Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
ABOUT THE NORTHERN AGENDA :
"General said, Chief said, Alhaji said"
AWONIYI: So remember Bamanga and I had decided to support him [OBASANJO], then I said how many of the other contestants have signed, they said all of them have signed, so it turned out now that it is my candidate that has not signed. How do I save him from himself? So I said, give me a piece of
paper, and they gave me a writing pad, and I wrote, "I so, so, so have seen and read the document you asked me to sign in the interest of the North or to preserve the interest of the North, I see nothing in the document which a reasonable man can object to."
This Day: October 5, 2002
Chief Sunday Bolorunduro Awoniyi, the Aro of Mopa and a former member of the People's Democratic Party, is a man known for his frankness and independence. Formerly an ardent supporter of President Olusegun Obasanjo, he fell out with the president when he was "schemed" out of the chairmanship of the party. In an interview with some newspapers last week, Obasanjo had said that he was told to sign some documents before the PDP presidential primaries in Jos in
1999. The documents, he said, were put together by some Northerners to protect the interest of the North and "whittle" down his presidential authority. Reacting to this allegation in this interview with Kola Ologbondiyan, Awoniyi decries what he calls Obasanjo's attempt to demonise the North while at the same time insisting that Obasanjo actually signed to protect the interest of the North. Excerpts:
Kola Olobondiyan (KO): In a recent interview with some newspapers, President Olusegun Obasanjo dismissed reports that he signed agreement with the North before he was voted into power. The President mentioned your name as one of the northern leaders who were part of the said agreement process. Can you avail us with what
transpired at the meeting?
Sunday Awoniyi (SA): It will be difficult to give a proper answer to this question without giving some background information. At that point in time, there were seven contestants for the ticket of the People's Democratic Party (PDP).
SA: Not at all, it did not arise. Ciroma was not at that final meeting.
SA: I wouldn't know, I wouldn't know, but the one at which Obasanjo was interviewed and they told me that was the only meeting they had with him, At the meeting at which he was interviewed, it was the same thing, Ciroma was not present, Lawal Kaita was not present. They might have attended other meetings when they were crafting the document, I
don't know, but at this meeting where it became necessary to ask Obasanjo to sign, these two were not there. The only senior Northerners who were there were myself, Bamanga Tukur by fair chance and Professor Aminu, all the rest were younger people, I know one of them is dead now, a very nice chaff, an Architect, Mohammed, he is gone, and in what way the thing was brought out, what is so wonderful about saying two were dead, he the great one is still alive. What is the use of
saying some had left the party and dragging the names of Lawal Kaita and Ciroma and myself into this thing. I was the only one along with Bamanga present.
SA: Not at all, I had no business signing. He was there, he copied my draft at the back of the document he was to sign and signed it by himself. And when one of the boys took the thing and looked it, he said no this is an initial, it is not a signature, there was no basis in my signing for him. What for, he was there physically. I am not his
agent, I did not sign, there was no reason to sign, it was the contestants who were supposed to sign, six signed, my man hadn't signed. I took it along this route and he signed my draft, the little statement that he should be judged on his past performance and past relationship with North. Now Obasanjo has given the impression today as if all the others partook of some sinister Northern agenda, a sinister Northern agenda which Awoniyi, Bamanga, Ciroma and Kaita helped to
facilitate. There was nothing like that, there was nothing that was anthetical to the fortunes of this country that was being pursued at all. In any case, if people are going to vote for you, if I have a thousand votes in my pocket from Okunland and anybody wants it, today in view of my recent experience, I will negotiate. What are we going to get for our 1,000 votes? I would ask and these were the type of things that citizens, political operators have been doing in the
country for a long, long time. Now his attempt is to rubbish the other six as if they were cheap, easy Nigerians who could not stand firm because they wanted to be president and could not stand firm against the machination of the North. It is not correct, Obasanjo was not the aggressive-looking Obasanjo he is today when he wanted to be president so much. At that meeting, he was calling the names of a thousand and one Northerners who had helped him and that he was a friend of
the North and was going to be fair to the North. Commit it into writing, that was why I did what I did to save him from himself, to really save my candidate.
SA: In fact, I cannot recollect the content of the document. I thought it was only about two pages. I said it was only about two pages. I cannot recollect anybody saying he wanted a particular ministry of petroleum, I cannot recollect. In any case, when you go into this kind of negotiation, you are not God, most people will sign and do their
best and if you could not fulfill, you will tell the people that you can no longer fulfill what you asked me to do as you can see now like President Bush saying he would not increase tax, watch my mouth. But when circumstances changed in America, he slammed taxes on, this is the art of governance and the art of political activities. Now to come and give the impression that something horrible has been done by a cabal from the North, is a typical Obasanjo performance -
ingratitude for assistance rendered. Now, when you look at it again, this great born again Christian chose a Sunday, two days to his independence broadcast, chose a Sunday to grant a syndicated interview to six Sunday Newspapers, and bringing out this impression as if something sinister had happened which he the great and only wise ruler stood against on behalf of Nigeria. It isn't so. He did not in any way stand up for anything that day. He was cringing, and I had to say
this. Now Lawal Kaita, poor man, I grant him that there might be a little bit of loss of memory because we are in our seventies now and he worked for Aso Rock, he is an Aso Rock man, so for him to now turn round and lie, Lawal lied, but I am prepared to be generous that may be it was a slip of memory, I did not sign for Obasanjo. I did not mean to sign at all and he was not present at this meeting and the meeting did not take place at Agura. It took place by chance as far as
I am concerned at Hilton Hotel. From time to time, Lawal Kaita would come out and attack Chief Awoniyi as being of no political consequence, never mind that I won a senatorial election, I won an election to be a member of the constituent assembly earlier on. He will say it is only because of Adamu Ciroma that Awoniyi is of political relevance, he said that over and over again, and attacked me and said he supported me, but he didn't like what I was doing. I don't mind him, I
don't and I will tell you why, in age, I am six months older and as you get on in life, you begin to be more patient with your age group, particularly when you are creeping towards 70, poor Lawal works for Aso Rock, you never know whether one day he is solely for the President or the next day he is solely for Atiku, but this is his style, running with the hare and hunting with the dog and as a matter of fact, I am told that people who don't need to lie that anytime he engages
in this type of activity, particularly it gives him a huge personal gain at Aso rock, his relevance is in harm and the economic well-being is somehow improved. So I think I say well, if God uses me to suffer his economic need by his abusing me from time to time, I am grateful to God that I am of use to him. It may be loss of memory, but he wasn't there. Again as to me not being any political sage, I don't want to be anybody's political sage, and as for his having assisted me,
I didn't need his assistance. This was a man and I am appealing to all my age groups in this country, when you hit seventy or 65 and go on seventy, you are at the last chapter of your live, and they say that is the most difficult chapter to write, whatever good you might have done in the past, if you are not careful, you now write it wrong, so I am appealing to my age group and co, to have the decency to move back a little bit and let the younger ones have an opportunity to
perform. And I do what I preach. Take example the civil service, when I was deputy secretary to the premier, having earlier been a secretary in Jos, in charge of the entire Plateau which is now a state, much, much earlier on the secretary to the executive of Northern Nigeria, we were in the same civil service with Lawal Kaita. He was at that time a Superintendent of livestock in the ministry of animal and forest resources, so I had known him from time. It is true politically,
he became governor of the old Kaduna State, but what has happened since then, his political relevance became eroded and terminated and reduced to a status whereby in the last local government election under PDP, I am told and I have since then... and one young man has said it fluently in Hausa, in BBC Hausa service some few weeks ago, that his political relevance has become so attenuated that he could not deliver his local government to the PDP, surprisingly, it was AD that
won Lawal Kaita's local government, but it is all right to parade oneself as young and politically relevant because Nigeria is a large country and people don't know themselves, they will know others too well.
SA: The north is not giving Obasanjo problems. This is one thing I will really want people to expect, the north is not giving Obasanjo problem, it is the north that said Obasanjo has not done well for the country and a President that high hopes have been raised, but today, corruption has never been averred, today inter-ethnic antagonism has
never been averred, today, the economy is a shambles and today law and order has broken down to an extent which is unimaginable, and that his style of governance has made it impossible for Nigerians to produce their best, because he has surrounded himself with people whose devious tendencies are very well known. There are those in the north who say they don't like him because he has removed certain people from the post. Those are people who are directly affected, but the
north in generality thought they were voting for a man who will sort of regenerate this nation, the north believed in him and that was why that pact... then I said look, he has signed to say you should judge him on his relationship with the north, the young men accepted it. Now you are bringing to the fore certain unfortunate relationship in the past, which we are about putting behind us. Look at religion. Nigerians were great enough to accept at the highest level of
governance a Moslem-Moslem ticket in Abiola and Kingibe. This was one of the greatest examples of religious harmony in this country. That a man's religion was not important in deciding who governs them, religious antagonism has never been as bad as it is today. Two, tribalism, here is a man whose own people rejected him and said we have nothing to do with him. I knew what we did to bring AD into the same party with PDP. When we launched the PDP, it was Ige, the late Ige, we
said should speak on behalf of that party, and there were some young men who were crying that day with joy that Nigeria at last was coming together. They left, formed APP, and finally formed AD, we followed them and there we gathered fantastic in brokering an opportunity for us to meet, we even said we are going to change the name of PDP to whatever they like, but let us form one strong party in which whatever you want can be argued and contained, rather than you staying
outside and throwing stone into the temple, but it didn't work. They voted solidly against him. He could not even win his own ward, and we saw this is the greatest blow against tribalism, in that his people said they didn't want him, and the rest of Nigeria said we've gone beyond that. Even in religion, we've gone beyond that, we accepted a Moslem, Moslem ticket the other time. We are prepared to accept a man not because of his tribe, but because we believe he can perform,
and they gave him the mandate, but ethnicity has never been as bad as it is today. Everybody has gone back to his own camp, and this man is responsible. If he has played the role of a father figure, bound these parties together, taken the right steps, we wouldn't have been in this mess. And when people say eh, they don't want him to perform, Who is stopping him from performing? There is nothing Obasanjo wants to do today that he cannot do, nobody is holding his hands, the
constitution we have is a constitution which is fantastic if it is run by a man who is God fearing, not just talking about God, God fearing, man fearing, and not so obsessed with his own image in history and his own popularity internationally. Look at corruption, the normal police system of investigating corruption has been put aside and we are looking at the anti-corruption commission. Can that single commission try every corrupt official in this country? We thought the big
crime of corruption would be dealt with by that commission but in any case it was starved of funds and a brilliant man like Justice Akanbi whom I like very well is wallowing in the difficulty of making that thing work. When you then read his speech it is always about integrity, patience, love of country and a lot of sanctimonious statement about how to fight corruption and how corruption is a scourge. Largely, that speech is not intended for the Nigerian Republic because the
people know that it is all talk and no action. It is intended for the external audience that this man is fighting corruption day-in-day-out and even produced a book, a law, there is nothing in that law that does not already exist in our laws. It is not decrees that we want now but we want the deed. Not the talking but the working to achieve it and people know that there is so much hypocrisy and insincerity which make it impossible for people who want to help to assist. It is
terrible! You see, the impression is created that it is the north that is giving him problems. That is the easiest way to look at it. Cheap but it is not true. MD Yusufu said the other day that what the North wants is for Nigerians to pick a President of quality and that as far as the North is concerned it may be Obasanjo. Nobody attacked Yusufu for saying that and it is all right by me if that is what Nigerians want - a repeat of what they are having now. That is okay.
Nobody in the North is saying that Obasanjo is completely precluded from seeking his own political interest but he must not destroy the country in the process of doing so like trying to forge an electoral law, manipulating an electoral act. When I sit down at times I wonder if this is Obafemi Awolowo's country. Is this Tafawa Balewa's, Akintola's, Nnamdi Azikiwe's, Okpara's, Sir Ahmadu Bello's country? I cannot imagine any of these people taking their pen and forging an act
of parliament, and it didn't even cross their minds and then you want to ram it down the throat of this nation and yet you are talking transparency and integrity. Look at the people around him. Show me the company you want to keep in governance and I would tell you the kind of government you are likely to have. It is as simple as that and you say that people are saying you are difficult.
SA: What is my interest and don't forget that I'm one of those who worked my guts out for him. What do you mean by interest? I wasn't going to be his Secretary to the Federal Government. I wasn't going to be his Head of Service and I was not going to be an ambassador and I was not going to be a contractor. Of course, everybody's interest was
different because if a man spent ten million naira running around helping to campaign and lodging him in his house. He might expect that when he gets into power he would not forget him. Do you know that at times even just going there and having breakfast and going home, we are in it we are part of government is all that some people want. There may be of course some of those that may need patronage which is natural. Churchill said he was not in politics to enrich his enemies
and he gave contracts to his partymen but they were performers. There are those of us who believed that this man tried the other day, let us give him a chance since we are saying let the South have power that was what happened. But it is being orchestrated now as if certain people in the North wanted to achieve certain things and because those things are not achievable now they want to destroy him. How do you destroy a President? Go and read your constitution. He appoints all
his ministers, he has an executive council he can over-rule, all the principal officers of corporations and things like that are appointed by him, he is the most powerful man we have ever got. But when God gives you the power of a giant, don't use it like a reckless giant. Use it humanely and carry everybody with you that way people would respect you. There is a thing called the mystique of authority. If you are in power, without even doing it, your presence should command
certain type of actions which are healthy for the society. But when people know that you are a dribbler and liar and that corruption right under your nose which can be investigated is ignored, then you destroy gradually the mystique of authority. You destroyed your party and those whom you helped to install are now in the process of contesting the Presidency against you. You destabilized the Senate and those whom you enthroned over and over again are now in the process of
impeaching you. Couldn't the man have stopped to say how could I have done these things so wrong? When there is no sincerity in what you are doing, so many holes develop in your system and it is impossible for you to plug all of them, your ship of state would leak and that is what is happening.
As the Yoruba would “asiri ti n’tu die die” – meaning “the secret machinations (in dark places in Nigeria political structures) are being revealed in small doses!”
Are these latest revelations to the consternation of this writer – or to many other readers for that matter? Not at all! One is only surprised at the “horse” whose mouth is revealing said secrets – Obasanjo – and its timing: a desperate juncture in
Obasanjo’s presidency of our “nascent” democracy when he is fighting against an impeachment threat. The central role of Ambassador Prof. Jubril Aminu in all of this Northern-cabalistic events also raises a little eyebrow, and the urbane professor’s unhappiness that all of this has now been revealed in the open is quite understandable.
Who is to be believed – Obasanjo (who said that the did not sign the “document”), Lawal Kaita (who said that Sunday Awoniyi signed on his behalf) or Sunday Awoniyi himself (who said Obasanjo signed the “document.”?).
I daresay ALL OF THEM within limits: it depends on what we mean by the “document.”
Let us first forgive Lawal Kaita’s memory – about Sunday Awoniyi signing for Obasanjo, which was always a curious (and improbable) event anyway. Sunday Awoniyi’s denial is completely believable. Lawal Kaita’s genius however, was that he
remembered DISTINCTLY some very high level of Sunday omo Awoniyi’s involvement, which the erstwhile Secretary to Sir Ahmadu Bello has now fully confirmed.
Awoniyi’s desperate bid was to get Obasanjo to sign SOME DOCUMENT – so apparently he drafted one which was different from the one that was originally circulated – and which had been signed by all the other candidates except Ekwueme.
How do I [SUNDAY AWONIYI] save him [OLUSEGUN OBASANJO] from himself? So I said, give me a piece of paper, and they gave me a writing pad, and I wrote, "I so, so, so have seen and read the document you asked me to sign in the interest of the North or to preserve the interest of the North, I see nothing in the document which a reasonable man can object to."
It appears that all that General Obasanjo did on this day was to play the typical soldier’s deception of this retinue of “bloody civilians”: sign some “document” but build a deniability into his action! In short, he did a "Maradona"! I am sure that if there had been one or two other generals in that room, they would have said, “Hey, something fishy about this document signing business!”
In short, the civilians/politicians were suckered.
The only thing though was that Obasanjo had already long been decided upon even while in Abacha’s gulag by the Northern establishment, whether he signed or not, and that was what Awoniyi understood when he asked him to just sign something, anything - and those others were willing to go along, despite their apprehension.
As for signing of documents, one does not have to agree with EVERY SINGLE WORD of a document to sign: one can agree with a central thrust, provided those aspects that you don't agree with can be disagreed by "reasonable persons." But if an item in the document commits you to something either CRIMINAL ("we shall kill this person when you win”) or downright UNCONSTITUTIONAL ("you shall reserve these political positions for the North when you win"), then you have no business signing in front or at the back of the document.
Politicians are not known to be straightforward, but it is generally considered a bad trait, their lack of straight-forwardness, that is. Even Awoniyi understands that, hence his “Read my lips” quotation of Bush. However, like Ekwueme, Obasanjo should not
have signed ANYTHIHNG at all on this occasion - and should have let the chips fall where they may. The way he did it, people will be forgiven if they don't trust him. When you get to certain heights of leadership, you can't afford to do even these little kinds of "mago-mago." People respect you more if you draw a line - and I believe that is part of Chief Awoniyi's beef against OBJ.
However, unfortunately, deceit to soldiers is an acceptable trait and straightforwardness a recipe for battle losses, because to outwit your enemy on the battle field, you have to deceive him about your actual number; deceive him about the timing of your battle-plans; deceive him about the direction that
you are actually headed.
And so on.
Until we civilians know that soldiers win wars through deceit, we will never know that it pays us to stay away from them in the area of civilian governance.
In the coming days, it will be interesting to see the Northern establishment backlash resulting from all this kiss-and-tell. The Northern caucus and others in high places can certainly not be happy about all these revelations, and the obvious pound-of-flesh would be in denying him nomination of the PDP,
wherein he was first installed upon their wishes. The question then is the following: will the rest of the country stand for such a palpable assertion by the North that “we install at our pleasure, and de-install ALSO at our pleasure”? If denied PDP nomination, will another party adopt him an incumbent, and then start all over again an
ethnic squabbles a la June 12?
Time will tell.
Abo mi re o!
Amused at the Obasanjo-Awoniyi-Kaita Saga of the Northern Document’s Signature
And Watching with Keen Interest and Some Apprehension
Political Developments As to Hegemonic Influence
Wednesday, October 2, 2002
Pact with the North: Awoniyi signed for Obasanjo –Kaita
Guardian, September 29, 2002
'I Did Not Sign Any Agreement With Northern Elders To Serve Only One Term'
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