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By: Dele Momodu

 

Fellow Nigerians, these are interesting times in our dear beloved country. High-wired politics is here again and there are many gladiators already queueing up for the biggest prize of all, the Presidency. The latest political figure to throw his hat into the ring is the President of the Nigerian Senate, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who declared his interest in dramatic fashion, two days ago, whilst addressing a gathering of some selected Nigerian youths.

As always, I have continued to follow developments on this latest declaration on social media. While many were jolted by Saraki’s decision, I was not surprised at all. I had written about his decision a few months ago. At that time, I was scorned at, as usual, by those who have no access to news or newsmakers but come online just to attack and disparage everyone. Anyone who understands the game of politics would have realised that the main reason Saraki has been under ceaseless attack and near annihilation is because of his long suspected Presidential ambition. I will explain further, very shortly. But before I do, let me say something for free. I know, many are likely to dismiss Saraki as a smaller fry to President Muhammadu Buhari. Let me plead with anyone who cares to listen that I don’t see Saraki as someone joking, or testing waters, as some people are suggesting. I have studied the man like a book and have come to discover some of the things that make him tick. Saraki’s biggest strength and threat to his adversaries is his calm mien. He is a man of few words. He is deep and calculating. He loves to be underrated. Then he strikes.

I was one of those who used to dismiss his rumoured Presidential ambition as totally impossible. Several times, I had omitted his name when writing about possible Presidential aspirants and he would ask why I thought he was not qualified to govern Nigeria. And my stock answer was usually that the geographical location of Kwara and his own cultural roots naturally and automatically disqualified him. I used to ask, almost rhetorically, where would he pick his running mate from since many Northerners may want to see him as a Yorubaman and thus a Southerner. He finally made his pitch on this vexed issue to me at great length and with strong conviction, when we met, last week in Ilorin. Let me now take you through the mind-set of this enigmatic politician who may yet spring another surprise on you and I, and cause an unexpected revolution in the political landscape and socio-cultural configuration of Nigeria.

I was privileged to sit with Dr Saraki as his guest during the Eid El Kabir festival, in Ilorin. My mission was to penetrate his mind and unravel his mythical essence. I have already met a few other formidable Presidential aspirants such as former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Kano State Governor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, and former Cross River State Governor Mr Donald Duke. I have had brief telephone conversations with the Governor of Sokoto State, Waziri Aminu Tambuwal, the Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Comrade Omoyele Sowore, international motivational speaker Mr Fela Durotoye, BEN Television UK Chairman Mr Alistair Soyode, Finance expert, Mr Tope Fasua but have not had the opportunity of sitting down with them. My encounter with Saraki was extraordinary. He opened up like never before. I have known him a bit since our collaborative work on the Buhari project, but I have never seen him in this form or mood. He was turbocharged and seemed to speak from the heart.
Saraki’s roadmap to victory is simple. Buhari is going to play the usual ethnic card that only a candidate from North West can win a Presidential election in Nigeria. Saraki feels otherwise. He believes that the pro-restructuring crusaders now have an opportunity to make the Presidency available to other Nigerians. He concedes that it may be difficult for any candidate from North West and North East to compete or beat Buhari hands down, despite the fact that PDP parades more experienced politicians and competent aspirants. What is then needed is to keep North Central on lockdown with a popular candidate from that zone. With the support of PDP stalwarts from the other two Northern zones, Buhari’s votes would be whittled down to make up the requisite percentages in terms of spread but no more. He believes that it may be a waste of time and resources trying to compete in the President’s traditional enclave other than to strive to get up to 25%. PDP should instead focus on mobilising the forces from the opposite direction and lockdown four out of the six geo-political zones.

Saraki says he is well-positioned to make this happen. With one leg in the North and another in the South, especially the South West, the people would have a higher stake in the Presidency and this will galvanise more passionate voters. If the PDP presents just anyone, there may be voter apathy and Buhari would coast home to victory. As to where his deputy will come from, it would have to be from the South-East/South-south axis, since he has already covered the South West, technically. Theoretically, this would ignite enthusiasm in that region. He believes the APC has played into his hands somehow by this calculation.

According to Saraki, the only reason Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been fighting him is because he wants to take over from Buhari in 2023. “Where does that then leave the Igbo people who have not been able to produce any Vice President or President since Dr Alex Ekwueme in 1979-1983?” In simple Arithmetic “PDP needs a candidate who can block the South West and the South East simultaneously since Buhari will still run with Osinbajo…” This race is getting mathematically interesting and the Saraki option is looking feasible, I thought. However, Saraki said he was only just starting. He said those days are gone when an individual can instruct people to go out and vote as if they have no minds of their own.

He plans to challenge and tackle Buhari strictly on issues and not pettiness, which he sees to be the current order of the day. He said the world is driven today by knowledge and not by crude force. He said he is better informed on how to resurrect the comatose economy which collapsed because of the over-simplistic and myopic handling of affairs since Buhari took over. “Any student of elementary economics would know that a country can never develop in an atmosphere of obsession for scaremongering, instability, uncertainty, Stone Age policies… Nigeria urgently needs a unifier in deed and not in words… I’m one of the most cosmopolitan leaders around today with every sense of modesty…” Saraki is looking forward to a serious debate between him, Buhari and other candidates on every aspect of daily life in Nigeria. “If Buhari likes, he can stay at home and do the debate by Skype or whatever, but moving forward, we must discuss Nigeria publicly…Anyone wanting to lead a country as important as Nigeria in this century must be someone who can ably represent us in the comity of nations and has a grasp of modern ways of life.”

Saraki says he has matured with time in various offices and his cumulative executive and legislative experiences are almost second to none in the country… “You can see this in the way I have conducted the affairs of the Senate, and we are easily the best, but for the occasional and unfortunate distractions from people who see me as serious threat to their personal ambition. They had to feed the President with lies and destroy our relationship. I did all I could to support the government, but I was constantly harassed and treated like a pariah by those desperate to keep a firm grip on Nigeria…” But he continues to see the positive side of his travails. “Perhaps, I would not have declared interest in this race, but they kept pushing me away, demonising me for no reason, but ,inadvertently, they made me very popular by their action and some of those who never liked me started pitying me as a victim of oppression. They made it possible for me to clear my name and reputation at the highest level of justice, the Supreme Court… That is how God works… Today they’ve pushed me up to the level I never envisaged because the ways of God are very mysterious… Most people, including members of the international community, now see me as the authentic leader of opposition in Nigeria. I’m grateful to all those who have stood by us against dictatorship and tyranny… The more they attacked me, the higher God lifted me up. It was not a crime to aspire. We were co-joiners in the party, but some felt they were overlords, the owners of heaven and earth, and now God has humbled them…”

On how he hopes to tackle the youths many of who feel dead set against him, he replied: “That is my biggest task because they are my catchment group. I know many have been brainwashed and I don’t blame them. You know when you tell some lies repeatedly, it becomes the truth to some people. For example, they say I’m the most corrupt man on earth. I have looted Kwara State dry. All cheap but dangerous lies. What’s the worth of Kwara State that anyone would have billions to steal. I was born into business. I have been investing as a kid. In fact, as Governor, many contractors never saw me once. They said I was arrogant, but I empowered my cabinet and gave them the opportunity to use their initiatives in handling matters of State. There was no way I would have demeaned myself asking contractors for bribe. Insult, insult upon insults… What else did I want God to do for me?”

How come the perception of corruption against him every time? Saraki said: “You should understand their strategy, Buhari and his people have nothing else to market than to label opponents as looters and Buhari as the last saint standing. As petty as they are, they wrote letters to some foreign security agencies to probe me, and the worst of all to invade my home because they are sure they will find millions of raw cash in foreign currency… Just imagine how they’ve been dragging the office of the number three citizen of Nigeria in the mud because of power… Yet they know all their friends who came into power with nothing, those who never managed any business in their lives, but are billionaires today. That is why nobody outside Nigeria treats their so-called wars seriously. The shame of it is they’ve never rejected any of those they called looters before, whenever they decide to cross over to APC…” On the issue of the collapse of a bank, Societe Generale, under his watch, he expressed great regret and remorse but acknowledges no human being is infallible. He said, at the opportune time, he would lay the details bare for Nigerians to see the incredible effort he and others have put into seeking atonement and forgiveness.

He said the war against corruption would improve and succeed only when it is not subject to the whims of one man sitting on the throne in judgment against sinners and we must strengthen the relevant institutions and put in place genuine checks and balances that knows no sacred cows and treats all Nigerians equally in matters of crime and punishment. “The present style of grabbing and prosecuting Nigerians and convicting them on the pages of newspapers and social media is, to say least, cruel and unfortunate, in modern times.”

Saraki said he has a major blueprint for moving Nigeria forward in the 21st century and this would be offered to Nigerians for proper scrutiny. “They are concrete and cardinal steps towards our redemption not the empty rhetorics of APC that has yielded little in almost four years,” he said, with a tinge of regret and lamentation. He has promised to work with like minds at home and abroad. He is grateful to the members of PDP for the way him and his group were welcomed back so warmly. He said he would never take it for granted that the golden ticket of PDP would be easy to get, but he believes that if it is God’s wish, then he will get the it with gratitude. However, he also said that he is willing to cooperate fully with whosoever is chosen, if that is not his destiny. “Nigerians cannot afford another four years of this sluggish, directionless and vindictive government. It is our duty to work hard by the grace of God and rescue our great nation…” Saraki said with great faith and palpable confidence.

Now, to the clincher and grand finale. Why is APC seeking his impeachment by fire by force? Saraki was ready with a response: “APC knows the Constitution of Nigeria even if they pretend otherwise. They know there is no way they can remove me legally. That is why they were driven to the limit of desperation and feverishness by the invasion of the National Assembly, which is the only reason they are a bit sober right now, out of shame that the brazen invasion by DSS at their behest and instruction failed. The threat by their Chairman to remove me was nothing but empty noise. That aside, the main reason they want me out is they are not willing to take the risk whereby the number three citizen will tackle the number one in a Presidential election. When that happens, they know I will have substantial access to State apparatus like the President. They would rather face candidates who are like orphans and not mandatorily protected, or provided for by State power. But as President of the Senate, that is guaranteed…”
At the end of the interaction, I reviewed Saraki’s probabilities and came to the conclusion that although his chances may appear slim, for now, a PDP ticket may all be what he needs to break sound barriers, and underrating this cat with nine lives may well be the biggest mistake that his opponents can make.
Time will tell.

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COLUMNISTS

Shiites’ Lives also Matter

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By Jude Ndukwe

So much has been said about the growing fractious relationship between the military and the civil society. Before now, our military especially the army, had been the bastion of discipline, restraint and civility. Growing up, a lot of us fantasized about how we would join the military, and shine before our civilian mates with our neat and well ironed uniforms, shiny boots and smart looks. We fantasized and boasted about how we would defend our nation and people against any external aggression from any quarters no matter how powerful. We boasted of how we would dare fires no matter how wild, jump into them to save trapped citizens. We even boasted of how “bloody civilians” would confront us and instead of retaliating, we just laugh them off because “they do not know what they are doing”. Our dream as future military officers was to serve the people and the nation and make ourselves the envy of many through our behaviours.

We never ever thought that a time would come in our lifetime when the military would turn its guns on civilians, fellow citizens, no matter the provocation. We also never thought of a time that the mutual hatred and mistrust between the military and the civilian populace would be so toxic that a civilian band would attack and kill a retired military General the way it happened to General Idris Alkali in Jos, Plateau State. But, alas, such a time, unfortunately, is now with us!

Last week, we witnessed the avoidable clashes between the army and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). I can confirm from my personal experience and interaction with the Shiites that IMN is never a violent group as some would want us to believe. And they are hardly discriminatory in their operations. I delivered a paper at the group’s 3rd International Quds Conference which held in Abuja on July 29, 2017. Apart from the fact that I am not only a Christian, I wish to emphasise that I am also a knighted Catholic.

There were also other Christians at the event. I am also aware that there are several other Christians who have become part and parcel of this annual conference. So, the narrative being created by some government officials about the Shiites as violent people full of hate for others is not only wrong but also misleading and mischievous. The truth is that unlike other Islamic denominations, the Shiites have no record of any act of willful violence against the nation nor can anyone tag them as terrorists, yet, they are an Islamic group some government officials love to hate, malign and calumniate.

In a government report following a public inquiry into the massacre of the Shiites in December 2015, it was said that 347 Shia Muslims were killed by men of the Nigerian Army and their corpses dumped in a mass grave in the northern city of Kaduna. The report also demanded that all those involved in the killings be arrested and prosecuted. But up till now, nothing has been heard about it. Those indicted are rather praised and become emboldened to continue the wanton killing of fellow citizens, they are trained to protect, even at little or no provocation.

This vicious cycle has continued unabated. Citizens have become endangered species in the hands of the military. The military has turned itself to a uniformed emperor that must not be questioned, that must not be criticized and not even complimented. Is this our dream military?

The other day, video of a lady military officer who led a group of other military officers to viciously assault a civilian simply for complimenting her for her beauty, went viral. That was the height of military bestiality and excess show of hate for the civilian populace, and this has increased over time as culprits are either covered up or allowed to go scot free by those who are supposed to punish such erring officers. To make matters worse, the army keeps needlessly engaging Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in exchanges over matters in which they are clearly in breach of common sense, law and civility.

The other day, a soldier attached to Operation Safe Haven, shot dead an unarmed security personnel and injured two others attached to Diamond Bank in Jos over an innocuous argument about a parking space. That was a citizen, probably someone’s father and husband, with other loved ones, who had life snuffed out of him just like that as if he did not matter or his life was of no importance.

These and many other gruesome examples show that the issue is not just about the Shiites and the label of recalcitrance imposed upon them by those who take joy in mowing them down hiding behind such labels, it is about the loss of discipline and professionalism in the Nigerian army.

Let us even assume without conceding that the Shiites were wrong the first time when they were said to have “blocked” a consignment of ammunition in transit, resulting in they being fatally shot, what about the one that happened in Abuja shortly afterwards? Was there another consignment being blocked?

I read what some military officer said that they would not allow the Shiites to breach the rights of other citizens, the question is this, when has it become the primary duty and responsibility of the military to guarantee the rights of citizens in peace time? What then is the function of the police and their different specialized arms trained to deal with such issues as it should be?

With the way it is now, the Shiites have become endangered species who must not exercise their rights as citizens, they must not assemble, they must not associate and they must not express themselves freely despite the fact that their leader, Sheikh El Zakzaky and his wife, have been in illegal detention and unlawful custody of government going to three years now. This surely is a recipe for continued breach of the peace. And it is not only the Shiites that have become endangered species in the hands of the military, we all have.

While military sources have given six as number of casualties at both incidents in Zuba and Abuja, the Shiites have since released names of the victims numbering 34. Viral videos of the two incidents in both Zuba and Abuja show fleeing Shiites being shot at; even after they had been dispersed, they were still pursued by gun wielding officers. Their offence was that they had stones and catapults as “weapons”, and the army would have none of it, yet, in this same country, former president Goodluck Jonathan had his convoy stoned by some mischievous and misguided youths in Bauchi and he gave a stern instruction to his security personnel not to open fire. He was rather ferried away amidst the hail of stones. That was the Commander-in-Chief.

So, in such situations, particularly the unwarranted killing of the Shiites in Abuja, the army has other options to neutralize the protesting Shiites, that is, if they must be involved. Or else, deploying anti-riot policemen to such a scene would have made more sense than directly engaging youths exercising their rights of assembly, movement and association over government flagrant disobedience to valid court orders granting their leader bail.

Just few days ago, on TV, the army spokesman, John agim, was quoted to have said that “Several times, those people were arrested and they were released without any sanction. We have a country where nobody is sanctioned for doing something wrong. Evans, the kingpin kidnapper, he came out confessing. Over one year now, what has happened?”

When you have a military with this mindset of meting out immediate punishment and inflicting death as punishment to offenders because it does not believe in the judiciary, then the nation is in deep trouble. When an army spokesperson thinks that self-confession is enough to conclude a criminal matter in a jiffy and declare an offender guilty by force and not by law, it becomes a monumental security challenge that requires an aggressive reorientation of our military high command to bring them at par with best civil practices all over the world in military/civilian relationship. It is such beliefs as that of Agim that have reduced our military once envied for its discipline and professionalism to that feared rather than respected by citizens.

However, there is hope.

The military just handed 13 people suspected to be responsible for the murder of General Idris Alkali to the police after a painstaking investigation, for further investigation and prosecution. Based on the worrying trend which is the crux of this piece, those suspects handed over to the police for prosecution would probably have been treated more differently, the military way! That they were handed over for the law to take its course rather than take the law into their own hands themselves is a way forward.

The Shiites are not just citizens, they are a religious group that is aggrieved, and genuinely so. Rather than treat them as a leprous part of the society that must be exorcised and excised by all means possible, they can actually be meaningfully engaged and all areas of differences resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, with respect for the rule of law as a guiding principle.

This way, the needless confrontations between citizens and security agencies are reduced to the barest minimum and the needless loss of lives arising from there is avoided. We cannot continue to cut short the lives of citizens in numbers the way we are currently doing.

Nigeria is not a jungle, and no person or group of persons should reduce it to such.

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COLUMNISTS

Pendulum: The Battle of The Nigerian Generals

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By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, I once wrote an article about the Nigerian Mafia on this very page. Yes, Nigeria is a Mafia nation and there are a few Mafia families in play. Some are peopled by civilians, whilst some are a group of military men comprising retired soldiers. There is also a mixture of civilians and soldiers like the Kaduna Mafia comprising Northern elites from both the civilian populace and the military. Apart from the Generals’ Mafia which includes General Olusegun Obasanjo, all of these Mafia families usually consist of men of Northern extraction. There were only two visible Mafia families in the South, namely the Awolowo and Zikist Mafia. However, the latter’s influence diminished long before the Owelle Of Onitsha, Chief Nnamdi Azikwe, who was the arrowhead, passed away, whilst the former has had its glory days dulled by the fractious disagreements which broke out between the acolytes of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, The Odole of Ife, after he exchanged mortality for immortality.  This got exacerbated and became open internecine warfare after the revered sage’s wife, the Yeyeoba of Ile-Ife, Chief Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo, who had kept the shop together with adroit wiles and guile, died just over 3 years ago. However, the Tinubu Mafia has grown in competition with the Awolowo Mafia in recent times, but even the influence of their effervescent overlord, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Asiwaju of Lagos, may be facing challenges at the moment from rebels within and outside. These coming elections may well be a true test of how efficacious the influence and control of this great and astute politician remains.  

 It is interesting that while the influence of the Italian Mafia seems to have waned over the years, that of the Nigerian Mafia, particularly the Generals’ Mafia appears to have skyrocketed in recent years. There are warlords now spread across our country. And the godfathers and their godchildren litter the landscape of Nigeria. Since the return to civilian rule in 1999, Nigeria has remained under the firm grip of the military class, no matter what the civilians may say or think. It is therefore the Generals’ Mafia that remains in the ascendancy for now. Former Army General Olusegun Obasanjo, incidentally, the Balogun of Owu – a traditional warrior chief – came back from retirement as a former military Head of State and governed majestically for eight wonderful years. When he left, Umaru, the brother of a former Army General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua replaced him, largely on the basis of his relationship to the deceased brother, who was a firm favourite of General Obasanjo, who singlehandedly handpicked him and foisted him on a pliant nation despite his well-documented health challenges. He died in office and his Vice President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan also head-hunted by Obasanjo, took over to complete their first term. Thereafter, Jonathan was endorsed by Obasanjo, leading the Generals’ Mafia for his own first term. Unfortunately, things fell apart, when the falcon no longer hearkened to the falconer, and mere anarchy reigned upon the land. Meanwhile, all this while, Major General Muhammadu Buhari never stopped contesting serially, from 2003 to 2011 by which time he was expected to give up on his dream and ambition. He never did. 

 Buhari returned to contest for the Presidency a record fourth time in 2015 and won resoundingly with the support of the almighty Generals’ Mafia. But since then, he has not been able to hold the centre together and he has fallen out of grace, and out of favour from the super Generals. Some may want to argue otherwise but the proof is easy. He could not win on previous occasions until the powers that be joined him. 

Who are these super Generals, the last men standing, you may want to ask? Let me oblige you, even if you know some or, indeed, all of them already. A few of them are quite visible while others are not, either deliberately or otherwise. The Nigerian Mafia in their totality are predominantly under the control of a few Generals who are members of a very select, privileged and exclusive club of high achievers in the Nigerian military and the Nigerian state. Let me start with the first and the reason he is probably the most powerful and influential.

 General Olusegun Obasanjo remains the most visible and voluble member of the Nigerian Mafia. His official date of birth reads May 5, 1937, but many feel he is older, considering the age of some of his friends and schoolmates. He schooled in Nigeria and continued his military education in England and India. Fearless and brutal, he became famous and was idolised for his fairy-tale exploits during the Nigerian civil war. Though different accounts have claimed that his role was exaggerated and overhyped, even his worst critics admit and agree that he is an extremely intelligent and brave soldier with a no-nonsense attitude who seldom takes prisoners. He shot into prominence when his boss, General Murtala Muhammed was killed in a military coup in 1976 and as second in command, he was catapulted to the number one position of Head of State against his will. He and his team of the Supreme Military Council performed great feats until they handed over power to a civilian government headed by President Shehu Shagari. The fact that he stuck to his terminal date despite the fact that he had reasons to elongate his tenure endeared him to the international community. He acquired avuncular status on the continent of Africa and was much sought after globally. His detribalised nature also helped to place him on a higher pedestal in Nigeria. The man he and Murtala Muhammed sacked from power, General Yakubu Gowon was in exile in England for a long period of time and when he returned his amiable, gentle and religious disposition meant that he was no longer really relevant in the polity and this placed Obasanjo in a prime position to assume the leadership of the Nigerian Generals’ Mafia. Gowon is only sometimes wheeled out when it is time to plead for patience and peace in the land, but the truth is that he is often just left alone to enjoy his retirement! Obasanjo’s stock rose even higher, and that is indeed the frightening reality of the stock of this colossal statesman, when he returned to power for 8 years in the latest civilian dispensation. His bid to perpetuate himself in power through an abortive third term agenda crashed spectacularly. However his power and headship of the Generals’ Mafia remains solid and incontrovertible.       

 Lt. General Mohammed Inuwa Wushishi (CFR GCON) remains a veritable member of the Nigerian Mafia. Born in 1940, he rose to prominence and the peak of his military career when he became Chief of Army Staff (COAS) from 1981 to 1983, in the Nigerian Second Republic, under the Shagari government. Wushishi joined the Army in 1961 and received his military training in Kaduna, Nigeria and later at Aldershot in the United Kingdom and finally at the United States War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He had a meritorious service till he rose to the rank of a Lt. General. He was well respected as a very disciplined officer. Now, guess who took over from him as COAS? General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), popularly described as the “evil genius”, and “Maradona” for his deft political and Machiavellian moves when he was President.

 Babangida was born in 1941. After enlisting in the military, he had his military training in Nigeria, India and the United Kingdom. A very brilliant and sociable man, he rose quickly and became a Major General within 20 years, from a Second Lieutenant in 1963 to a Major General in 1983 and a full General in 1987. Babangida participated in all the successful military coups from July 1966 and actually toppled Buhari unexpectedly in 1985. The story of how he successfully achieved a feat nobody thought possible at the time is the stuff of legends and myths and is a story to be told another time! Babangida was the opposite of Buhari. He made many friends but was accused by his critics of introducing favouritism and corruption to our body polity. However, his network of friends is second to none and this has contributed to the vantage position he continues to maintain in the Nigerian Generals Mafia. But for the grave error of annulling the best, freest and fairest election ever held in Nigeria, history might have been extremely kind and gracious to him because he assembled one of the brightest men and women to join him in government. As it is, he is forever remembered by this singular misadventure.

Lt. General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma was born in December 1938. Notably, and unlike his senior colleagues in the Generals’ Mafia, he completed and passed his Higher School certificate examinations and was admitted to study History at what is now the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1959. A keen sportsman in his secondary school days and captain of the School Cricket team, Danjuma opted out of University education to join the Nigerian Army in 1960. The rest, as they say is history, for this quintessential gentleman soldier, who rose to the rank of Lieutenant-General and Chief of Army Staff before retiring in 1979. Since his retirement from the Nigerian Army, Danjuma has been an esteemed and respected member of the Generals’ Mafia. He is a consummate politician who was Minister of Defence during Obasanjo’s first term as civilian President, astute billionaire businessman with interests in shipping, oil and gas and telecommunications where he sits as Chairman atop a myriad of companies, and above all a major gracious and significantly benevolent philanthropist, unlike his peers. It is claimed that his lack of support for President Buhari’s re-election bid stems from the refusal to renew his oil mining licence and a hefty tax bill which his gigantic oil company, South Atlantic Petroleum Limited (SAPETRO), naturally disputes. A man of very few words in public, the spate of senseless killings of his people recently forced him to issue harsh words which instantly brought him on collision path with the Buhari Government. 

General Abdulsalami Abubakar was born in 1942. Like Babangida, he hails from Minna in Niger State. He completed his secondary education and went on to study at Kaduna Technical College from where he enlisted into the Nigerian Air force in October 1963. He undertook military training in the then Western Germany, but on his return to Nigeria in 1966, he was seconded to the Nigerian Army. He rose to the rank of General in the Nigerian Army and was Chief of Defence Staff for over five years during the regime of General Sani Abacha. He was entrusted with the mantle of leadership of the military junta upon the death of Abacha in June 1998 and became the country’s Head of State. Like Obasanjo, he set up a time-table for an early return to civilian rule and remarkably kept his word by organising elections and surrendering power in less than one year. He handed over to his leader and senior Don in the Generals’ Mafia, Olusegun Obasanjo, thereby continuing the trend of the Generals’ Mafia dictating the political leadership succession in the country. He is an international statesman who is acclaimed for returning the country to democratic rule in the shortest period of time. His reputation is however blighted by the death in his detention of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, The Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, the man who won the June 12 Presidential election, an election victory that has now been validated by President Buhari.

Lt. General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau completes the list of senior members of the Generals’ Mafia. This quiet, unassuming and self-effacing gentleman soldier was born in 1943. He has on diverse occasions been Director of Military Intelligence, Director of Defence Intelligence Agency, Director-General of NSO and  Coordinator on National Security. He was National Security Adviser under Babangida, Obasanjo and Jonathan in that order becoming the only man to have held this position under three different Heads of State. He was briefly Chief of Army Staff, under the Interim National Government led by Chief Ernest Shonekan, thus following in the illustrious footsteps of some of his fellow dons in the Generals’ Mafia. He was also Minister of Defence in the Government of President Goodluck Jonathan. He is nicknamed the ‘Spook’ because of his secretive nature and his long stint in the intelligence service. He is reputed to have a dossier on all the major actors in the Nigerian military and political scene and is much respected and feared. He deliberately avoids public occasions and avoids controversy. It is fabled that the troika of Babangida, Abacha and Gusau had a pact that all three would become Heads of State and whilst Babangida and Abacha succeeded, Gusau failed in his ambition despite spirited attempts. Indeed, it was Abacha who retired Gusau from the Army when he took over the reins of power from Shonekan in 1993. Nonetheless, Gusau remains a veritable and trusted member of the Generals’ Mafia.

By virtue of his previous positions, President Buhari is also a member of the hallowed club of dons in the Generals’  Mafia. However, until 2015 when he contested elections for the Presidency yet again, he appeared to be an outcast in the Club who was merely tolerated. However, the gang opted to back him in 2015, but for whatever reasons, personal, altruistic or national they appear to have withdrawn that support. It remains to be seen whether lightning will strike twice on the same spot and the Generals’ Mafia which outflanked and outfoxed Buhari in 1985 will succeed in truncating his regime once more. 

Or will it be the case that Buhari has the element of power and surprise and will to outmanoeuvre his fellow Dons this last time.

The elections of 2019 may likely herald and signal the sound of the ‘The Last Post” for this super elite club of Generals. The Presidential election is expected to be remote-controlled by these men and their civilian allies, meaning Buhari has a tough battle in his hands. It is not clear how many of these Generals he has on his side but he seems to have lost most of them which is likely to make the election tougher than necessary. Obasanjo and Babangida have not hidden their disdain. They have spoken publicly against the re-election of Buhari who may be taciturn but is also known to be a deadly fighter. According to insiders in APC, Buhari no longer needs them because he totally controls the apparatus of power and coercion. The palpable fear is for the Generals not to plunge Nigeria into an orgy of violence and for Buhari to execute a free and peaceful election. Many pundits believe Buhari may not hand over power with the kind of equanimity Jonathan displayed. Worrisome.

The President’s supporters believe the Generals have outlived their relevance. Theoretically, this sounds easy but the old foxes must never be underrated. There are interesting days ahead… God save Nigeria.

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COLUMNISTS

Chief Tony Anenih: When a Giant was Humbly Audacious!

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By Jude Ndukwe

I am one of the few Nigerians who had met Chief Tony Anenih a few times before his call to glory. So while there are lots of things to write about him from historical perspectives, and from the writings and experiences of others about this giant of a man, I will be writing based on my personal experience and encounters with him.

To say that it was a privilege that I was able to meet and speak with the Esan-born chief would be stating the very obvious. Before I met him for the first time some time in 2015 during the presidential campaigns, I had had the impression that such a man was unapproachable, and probably haughty and dismissive of people not in his class, stature or level in any way. And you would not blame me. When presidents and former presidents, governors, party leaders from all divides, kingmakers, political juggernauts, captains of industry, statesmen, serving and retired military top brass, leading members of the academia etc, regal a man with the uncommon title of “Mr Fix It”, for his prowess at finding solutions to all manner of sociopolitical challenges to the satisfaction of those involved, then you should know that such a man is someone who in my native language is referred to as nnukwu mmanwu (The Big Masquerade) who must be feared or there are consequences and whose appearance climaxes big occasions. But as for Anenih, he might have been the big masquerade but in place of fear, he exudes love and amiability.

On meeting the former minister of works and housing, I came to discover that he was a firm but fair man in his dealings with people. He took decisions that would ordinarily not go down well with some people but that would bring solutions to almost every situation he was faced with leaving some with gladness and even others with admiration!

During the 2015 general elections campaigns, Chief Anthony Akhakon “Tony” Anenih served as Special Adviser to the Goodluck Jonathan/PDP Campaign Organisation. And as one would expect, there were times when different departments of the organization had misunderstandings and disagreements that threatened the smooth running of Jonathan’s campaign, as the then media adviser to Chief femi Fani-Kayode, former minister of aviation who was the Director of Media and Publicity of the Jonathan/PDP campaigns, I would join FFK to Chief Anenih’s house where the issues were resolved.

First, his humility hits you from the very beginning. Here was a man who never kept his visitors waiting as it is common with men of such status. Once you secured an appointment to see him, you were most likely going to find Chief Anenih already seated waiting for you.

Second, he had no airs. Except for issues that were very private, Chief Anenih allowed as many of us on an entourage to be at meetings with him. Even when you offered to excuse yourself at such meetings, he would counter and insist you sat as there was nothing to hide. This usually made me uncomfortable as I was trained to usually excuse my elders/leaders whenever they are having discussions that are of little or no concern to me. But as this continued, I later discovered that this was Chief Tony Anenih’s own unspoken way of blooding the younger ones into maturity as it concerns politics, governance and leadership. He expected that those usually present at such crucial meetings learned one or two things about the art of resolving complex and high wire political matters without fear or favour, with firmness and fairness and with the larger picture always in mind. And truly, whatever matters were taken to him for resolution usually got resolved with the panache of a revered leader and the stamp of authority of a fixer since everyone usually got satisfied with the outcome of such meetings. He had his own peculiar way of taking honey into the lion’s den and return unscathed.

He kept a busy schedule even till recently and did not seem to discriminate between the old and the young, the weak and the strong, the powerful and the downtrodden about who was coming to see him as I usually met people of all ages and status at his place who wanted to see him for one thing or the other. He was surely a man at home with being a solution provider to the people.

In all these, Chief Tony Anenih had lived a political life devoid of the garrulousness of politicians of his status. He had carried himself with dignified gait and offered advice and solutions without making any noise about them. Even though he had children who are social media savvy, he had managed not to use that as an avenue to draw attention to himself. Until recently when age began to tell on him, he remained a very effective but quiet achiever and he expected his children and those who had met him to be so effective.

I remember vividly well certain election that took place on twitter in which one of his sons participated and won. When that his son told him about it, he simply replied, “Wouldn’t you have won the election?” In other words, he expected not only his children but also those who have passed under his tutelage to be winners, not just winners but magnanimous winners, and in case they lose, to be patient and wait for another time.

This brings me to his children. I have met only one of them, Ose. If anyone would like to confirm all I have said about Anenih, just meet any of his children. Just like his father, Ose has no airs and no noise but only poise around him. I actually met him through one of my closest and trusted comrades and partner, Mr Ariyo-Dare Atoye. We had an urgent job to do and delivery date was closing in on us, and we were still searching for an office space. We were in a dire situation. It was either we delivered or we lost our goodwill. It was then Ariyo suggested we spoke to Ose if he could give us some space in his office. Ariyo did, and without much explanation from us, he gave us a space and also access to it and the facilities there even if he was not around. He left instructions with his staff to ensure we were comfortable. Apart from that, Ose would come around our desk once a while to see how far we were going with the project and offer his advice where necessary. Sometimes, aside work, we would gist and talk about sociopolitical developments in the country in very relaxed atmosphere that no one would even ever think that we were rent-free tenants even if it was for just a short moment. Such a pleasant fellow! This is in a country where children of men and women of such class oppress their fellow citizens with blaring sirens, scary revving of power bikes, and threats of menacing and mean looking aides and security personnel!

The encounter with Ose left a lasting impression on me. To me, it reflects on the kind of family he comes from and the kind of training and legacy Chief Anenih has bequeathed to his children. Beyond relying on their father’s influence for anything, they have been adequately equipped with life’s greatest virtues of humility, temperance, fortitude, prudence and charity to the extent that they can navigate through life’s challenges without much reliance on their father, his influence or affluence!

Chief Tony Anenih’s influence on the political trajectory of Nigeria would also surely be missed by all no matter the political divide. It was such influence that former president Goodluck Jonathan referred to when he appealed to Anenih at a point to reconsider his decision to quit partisan politics. Hear Jonathan: “We agree that you will not attend meetings at 2am, 3am, but, in the areas of security and politics, we will consult you”. That is how important the man Chief Anenih was! He had the audacity to fix things where others dreaded to go near. His well known humble mien had nothing to do with his capacity and capabilities to deal decisively with situations no matter how hydra-headed or monstrous they were. He always rose up to the occasion and delivered. And that was why even presidents trusted him with sensitive tasks whether in government or when he was out of government. He did not earn the title “Mr Fix It” for nothing. He proved to be a courageous fixer!

Chief Anthony Anenih who died on Sunday, October 28, at 85, would also be remembered for his generousity and philanthropy not only to the Church but also to the needy irrespective of religious background and political affiliation all of whom he had supported in no small way.

As the family and Nigeria mourn the fall of this political giant, we pray that the soul of Chief Tony Anenih and the soul of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen!

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