“Nothing is more difficult than the art of
manoeuvring for advantageous position”
Our appraisal this week will be looking at the turn of events in the nation’s polity where yesterday’s villains are turning today’s heroes with yesterday’s heroes virtually worshipping them as they eye the Presidency. In the late ‘90s at the peak of the June 12 struggle, yours sincerely was a Political Editor at the Champion Newspapers in Lagos.
That period was the most trying times for Nigeria media, newsrooms then were suffocating from the stress of managing the dangerous junta regime of Gen. Sani Abacha with all its lies and human rights abuses coupled with the prodemocracy propaganda being propelled aggressively by its umbrella body National Democratic Coalition (NADECO).
NADECO had two arms, the home and abroad, the home branch was not too effective having been decimated by the junta’s brutal approach to free speech and human rights. It was the NADECO abroad that had critical players like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu that was dishing out Adolf Hitler-like brand of news against Abacha. After the killing of Ogoni activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa by hanging on November 10, 1995, the international community became livid and began turning their backs on Abacha government.
Our own diplomatic icon Emeka Anyaoku as the Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations led the global campaign for the international sanctions against Nigeria. This development helped to catalyse the activities of pro-democracy bodies in the country with NADECO abroad at the commanding height.
The juntas also had formidable counterforce abroad under the command of the then Nigeria Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN), Prof. Ibrahim Gambari. I recall a particular instance when NADECO abroad in one of their strategies of hitting at Gambari who was the face of the juntas abroad and who was working assiduously defending Abacha’s brutality intensely, decided to release a document purported to come from UN office announcing that Prof. Gambari had resigned his job. In the document Gambari said he was no longer able to continue with the indefensible.
If it had been true, it would have been the turning point on the dictator regime but it was a lie, Gambari did not resign; he was still holding his job and defending the atrocities of the regime passionately. Newsroom managers in Champion jumped at the story as a huge breakthrough in pro-democracy struggles.
But our enthusiasm began to expire when the editor insisted that we get a confirmation even after we had compared Gambari’s signature to be the same as the one in his previous statements. It was difficult getting Gambari to confirm from New York.
When the statement could not be verified, it was dropped in line with journalism doctrine that says leave out if unsure of your source. There was no social media then that would have gone to market easily let the denial come later.
We were to find out the following day that the letter of resignation was actually prepared by NADECO to embarrass Gambari and Abacha. Bola Tinubu and his other democracy combatants in NADECO abroad were fingered in the document. You can therefore imagine how I felt last week reading Tinubu pour out all the positive adjectives in a congratulatory message to describe Prof. Gambari and said nothing about their encounter in the trenches.
When Gambari was defending the hanging of Ken Saro-wiwa, he was literally a pariah man that was avoided and seen as enemy of democracy while Tinubu and his group were seen as the heroes of democracy. If the juntas had through Wada Nas, Sergeant Rogers or Major Mustapha laid their hands on Tinubu and his ring, Prof. Gambari would have explained it out in New York describing them as miscreants, political scoundrels who were sabotaging government.
But providence saved Tinubu and he was able to get Lagos governorship ticket in 1999 when the juntas withdrew to the barracks after God through Indian Apple took away Abacha. Since then Tinubu has been scheming to enthrone himself in that coveted seat of Nigeria President. He had to take several curves at different stages of his journey to the Villa including destroying Ndigbo votes to win Lagos in 2019.
He had to find himself aligning with non-democrats like Buhari in his desperation to realize his ambition; he also had to lead All Progressives Congress (APC) eggheads to Abeokuta in 2015 to beg Olusegun Obasanjo another indifferent character to the June 12 issue. Even Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, Chief MKO Abiola’s running mate who jumped ship of struggle to serve as minister in the junta regime to the anguish of NADECO members has strategically circled himself in power corridor where he could as cabal member jeopardize Tinubu’s ambition.
The strange recognition of June 12 and the posthumous honour to Abiola which Tinubu hailed with Kingibe benefitting largely was the height of political intrigue engineered by the crafty diplomat turned politician. As if all these were not enough reminder to Tinubu that power indeed is in the hands of those he fought fiercely against, they made sure at some point to shut him up by leaking intelligence to the fact that he Tinubu also lobbied to serve in the Abacha regime and that he only turned a rebel and activist later when they refused to accommodate him. Nigerians are still waiting for Jagaban’s sincere denial of that grave allegation.
But as Tinubu prepares to take the final curve to his Presidential ambition ahead of 2023, his political undertakers have positioned a dangerous political janitor, an old foe to man the entrance gate he plans to take. Again he has found himself boxed into a tight corner where his fate will be decided by those who never desired him alive during the pro-democracy struggle. It’s ironical and curious that anti-democrats are today’s determinants of the destiny of players ahead of 2023.
The Jagaban as a political Gentile has my sympathy really for his ability to mingle with the Jews all these while yet uncircumcised. It says a lot of his other character. TY Danjuma’s surprise visit to Aso Villa on Monday after two years of feud with Buhari also says a lot in our polity.
The indication is strong that the hawks are gathering again ahead of 2023 ostensibly to raise the hurdle higher for politicians like Tinubu. Pundits are quick to knock the socalled democrats who cannot wrestle power from the khaki politicians after two decades of democracy.
Whether Tinubu realizes his ambition or not his memoir will say a lot on his political somersault and the hard fact of dinning with man and mammon at every bend to be able to reach the mountain top. Buhari had similar experiences in his 12 years struggle to get to the mountain top. And when he eventually got it he found out to his dismay that the presidency he was fighting for was already stolen due to some sacrifices he made to some formidable power mongers he met on his way Similar plight will befall Tinubu if he ever gets to the peak. Tinubu knows for a fact that if Kyari was undecided on whether to support him, not so for Gambari who already decided on who he would not support.
Unlike Kyari who can be dodgy leaving people to guess, not so for Gambari, a professional babysitter who will not give room to any chance. When Abba Kyari became Chief Staff to the President in 2015 not much was known of him in the political turf. There was no much scrutiny of his person because there was clear dearth of data on him. Not even his date of birth was available anywhere until he died.
It was his activities while in the office that really popularized him, one of them being the constant screaming of the wife of the President Aisha Buhari that her husband’s intention of bequeathing good governance to Nigerians was being seriously undermined by two men who hijacked the system and Kyari was one of the two. That alarm from a critical stakeholder like the wife of the President naturally aroused everybody’s interest on him.
The anxiety even intensified with the second reason when all efforts by members of the other rooms in the Villa pushed for Kyari’s sack at the start of second term but failed, instead he got promoted with a Presidential fiat directing Ministers to report to him.
With all these, plus the high intrigue that trailed his position through the political cartel he created called cabal; democracy watchers began to see him really as the alternate President. But the situation is different for Kyari’s successor, Prof. Gambari who already was a national and international figure before his appointment.
If Kyari was able to hide who he was until his activities in office, Gambari won’t be able. Already his past is trailing behind him especially his roles in the country’s worst regime in our history in the area of corruption and human rights abuse.
So, as one of the most successful politicians in the country since the return to democracy in 1999, Tinubu as a master schemer and student of Machiavellian is mentally and politically equipped for the challenges ahead.
He knows that with the presence of certain people at strategic corners, his chances of realizing his ambition in APC or even in 2023 is as thin as the eye of a needle. By now the Jagaban should be considering other options in his audacious journey to the Presidency because the crown is at the grip of yesterday’s villains, who are dangerous political manoeuvres whose understanding of power is like river and fish.