If you sat down to pen the profiles of Nigerian politicians, the first casualty will be loyalty. They cast betrayal as realism. So, for most politicians, many Nigerians were wrong to see the recent Senate rumpus as a morality tale. The Nigerian masses and politicians inhabit antipodal universes. The masses live in the world of good versus evil. Politicians bask in the world of us versus them.
It is more like a game. Whoever wins is not intended to go to paradise. He is master of this universe, not God’s. As for the loser, better luck next time. They play the game with the excitement of children, but with the soul of Lucifer. Because of this game, many die, businesses atrophy, careers collapse, families vanish, whole towns are set ablaze.
Nothing reinforces this narrative as the alliance of Atiku Abubakar and Olusegun Obasanjo in the intrigues to install Bukola Saraki as Senate president.
Saraki knew his indebtedness to both men. After his first session as Senate helmsman, he paid a visit of gratitude to Atiku. Barely a week later, he flew to Ota to pay homage to Obj. When was the last time both men agreed on anything?
Last year, Atiku did not seek and Obj did not enlist his support for the Adamawa titan’s zeal to be president.
Not too long ago, Obj mocked the Adamawa titan when he was reportedly adopted as the consensus presidential candidate for the North. In front of reporters, the Owu dramatist as politician zipped up his Vicks inhaler and sniffed on it. Then like a moment of mock erotica, he exploded: “I dey laugh!” That was in 2010. Atiku, also gloating in his fleeting glory, fired back: “I still dey laugh!” That moment exemplified the narrative of two men. Once friends, once confidants, once partners, once making sacrifices for each other, once fighting each other’s battles, once playing off each other’s humour, once at table for breakfast, lunch and dinner, once co-conspirators, once number one and number two citizens.
This is the story of David and Jonathan in another universe. But in Nigerian politics, it is the story of Jesus and Judas, or Caesar and Brutus. Each of them can slink out of one role and be the other. They are no saints and never perjure to be saints.
In a story of the Owu chief’s trying times, we learn that Atiku visited Obj at his Ota Farm to tip him off on his impending arrest over coup plot in the Abacha era. When Abacha men arrived, a livid Atiku railed at them, showing his disgust for the arrest of a good and innocent man.
After the story of the coup and Obj’s freedom, the Owu chief rose from the ashes of near obloquy and oblivion to a sort of statesman. The world said he was the only man who could save the nation after the ruins and intrigues of June 12. He picked Atiku, then governor-elect, to serve as vice president. This was tag team, many thought. Obj worked well with him, and delegated much to the deputy, including leaving executive meetings for him to preside over. There were many instances of backslapping and high fiving between them.
But the long blade did not last in the quiver. Suddenly the Owu chief, known for his foxy ways, realised he had put a jackal in charge of his roost. David and Jonathan became Caesar and Brutus, and it was hard to tell who was Caesar, since Brutus dripped out of everything each did. Plots of impeachment, court rulings, underhand deals with friends and foes, regional alliances and counter-alliances laced this story of two friends who wanted to bring each other down.
But both of them found a common cause in Saraki. So bad was their rivalry and malice that the enemies of each of their enemies were their enemies, just as we see in the internecine battles in Syria. Saraki’s cause brought them together. What happened is no love fest and no hate parade. They still despise each other and need each other. What happened was no marriage. Their divorce is as permanent as their marriage. Saraki knows that, having triumphed in a Machiavellian theatre. Their alliances are like how writer Oscar Wilde describes marriage. “In marriage, as in war,” the bard asserts, “it is permitted to take advantage of the enemy.”
Nor is Atiku or Obj alone. Remember Goodluck Jonathan? His friends are deserting him now. When APC was in the making, all comers converged. Those who believed and those who didn’t. They came for spoils but not for the masses, most of them. It was the platform for carpetbaggers. Beware when everyone loves you. Trouble is coming. In the aftermath of the NASS elections, we are not sure what APC is now.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s everybody and nobody refrain has presented him as an aloof chief executive. That leaves the field for lieutenants, party apparatchiks, go-getters, buffoons and leeches to stake their games.
A Buhari administration may well bring out the Lucifer in our politicians who will now play politics at his expense while swearing in his name. They see it as a game. They will try various cards, options, stunts, etc. If this goes, they keep going until something else works. In Yoruba, they call it “eyi je, eyio je.” It is a cynical game and a source of great scholarship at a sublime level. It is called the game theory. It has fascinated scholars for over a hundred years and spun 11 Nobel prizes. Perhaps the most famous is John Forbes Nash, whose theory earned him a Nobel Prize for economic science in 1994. He and his wife, who inspired a film called The Beautiful Mind, died recently in a car crash. But the game theory has been used to heal bodies, install statesmen, solve economic crisis and anticipate the future. But the difference between the developed world and ours is that we apply it with the bile of Beelzebub. In our politics, we sell our souls. Like the stock character of many plays and novels from Goethe to Marlowe to Hardy, our politicians are like Mephistopheles, the Faustian demon who helps people sell their soul to the devil. So, while our politicians speak colourfully in colourful clothing and dole out money and rams and chickens to the masses, they are playing the game and wagering their souls.
Buhari, as Segun Ayobolu warned in his column last Saturday, should beware not to play policy without politics as he did in his first incarnation in power. The military men in politics outfoxed him. He had to wait over two decades to return.
In a democratic era, they are more foxy and ruthless because they play like children and scheme like the devil.
INTELS, our ports and monopoly
The word “trust” conjures confidence from others. But in business, trust originally meant something larger. It denoted confidence among businesses that came together under one umbrella. But as greed creeps in all human affairs, so did it happen to companies called The Trust in the Second Industrial Revolution. It led to the Anti-trust laws intended to restrain their poisonous influences as monopolies and oligopolies.
In Nigeria, a company called INTELS is working on a dubious directive from the Federal Ministry of Transport and transmitted by the Nigerian Ports Authority. It came out in the last days of the Jonathan era against the law. It allows INTELS to negate the 2006 ports reform law that allows cargoes to berth on any port of choice in the country. INTELS now wants to monopolise, by the directive, all oil and gas cargoes at Warri, Onne and Calabar where it operates. This is monopolistic greed. Every cargo should berth wherever it pleases. Both ObJ and Yar’Adua governments reversed similar orders and set free the ports. Buhari should do same. It promotes fairness, choice and efficiency.