by Akin Osuntokun
The 1992 American presidential election was peculiar in certain respects. The incumbent President, George Herbert Bush, was riding the crest of popularity bestowed on him by an almost perfect victory at the first Gulf war. One aspect of the perfection was a near global unanimity on the villainy of the opponent and the extenuation of a clear case for intervention. Were America to choose an enemy to fight, it could not have done better than Iraq under Saddam Hussein. In terms of military capability, the contrast between the two is comparable to the distinction between sleep and death. In terms of isolation and vulnerability the opponent was not only a pariah but was also widely regarded as a rogue state.
In terms of the justness of the casus belli, what better pretext is there than an opponent who stands in clear violation of the foremost governing principle of the international system-in an unambiguous instance of aggression against a weaker neighbour; a neighbour so crucial to the stability of the global economic system and that of America in particular. The ground to declare hostilities doesn’t get better than Iraq invading and pronouncing the annexation of oil rich Kuwait.
I have never felt so much vicarious sense of shame than how Saddam Hussein, in one final act of grand betrayal, allowed himself to be captured by American forces (in the second gulf war). It is difficult and painful to recall how he made us all to believe, especially his hapless country men and women, who suffered the devastating consequences of his folly — the fiction that he was some kind of David to America’s goliath. In the end, he was like the ‘tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing’.
I apologise for the digression. I just couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a dig at this incorrigible loudmouth. We were talking of George Bush senior in 1991, a victorious general with a 90 per cent topping approval rating at the conclusion of the war. Inexplicably, barely a month to the commencement of the 1992 presidential election cycle, he was dumbfounded on whether or not he was seeking reelection — prompting his would-be president son (George Bush jr) to publicly call him out and taunted ‘dad, are you running for second term’?
In Nigeria today, it is assumed that President Goodluck Jonathan will seek reelection but many Nigerians especially his supporters and friends are perplexed at his benumbing inaction and appalling lack of preparedness. In a manner of speaking, it appears as if he is setting himself up as a straw man waiting to be felled at the slightest challenge. One unique aspect of his electability is the unanimity of views, among those who wish him well and those who do not, on the preliminarily steps he needed to take to have a fighting chance. The surprise is that it requires nothing more demanding than a routine administrative initiative. And it concerns in the main those who can be characterised as frenemies of the president.
Since I’m about to stump where angels fear to tread, let me issue a mea culpa. First, I’m anxious that the president does not see me, or listen to anybody who comes to label me, a frenemy, after availing himself or herself of this honest effort. Second, I’m not the original source, and do not claim exclusive patent for the identification of all the frenemies, I’m mostly an interlocutor and a tale bearer. Nonetheless and in imitation of prefatory remarks in sundry publications I accept custodial responsibility for all unintended errors and transgressions. Third, some of the instances are blind and inadvertent what is sometimes called culpable negligence in which the frenemy becomes one-just by acting himself or herself. Fourth, it is possible and it is my fervent hope that some of the incriminating instances might have been addressed and preempted before this publication.
The honour and privilege of identification as the number one frenemy goes to the president himself. I’m from the South-west and who feels it, knows it. The proposition that Jonathan is negligent of the South-west zone of Nigeria is an understatement. He has gone further to test on our zone the scriptural remark that from those who do not have, more will be taken. Before the accident that resulted in the nine-member casualty of September last year, Mrs Olusola Obada used to answer to the constitutionally prescribed ministerial representative from Osun State. Going on four months now, that gap has only been filled by rumours. If other zones and states can wait, it is piling insult upon injury to think the South-west can also wait. The hesitant progress of work on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway seems not to take cognisance of the role the rapid completion of work on that precious estate can play in handing the President invaluable bragging rights. A beautiful bride cannot wait too long for any particular suitor and believe it or not, the South-west is the most attractive damsel in the equation of the 2015 elections. You better hurry Mr President!
Next is the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is what the Yoruba call abiku — the child who repeatedly enacts the transition of death and rebirth cycle. He causes the parents so much pain and unsettles the family. Today he is reported dead and buried only to resurrect the following day. The disturbance and commotion he causes the household has resulted in the exit of several petulant siblings, more are threatening to follow suit if a permanent solution is not urgently found to the unbearable situation. He has become a bad advertisement for making the PDP chair a retirement posting
I’m convinced beyond any reasonable and unreasonable doubt, that the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, is a closet enemy of the president. If she has any iota of feeling for her boss she should have resigned long before now. That she still answers to honorable minister is at the cost of considerable goodwill to Jonathan and has earned this nation a plummeting probity rating. It is hard for me to accept that she is completely unaware of the severity of the internal hemorrhage she has inflicted on the image of the president. The only logic to her retention, thus far, is that her determination to pull her boss down is complemented by the incipient death wish of Jonathan himself.
A pretty and headstrong lady fiddling with Nigeria’s economic jugular is sauce for sensational journalism and grist for banter at the night out gathering of gentlemen of leisure. I don’t know enough of the oil industry and her capability, to assess her one way or another. Many of those who do are, however, pissed off at her stewardship. If her removal to any other post or to her duty post at the side of her spouse will not result in the seismic collapse of the petroleum resources ministry, there is no more earthly reason why Jonathan should retain Mrs Allison Madueke
When I heard of the ‘missing’ $50 billion, I dismissed it outright as beer parlour tattle. Where will Nigeria find an idle amount of that staggering nature? I became alarmed when the attributed source was no less authoritative than the cerebral governor of central bank. The tragedy of the whole episode was how it fed directly and consequentially into a weighty admonition from a foremost Nigerian personality. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi may not intend it as such but it struck home with a deadly political impact. For Jonathan the April departure date of my friend from the exchequer cannot be soon enough.
I have a similar ambiguity about the minister of finance. Her solid reputation and pedigree contradicts her ‘not all that glitters is gold’ pervasive portrayal. Compared to her first coming, she is greatly diminished in esteem. It is difficult to know how much of the knocks she gets is attributable to staunching the uncontrolled bleeding of our collective resources into private pockets.
In view of the earth shaking revelation made in Baba’s letter, I don’t know whether the security services had invited Mr Buruji Kashamu (what a name!) for a chat. Even before that revelation many party members in the South-west have wondered whether this is the kind of company we should keep. He has been throwing his weight (money) around and kept on insinuating that he is the President’s fixer and man Friday. Jonathan and the PDP can do well without his company. There are plenty other frenemies including, especially, the director general of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and if the president so desires, I can make available to him a full list-upon my appointment as a consultant.
THE NEAR TRAGEDY IN GOMBE
Politics is thick in the air and so the times call for vigilance and discernment in the performance of the gatekeeper’s role of the press. A week ago, information got out to the effect of a contrived abortion of the landing of an aircraft in Gombe. The plot got thicker when it came to light that the plane was carrying a ‘political contraband’ which goes by the name of an entourage of political bigwigs of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The report by the airport authorities that the disruption was inadvertent is enough cause for concern-in view of the recent history of air travel in Nigeria. That it could be political is alarming and unthinkable. Nobody should ever dare to play politics with human lives.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Akin Osuntokun/Thisday