‘Umoru’ Yar‘Adua Goes to School – part 2

‘Umoru’ Yar’Adua Goes to School

Text Box:

Last week I started this series with this quote: “Those who solely by good fortune become princes from being private citizens have little trouble in rising, but much in keeping atop; they have not any difficulties on the way up, because they fly, but they have many when they reach the summit”. – Concerning New Principalities Which Are Acquired Either by The Arms Of Others Or By Good Fortune, in The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli.

Mallam Umaru Yar’ Adua’s sole ambition after his stint as the governor of backward Katsina state was to go back to the classroom- he said so himself. But ‘solely by good fortune’, he found himself as the president of Nigeria.

It was the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, who decided he must make a choice of who to succeed him at Aso Villa, and  imposed on the PDP and the nation, a man said to be battling with a very serious ill-health; Mallam Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

Machiavelli compared his situation to those to whom some state (read power) is given by the favour of someone else who bestows it, just as emperors who acquired empires by the corruption of the soldiers, from being citizens came to empire hence not by their own prowess.

 “Such stand simply upon the goodwill and the fortune of him who has elevated those— two most inconstant and unstable things. Neither have they the knowledge requisite for the position; because, unless they are men of great worth and ability, it is not reasonable to expect that they should know how to command, having always lived in a private condition; besides, they cannot hold it because they have not forces which they can keep friendly and faithful”.

From what we have seen of Yar’Adua so far, it is evident that he ‘neither has the knowledge requisite for the position, nor does he knows how to command’.

Today, if we are ready to tell ourselves the truth, the administration betrays a terrifying incompetence in the handling of even basic issues and its grasp of the enormity of the tasks that faces Nigeria remains very suspect.

 The entire machinery of the Yar’Adua administration is very unsuitable for contemporary Nigeria. The narrowness of the base of the regime itself makes his style grossly inadequate for the demands of governance in Nigeria and the needs of the Nigerian populace.

In fact, Alhaji Abubakar Iro Dan Musa summed it up nicely when he lamented that Nigeria appears to be too complex for Yar’Adua.  He added that the country has virtually been at a standstill since 2007 when President Umaru Yar’Adua assumed office and that the nation is too complex for him to govern.

There is exasperation in Nigeria and confusion within the regime, coupled with his inability to inspire confidence within a population which needs leadership able to lead from the front. This has also deepened the formation of cliques within the government and inside the ruling party making the party he inherited, the PDP, a nest of intrigues. Such intrigues that led to the sacking of Baba Gana Kingibe.

Nigeria has produced powerful presidents that understood the use of power. Olusegun Obasanjo has a keen understanding of the infinite use of power. Like his military predecessors, (Babangida and Abacha) he knew how to give and retrieve power by a simple flick of his fingers. As a retired Army General who fought in a civil war of attrition, Obasanjo did not disappoint as a dictator, even if he sometimes pretended to be a democrat.

At the inception of this administration, Yar’Adua captured the nation’s mood when he explicitly proclaimed that the election that brought him to office was fatally flawed; tacitly admitting that he came into power fraudulently. He immediately promised to reform the electoral process and to be guided only by the rule of law. In Nigeria’s hard core politicking, that betrayed weakness.

So Yar’Adua needed to go back to school, he needed to be educated, to be enlightened on the use of power. Here I would say that Yar’Adua is a great man for one of the marks of greatness is to understand your weaknesses and deficiencies.

He is also lucky that Nigeria is blessed with errand boys who were always willing to execute unspoken wishes; Leeches that always lurk in the corner ever willing to offer their services. – remember Nzeribe and Hamza Mustapha.

So who would Yar’Adua hire this time around? How would Yar’Adua, a reputed ideological pupil of the late talakawa leader Aminu Kano, who had once exhibited reluctance to assume the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); His quiet mien and manner of governance bespoke weakness; he appears hostage to some forces beyond his control; he seems afraid of his shadows. How would this supposedly weak man survive and dominate the shark infested waters of Nigerian politics; In a Party “that is a basket full of scorpions each venomous, primed to sting the other lethally”?

Nigerians doesn’t have to wait long. Enter dear old Anthony Anenih. Some Nigerians were wondering why he was exhumed from a political grave by President Yar’Adua and rewarded with the highly lucrative ‘chairman of NPA’!

He began with a very innocuous prayer.  Innocuous, that is, to the politically naive, but to political dinosaurs like Tony Anenih, they see farther than the politically Lilliput because they are gladiators sworn to a permanent capture of power, as avenue of plunder. It is this politics of prebendal power that ensures the despoilation of Nigeria.

The ‘fixer-in-chief’ used the opportunity of being called to pray at the commemorative event in memory of General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, to launch his comeback and generate controversy. 

He prayed God to “give the president good health to be able to complete his remaining six years in office”. How could Anenih entreat God for 6 more years when Yar’Adua has just about two more years to vacate Aso Villa? When other powerful Nigerians – like Atiku- are angling to take a bite of the forbidden fruit.

But first let’s go back to Machiavelli – ‘Princes (read Politicians) that rise unexpectedly, then, like all other things in nature which are born and grow rapidly, cannot have their foundations and relations with other Princes (politicians) fixed in such a way that the first storm will not overthrow them; “unless, as is said, those who unexpectedly become princes are men of so much ability that they know they have to be prepared at once to hold that which fortune has thrown into their laps, and that those foundations, which others have laid before they became princes, they must lay afterwards”’.

Let me interpret. Since Yar’Adua rose “unexpectedly”; he has yet no foundation on which he would withstand any coming political storms. That is why he needed Anenih and of course, the “The much-vaunted fixer-in-chief” must be a very good student of Machiavelli. So what would he do?

Machiavelli narrated the story of Cesare Borgia, called the Duke Valentino, who acquired his state during the ascendancy of his father Alexander VI. The Duke had taken every measure and all that ought to be done by a wise and able man to fix firmly his roots in the states which the arms and fortunes of others (his father) had bestowed on him.

What did he do?  the Duke weakened the local opposition ‘by gaining to himself all their adherents who were gentlemen, making them his gentlemen, giving them good pay, and, according to their rank, honouring them with office and command in such a way that in a few months all attachment to the factions was destroyed and turned entirely to the duke’.  

After this he awaited an opportunity to crush his main enemy. He had recourse to his wiles, and he knew so well how to conceal his mind that, he waited for his opportunity. This came to him soon and he used it well; “Having exterminated the leaders, and turned their partisans into his friends, the duke had laid sufficiently good foundations to his power”

But how was the duke, formerly unknown, surrounded by vicious opposition at home and faced with a very powerful enemy abroad able to achieve this spectacular success?

Machiavelli instructs: Thereupon he promoted Messer Ramiro a swift and cruel man, to whom he gave the fullest power. This man in a short time restored peace and unity with the greatest success. And then after that, because he knew that the past severity had caused some hatred against himself, so, to clear himself in the minds of the people, and gain them entirely to himself, he desired to show that, if any cruelty had been practised, it had not originated with him, but in the natural sternness of the minister, Messer Ramiro (a Tony Anenih?).

It remains an impossible art to decipher the mind’s construction on the face; Nigerians believed – and some still do, that Yar Adua does not project the image of a dishonest or corrupt personality.

When at the inception of this administration, Yar’Adua explicitly proclaimed that the election that brought him to office was fatally flawed and promised to reform the electoral process and also promised to be guided only by the rule of law, Nigerians must be quite naive if they remotely thought that the man was going to dismantle an infrastructure that he benefited from – an electoral process full of booby traps and designed to the advantage of the looters but to the disadvantage of the Nigerian people; equally run by an electoral umpire with the arrogant incompetence and partiality of a Maurice Iwu.

For a man that was very reluctant to assume the reins of power, Umaru Yar’Adua has come a long way.  We now know better, President Umaru Yar’Adua, an insecure man even in the best of times, chose to stay within the limits of familiarity, an institution that he is comfortable with. He kept firmly in his hands the leash which holds the electoral umpire, with an eye on what will happen down the line in 2011.

A genuinely reformed electoral system would provide a level playing ground for all political parties. If that happens, then the citizens will be able to judge the regime in power on the basis of its record of performance, on the basis of its achievements.

The president is already warming up to run in 2011, but it is clear even to the makafo that Yar’Adua has been sleeping on duty through the past two years. To what achievement would he point on the basis of which he would honestly campaign for re-election?

On what record would he earn a second term?  He has achieved nothing and therefore cannot win a second term on his record.  It is therefore not in the interest of the regime to have genuine electoral reforms between now and the next elections.

Pray, how could he be interested in the reformation of a process of fraud by which he and many of his co-travellers found their ways into the government?  President Yar’Adua is not a goat as some people would like to assume.

It is not in the interest of his administration to have genuine electoral reforms between now and the next elections. He and The PDP is determined to stay in power, they would therefore not allow genuine reforms where the real choice of the people will become the basis of winning political power.

We must purge ourselves of any naiveté, and any unfounded optimism about the electoral reform process. Those who presently challenge Yar’Adua for political leadership; be warned!  The servant leader can dispense with the rule of law whenever it appears wiser.

Yar’Adua has hired capable tutors and Nigerians should brace to see another face of the President, and it would not be as benign as his physical mien suggests.

Yar Adua is being tutored in Machiavellian instincts which Machiavelli summarised thus –  he who considers it necessary to secure himself in his new principality must: win friends, overcome either by force or fraud, make himself beloved and feared by the people, be followed and revered by the soldiers, exterminate those who have power or reason to hurt him, change the old order of things for new, be severe and gracious, magnanimous and liberal, destroy a disloyal soldiery and create new, maintain friendship with kings and princes in such a way that they must help him with zeal and offend with caution.

Nigerians is about or rather have started to witness a political drama that started with a secret visit to Ota Farm, at the home of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, followed by an opportunistic move to return to PDP, and hence to power but was ruptured on March 15, 2009, when Atiku granted an interview to journalists attacking Yar’Adua and the PDP government.

In true Machiavellian fashion, Yar’Adua “knew so well how to conceal his mind that, he waited for his opportunity. This came to him soon and he used it well”.

Then On April 5, 2009, after the interview, Atiku got some rather unceremonious punches from the Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Prof Rufai Ahmed Alkali. In a surprising outburst, The PDP spokesman noted that Atiku’s “recent desperation to repair a battered image and bounce back to reckoning has fallen flat in his face, hence his latest remarks which are symptomatic of a drowning man latching unto every available straw for survival.”

On April 8, 2009, Police Force Headquarters withdrew security personnel attached to Atiku, and he was quick to link the withdrawal to his criticism of government’s handling of the electoral reform.

Now the NBA is accusing Yar’Adua of witch-hunting the opposition and persons opposed to his style of governance, saying that instead of treating the opposition as crucial partners in the nation’s fledgling democracy; he has labelled them enemies of government.

Well, remember that Prof. Pat Utomi, an Opposition Leader and 2007 Presidential Candidate, had once accused the Federal government of employing the military rule mentality.

Yes, Umoru like Eze, goes to school, and he is a good pupil.

Daniel Elombah,