The President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari, needs more prayers than a deluge of congratulatory visits by individuals and groups pursuing their own agent. It is also not unusual for certain people who regard themselves as philosopher-kings and political oracles of the country to seek to exert undue influence on the President-elect. There is nothing wrong with listening to outside advice, provided those giving the advice don’t have their own private agenda outside the larger public interest. One is however worried that if a leader opens himself to all kinds of “advices”, he may ultimately find himself misled. No leader has immunity against manipulation. Manipulation exerts influence by subtle means. Therefore, General Buhari should watch out or else some of the people who celebrate or boast of putting him into power would be the same people who may fight him if he refuses to bend to their wishes.
One is particularly concerned about the open or apparent influence of former President Obasanjo on Buhari. In fact, he was even anointed the “navigator” by the APC leaders during its formation and registration. Such “usual” title would naturally turn the head of Obasanjo and reinforce his inner conviction of indispensability. No leader ignores Obasanjo’s advice, however selfish sometimes, without provoking his fury.
He has a notorious record of gratuitously offer of advice, and sometimes even submitting his own lists of who should be ministers and other government positions. In fact, he sometimes even recommends the ministries he wants his boys posted. He lives by the philosophy of maximum loyalty; his demands must be met, or else he goes into temper tantrums and threatens to isolate your government or sabotage it.
The late President Umaru Musa Yar`adua was one of the humblest and most patient politicians you could ever encounter. Yet, despite his gentle and tolerance disposition, he ended up crossing Obasanjo’s path. Although it was a private disagreement, Obasanjo’s anger against the late Umaru Yar`adua was an open secret. The late Yar`adua was patient enough to manage Obasanjo without an-all-out open fight.
General Obasanjo was particularly angry with Yar’adua’s reversal of his privatization programmes and replacing them with his own populist policies. Former President Obasanjo was unhappy with Yar`adua for reversing his fuel subsidy policy. The former President was displeased that the late Yar`adua became popular at his expense. Obasanjo’s successor reduced fuel price per litre from 75 naira to 60 naira, a reversal that the Ota former interpreted as an affront. The turning point of Obasanjo’s anger against Yar`adua was the reversal of the sale of Kaduna and Port-Harcourt refineries. Then to add fuel to Obasanjo’s anger, Yar`adua refused to interfere in the National Assembly investigation of the Power Sector contracts scandal for which 16 billion dollars went down the drain. Obasanjo’s accumulated anger against Yar`adua came to the surface during the late President’s grave illness. While Yar`adua was battling for life in a Saudi Hospital, Obasanjo publicly called for Yar`adua’s resignation when he spoke as a guest at the Media Trust Annual Dialogue lecture series in Abuja. In fact, even the organizers of the event were shocked beyond belief.
How would you ask a gravely ill patient to resign when he lacked the mental and physical capacity to communicate in writing or verbally to express himself or his wishes? That was the extent Obasanjo went to get back at Yar`adua because his successor chose to be his own man. Former President Obasanjo is a man of bloated ego, and any leader who makes the mistake to bruise that ego, should be ready for a fight. He never forgave the north for fighting his third term ambition to death. The death of President Umaru Musa Yar`dua provided him the opportunity to get back at the north.
When President Umaru Musa Yar`dua died in May 2010, Obasanjo pulled out his sword from the scabbard and told the north to forget zoning because “it is unconstitutional” and that “zoning sacrifices merit.” Though Obasanjo enjoyed power for eight years on account of zoning, he hypocritically condemned the internal power sharing arrangement of the PDP. Having pronounced zoning “dead” and “useless”, Obasanjo worked for the emergence of the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan as President. Just as he fooled northerners into believing that he loved them because he installed Umaru Musa Yar`dua into power, so did Obasanjo deceive the Niger Delta people to believe that he loved them by installing Jonathan as President.
Today, however, Obasanjo and President Jonathan have parted ways because Jonathan had wanted to be his own man by resisting manipulation. I foresee the same scenario playing out if General Buhari refuses to implement Obasanjo’s demands or ignores his advice. The President-elect should be guided by Obasanjo’s record of demanding maximum loyalty. Buhari was put into office by the voters, and Obasanjo should not hijack that credit to assert unhealthy influence on his government. General Buhari should be on his guard in his dealings with Obasanjo.
Comrade Bakori lives at No. 76 Adetokunbu Ademola Crescent, Wuse II, Abuja