Change of Tactics in the North checkmates Obasanjo and catches Jonathan in a Trap!


By: Frisky Larr
Since it became obvious in 2010 that late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua

was terminally ill in his Saudi Arabian bed, former President Olusegun

Obasanjo had been Northern Nigeria's Public Enemy No. 1. He was not the

least, largely seen as the devil incarnate who wittingly installed an

incurably ill Musa Yar'Adua to extend southern Presidency in Abuja through

the backdoor in breach of a sacrosanct 'Gentleman's Agreement'. A barrage

of attacks was unleashed at the time, to underscore this fact and move a

strategy forward, of curtailing the active and perceived importance of

President Obasanjo in shaping the destiny of post-Yar'Aadua's Nigeria.

Apart from public comments and overtures made by the former Governor of

the Central Bank Adamu Ciroma – who became the face of Northern resistance

for a while – the hitherto cautious and prominent backgrounder and smooth

operator Ibrahim Bademosi Babaginda (IBB), intensified his public outing.

It should be noted that IBB is one rare Nigerian politician who grants

media interviews only very rarely. He would rather stay withdrawn and

operate from behind the scene than play the chatterbox. At the climax of

one of his rare outings in this context, IBB had sought to embed in public

consciousness, the reality that Nigerians now knew who fostered

“monumental corruption” on the nation – a term that had always been

associated with this renowned political stalwart with the gift of astute

strategizing. His object of reference then was Olusegun Obasanjo who he

accused of having presided over huge national earnings and monumental

stealing surpassing the scale that he had personally been associated with.

It was a vicious public relations battle that was launched deep into the

early days of the Jonathan Presidency.
Today all that has changed. In part, Olusegun Obasanjo has become a

central think-tank institution working in tandem with a section of the

self-styled Northern elders seeking to find a solution to the present

impasse and volatile state that Nigeria's current political architecture

as designed by President Goodluck Jonathan portends. How did we get here?

While the public relations battle raged, I wrote an article titled “Why is

Babangida so Angry?” in which I advanced analytical theses on the

underlying mindset of northern resistance that came on the heels of

massive support for Goodluck Jonathan, who was then perceived as suffering

persecution in the hands of 'born-to-rule' Northerners. It was obvious

then that the largely politically inexperienced Goodluck Jonathan

basically survived under the clout of an astute Olusegun Obasanjo, who had

come to know what it meant to liberate oneself from the fangs of northern

remote-control. The obvious northern strategy shortly before and after

Jonathan's electoral victory in 2011 was thus to trim the wings and

neutralize the political toxicity of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to

be able to get at the easier prey Goodluck Jonathan, who would then be far

less of a match.
Proxy warfare was fought in the media, at the legislature – Tambuwal was

elected to sideline Obasanjo's anointed candidate – and internationally as

well. Phrases like 'avoiding Obasanjo's third term through the back door'

were coined for maximum psychological impact. The Northerners successfully

impressed on the Americans – who played a crucial role in saving Nigeria

from a post-Yar'Adua state of anarchy – that Olusegun Obasanjo was a major

problem. Thanks to Julian Assange, we now know through Wikileaks that even

the Americans – singing from the same hymnbook as northern politicians –

also pressured Goodluck Jonathan to distance himself slowly from Olusegun

Obasanjo. A pattern that was to play out again shortly after, when the

Americans declared the Boko Haram insurgency as a by-product of economic

In the typical trademark character for which President Jonathan has become

known as time went on, he nurtured an independent agenda that was at odd

with the political designs of his mentor as well as that of his perceived

opponents in the north. After all, it had become obvious, in spite of all

insinuations, that Olusegun Obasanjo did not premeditate the death of

Umaru Musa Yar'Adua in office. His primary calculation at the time had

been to shop for a credible candidate to stop the rampaging Atiku

juggernaut that was born out of wanton disloyalty. Obasanjo's strategy

since 2010 was thus obvious. Give back the Presidency to the North after

just one term of a Jonathan Presidency that emerged by accident having

already had two Obasanjo's terms.
Unknown to all parties however, Jonathan and his kitchen cabinet has been

quietly focused on extending his tenure as President counting on a

strategic policy of potential political destabilization in lieu of

Obasanjo's godfather'ism. Jonathan then resolved to consciously drift away

from Obasanjo and appease obvious northern forces with lofty appointments

in some clandestine power-sharing arrangement and juicy contract awards. A

stunned Obasanjo could only helplessly watch what he considered illogical

strategic appointments and Jonathan's savvy political dribbling. President

Obasanjo was given a major kick in the teeth when he made the daring move

to infiltrate the Boko Haram leadership structure at the budding stage and

made recommendations on how to confront the menace. Jonathan's polite

rejection of his efforts became the first major sign of a clandestine

agenda that Obasanjo could not quite decipher.
Jonathan at the time, did not seem to have fully realized the intricate

web of northern political manipulations that cladded Boko Haram. He

pursued his policy of appeasing northern elders unperturbed. He was

repeatedly assured that the problem would be resolved in no time. After

all, he was visibly proven to be creating the requisite distance from

Obasanjo thus rendering the continuation of the Northern policy of

trimming down Obasanjo's influence unnecessary. The north could then

concentrate on solving the major problem – Jonathan.

At the height of all these, Jonathan in another characteristic mode,

couldn't do better than opening another front in killing public sympathy.

He shocked the nation with the deceitful removal of fuel subsidy stating

loud and clear that he was ready for a revolution.
In this game of hide-and-seek however, everyone kept his cards close to

his chest. Obasanjo had to quit in anger with a bang of the door and

Jonathan spitting fire after him in a brutal show of wanton ingratitude.

The successful pressure exerted by the deadly Boko Haram was not lost on

the northern forces that partly perpetrated and sponsored it until it also

seems to have gotten out of their control. Repeated assurances that they

were in control of the situation apparently pushed Jonathan into making

strategically costly mistakes. National Security Adviser Azazzi was

suddenly removed and died under bizarre circumstances shortly after he

pointed accusing fingers at northern forces within the ruling party for

being behind the sustenance of the deadly sect.
Jonathan trusted the northern elders and obviously granted them a free

hand in lobbying the Americans to steer clear of any involvement in the

domestic conflict. Suddenly, the Americans whose elaborate intelligence

network in Nigeria should have known better, were suddenly declaring Boko

Haram as a product of economic negligence. Even Jonathan was stunned but

was assured that every means to keep the Americans at bay was legitimate

to avoid strains on other routine Nigerian sojourners traveling into

Meantime however, Boko Haram has become independently linked with Al-Qaeda

and grown more sophisticated and Jonathan realized only very late that

there were no serious attempts to kill the movement at any time, by those

who assured him of action in no time. On the contrary, plans were

advancing to define and shape a post-Jonathan's Nigeria under a northern

leader that was being shopped for. Jonathan had to come out of hiding and

have surrogates expose his worst-kept secret of seeking a second term in

the Presidency.
Meanwhile, the north had long stopped antagonizing Olusegun Obasanjo, who

is now no longer available to see Jonathan's dream through and teaming up

with erstwhile adversaries in the search for a strategic solution.

Jonathan has realigned his apparatus to the hybrid foundation of persons

and threats. Persons with less political acumen and power base (Edwin

Clark and a few militant noisemakers) and the threat of setting the Niger

Delta on fire if he is not re-elected!
Unfortunately however, the Northerners are equally as determined to give

him a vicious fight. A poorly copied Obasanjo's template of whipping

dissenters in line through the misuse of the power of incumbency now seems

to be decimating his party's power base with the reach yet incalculable.

16 greater than 19 and 5 greater than 27 have been major disasters! Now,

his erstwhile godfather and strategic powerhouse is no more! The public is

largely disenchanted with spins and lies of achievements and improved

standards while 'improved' power generation and privatization have so far,

failed to produce lights in households. Major thieves of oil subsidy roam

free. Government officials steal with impunity. Presidential actions are

seen to be hampering every meaningful fight against corruption.

President Jonathan is now left in the trap of chanting Sodom and Gomorra

in the Niger Delta like a roadside dog barking at the unstoppable caravan

pulling on beyond its reach. The nation now hangs on the precipice with

the President playing the last card of a National Conference. The outcome

will be anybody's guess. But the writing on the wall portends a dismal

future and a risky course to chart!