Politics has its ebbs and flows; a man down today could be up tomorrow. Such is the thrill of a political journey that one remembers with either trepidation or nostalgia the days when President Obasanjo’s word was law.
Indeed, those were the days governors lost their office when minority (often a third of their legislature) seat in the middle of the night and arrange impeachments. It happened in Ekiti, Bayelsa and Plateau states; among a few examples. In those days, crossing and pissing off the Lord of Otta was synonymous to be thrown overboard. Most of these governors were from the ruling party- the President’s own fiefdom, the People Democratic Party (PDP) as it is called.
Well today, the shoe is biting hard on the other leg. Our once supreme leader now writes open letters and beckons to press men for attention, insisting he somehow still possess magical powers to summon or arrest the demons of Boko Haram. What a laughable turn of events! Even his own PDP now refers questions about their former Lord to Otta, and rumbustiously mock the old man of Ogun.
I had written in the past about how “Tinubu is winning” the political battles against Goodluck Jonathan. Senator Ahmed Tinubu erstwhile Governor of Nigeria’s largest state and perennial nemesis of the ruling party and its former colossus, the same President Obasanjo, being an approximation for the coalesced opposition movement now in Action Progressive Congress (APC). Well, while Tinubu was winning in the second half of this drama to call a draw – especially when he stole those governors, the ever political Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has been fighting back and winning excellently in extra time.
Politically, this President has been adroit regardless of his misgovernance; fighting back while keeping to time-worn political battle principles that will make Sun Tzu and Machiavelli very proud. Not a mean feat for a man who is not just grossly incompetent, but lacks any moral conviction when it comes to associating with convicted criminals (Former Military Governor Bode George, Ex-Governor Alamieyeseigha) , impeached and EFCC investigated operatives (Ex-Governor now Governor-Elect Fayose), suspected murderers (former Senator Omisore) and fugitive drug king-pins (Chief Buruji Kashamu).
GEJ has shown he is a very bad enemy to have. Ask former Governor Sylvia in Bayelsa state and Amaechi of Rivers. It is only perhaps Governor Amaechi that has proven the most resilient of his open opponents. As Tinubu was to Obasanjo, so is Amaechi to Jonathan. Aside from Amaechi though, the grave of GEJ dissenters has been filled with many dry bones, with the most recent victim being my Governor and Akowe Fayemi. Thinking his supposed camaraderie with the President will save him, he refused to learn the lessons of the first Alliance for Democracy governors who failed to master the first rule of politics: it is a team sport! GEJ is no friend to any opposition politician, there is no middle ground. Be prepared to obliterate him, or be destroyed. Ask Tinubu and Amaechi, in that order.
With the benefit of hindsight, the President started fighting back the very day he experienced his heaviest defeat. Like a good wrestler, he took advantage of his opponent’s momentary euphoria after a resounding triumph to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Sans November 27, 2013 when seven (later five) PDP governors switched sides unexpectedly in the musical chairs that has become our political reality. On that day, the President managed to keep two governors in his camp after they implicitly agreed to move, delivering the first embarrassment albeit minor to a reinvigorated opposition. Record, first law of political battles: Strike when you’re down.
The real battle lines were then drawn; and a series of brick bats have since been flying. First the President’s men ensured APC could not pull off a legislative version of their coup; effectively turning a would-be revolution into a protest. Even APC’s majority in the House of Rep was short-lived, as the PDP ensured to induce the perennial hungry legislators to switch and “unswitch” sides, and the potbellied Senators that saw a future in the ruling party without their renegade governors refuse to switch sides. All said and done, there were no legislative leadership changes and the status quo was maintained. Record, second law of political battles: Limit the damage.
The next iteration of this battle, quickly turned into the electoral field as the President more or less adopted Anambra State sitting party, APGA (even though not his own), as the official bearer of his legacy in the East where he is wildly popular. In a somewhat comedic turn of event, the President effectively endorsed APGA in an election which APC had wrongly staked its rising popularity. This was a huge strategic mistake for APC; as there is simply no where (even in his own native Bayelsa state) that the President is more popular than the South East of Nigeria. The chastened ex-Biafrans see in Jonathan the very first leader that is delivering the much promised goodies to their region. Of course, APGA and implicitly GEJ won, and APC had a terrible blow delivered to its “winning halo”. Record, third law of political battles: Draw the enemy to a fight in the region where you’re strongest.
Even as APC sustained this loss, it continued to score cheap publicity as its henchman previously ingrained in the government machinery were mobilized to embarrass the President. For a moment, it worked. But as quickly as Sanusi Lamido Sanusi mentioned $20 billion dollars, he was quickly lobbed off decisively by a President not known for decisive decision making. The decision was illegal, it was wrong- it reminded Nigerians of ex-strongman Olusegun Obasanjo, and for that reason it was politically necessary. That single decision, singlehandedly saved Jonathan’s presidency by sending clear message to the political apparatchik that he could be clueless, but he was not stupid. Record, fourth law of political battles: Send a strong message to your friends and enemies.
Since SLS was sent to early retirement on a chartered plane that eventually got diverted into the Emir’s palace by fate, ensuring he will quietly retire without the pleasure of a lawsuit or a presidential run, the President have pursued his perceived enemies and potential 2015 opponents with deft mastery and ensure APC perpetually have its back against the wall.
First, it was the decisive victory by Fayose in Ekiti, and more recently the Governor of Adamawa and Edo states have to check the political make-up of their legislatures. It well appears that the Comrade will survive in Edo state, amounting to no more than a scare. But the bearded one of Adamawa is well on his way out of office, courtesy of legislative mutiny that will see him and his deputy effectively impeached in about a month to rue the day he led the mutinous ex-PDP governors against the President. This is even as PDP have now secured juju-judicial pronouncements to certify an unlikely judgment that defecting governors should have their seats declared open. He is also poaching the opposition from Edo to Sokoto to Adamawa, he even got an old enemy to become a Minister in Shekarau: an old nemesis and founding APC member. Which brings us to the fifth and final law of political battles: Take the battle to the enemy.
Question on inquiring minds is if the ever strategic Bola Tinubu will just fold and not have an effective response to this across board victory by Goodluck Jonathan since November, 2013. Tinubu being a veteran of the Nigerian political chess game knows that if he does not respond he will be vanquished. I was told his wife is well on her way to be sacrificed in the Senate, or maybe that is Tinubu implementing the President’s own version of striking when he is down.
Politics, I love this game.