After The Obasanjo Primaries

After The Obasanjo Primaries


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



I don’t know when President Obasanjo called up Attah and instructed (yes, that’s the word!)

him to end the drama of wanting to be president, since the curtain had been drawn

Umar Musa Yar’Adua



After The Obasanjo Primaries

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye


No one who had keenly followed reports and analyses of developments on Nigeria’s political terrain in the past couple of weeks would be surprised at the emergence of the Katsina State Governor, Umar Musa Yar’Adua, as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Indeed, it had been clear to even the blind and deaf that the whole noise, big and high profile campaigns, screening and re-screening by several committees, and all the pomp and fanfare about the so-called National Convention and Presidential Primaries were all intended to give the nation the dubious impression that something serious was really happening, or, rather, that some really serious minded Nigerians were meeting to jointly take an important decision with far-reaching positive consequences for the future of their nation.

But, at the end of the day, as any fool on the streets had long known, that very important decision ended up a one-man affair, based, not on national interest, but, solely, on narrow, personal interests of just one man. Now, if by any stroke of misfortune the PDP wins the presidential election next year, Nigeria would end up with a president, chosen by one man, and installed by the same man, for his self-serving considerations, irrespective of whatever the feelings of the rest of Nigerians are on the matter or their stake on the Nigerian project. Let’s not forget, too, that the election would depend solely on whether that same man thinks we deserve to have an election next April or not. Another name for this sickening situation, I am reminded is: “Reforms”! Or you may call it “Otta Farm Democracy.”

But the real surprise in all these is why it would take some really earnest presidential aspirants – otherwise very intelligent men – all that long to realize that they were mere props, in fact, ordinary decorations, or just plain side-attractions, in an even not-too carefully disguised grand design that had long been successfully concluded. Why these serious and intelligent gentleman would allow themselves to be cheered-on on a path they ought to have known led nowhere would remain one of the wonders of our “homegrown” democracy.

On the eve of the so-called primaries in Abuja, Gov Victor Attah of Akwa Ibom State, one of the PDP “presidential aspirants,” was on Channels Television speaking too much grammar with his peculiar accent, waxing hot about his ambition to become Nigeria’s President, and informing prospective undergraduates who would be stupid enough to want to study courses like sociology, religion, journalism, etc., that if he became president, he would immediately rationalize courses at our universities, and restrict the faculties that offer those “useless” courses to just a few universities, so as to reduce the number of people who study them each year. According to him, instead of many students offering those courses and ending up on the unemployment queue, he would rather they studied more meaningful courses which will make them employable once they graduate.

I understand Attah is an architect, and I suppose architecture is one of those “meaningful courses” he believes students should consider offering. Attah’s thesis would serve to vindicate the glaring fact that most of the hurriedly formulated policies that Nigerian leaders plagiarize from other lands and impose on Nigerians only serve to demonstrate their insufficient familiarity with the reality on ground in Nigeria. Now, apart from the fact that there are several architects and engineers out there either also begging bread or goaded by desperation to offer substandard services that has led to the collapse of several buildings around the country, with huge costs to the nation, I think that Attah’s simplistic, lazy-man approach to the unemployment issue would rather compound the problem he thinks he has found an exceptional solution to. If the nation today is equally finding it difficult to gainfully engage those who are already graduates of those “wonder disciplines” he is recommending to every Nigerian youth, what would happen when the number of graduates in those areas are multiplied through this skewed reforms he is advocating in the university system? Does that not serve to enlighten our “super scientist” Governor that the problem deserves a more creative solution than the one he has hurriedly dredged up from only-him-knows-somewhere, perhaps, from the dustbins of some back-street colleges in Britain, or wherever?

Well, this is not even my concern here, so let me not allow myself to be distracted by some proud flaunters of some ill-digested theories. Moreover, for now, Attah has packed up his presidential ambition, warts and all, and returned to Uyo with his big dreams and big grammar, where rumour has it that he has, in strict compliance with the PDP’s degenerate tradition, anointed his son-in-law to take over from him as Governor of Akwa Ibom State. And before he would ever have the opportunity of thinking of becoming president again, he would be well over seventy, and thinking of retirement!

Now, I don’t know when President Obasanjo called up Attah and instructed (yes, that’s the word!) him to end the drama of wanting to be president, since the curtain had been drawn. I suppose it was just immediately he emerged from the Channels TV studious, after that brilliant interview, feeling high and good with himself, because of that primetime outing. And so, despite all the flowery declarations of policy thrust, all the expressions of belief in popular democracy, freedom of choice and participation, civil culture and all that, the whole thing had all been hinged on the whims of one man, and once that one man issued a very terse order, all the “presidential aspirants” genuflected with haste, swallowed their ambition, and headed home. That’s Nigeria’s democracy.

Now, did Governor Peter Odili of Rivers State, whose only claim to political stature, and, in fact, hope for victory in both the presidential primaries and the actual election, was hinged on the fact that he “was the beloved son, in whom Baba was well pleased”, try to resist when the instruction arrived at his doorstep that Baba has now found another “son” in Katsina, and so, wants him to also end his own comedy, put on his bowler hat and return to the waiting hands of Mary in Port Harcourt? Well, what became clear was that as the day of the convention drew near, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), swooped on the hitherto “forbidden and untouchable” territory of “Baba’s beloved son” and, reportedly, arrested and detained Odili’s Finance Commissioner, Mr. Kobani, two other commissioners, Mr. Arumemi-Johnson, owner and founder of Arik Air, and the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. Amaechi.

Perhaps, the message was lost on Odili, who still continued to run his campaigns with zeal and fanfare. Then reports began flying around that Nuhu Ribadu and his men were now after him personally. In fact, the Times of Nigeria (December 15, 2006) captioned it’s report: “Odili May Be Impeached Over 200 Billion Fraud”.  According to the paper, “If feelers from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission are anything to go by, the Governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili will soon join the ignoble list of impeached governors. Sources close to EFCC investigators sieving through the books of the oil-producing state say that the agency may have discovered the misappropriation of over 200 billion naira.” By this time, Odili has already got the message and quit the race for good.

Now, Yar’Adua has emerged the “winner” in the PDP presidential primaries. I just hope the Katsina State Governor would realize that he has enormous task on his hands. He must go the extra mile to urgently commence the most essential task of correcting the very unflattering image the Obasanjo anointing has unavoidably attracted to him. Long before he featured in the many speculations about the PDP presidential hopeful that would win Baba’s confidence, there have been widespread reports that the only qualification that would earn anybody the position Yar’ Adua has so effortlessly collected today would be the willingness to “protect Baba’s interests” when he retreats to his farm in Otta. Of course, Yar’Adua should know what that means. He needs no one to tell him that what this implies is that he would never dare to ask any probing questions about the stewardship of his predecessor in office (if he wins the main election in April), or pry into his sudden stupendous wealth and “legacies” located here and there. Most importantly, he must show that he would be counted upon not to reverse the “reforms”, which (as he must understand) actually means the auctioning off of Nigeria’s prized possessions to friends and cronies that became part of our recent history. “Reversing the Reforms”, therefore, means revisiting those scandalous sales and digging deep to find out whether those in power merely bought up Nigeria through proxies. 

To ensure this arrangement does not backfire, the PDP constitution has been hurriedly  amended. Now only a former president elected on the platform of the PDP can become the Board of Trustees (BOT) Chairman. And when I looked at the powers of the BOT Chairman as reported in the papers last weekend, there is no doubt, that the President in Aso Rock might end up being a mere errand boy to the real president in the farm house. Especially, if that “farmhouse president” is also the life-leader of his party, with overwhelming powers. Democracy of one man, by one man, and for one man!

Dear reader, this is the Nigeria we have found ourselves in. For while the Nigerian state has completely failed, those who call themselves our leaders are only interested in their personal welfare and comfort. In Lagos now, places like Agric or Barracks in Ojo Area have become war zones. Hoodlums operate any time, anyhow, do whatever they like, kill whom they want to kill, spare whom they want to spare, while our rulers are busy jostling for power for self-serving reasons. And from any fool can see, there appears to be practically little or no governance going on.

Now, if Obasanjo had read Robert Greene’s 48 Laws Of Power and Nicole Machiavelli Discourses, it would have dawned on him that no matter the extent of manipulations he indulges in to plant surrogates, puppets and toadies in power, with the hope of teleguiding them from his farmhouse, this is one risk bad students of power have always undertaken to their grave disadvantage. If what the authors of these books are saying are anything to go by, it is those same seemingly pliable, loyal servants, who have been “yessiring” you all these years that would look into your very face, when they have finally consolidated themselves in power, and cut you to size.

To expect that an educated man (especially, one who was even once known by his colleagues in the academia as “Comrade Yar’Adua”), who also has his eyes on the verdict of history, and who might even  want to equally have his own minions to genuflect before him, and leave his own “legacies” here and there, would agree to hold power in trust for one godfather somewhere in a multi-million naira farm, and just be content to be his mouthpiece, in this twenty-first century, would amount to stretching uncritical optimism and wishful thinking  beyond their malleable limits.

Who would have told Chris Uba (the self-acclaimed godfather of Anambra politics and Obasanjo’s friend) that the seemingly pliable, “yessiring” former Gov Chris Ngige of Anambra State, would prove to be his nemesis once he ascended the throne? Fredrick Chiluba is somewhere in Zambia, someone should hop across and ask him to relate his own experience.

Na so this world be.

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Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye is on the Editorial Board of the Independent ( ), where he writes a weekly column (SCRUPLES) every Wednesday. He could be reached with

Source: Independent Nigeria Online

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By W. E. B. Du Bois

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Ancient African Nations

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posted 24 January 2007



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