By Osa Mbonu-Amadi, Arts Editor
In this interview, Ochereome Nnanna, author of the new book, “BUHARI:TINUBU – How they Snatched, Shared Power” speaks on why he wrote the book, Buhari’s failure to Fulanise and Islamise Nigeria, and where he believes Nigeria is headed with Tinubu as president.
What motivated you to write this book?
I believed that after 36 years of racticing journalism, 32 years of writing columns and 29 years of writing “People and Politics” for Vanguard Newspapers, I needed to write a book that would not just be a collection of my select articles as many of my colleagues often choose to do. I have been a witness, indeed a chronicler, of Nigeria’s political affairs for over three decades. I have on a weekly basis recorded a segment of Nigeria’s political history and offered my humble opinion on unfolding current affairs of political nature. I felt I owed society, especially the youth and future generations, the inside story of the first and only peaceful transfer of power from one political party to the other at the Federal level in Nigeria.
The publication of “BUHARI:TINUBU – How they Snatched, Shared Power” on Amazon on 27th August 2023, is also a dream come true because back in 1995, the late billionaire philanthropist, real estate and publishing mogul, Alhaji Abdulaziz Ude, had reposed so much confidence in my potentials that he promised to send me to his alma mater, Oxford University, UK for a Ph.D. course, and for me to “write books” for his NOK Publishers. Unfortunately, maybe because of his sympathy for NADECO, Gen. Abacha blackballed his businesses, and he never recovered from it. That is why in my acknowledgements page, I remembered him.
From the title of the book to its content, you exhibited the height of bravery. Are you ever bothered that you’re ruffling some powerful feathers, especially as one who comes from the South East and writing about the two characters, one from the South West, and the other from the North?
I don’t want to use the word “bravery” so that our humble efforts will not be seen as a deliberate ploy to “confront” the principalities and powers that rule Nigeria, just for show. Rather, I would prefer people to see me as a brutally frank writer who genuinely believes the opinions that he projects to the public are for the overall good of all Nigerians irrespective of where they come from. If in doing so I “ruffle some powerful feathers”, it Is mission accomplished. These “powerful feathers” were the ones who kept all of us where we are today; people who reduced the Giant of Africa to a cretinish, dwarfish state where 140 million out of its about 215 million people live in multidimensional poverty and a quarter of our OPEC daily oil quota is stolen by the operators of the state in cahoots with their gang members in the oil industry, the armed forces and foreign criminals. Nigeria is a place where 20 million children are out of school, (the highest in the world) and state failure stares us in the face wherever we look. These were the same people who have proved unable to defend the country from terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and highly pampered, viciously armed “herdsmen” seeking to grab lands from indigenous populations. These are the leaders who kill and buy their ways to power and leave office never to be poor again. They made government or governance a criminal enterprise where only the most crooked, violent, demonic and gangster-minded people acquire power after corrupting hallowed state institutions.
And I don’t think the issue of where I come from and where they come from is relevant because within them are their allies and cronies from all over the country. Ther is no tribe that is not represented around the tables where the misrule of Nigeria is conducted, just as there is no tribe that is excluded from the hardship that comes in the wake of their actions. But I do agree with you because Nigeria is not one nation, forget about empty, fraudulent slogans. All of us cannot see the country from the same prism. The shoe does not pinch all Nigerians the same. The Nigerian shoe pinches the Igbo person in a way it never pinches the other Nigerians, and I am Igbo to the core, with due respect to the others.
Your book appears to encapsulate Nigeria’s problem, and comes at a time it seems the problem is climaxing. Did you deliberately decide to release the book after the horse (as you described Buhari in the book) has successfully taken the rider (Tinubu) to his destination?
The book is about the powerplay that led to the transfer of the Nigerian presidency from Muhammadu Buhari to his political partner, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It goes back to the earliest days of the current political dispensation which is often called the Fourth Republic, which was initiated by the General Ibrahim Babangida regime and modified by the General Sani Abacha and General Abdulsalami Abubakar military dispensations. These were the earliest origins of Buhari and Tinubu’s political trajectories. My original plan was to publish the book after the Supreme Court finally decides on the election petitions of former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and Mr. peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP). But I decided to strike the iron while it was still hot by ending it at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC). The second edition will accommodate the final outcome. The emphasis is on how Buhari and Tinubu grabbed and shared power.
The gumption you displayed in telling the true story of Buhari, Tinubu and their political allies is a remarkable one. As a political scientist who has watched and reported the Nigerian political tragedy for many years, where do you think the country is headed from Tinubu?
I will welcome a miracle with open arms, but I do not expect it. The damage the election that brought Tinubu into power has done to Nigeria’s democracy and psyche will only be known in the future. Right now, we can only imagine. For instance, ethnic profiling will never depart from Lagos politics in our life time because that was what they deployed to save themselves from being swept out. They decided to pin the blame on the Igbo residents of Lagos, forgetting that the Obidient Movement which flowed from the #EndSARS Movement is not an ethnic initiative. Yoruba and Edo/Delta youths started the EndSARS Movement. Igbo youth joined when it transformed into the Obidient Movement because many pro-Biafra Igbo youth saw Obi’s trending political profile as a profitable opportunity to resume engagement with Nigeria under a clean slate or new beginning for the country.
Specifically, Tinubu does not inspire me to think he will be any better or different from Buhari. The only thing you may not see is Buhari’s Fulanisation agenda – using the Federal Might to seize the lands and waterbodies belonging to indigenous communities for redistribution to Fulani herdsmen and immigrants from every part of Africa. No non-Fulani extremist will want to push that hideous and primitive agenda which is guaranteed to stoke wars and crises without end. Apart from that, every other thing is still along the Buhari model. For instance, Buhari refused to conform to the constitutional demand of sharing offices with the Federal Character Principle contained in Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution. Buhari cheated the South East and loaded public offices in his people’s favour, both in quality and quantity. Same with Tinubu, who has gone ahead to seize most of the oil, finance/revenue, justice and security portfolios for his kinsmen and close Lagos acolytes.
Buhari made himself Petroleum Minister. Tinubu has done the same. Emi l’okan/Awa l’okan is not a mere mantra, it is an unfolding ideology of the Tinubu dispensation. This is a formula for consumption or self-reward. We saw how extreme nepotism stoked corruption and lack of synergy in government under Buhari. It is going to be worse unless Tinubu pulls back from the direction he is facing. Buhari and Tinubu are experts in preaching one thing and practising another, living in a world of their own and making voluptuous promises that are hardly kept. It is still the same All Progressives Congress (APC) regime with a different face. Buhari’s model that failed needs a miracle to succeed in the hands of Tinubu.
Recently, Femi Adesina said Buhari has regrets. Having in your book detailed Buhari’s corruption while pretending to be incorruptible, his crass ineptitude and attempt to Fulanize Nigeria, do you think the failure of his Fulanisation and Islamization agenda could be among those regrets Adesina is alluding to?
It is up to Femi Adesina to tell us those “regrets” his former principal has. After that, Femi Adesina should also tell about his own regrets, because he said things that will haunt him beyond life, like telling indigenous Nigerians to choose between their lands and their lives! If Buhari is to ever regret anything about his calamitous eight years, it must be that his Islamisation and Fulanisation Agenda failed despite his use of state power and resources to try and push it through. The failure of the Islamisation and Fulanisation Agenda of the Buhari regime is, however, my greatest joy.
Somewhere in the book, you wrote that “The North had ceded power to the South West through Obasanjo as a compensation for the annulled June 12 election and the murder of Chief MKO Abiola in detention.” But the Nigerian government and the U.S. found through an autopsy that Abiola was not murdered as many of us believed; that he died of a natural cause. Don’t you believe them?
The Nigerian government and US government knew what happened to Chief MKO Abiola and Gen. Sani Abacha. The way the two protagonists “conveniently” died and left the scene for a clean, new start, cannot be a coincidence. Do you expect the US to confirm that Abiola was poisoned when Susan Rice, its Under-Secretary for African Affairs, was one of Abiola’s last visitors? Your question is: do I believe them? No, I don’t. The way I see it, the plot for Abiola and Abacha to leave the scene and for Obasanjo to be brought out of prison under the North’s “magnanimity” to pacify the Yoruba and start Nigeria on a new slate was a carefully plotted and executed international conspiracy. If that had not been done, Abacha would have transformed into a civilian dictator like Omar Al Bashir of Sudan. That would have provoked the Yoruba nation beyond mere agitation, and who knew where that would leave Nigeria? It is my suspicion that the same conspirators pushed out President Goodluck Jonathan after he signed the Anti Same-Sex Bill in 2014, and maneuvered power to Buhari in 2015.