar’Adua presidential months; just as now, they are grand victims of the infernal anomie of Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential years — both courtesy of the former president.
Still, for Baba, it would appear one era, one gambit; as he appears to have moved on to new conquests! Might this power restlessness result from a missed past opportunity (as his foes jeer) or a patriot’s elixir to fix the future (as his friends cheer)?
Ripples, though no foe, is inclined towards the former! And the reason is clear. Baba left office with no worthwhile aftermath. The Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, it of suspect moral provenance, is stark brick-and-mortar showcasing the vanity of power, that would decay and die with time.
Even in his native South West, political mainstream, which the old soldier tried to impose as alternative to the progressive mainstream, has spectacularly collapsed — with Baba and disciples hollering, “We’re alive!” from underneath the gurgling flood; or from the rubbles of collapsed power dream.
Contrast that to the odyssey of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Awo never gained the Nigerian presidency, a failure Obasanjo mocked in his book, Not My Will. Yet, his winning ideas on productive federalism have powered political and economic restructuring, that could still save Nigeria from looming disintegration.
Awo is dead — since 1987— yet his ideas live. Obasanjo is alive, yet his ideas are dead. That biting paradox probably explains Baba’s fixation with making and unmaking presidents, thinking such arid thinking would breed a legacy. No, it won’t. It only breeds vanity.
But Baba is too far down the long road to nowhere to turn back now. Nigerians have him to thank for the crises of the Yar’Adua, and chaos of the Jonathan eras. But not even that would banish, from his mind, a phantom future hope in Lamido or Kwankwaso — not unlike some Don Quixote that shuns reality for fantasy, in all comic chivalry.
In Obasanjo’s case, it is fond fantasy that power vanity can land legacy. But longsuffering Nigerians are the unhappy guinea pigs. Just as well for a people who suffer fools gladly!
Still, Obasanjo is as much a powerful symbol of a puppet gone unhinged as he is of a puppeteer run out of town. That drives the matter right back to the opening quote, and Wale Adebanwi’s concept of proper and improper Yoruba, in his new book, Yoruba Elites and Ethnic Politics in Nigeria, in the context of fierce contestation for power in Nigeria.
The putdown quote on the Owu newborn is hardly extant. It was used in the context of intra-Yoruba sub-ethnic rivalry of the 19th century, which climaxed in the Kiriji War (1877-1893).
But it does offer clear illumination on Obasanjo’s portraiture, in Yoruba Elites, as “improper Yoruba” — at least from the eyes of the South West progressive mainstream, that Awo inspired and nurtured.
That perception was hardly lost on the northern oligarchs, as they shopped for their own Yoruba, to placate the proper Yoruba for the rash annulment of MKO Abiola’s presidential mandate.
They wanted some executive puppet to hold power in trust, until the North regained it. Obasanjo perfectly fitted that bill.
But in power, the puppet ran his northern puppeteers out of town. Obasanjo claimed he did it for “Nigeria”, for which his flatterers pronounced him “Father of modern Nigeria”. The emotionally swindled and confused claimed he did it for his fellow Yoruba — even if Obasanjo is of an improper hue! — or for some fuzzy “South”, as if political Nigeria has a “South”!
The truth is Obasanjo did it for nobody but himself.
But Karma-like, what goes around comes around. Yesterday’s puppet that threw off his puppeteers is today’s puppeteer, thrown off by his own puppets.
Obasanjo’s first power nemesis was the ill-fated President Yar’Adua. His current nemesis is President Jonathan, who might be confused about anything but his sworn determination not to be Baba’s puppet.
That explains Obasanjo’s present over-drive to plant new puppets in either Lamido or Kwankwaso. But if the fatally ill Yar’Adua and the clueless Jonathan can throw off Baba’s yoke, why would hardy Lamido and Kwankwaso not do so, even if the gambit succeeds?
On the corporate plane, the North’s ploy to endure no more than eight years of powerlessness, before bouncing back for another eight years, spectacularly backfired — and Obasanjo, from his vantage commander-in-chief fort became the North’s traducer-in-chief.
First, the grand irony of grim payback in realpolitik: as the North located in Obasanjo their Yoruba man, Obasanjo located in the ill-fated Yar’Adua his core northerner — to boot, with his full northern aristocracy!
And when Obasanjo’s Umoru’s health gave way, the former president, to pave the way for Jonathan, the new hoped-for puppet, shrilly denied the existence of any zoning formula.
The snag is: Jonathan won’t play the presidential puppet; and Baba is done with hyena laughs! Now, Baba has hinted Jonathan indeed signed a one-term pact.
Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. But falsely crying wolf in the past is making it hard to believe there is really now a prowling wolf! That dead end could well have pushed the latest “Baba shopping” for presidential candidates.
Those adept at emotive reaction to crises, only after they are fully brewed, should note this — and perhaps call the former president to order.
The present anomie bordering on total anarchy, creeping failure of the Nigerian state and even looming disintegration of the country are fallouts of Baba’s Hobson’s choice of Yar’Adua, whose failed health produced the disastrous Jonathan.
Even in Baba’s very word, Jonathan is clearly “overwhelmed” — an accidental president whose (mis)handling of things could turn his country into an accident of history.
What future disasters await Baba’s present presidential gambits — and how much more can Lugard’s crumbing empire take?
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