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Sheathing Akunyili’s sword

By Owei  Lakemfa
RUFAI Ahmed Alkali the National Publicity Secretary of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, is angry about the word cabal.

The Professor of Political Science says the use of the word to describe ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua’s chorus boys is divisive and that socio-cultural groups like the Arewa Consultative Forum, Afenifere and Ohaneze Ndigbo who use it “are delving into partisan politics”.

I am sure , left to Prof Alkali whose period of teaching at the Nigeria Defence Academy might have rubbed off on him, the word cabal should be expunged from our dictionary.

Let me reveal to the 21st Century Inquisitors that the official most guilty of using the offensive missile ‘cabal’ is Prof. Dora Akunyili, yes, the same Amazon who is the Minister Of Communication and Information! For example, in one of her ‘Post Yar’Adua Return’ era interviews, she told the press: “The cabals want to continue with their usual statement of the President said and you must comply.

They want to continue dishing out instructions even when the President did not say so. These cabals should please stop heating up the system and allow President Yar’Adua to recover”. But is Prof Alkali right in his insinuation that the word contains ingredients of treason and national disintegration, or is it an appropriate characterisation of the Nigerian situation?

This we can find out by examining the word. Etymologically, cabal is the acronym of the names of five ministers in the cabinet of Charles II, the King of England and Ireland (1660 – 85) The ministers, Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley and Lauderdale (CABAL) were a small group of plotters who executed secret schemes. So can it be validly argued that there is a small group around the sick President Yar’Adua which has been engaged in secret schemes?

Let us hear Akunyili’s submission. First she claimed that the government did not have information that Yar’Adua was travelling to Saudi Arabia “until we saw it in the news, and when he was in Saudi Arabia, we hardly got information”.

Secondly, that this handful of people were dishing out presidential instructions claiming them to be flowing from Yar’Adua without the government being able to verify their authenticity. In other words, that the country was being run by proxy. What further alarmed her was that “stories told by some of the presidential aides were not adding up, especially stories that are changed when they are told from one person to another”.

She also argued that when the President was being brought back to the country after 93 days hospitalisation in Saudi Arabia, the Acting President and the government were kept in the dark with the news being broken by the foreign media, Al Jazeera and CNN.

As we all have come to know, the kitchen cabinet had secured troops and taken over the airport prior to Yar’Adua’s return without the Acting President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Dr Goodluck Jonathan’s knowledge, approval or instruction.

Akunyili also pointed out that Yar’Adua’s boys insisted on referring to the Acting President as the “Vice President” in complete disregard of the National Assembly’s decision, and in obvious contempt for Dr Jonathan. To me, Akunyili and others characterising the group that carried all these out as a cabal, are quite accurate.

As a Professor of Political Science, I am sure that Alkali knows that this is the true characterisation, the problem I think he has is that it is the truth that hurts most not lies. If the cabal and its supporters like Alkali have their way, I’m sure they would have declared the use of the word, cabal, unpatriotic and illegal with users being liable to detention without trial or imprisonment.

The most famous German playwright and poet, Bertolt Brecht wrote in a satire Words The Leader (Hitler) Cannot Bear To Hear that these included those which begin with the syllable pro- such words as ‘proletariat’, ‘prose’, ‘provocation’ or ‘pro and con’ which are frequently used by agitators. In the Nigerian situation, words the cabal may find offensive include pro-democracy, pro-people, pro-poor, ruling clique and civil society.

The cabal had assumed that it is in complete control of the country. So when the President was brought back, it went on the offensive particularly against Jonathan. But the President’s people did not take into consideration the warrior, Akunyili. The shock troopers who led the hordes felt the sharp edge of her sword.

They found that surprise was not really on their side; they withdrew in disarray. In reassembling its forces, a question the cabal had to answer was whether apart from Akunyili there are other formidable fighters on the side of the Acting President.

Wisely, the clique chose compromise; it became willing to recognise Jonathan as Acting President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Its members publicly acknowledge Jonathan’s leadership under a “unified presidency”.

They also reached out to supporters outside the Presidency. Some of these tried to raise a motion in the National Assembly to condemn her statements, they were routed, and Akunyili was rather commended for her doggedness.

More forces were contacted, and the Governors Forum when it met the Acting President asked him to order Akunyili to sheath her sword. The point has been made; it is not the President’s people alone that can fight, and they are not the only crowd capable of exhibiting some anarchism. It is in everybody’s interest to allow the country return to some normalcy and allow the blocked democratic waters to resume their normal course of flow.

There is the question; given Akunyili’s pivotal role in exposing the cabal and asking her colleagues in the Federal Executive Council to stop its torrent of lies on Yar’Adua’s health, should she not resign from the cabinet? My response is, resign for who? If Aondoakaas can remain, and the cabal is intact, why should the Akunyilis leave? This country belongs to us all, not to a clique.


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