Turai`s Laws of power
Let's face it. And, I am not joking here. Hajiya Turai has contributed immeasurably to the esoteric matters of power relations in Nigeria. Or, should we say in the world? Turai's success so far has made both Machiavelli and Robert Greene (the inimitable
author of The 48 Laws of Power) look like small boys by the way she has manipulated the levers of state power in Africa's most populous nation. In spite of our troubles, Nigeria still remains the intellectual hub of Africa. We have some of the smartest and sophisticated men around; and, in Europe, the United States and the Middle East, we have many Nigerian professionals manning several centres of excellence.
Nigerians are a very proud people who have supplied the world with academics, peacekeeping forces and a large market for goods and services. We are an incredible nation of 150 million people. Our businessmen are the wealthiest in Africa even though South Africa has, by far, the biggest economy. Yet, a village girl - or so we thought - has played on our intelligence, controlled the directions of power and demanded forcefully, and even successfully, that the country be run on her terms.
Long before now, Turai had engineered the marriage of her pretty daughters to serving governors. It was a deliberate strategic move. She foresaw our current predicament, and calculated that, in the event of her husband becoming permanently incapacitated, she would have reserves from which to choose a vice president. If you want one from the North-West, she has a candidate; and if it is the North-East, there is a competent one. The North-Central, she must have calculated, would be out of contention because the Senate presidency had already been given to the zone. That must be why no North-Central governor has even been considered a potential husband for any of the remaining girls. But before the governors-in-law become useful, she would do everything to preserve the president's office for herself only. This is not greed. She is only being politically savvy. People who do not understand ascribe some kind of special powers to a kitchen cabinet. No, it's not true.
Turai is the only one that matters here. She is the only one in the kitchen, literally. In the normal run of things, the president should at the moment be in the hands of security agents who would determine and control access to him. They would determine when even Turai herself, her children and other relations would see him, because the president is the property of the state. But Turai has completely upturned this rule of statecraft. She is the one in sole possession of the president and she has decided that no one should see him. In other words, this is a case of sole proprietorship. Turai is the sole owner of the presidency at the moment. At a point, the security agencies had no idea where the Nigerian president was, and even when they eventually knew they were not allowed to set eyes on him.
In every country, the president is always in custody of the security and intelligence institutions. It has always been so even in Nigeria, except in the current dispensation. Turai has successfully shielded our president, who just happens to be her husband, from the nation's number two, three, four and five. The ruling party's chairman went to Jeddah but could not see him. The president's mother and sisters have also not set eyes on the man they had known as a little child before he became an adult, long before he met Turai. They, too, rely on the news items in the media most of which we now know are rumours.
We must give it to her: Turai has contributed seminally to the art and science of power. Turai's first law of power is: "Keep the president to yourself and control information flow." We have always known that whoever controls information flow holds power but Turai has obviously taken this to a new level. I heard that Michael Aondoakaa, Turai's real point-man, once asked a relation of the president whom he thought should know the facts the real state of the president. That was a few days before the famous BBC interview. The former AGF pleaded to be told the truth about Umaru's health status. In fact, he asked the bewildered relative whether the president was still alive or dead. The relative told him that he didn't have a clue and that he, in fact, had always relied on his (Aondoakaa's) public utterances to gauge his uncle's progress. The former attorney-general then confessed to him that, apart from Turai, nobody had seen or spoken to the president since he left Nigeria for Saudi Arabia.
But Turai, while keeping mute throughout, spoke with Aondoakaa daily to give directives and instruct him on what to tell the Nigerian public when he was still attorney-general who also wanted to double as information minister. Aondoakaa carried out all the instructions as a dutiful servant would. This brings us to Turai's second law of power: "Whoever controls the levers of power must absolutely avoid making public statements even in the face of the most intense provocation. Make all statements through a dispensable stooge like Aondoakaa."
Turai's third law of power: "Spread effective rumours through those with access to the media." For some time now, we have consistently heard that the president shall be coming back "next week" but this "next week" never comes. The first newspaper to report this was ThisDay. Other respected newspapers have also fallen victims, including The Guardian and Daily Trust. The idea is to create the impression that the Umaru era has not ended and it will be in everybody's interest to remain loyal. About six Saturdays ago, I noticed that one of the "top stories" that the editor of LEADERSHIP SUNDAY had lined up for his front page the following day included a definitive item that the president would be returning Monday - that's in two days. I wondered why the story was so authoritative, so I called the editor to enquire about his source. He told me it was another senior editor who sent the story. I told the editor to get the guy to call me - to explain his source. When he eventually called, he said he got the story from an "intelligence source". On a careful examination, I knew the story was planted and the editor was not even aware of it. I immediately spiked the story and, thankfully, LEADERSHIP was spared the embarrassment. It's been about five Mondays since, and the man has still not shown up.
It is not clear where Turai learnt all these but she has stupefied even the greatest pundits of power around the world. She certainly couldn't have got this from any books as some of her methods are quite original; and Turai, a typical Katsina woman who watches only Indian films, could not have received this wisdom from any blockbuster Hollywood movie. I also totally reject the view from certain quarters that Turai has been so successful so far because she is too illiterate to appreciate the dangers of what she is doing. On the contrary, I think her steps are very calculated and quite measured, and I think some of us should be humble enough to accept that her contributions to the power game has been quite ground-breaking and should be thought-provoking. And I will be really surprised if Turai does not already know how another very powerful first lady in her league, Aisha Hamani Diori of Niger Republic, ended up in 1974.
E A R S H O T
Obasanjo, Please Don't Go To Niger
I hope former President Olusegun Obasanjo has been listening to the news lately. One of his disciples on the African continent, who had picked up a few bad manners from him and had insisted on taking his own third term bid to the end, has just been toppled in a very popular military coup. After spending 10 years in power, Mamadou Tandja must have foolishly believed the mantra that military coups are no longer fashionable and thought whatever he did, including silencing all opposition, he would get away with it.
This one is a good coup if it will be able to restore democracy as quickly as it has promised. It was the first coup I have seen where the ordinary people lined up the streets to cheer the coup makers, who conducted their own coup in broad daylight. I advise the UN or AU not to send Obasanjo on any troubleshooting assignment to Niger. And, even if he is appointed, I expect his famous native intelligence to get the better part of him. But on second thoughts, wouldn't Nigerians be glad to push Obasanjo into the hands of the coup makers there? The new junta would also be very glad to have him and would also be equally glad to put him and Tandja - the two-third termers - in the same prison cell before probably treating them to the Rawlings medicine. People should always be careful what they wish for. They may just get it.
By Sam Nda- Isaih