Why could hardened supporters of YarÁdua’s nomination for the Presidency suddenly turn to harshest critics of the same person they have known for several years?
Nasiru El-rufai the former Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja and Nuhu Ribadu the ex- Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) were top public officials and major campaigners, though secretly, for the recommendation and nomination of Umaru Musa YarÁdua as the sole candidate of People Democratic Party (PDP) to eventually become the President of Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2007.
At a period when Nigerians were concerned about a possibility of Third-Term agenda for President Olusegun Obasanjo, and the fear of foisting corrupt person becoming the next President from a litany of aspirants in People Democratic Party (PDP) campaigning for the shot, the emergence of Umaru Musa YarÁdua to the scene was rude shock to many observers because he was neither popular in the national consciousness nor visible in various social and political scene.
Recommending YarÁdua to the then President Olusegun Obasanjo who had made up his mind to either get himself endorsed for third-term or influence the election of one of his governor-allies in the South-South, was not an easy task but Elrufai and Ribadu succeeded in just doing that.
Their supports were said to be motivated by YarÁdua’s recorded achievements in socio-economic growth and massive physical infrastructures developments in Katsina State as a Governor for eight years. He was said not to believe in cheap publicity and self-glorification as he provided a lot of road networks, estates, schools and hospital with promotional funfair like launching and commissioning of projects. Nigerians were also told YarÁdua was the only incorruptible governor in the last democratic dispensation.
While the trio come from different states in the North; Kaduna, Adamawa and Katsina State, they all attended, at different periods, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, an institution that has churned out most of the Northern educated elites in the country and situated in Kaduna State, notoriously known as the den of Mafia, whether ex-military officers or retired top public functionaries.
Love them or hate them, Elrufai and Ribadu had created niches for themselves as the major actors in the last administration for adding colour to that regime with their passion for spontaneous actions and timely results in their respective agency’s mandates. It is necessary to point out it was to the credit of El-rufai that restoration of master-plan and beautification of Abuja became a model of fast-growing modern city. Not only did he demolish ghettos and shanties of poor dwellers, he also banished mad people, beggars and Okada riders from the city-centre. Those were some of actions that further endeared him to Obasanjo who assigned him into various panels including that on Privatisation of Public Institutions, Civil Service Reform, Monetisation Policy and Economic Teams. While Atiku Abubakar was busy in a battle of wit with his estranged master, Mallam Elrufai became defacto Vice President.
On the other hand, the aggressive and massive campaigns against corrupt practices at by Nuhu Ribadu as the Boss of EFCC, similar to that of War Against Indiscipline (WAI) of Buhari/Idiagbon regime, received global recognitions, especially after parading some untouchable public figures as criminals. Some of the memorable incidents were the shaming of Inspector General Tafa Balogun of Nigerian Police and Governor Diepriye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State for excessive lootings of public funds. He ensured that apart from jailing them, substantial amount of stolen funds were recovered as well as confiscating their assets worth billions of Naira.
The reputation of El-rufai and Ribadu as indefatigable leaders was overshadowed by their obvious garrulousness in their frantic efforts to defend and carry out Obasanjo directives against some perceived opposition especially the then Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Interestingly for that reasons and for accomplishing assigned tasks promptly and decisively, Obasanjo entrusted with other responsibilities. They were in the inner-caucus-kitchen cabinet as the seen and unseen advisers to the President. Their opinions became laws: Ribadu’s list of corrupt Nigerians was a bible that automatically barred the politicians from contesting in 2007 Election likewise Elrufai-monetisation policy on sales of government houses became binding after the announcement.
Their intervention in endorsing YarÁdua for the top position in the land was seen as justifiable in the face of the do-or-die policy of the ruling party since only PDP could win an election with an Iwu-INEC as the electoral umpire. Surprisingly YarÁdua seemed unenthusiastic to the proposition. He neither aspired nor lobbied for the ticket before he was dragged into the campaign orgy. He had disclosed his interest to return to the academia as a lecturer in Ahmadu Bello University after his second tenure as Governor of Kasina State. As if to send further signal of lack of interest for the ticket, he hardly spoke at most of the political rallies with his seeming lacklustre disposition. In fact he did not hide his ill-health during the campaign as he flew out of the country for medical treatment. To the bewilderment of Nigerians, during one of the Presidential campaign rallies, YarÁdua spoke to supporters through phone from hospital bed in Germany to say that he was ALIVE.
There are many early warning signals from the outset on the electoral process but yet many individuals persuaded him to accept the nomination in the belief that failure to do so might force the regime at the centre and PDP machinery to provide ominous alternatives. There were insinuations that those persuading him for the Presidency had hidden agenda to use YarÁdua for their selfish motives. Surprisingly, immediately after his swearing-in, he dismantled some structures of previous administration and revised some decisions like the reversals of petroleum prices and proposed new taxation and he was widely hailed by Nigerian as an independent person.
He proved that he was not a puppet even as there were rumours that El-rufai and Ribadu had either lobbied or were billed to take new appointments as Minister of Energy and Inspector General of Police respectively under YarÁdua’s administration. They could have made positive impacts in the portfolios if appointed considering their passion in righting the wrong. It is still baffling how they become estranged from their sole candidate. Probably they undermine other underground caucus close to YarÁdua
While many leaders get to higher positions by fortune of being in a right place, at the right time with the right people, God also rewards people with leaders they deserved for their actions and inactions when things happen.
While Elrufai is said to have joined others clamouring for a change of leadership at the top, asking or forcing YarÁdua to resign may sound easy, but the implication is better imagine when he still has extreme loyalists for various motives with the full support so far of the branch of the executive, legislature and by extension judiciary.
Sure we are in a disturbing period with a confrontational stance of Niger-Delta militants publicly clamouring for instalment of Goodluck Jonathan, an Ijaw person they disliked and campaigned against during the last election. We have heard the voice Northern jingoists on “power must remain in the North for the remaining period.” The merchants of death are also praying for demise of Nigerian leader, God forbid. All these point to high conspiracy being coined to achieve hidden agenda to further confuse the polity. Interestingly, the military, which have been discipline and professional lately, would not fold their arms without protecting the territorial integrity of the Nigerian nation.
It is quite impressive the disposition of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan who has remained ever loyal to his boss, by distancing himself from the antics of undesirable element, proving that he is not ambitious and greedy politician who in similar position would have done otherwise. He is as faithful as he was while deputising for Governor Alamieyeseigha before he was coerced to jettison his loyalty by threats from EFCC and elements in PDP influenced by power-that-be.
With less than two years to the next election, let pray for our President’s good health and God’s guidance to do the right things in the remaining period. In 2011, as electorate, Nigerians should exercise their electoral franchise diligently without coercion and emotion. We are where we are today because some people somewhere, with power to influence changes, decided on our behalf. We therefore get what we deserved.
This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in New Nigerian December 7, Daily Champion December 8, Leadership December 8, Daily Independent December 13, Peoples Daily December 18, Daily Trust December 21, Triumph , News Star December 21 and Thisday January 5, 2010