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A ticket that ended sour

By Ochereome Nnanna

BEFORE we move on with our lives, we owe the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua this final footnote: A review of his legacy while in office. Did you notice the absence from his burial of two of his most important political partners when the journey to the presidency started in December 2006: former President Olusegun Obasanjo and new President Goodluck Jonathan, his former deputy?

The inability of these two gentlemen to attend his burial and pay their last respects spoke volumes about the life and times of Yar’ Adua in Aso Villa. You will all recall that his march to the Villa would not have been possible without these two men. Obasanjo was the person who single-handedly gave him the presidential candidate. And since a presidential ticket is constitutionally invalid unless it comes complete with a running mate, Obasanjo also selected Jonathan to pair Yar’ Adua. And so, why was final, horizontal march from the seat of power back to Katsina for the eternal rest of Yar’ Adua conducted without Obasanjo and Jonathan in attendance?

The simple answer is that Yar’ Adua had parted ways with his fellow travellers. This much was obvious in the frosty relationship between Obasanjo and the late president. But with Jonathan, it was not so obvious. That was because the former Vice President is a man of great temperance. His fabled good luck is complemented by his infinitely elastic patience. The forces that governed Yar’ Adua as a result of his infirmity dished out loads of rubbish to Jonathan. He soaked it all up, never complaining or even betraying any emotions.

The Jonathan camp was not the impetuous Atiku Abubakar type which, under Obasanjo, was jumping loose and giving the impression that it was the real power behind the throne. In the war between Obasanjo and Atiku, it was Atiku that threw the first blow by trying to hurry and hustle Obasanjo out of power early in his first term at a time the old fox was just settling down to savour once again, the intoxicating flavour of presidential power. But Jonathan and his men submitted completely to the Yar’ Adua cabal. When they were sworn to an oath of secrecy, the Jonathan camp switched off virtually all links to the outside world in order not to be caught red-handed.

Two factors were responsible for the parting of ways between Yar’ Adua and Obasanjo on the one hand and Yar’ Adua and Jonathan on the other. The first factor was Yar’ Adua’s provinciality. The second was his ill health. Yar’ Adua was not an urbane and cosmopolitan person when it came to the way he structured his power base. He built up a Muslim, Northern, Katsina-coloured structure, which showed in the important appointments he made.

These provincial agents quickly capitalised on the limitations imposed upon him by his ill-health to sever all links with his chief sponsor, Obasanjo. But for caution and decency, Obasanjo was virtually pushed out of the ruling party.

Jonathan is a classic case of one who stoops to conquer. He is tailor-made for the kind of situation that has developed. The first opportunity he saw to get away from the grind of the Yar’ Adua oppressive overlordship he grabbed it and never looked back. Upon his appointment as Acting President in February, 2010 he dismantled the Yar’Adua structure and imposed his own.

The final straw that drove Yar’Adua and Jonathan apart was when he was smuggled into the country in the dead of the night with the acting helmsman not being informed. Elite troops were moved without his permission, though he was dubbed “Commander-in-Chief”. A coup d’etat was avoided by the skin of a tooth. He was refused the right to see the president by Turai, Yar’ Adua’s wife. From this moment on, Jonathan never bothered with them anymore.

Being a bad master does no one any good. Murtala Mohammed was not a bad master to Obasanjo; neither was Obasanjo a bad master to Shehu Yar’ Adua. However, Obasanjo became a bad master to Atiku because Atiku was a rude and overbearing “houseboy”. Jonathan never gave Yar’ Adua any nightmares as second in command but health and handlers conspired against their partnership. So sad to watch good love go bad.

Goodluck “Azikiwe” Ebele Jonathan!
What is in a name? AIT talk show anchor, Gbenga Aruleba dared to “correct” Professor Dora Akunyili’s pronunciation of Ebele after the new President was sworn-in by emphasising the fact that “Ebele” is not pronounced to make it sound Igbo. Let me reassure Aruleba and his cohorts that no one is trying to steal President Goodluck Jonathan from his Ijaw roots, since no Igbo group is indigenous to Bayelsa State. Any impression in that direction is only a sign of his acceptability across ethnic lines, for now, which he needs to proceed in his onerous task of providing Nigeria excellent leadership.

Let people be reminded that Bayelsa is in the former Eastern Region, where Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was once Premier and later President of Nigeria. An online source informs that Goodluck’s grandmother used to called him “Azikiwe”, an inspirational praise name that has turned prophetic. This was common in those days. After all, Victor Iffijeh, the Isoko-born MD of The Nation newspapers also answers “Awolowo”, and yet it does not make him Yoruba.

On an earlier edition of his Focus Nigeria programme, Aruleba also analysed Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi’s name and tried to squeeze in Yoruba as a stakeholder in the governor’s person. Fine. If Gbenga saw no problem with that, how then should the “Ebele” in Jonathan’s name, no matter how pronounced, be a problem to him?
Professor Akunyili does not need this correction!


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