Ibe Kachukwu rocked the chair of his boss last week. The chair is not yet at anchor over his NNPC expose. It came like the dossier of betrayal. But while most Nigerians set eyes on the stark irony of a man of integrity facing the biggest allegation of fraud in Nigeria’s history, my mind went to three things.
First to the second biggest fraud scandal in Nigerian history, which was also associated with Muhammadu Buhari. It was the N2.8 billion fraud, which in today’s money comes close to N9 trillion that his appointee, Maikanti Baru, allegedly freeloaded and crafted into a raft of bone-headed contracts.
The second thing that came to mind is that elections have consequences because campaigns will always haunt us as voters. The third leads to the Otuoke chieftain, the serpentine Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. It was Jonathan who gave us Buhari, and if we weep today, let us go to where the rain started to beat us. It turned from drizzle into downpour. This is about betrayal, and how a man who gained the trust of a country became the ultimate turncoat.
The man who once claimed a pan-Nigerian mandate became the pan-Nigerian Judas. This column will, therefore, look at the psychology of the man who made Buhari possible. I shall wait till next week before full comments on the N9 trillion scandal in the hope that the president will have something to say for himself.
Kachukwu’s has launched a tomahawk missile at his integrity and he better have a nuclear shield. In any civilised clime, he should at least have uttered a preliminary statement, either confirming or denying Kachukwu’s report that Baru signed all those contracts with his approval. That was the cardinal sentence of the epistolary episode. It requires no investigation. He should know if he approved or did not, unless he claims that his ill-health subdued his memory. The narrative is more about him than his implant at the head of Nigeria’s honey pot.
If Jonathan played Judas to his country, it should be no surprise that he had a habit of doing so to people who trusted him. But other than the nation he betrayed, he let down his region. The Niger Delta is Nigeria’s ware earth. He did little to elevate an area racked with militancy, massive poverty, environmental decay, educational drift and health hazards. I told my fellow Niger Deltans that Jonathan was not the one we needed to represent us. But sentiment overtook good sense, and the story is now in the history books.
When he returned to Bayelsa after the Buhari Shellacking, he told a crowd in Yenagoa that he did not expect a rousing welcome. He said he thought “the people would stone me because I know I didn’t do much for you.”
He turned into a taste of ashes the prophetic hope of Chief Awolowo when the sage said, “I look forward to the day, not in the far distant future when an in Jaw would be president of our republic or a vice or vice versa.” The top desire of many in the region was the construction of the east-west road. He left it fallow, a long, sprawling, treacherous stretch, lurking, serpentine and deadly, just like his psyche.
He betrayed a region, and then he betrayed humans who made it happen for him. In that sense, he had something in common with the Owu chief, who put him there. We witnessed the last days of Yar’Adua. Obj came out swinging his rhetoric in Jonathan’s favour. The Owu chief gave birth to Yar’Adua, and in the uncertain days of the ex-president’s ill-health, Obj made it known he was ready to bury Umoru. Jonathan smacked his lips in the shadows, waiting to cruise to the throne. He eventually did, and then he played Brutus. People like Jonathan and Obasanjo are guilty of what psychologists call a fear of gratitude. They are afraid to say thank you because it would diminish them and take away from the swagger of their majesty.
The same thing is tormenting the North Korean leader. The portly tyrant has lined up for death all those who knew him in his diaper days, including his uncle he executed. A Roman leader who rose from slave eliminated all those who knew him in his plebeian years. So, it was in character for Jonathan to go after the Owu chief and humiliate him. He even went as far as defanging him in his lair, Ogun State. He pulled the rug of his political structure and handed it to his foe, Buruji Kashamu. He also parried him after parleying with him to nominate Muraina Ajibola as speaker of the House of Representatives. He stunned OBJ by picking Mulikat Adeola. Other casualties were Gbenga Daniel and his daughter, Iyabo.
Did he not betray Timipre Sylva? In this narrative of Bayelsa PDP, it was more of the betrayal of his former governor colleagues who sent quite of few emissaries of peace and reconciliation to the former president. He was cajoled and begged to let Sylva be. He would agree in an air of felicity and then turn back to his default Judas kiss.
Recently some have wondered why the present Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, has barbed him and left him bloodied on the public square. Few forget that he never really wanted Dickson to succeed Sylva. He had another candidate who never made it. That explains why he never really embraced Dickson when he became governor. His wife, patience, publicly humiliated Dickson at public events, once shunning him in protocol in public. The Bayelsa governor showed extreme tolerance while Jonathan was president because he did not want to show a crack in the house while a fellow Ijaw man was president. I learnt that, in the Governors Forum election that deflated Jang, Dickson’s vote may have gone for Jang but his heart did not, because he did not want a public row on Jonathan’s home turf. Loyalty tests principles.
One of the heartfelt betrayals for this author was the humiliation of the late Dora Akunyili. The woman set the template with a memo for the now famous Doctrine of Necessity that calmed subversive elements in the country and allowed Jonathan to sail to Aso Rock. He never saw the woman after he became Nigeria’s leader and Akunyili was treated with cold shoulder and denied access to Jonathan before she died.
“The saddest thing about betrayal,” says an anonymous writer, “is that it never comes from enemies.” That was Jonathan. There is a reason Caesar says to Brutus, Et tu Brute. Not so much its meaning but that he says it in the native language. You too Brutus! But Shakespeare was kind to Caesar, who also stabbed Pompey, his boss, in the back. With betrayal, “there is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face. He was a man in whom I had an absolute trust.” That was Shakespeare in Macbeth, another turncoat tale.
Sometimes betrayal is grand, about a man waking up to find out he had believed a lie, a bad leader, a quisling. Like in The Remains of The Day, a novel by the latest literature Nobel Laureate, Kazuo Ishiguro. A butler learns late in life he had aped his master to endorse the wrong philosophy like Nazism. On a personal level, he failed who should have been the love of his life.
Like the butler, GEJ betrayed both country and friends. He also betrayed his birth region. When such things happen, people look elsewhere for succour. Buhari came along with the lure of integrity. Have we made a mistake on that? The N9 trillion scandal must not be left to go the way of other scandals. If it is the biggest scandal, it should not be the biggest cover-up.