AFTER setting up poor Macbeth on the murderous wings of a bloody prophecy that he will be King of Scotland against every odd, the ‘three witches’ in Shakespeare’s tragic play, Macbeth are generous enough also to set three strong guarantees for Macbeth’s security as he bloodies the Kingdom to ascend the throne, not of his forefathers. One of such guarantees is that ‘no man born of a woman shall kill Macbeth’. And who will not take that assurance even to the field of battle? Who will not mock ‘death’ itself in the face with such potent amulet? And so, emboldened by such prophecy, Macbeth does in fact bloody his way to become Scotland’s King. But thereafter, a man truly born, not of a woman, but out of the Caesarian section of a woman, does also become Macbeth’s nemesis, -driving home the saying that ‘those that the gods will hang, they first make mad’.
And like every man in the pantheon of the Igbo tradition is fated or doomed to the whim and caprice of his own ‘chi’ (personal god), ambitious politicians too are entitled to the favours, or condemned to the yoke, of their political superstition or their belief in the supernatural forces that animate or afflict the spheres of their political ambitions. And so whatever Atiku’s political gods may have promised him; whatever potent guarantees the proverbial ‘witches’ of his presidential ambition must have given for his security, the recent statement by Goodluck Jonathan, in which the former President naively suggested that Atiku’s presidential ambition would not fly unless he secured an unconditional reconciliation with, and endorsement by, Obasanjo sounds a little ill-omened to the metaphysical and to the superstitious minds. It is to be hoped that these are not the requirements of Atiku’s political gods or even of his own personal ‘chi’.
If Jonathan was a political prophet he would be one of doom and not of bloom. Because his suggestion to Atiku is evocative only of the poet, Rudyard Kipling’s “prophet of the utterly absurd, of the patently impossible and vain”. Which is exactly what asking Obasanjo to forgive Atiku and to endorse his candidature amounts to. Jonathan, unlike Macbeth’s ‘witches’, provides neither immediate prophecies for Atiku’s electoral success nor any future guarantees for his immunities. Rather by making Obasanjo’s forgiveness and endorsement of Atiku a condition-precedent to his progress, he has succeeded only in casting an ominous spell on the project, which rather than swiftly move to exorcise Atiku appears equally naïve to romanticise. He too has pledged to secure Obasanjo’s forgiveness and endorsement.
Two of a kind
In a previous title I wrote ‘OBJ: Tribute to a Fighter’ (02/24/15), I relieved a funny story –rather more fabulous than factual- which was told during the in-fighting days of the Obasanjo-Atiku Presidency. It was a political joke crafted more to underscore the intensity of their mutual assured animosity than it was an altruistic revelation of the facts of an isolated incident that may have truly occurred. They said that one cool Saturday morning, after Obasanjo had ended a rigorous racquet game at the Villa Squash Court and was about to rest to catch some breath, just then, the blurry image of a distant man afoot, escorted by an entourage of Aides, suddenly approached the Court. It was the Vice President, Atiku Abubakar who, even from that distance, apparently seemed possessed by the urgency of some State matter that probably could not wait till Monday.
Almost immediately they said, the mischievous side of Obasanjo got the better of him, as he quickly turned to his Aides with his peculiar facial chuckle and a gesture pretending to reach for the racquet, as he whispered to them: “Thief, thief! See thief de come!” A quick-witted Atiku also, sighting Obasanjo’s conspiratorial body language, and knowing too well what ‘malevolent mischief’ his boss was capable of, turned also to his Aides and whispered “See! See! That useless old man must be insulting me!”
‘Kar ta san kar!’ is the Hausas phrase for this kind of ‘mutually assured destruction’. And ‘Man know man’ is the closest pidgenised version of it that I can think of. Nowadays it takes an Atiku seeking to rule Nigeria, to bring out Obasanjo’s malevolent best; just as it takes an Obasanjo to evoke the murkiest fear of the unknown in an Atiku seeking the Presidency. And like I said before, whether the Villa Squash Court incident did truly happen or that it was entirely made up, is not as significant as the reality of the deep-seated mutual hate which the joke may have been contrived to caricature, -namely a ‘Tom-and-Jerry’ kind of Tarka-me-I-Daboh-you relationship between Obasanjo and Atiku especially during, but even long after, their eight-year tenure. By the way, like the German poet Hans Enzensberger wrote, “Hatred too is a precious habit”. At least it has produced a suspense-packed, adrenalin-raising cartoon series ‘Tom-and-Jerry’ that is now an apt allegory of the existential ‘cat-and-mouse’ relationship between Atiku and Obasanjo.
The Hatchet war
As I once wrote, of the many temperaments of this continuously re-invent-able and continually re-emerging character, Obasanjo, is the stubborn fact that although a cease fire with him is achievable –usually at the instance of the opponent’s request- the ‘hatchet’ of any war begun with him may not ever be completely buried. Obasanjo may be your quintessential muckraking, political ‘hatchet-man’ yes, but he is not also your conventional, ‘politically correct’ peace-maker of necessity, ready always to ‘bury the hatchet’ of every war. Once an enemy, always an enemy. There are no ‘permanent friends’ yes, but with Obasanjo there are ‘permanent enemies’. And Atiku is the most ‘offending Adam’ of them all.
Every Obasanjo war is Armageddon. It is fought to end all wars. The army of God and the soldiers of the devil must come out one and all. It is like the fight of the dung-eating ‘scarabs’ beetles: one dung-jealous beetle must be pushed down the hill, so that the other can proudly say: ‘sand to sand, I spit on your grave, the dung is all mine, now you can rest in p-i-e-c-e-s! More than ‘a bit’ of the hatchet-handle from the sixteen-year old war of attrition between Obasanjo and Atiku, still remains un-interred. And that is notwithstanding a contrite Atiku had paid several tributes to Otta Farm in the hope of consolidating a lasting reconciliation with his former boss. If you wonder how many times Atiku must apologise to, or reconcile with, Obasanjo before he can bring an end to this unending mutual antipathy, I should say as many times as Atiku prepares to contest for President.
Over the years Obasanjo has managed to shape up to be a portent augury for or against those who aspire to be presidents of Nigeria. If you cannot get his open endorsement, or his subtle nod; or maybe even his tacit approval, at the very least you should endeavour to negotiate the charity of his silence. So that a divining Obasanjo does not pronounce his potent augury against your candidature. The charity of Obasanjo’s silence alone on the candidature of any politician is electorally mojo enough in itself to take to battle. You cannot aspire to be Nigeria’s President and afford the ruthlessness of Obasanjo’s open denunciation. What Jonathan and the rest of them should do is to prepare Atiku to get ready to debunk this myth and not waste their time angling to profit from it. By Obasanjo’s rules of war, Atiku is not entitled to his forgiveness. Let alone his open endorsement. For crying out loud, Atiku may not even be entitled to the charity of Obasanjo’s silence.
Postscript this week is an excerpt from a previous piece titled ‘All Hues, All Flavors’ (14/09/17). It was an augury, not of the ‘three witches’, but of a Columnist.
The Battle within
IT did not take long, the Obasanjo-Atiku ticket that we had helped to win the 1999 election, proved itself –electorally- a mere marriage-de-convenance. Because in the build up to the 2003 primaries, Atiku the Vice President was now dubbing his mane in a show of strength as he prepared to challenge the Principal, Obasanjo, that he had helped to make President before. Needless to add that the odds were heavily stacked against Obasanjo. And if memory serves right, on the eve of Atiku’s purported possible resignation, my Foreign Affairs Minister-friend, Sule Lamido –who I probably would’ve been working for instead of Aminu Wali- invited me to his Minister’s Hill residence in Maitama. I guessed rightly that it was either out of excitement or anxiety about the political space, heavily pregnant then with the rumour that Atiku was submitting his letter of resignation that night. Mallam Sule may have thought that a journalist and a Special Assistant (me) to Aminu Wali (who was close both to Obasanjo and Atiku) might know a little something extra that he did not. In truth I told him I knew nothing –then.
But at least I knew this one thing –and do not say I told you- that Sule Lamido and Atiku never liked each other’s guts. And I will hazard anything to vouchsafe that -like many in Obasanjo’s cabinet had said four years after- Sule too would rather that an Obasanjo had a Third Term than an Atiku allowed a chance to have a shot at the presidency. How much worse that animosity between this Jigawa-born and this Adamawa-red will be today, especially now that they both want the same thing, your guess will be as good as mine. Suffice it to say that after Obasanjo allegedly genuflected to beg Atiku, the ticket was sewn back and Obasanjo was saved again by Atiku’s grace. Had that not happened in 2003, we would not have been united (the pro-Obasanjo and pro-Atiku media) at the Yar’Ádua Center to play that game of dart on the effigy of a Daura-born. Obasanjo survived the battle of ‘Khrugar’ in 2003 to wait for his pound of flesh from Atiku’s under-rib, in 2007 –in an encounter I will title the battle of ‘Katanga’. And we all knew what happened. Atiku lost.
Not to waste an opportunity to take a shot -as he always did- at his ideological arch enemy, namely my Principal Aminu Wali, Sule Lamido had asked what in the name of the lord I was doing with a ‘reactionary’ –suggesting that a journalist with radical views like me, should not be working for such a Principal. I simply laughed it off, knowing that no matter what it was that made Wali a ‘reactionary’ or Sule a ‘progressive’, they both were now appointees of a former military ‘dictator’ (Obasanjo) who had known nothing about politics until a ‘conservative’ aristocrat (Atiku) defeated both the ‘reactionary’ forces of a patrician (Wali) and the progressive armies of a radical (Sule), to make him President over us all.
And now as the ‘radical’ Lamidos contend with the ‘reactionary’ Walis of PDP, to pick its ticket, they have to worry also about the ‘aristocratic’ Atikus of APC possibly carpet crossing to trade tackles with them; -even as all of them have to contend with the incumbent might of an ‘autocratic’ Buhari seeking a second term; and the veteran clout of a meddlesome Obasanjo asserting his ‘right’ to anoint and to thwart.