“Except the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain; except the Lord keeps the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” – Psalm 127, Verse 1
This great verse from the book of Psalm is what former president Olusegun Obasanjo used mischievously against former senate president, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, when the latter invited him to commission his new official residence in 2002. Unknown to Oyi of Oyi, Obasanjo had already hatched a plot to remove him from office a few weeks later. It was another senate president that latter enjoyed the benefit of the grandiose official residence. How apt the same verse from the Bible to Chief Obasanjo’s current predicament in the political arena.
Following his humiliation in the epic struggle to railroad the third term for himself last year, the former president quickly resorted to Plan B with all vengeance. His Plan B was to ensure that those who would succeed him both in the executive and legislature would be his own cronies. And to carry out these assignments, the party under the “chemical” Ali was made to “bomb out” not only the anti-third term elements in the PDP but also those candidates or aspirants who could not be trusted to be pliant after Baba must have left office.
To do this, all manners of tactics were employed. Certain state institutions were deployed to intimidate some of them, while some were prevented outright from contesting party primaries. And where some “stubborn elements” managed to snatch victories at primaries, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was either made to disqualify them or the party simply substituted their names overnight. And as part of post-Obasanjo power consolidation, the party constitution was amended overnight to automatically make him the ultimate chairman of Board of Trustees (BOT) with added power to dictate the future direction of the party.
Perhaps if the Obasanjo supporters had their way, they would have also amended the constitution to create a position of “president-mentor” or “president emeritus” in order to supervise President Umaru Yar’dua. To ensure that no troublesome governors ever emerge again given the experience of Lagos, Abia and Adamawa during his second term in office, the INEC was made to ensure only preferred candidates were declared as governors except in states where it would be too suicidal to rig. In fact in most states, the results of election had been pre-written. And where the figures earlier written embarrassingly turned out to be more than registered voters, it had to be quickly corrected by the magician Professor Maurice Iwu the following day from Abuja as was done in the case of Anambra, a governorship imposition which the Supreme Court later showed that there was nothing to impose in the first place.
Not satisfied yet, whoever became the senate president and House of Representatives speaker in post-Obasanjo era were also crucial to Baba’s after-office calculation. Again, “Chemical” Ali was deployed to work. Baba simply barked the instruction from Otta and there was no doubting where the Pendulum was to swing. Senator David Mark and Honorable Patricia Etteh were the anointed.
Now and suddenly, the centre is beginning to give way. Things have started going awry. Post-Obasanjo’s presidential power house which the supporters and lobbyists thought was built on a rock has now been discovered to be built on quicksand. It is beginning to collapse like a house of cards and many deserters are beginning to talk with their legs. For a house that was not built with the people’s physical planning authority approval, the law, justice, morality, reason and fate are beginning to catch up with the illegal builders.
First, the courts have ordered the demolition of several parts of the building and only God Almighty can save the main building itself. Many of the Obasanjo’s impositions as governors are either giving way or about to give way. More will go in weeks to come thus leaving Baba without his illegitimate political children. As if the pain inflicted by the courts was not enough, some of the impositions as fate would have it, have begun to self-destruct. The party-imposed speaker of the House of Representatives, Patricia Etteh, was recently disgraced out of office. And as if to deal more blow to the Obasanjo’s gang, the House last week rebelled against the party in order to pick its own genuine speaker and not an Otta-manufactured one.
With a sitting president unwilling to intervene, it seems the Obasanjo caucus is now set to lose the party machinery come next month. Already formidable forces have gathered to ensure that only a truly elected party chairman is installed. Therefore, those already going to Otta to seek anointing are beginning to retrace their steps. Moreso, some powerful forces are now bent on deposing the almighty BOT chairman. With the election of the speaker from Ogun, the strong argument that may now prevail is that Ogun cannot be made to produce BOT chairman again, after all, other states have former Presidents like Niger.
As the centre can no longer hold, the cat is now being let out if the bag. Some of Obasanjo’s hatchetmen are beginning to spill the bean. The latest is former Senate president Ibrahim Mantu who last week confessed in a newspaper that the PDP actually imposed candidates on the people and they are all now being punished. True talk coming from someone who was imposed as a senatorial candidate but eventually lost the election. And as if this confession is not enough, Baba is gradually being shown the reality of power. During the previous week’s remembrance of his late wife, Stella, only about three adverts were placed in the papers by his associates. The famous government contractors did not place any compared to a deluge of adverts last year. Similarly only a handful remembered to join him at last week’s Owu day. In fact, the fear is that there may be none to attend the annual Ibogun Day on Boxing Day. You wonder: Where are the famous “Baba’s friends and supporters”?
The big lesson in all this is for all men of power to realise that the ultimate power belongs to God. And God has appointed the people as the trustees of that power. And once that power does not come from the people, the grabber only labours in vain. The tragedy of Obasanjo’s era is that that government was never humbled by power thrusted upon it. The former president who was fortunate to be imposed on his party and elected in 1999 only to return for a second term in 2003 in a fraudulent election had been allowed to play God over those he governed. For a government that was largely a disaster in terms of performance to still want to dictate the future of Nigeria after leaving office is nothing but insult to every Nigerian.
It is even naïve, as every student of power knows, for a man out of power to think he can continue to control a new man of power who not only controls the police, the security service, the army, all state institutions and resources which he himself used to buy loyalty when he was in office, to now think the new man cannot do the same. Even if the new man doesn’t know how to do it, there are able men experienced in power enough who are ever willing to package him to do it. It is time we put Obasanjo’s ghost behind us. It is a big illusion for anyone to think Obasanjo is still relevant as next month’s events will show