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would rather stay withdrawn and operate from behind the scene than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 neglect!
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
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.
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.
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 America.
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
Follow me on Twitter @FriskyLarrimore, Watch out for my new book
“Africa’s Diabolical Entrapment”
Frisky Larr is author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic
Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria!