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

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

 “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. Such are those to whom some state (power) is given… by the favour of him who bestows it…as also were those emperors who, by the corruption of the soldiers, from

being citizens came to empire. 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”. – Concerning New Principalities Which Are Acquired Either by The Arms Of Others Or By Good Fortune, in The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli.

It 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 to strengthen prebendal power, which ensures the spoliation 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 open the apertures of political controversy in Nigeria.  He prayed God to “give the president good health to be able to complete his remaining six years in office”, when Yar’Adua has just about two more years to vacate Aso Villa.

For a man that was very reluctant to assume the reins of power, Umaru Yar’Adua has come a long way. 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. He knew he came into power fraudulently. He immediately promised to reform the electoral process. Moreover, he promised to be guided only by the rule of law.

Machiavelli continued: Princes (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”.

Machiavelli then went on to adduce an example Cesare Borgia, called the Duke Valentino, who acquired his state during the ascendancy of his father. He 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 had bestowed on him.

Alexander VI, in wishing to aggrandize the duke, his son, had many immediate and prospective difficulties. It behoved him, therefore, to upset this state of affairs and embroil the powers, so as to make himself securely master of part of their states.

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

Olusegun Obasanjo has a keen understanding of the infinite use of power. Like his military predecessors, (like Babangida and Abacha) he knew how to give and retrieve power by a simple flick of his fingers to his errand boys who were always willing to execute his spoken and unspoken wishes. As a retired Army General who fought in a civil war of attrition, Obasanjo did not disappoint, though he sometimes pretended to be a democrat.

But 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”?

To Machiavelli we turn again: For the first thing, the Duke weakened the Orsini and Colonna parties in Rome, 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 the Orsini, having scattered the adherents of the Colonna. This came to him soon and he used it well;

Having restored his authority, not to leave it at risk by trusting either to the French or other outside forces, he had recourse to his wiles, and he knew so well how to conceal his mind that, by the mediation of Signor Paolo [Orsini] — whom the duke did not fail to secure with all kinds of attention, giving him money, apparel, and horses — the Orsini were reconciled, so that their simplicity brought them into his power at Sinigaglia. Having exterminated the leaders, and turned their partisans into his friends, the duke had laid sufficiently good foundations to his power…

But surely, the entire machinery of the Yar’Adua administration is very unsuitable for contemporary Nigeria. The narrowness of the base of the regime itself makes governance under President Umaru Yar’Adua inadequate to the demands of governance in Nigeria and needs of the Nigerian populace. This is especially true of the inner core of operatives and their sensibility.

There is exasperation and confusion in Nigeria and within the regime, coupled with its inability to generate empathy or 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.

Enter Anthony Anenih. It is not for nothing that he was exhumed from a political grave by President Yar’Adua!

Machiavelli instructs: Thereupon he promoted Messer Ramiro d’Orco [de Lorqua], 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 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 (Tony Anenih?).

The president is already warming up to run in 2011, but it is clear even to the blind, that Yar’Adua has been sleep-walking through the past two years, 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. What to do?

Machiavelli continued: Such was his line of action as to present affairs. But as to the future he had to fear, in the first place, that a new successor to the Church might not be friendly to him and might seek to take from him that which Alexander had given him. So he decided to act in four ways. Firstly, by exterminating the families of those lords whom he had despoiled, so as to take away that pretext from the Pope. Secondly, by winning to himself all the gentlemen of Rome, so as to be able to curb the Pope with their aid, as has been observed. Thirdly, by converting the college more to himself. Fourthly, by acquiring so much power before the Pope should die that he could by his own measures resist the first shock.

Those who presently challenge Yar’Adua for political leadership; be warned! It now appears that the servant leader can dispense with the rule of law whenever it appears wiser. Nigerians should brace to see another face of the President, and it would not be as benign as his physical mien suggests.

Machiavelli concluded: When all the actions of the duke are recalled him, having a lofty spirit and far-reaching aims… he who considers it necessary to secure himself in his new principality, to win friends, to overcome either by force or fraud, to make himself beloved and feared by the people, to be followed and revered by the soldiers, to exterminate those who have power or reason to hurt him, to change the old order of things for new, to be severe and gracious, magnanimous and liberal, to destroy a disloyal soldiery and to create new, to maintain friendship with kings and princes in such a way that they must help him with zeal and offend with caution, cannot find a more lively example than the actions of this man…

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 Abubakar Atiku granted an interview to journalists.

He took a swipe at the government as well as the PDP. He was criticising the White Paper on Electoral reforms released by the Federal Government. Hear him: “We have seen what the government has done. They have put out their own White Paper. There is nothing in that White Paper. I do not think the PDP government has the capacity and the ability to push through a real electoral reform that will satisfy all participants in the process.”

Then On April 5, 2009, Atiku got some rather unceremonious punches from the Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Prof Rufai Ahmed Alkali.

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.” While cautioning the ex-VP on his recent utterances which the party viewed as derogatory as an unwarranted attack on the government, Prof. Alkali said “it appears that the PDP’s tolerance of him and his cohorts is daily being taken for granted.”

On April 8, 2009, Police Force Headquarters withdrew security personnel attached to Atiku. This was again made known to the public in a statement in which he alleged that security men attached to him had been withdrawn, and that he was linking the withdrawal to his criticism of government’s handling of the electoral reform and the near-absence of governance in the country.

And today, The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) accused President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of witch-hunting 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.

The President of NBA, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), who decried the intolerant attitude of the Yar’Adua administration towards criticism from opposition groups, also accused it of aiding corrupt practices in the country. “This government cannot stand criticism from the opposition and this is unfortunate because every good government must appreciate the position of the opposition. Yet, this government has shown that it does not see the opposition as what they are, instead it treats the opposition as its enemies.

This government has now embraced the Obasanjo governance style of witch-hunting critics,” Akeredolu lamented. Akeredolu also lamented that under the present government, corruption had risen sky- high because rather than fight corruption, government has become very comfortable with encouraging corrupt persons and even shielding them. The NBA Chief noted that despite concerted calls for government to be transparent, open and committed to the anti-corruption war, it had remained adamant, only resorting to the empty sloganeering of the rule of law.

Well, remember that Prof. Pat Utomi, a 2007 Presidential Candidate, had once accused the Federal government of employing the military rule mentality especially in handling the Electoral reforms reports.

Utomi who was speaking in line with the Federal treatment of the Electoral Reform Recommendations noted that the ruling political class only sees democracy as an alibi for power. “It is untidy for the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to take the work of such a blue-ribbon commission and decide to alter things at their will without subjecting it to the discussion of and gauging consensus of Nigerians. As a matter of fact, the process is flawed and undemocratic”.

Do you want to make sense of all these developments? Keep tuned…