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 He would rather stay withdrawn and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
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!