by Olusegun Adeniyi
I may not know all the issues in my book on the Yar’Adua years that rankled President Olusegun Obasanjo after reading it but I at least know one because he voiced it openly in the presence of someone who told me: that I made allusion to the fact that he sought a third term in office. He told the person, as he has always done publicly, that he
never sought a third term in office. Now all the intrigues, the blackmail, and the bribery surrounding the failed attempt have been laid bare by Obasanjo’s own former minister and insider, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai in his memoir, “The Accidental Public Servant”.
Ordinarily, when a book exceeds 300 pages I usually find it difficult reading through but el-Rufai’s book is about 700 pages yet I could not put it down until I finished, after getting an advance copy from him last week. From the foreword by Pastor Tunde Bakare to how el-Rufai entered public service to his days at the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) and finally his role as Federal Capital Territory Minister (where he was saddled with several other responsibilities), the story is riveting. But what most people will find interesting is the political dimension of the narrative, from the failed third term bid of Obasanjo to the emergence of the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as president; the enthronement of Dr Goodluck Jonathan and how Obasanjo courted and baited Major General Muhammadu Buhari in the course of the 2011 presidential election, ostensibly to get at President Jonathan. The last one is a tale that will interest those who are making permutations towards 2015 and looking in the direction of the former president for support!
What is striking about the book is not only that el-Rufai refused to hold hostages but also that he named names and exposed several shady deals while making damning character judgements of most people with whom he worked or had contact with. For sure, there are people out there who will join issues with him, that is assuming some do not head for the law courts! There is a long narrative on how Obasanjo handled his succession and an even longer one on the person of the successor. But the fact that el-Rufai was an avowed enemy of the late President Yar’Adua, also leaves question marks on what he wrote about him.
In dealing with the issues of governance, el-Rufai brought to bear his own experience and the frustrations that often come with trying to make a change in a society like ours. In the process, he also possibly broke some laws as he explained in the role he played at the formative stage of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), even if he hid under the cover of then Vice President Atiku Abubakar. What I, however, found most interesting in the book is the account of the negotiations for bribe between him and two senators in the weeks leading to his ministerial confirmation hearing at the Senate in 2003. It is a most fascinating account but I leave this bit for readers:
The next day I met with the vice president and told him what had happened. “I am grateful to you and the president for considering me worthy of being in the federal cabinet but if this is what it takes to be confirmed, then I am out of this game, I cannot do it” I said.
“Do not worry,” Atiku said. “…(the senator’s name withheld by me) is so greedy, he loves money so much that if you put 1,000 Naira in the mouth of a lion, he will try to take it even though he knows that the lion will probably eat him up in the process…”
The book is well-written in a flowing prose, but by rendering the account in the publish-and-be-damned manner he did, el-Rufai has thrown down the gauntlet to many people and on so many issues. The weeks ahead are bound to be interesting once the copies hit the market.
Now, I am almost sure that most of the people who saw the headline to this piece would have concluded that it is about a certain re-tweet by el-Rufai on Monday which he regretted thereafter. I have read several reactions to it and my position is that while Christians can be angry (as the Bible actually enjoins), they do not have the liberty to sin. How to balance the two on issues like this is the challenge. But Uche Eze Nkatta Idika has spoken for those who truly contend for the faith and are not simply playing religious politics: “A true Christian will always realize that the Battle is of The Lord. He was called a glutton, a friend of tax collectors, a sympathizer of prostitute, yet, He never responded with insults…”
It’s time for Christians to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.
PROFILE IN COURAGE
Last Friday, Member Feese graduated and received her masters’ degree in Poverty and Development from the University of Sussex, United Kingdom. At the ceremony, Mr Lawrence Haddad, the Director of International Development Studies (IDS) said: “Ladies and Gentlemen, with the support of the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor I just want to say a few words about this graduand, Member Feese. On August 26, 2011 a bomb exploded in the UN building in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. It killed 21 people and wounded nearly a hundred more. Member Feese was one of those wounded. She was waiting to get some data for her Masters Dissertation. Member spent months in hospital in recovery. But one year later she came back to her studies and back to Sussex. During her rehabilitation, I got to know Member and her wonderfully supportive family. During this time she has become an inspiration for me and for so many of us at IDS and the wider Sussex community. Why an inspiration? Because while she was wounded in the attack, she was not bowed. Her determination to finish her degree and her commitment to learning have been extraordinary. And her commitment to international development is stronger than ever. She is now working in the Central Bank of Nigeria and has established her own NGO in Nigeria, Team Member. Member, we salute your courage and we are all proud to be part of Team Member.”
I cannot agree more. Congrats to Member and her family and friends not just for the courage to trudge on, but also for the unusual generousity of spirit that accommodates redirecting a personal adversity to a cause greater than the self.