THIS MAN IS DANGEROUS
A crafty, wily man 'who designs good and bad schemes with equal celebrity.' That was how his contemporary in the military, General James Oluleye described him. And what an apt way to capture the persona of General Olusegun Matthew Okikiolu Aremu Obasanjo.
Last week, the man conjured up another evil scheme, which he unfolded at the Board of Trustees meeting of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), held at Aso Villa, Abuja. What was the caper? 'The present Speaker and other PDP officers of the House of Representatives should remain in their respective positions for two years up to June 5, 2013, when the party's policy, programme and decision of zoning to South-west should be implemented. Any other adjustments that may be deemed necessary may be carried out thereafter and in some future date.'
We are familiar with the background to the extant scenario on power sharing in the country, but let's briefly recapitulate. The PDP has a zoning formula, which apportions all the major political offices in the country to the different geo-political zones. To a large extent, it promotes equity and dispels suspicions of marginalisation and domination among the ethnic nationalities that make up the country. Obasanjo was a beneficiary of that formula, and served as president for two terms of eight years. He was succeeded in 2007 by Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, who hailed from the North-west of the country.
Unfortunately, Yar'Adua was terminally ill, and did not last the distance. He passed away in May 2010. According to our national constitution, Yar'Adua should automatically be succeeded by his deputy, who, courtesy of the zoning formula, hailed from the South-south. We all argued that the constitution be respected when some people did not want Goodluck Jonathan to succeed his erstwhile boss, first in acting capacity, then as substantive president. On May 6, 2010, he got inaugurated into office, after Yar'Adua's passage. It was the fit and proper thing.
What should a man strong on integrity, morality and fair play do? Complete the term started by Yar'Adua, and in deference to the constitution of his party, decline to run for the same office in the 2011 polls, no matter the pressure. Would he have been Vice President, acting President, and then President in the first place, if the position had not been zoned? We all know what happened. Egged on by Obasanjo and his band of covenant breakers, Jonathan ran, and by hook or crook, he's now president. Zoning died (or rather, was killed) and the country should move ahead with her life. But not so. The anarchists came with another stratagem. Zoning must now be resuscitated in the PDP, and the major political offices shared according to the formula prescribed by the party. What confusion.
Remember the day Jonathan submitted his nomination papers at the PDP national headquarters last year? He said offices are zoned only after the president and vice president have emerged. But what did Obasanjo say in Abuja, last week? He listed the six offices zoned/rotated as those of the president, vice president, president of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives (all by election), Secretary to the Government of the Federation (by appointment), and chairman of the party (by appointment confirmed by election). Obasanjo then added: 'Mr President, it is that policy that brought me up as President in 1999 and brought President Yar'Adua up in 2007 and you up in 2011. It has given us some element of predictability, stability and order.'
But didn't Jonathan say the office of president is never zoned? Well, Obasanjo, the history-teacher, has taught him the home truth, even if on a self-serving basis. The truth is that the PDP zones all the six major offices, and has always done so since 1999, despite the sophistry that Jonathan attempted on the day he submitted his form to run as president. Instead of that futile attempt at self-justification, I believe Jonathan should rather have kept quiet. The things he said on that day are now being used against him.
We shouted ourselves hoarse on the need to respect the zoning arrangement in the PDP, which was the fair, just, equitable and moral thing to do. They said we didn't brush our teeth, and that our mouths stank. So we kept quiet. We accepted the death and burial of zoning, and moved on. But now, to our consternation, they are saying zoning is well and alive. What duplicity! Chicanery. Perfidy.
But we insist; zoning is dead, and nobody will make the corpse walk. Not by any artifice. It is appointed unto man once to die, after that, judgment. Same for zoning. It is dead and buried, and no necromancer will wake it from its eternal sleep.
One of the fallout of the death of zoning is the emergence of a northerner as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Despite having just four lawmakers from the South-west, the PDP had zoned the office of Speaker to the region, which is against all the globally accepted tenets of democracy. Of course, Aminu Tambuwal from the North-west ran justifiably for the office, and roundly and soundly defeated the candidate of the establishment. It was a landslide, if ever there was one. The consequence of that was that the country's number 2 position, (vice president), number 3 position, (Senate president) and number 4, (Speaker, House of Representatives), are now in the hands of the same geo-political area. We asked for it when we killed zoning, and we got what we deserved. Talking of the numbers 3 and 4 positions at the Abuja BOT meeting, Obasanjo had said: 'Until now, on no account have two of these offices gone to one zone. It has been carefully observed and kept sacrosanct.'
But a question: who engineered the torpedoing of the arrangement that guaranteed equity and fairness? Obasanjo. Who told us in 2010 that there was no zoning formula in the PDP? Obasanjo. Who encouraged Jonathan to defy the constitution of his own party, and run for office? Obasanjo. Who now is shedding crocodile tears over the non-respect of the zoning formula of the PDP? Obasanjo. You can now see that he's a dangerous man, unsteady like the waves of the sea. Shifty, irresolute, and vacillating. And if we allow him, he will yet throw this country into greater turmoil.
Atiku Abubakar gave what I consider good counsel to Obasanjo after the latter unfolded his latest evil scheme 'with celebrity' last week. He said the honourable thing was for the former president to keep quiet, 'and quit public life.' I agree. We've had too much of Obasanjo's asphyxiating presence. He deserves a nice, quiet retirement, and we must compel him to take it.
A warning, however, for Aminu Tambuwal, Emeka Ihedioha, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, and all their supporters. The Owu General is after you, and you must consistently watch your back. He is an implacable foe, an unrelenting enemy. He 'designs good and bad schemes with equal celebrity,' and if he says you should quit after two years, be sure he will follow it up with action, both fair and foul. Obasanjo will try all the tricks. Inducement, bribery, blackmail, impeachment, subtle and open warfare, everything. And since he has the support of the Executive in the scheme, the leadership of the House of Representatives can only be careless at its own peril.
Let me end this piece with an experience that brought powerfully home to me the extent of badness of Olusegun Obasanjo (remember he told us once that he doesn't ever want to be a good man). I've told the story in this column before. I was in Ghana in December 2009, and visited the botanical gardens at Aburi. There, you have trees that are many hundred years old, with their history carefully documented and preserved. The tour guide showed all kinds of huge, flourishing trees, and told me the people who planted them, many of them international figures. But then, we saw this stunted, miserable looking tree among the rest. And you know who planted it? Olusegun Obasanjo, as Nigeria's military head of state in the late 1970s. Even nature has reacted negatively to his aura, and the tree has refused to flourish. Even so may Nigeria not truly flourish for as long as he calls the shots. We must beware of him.