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OBJ: Beware of Phoney Friends




Charles Azubuike

sent in by Ibn Saladin



March 8, 2005 


To be sure, the road to 2007 appears to be strewn with anxiety signs, especially given the desperation of politicians, bent on bringing down their perceived adversaries. Indeed, the recent bitter attacks between IBB supporters and Atiku loyalists, through newspaper adverts, are scary signs of what is ahead of us as the race to the 2007 Presidential contest notches new levels of public interest. These desperate politicians are leaving nothing to chances in their determination to attain their ambitions by fair means or foul, even  if it means characters assassination through falsehoods.


What is ridiculous, however, is the attempt by some desperate politicians to attract the sympathy of President Obasanjo by pretending to fight his “enemies” on his behalf. But how can the President trust those without credibility as his defenders? Do these dubious politicians think the Nigerians have short memories or are imbecilic? As they are haunted by credibility crisis, such desperate politicians are convinced that their most effective weapon is to pretend to be the President’s best “friend” while portraying their rivals as the President’s hardened “enemies” who must be mowed down in their tracks.


If our President ever had any true friend when it matters most, it must be God Almighty himself, who had delivered Obasanjo from imminent brutal death in the slammer. Divine intervention had transformed our President from the sorry status of prisoner to a President. The death of Gen. Abacha in June 1998 marked the beginning of President Obasanjo’s journey from imprisonment to Presidency. No Nigerian leader in living memory had such luck. In fact, General Obasanjo himself must have been pleasantly surprised by his miraculous extrication from eventual death by divine intervention.


While the international community and the private Nigerian press were urging for the release of Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and other political prisoners and detainees, some opportunistic politicians willingly accepted the role of defending the repressive policies of the ruling Abacha Junta. Even as Nigeria was under Commonwealth suspension, some agents of the repressive regime travelled to London in 1997 as private observers. Their mission in reality, however, was to justify the indefensible conviction of Generals Obasanjo and Yar’adua who were then languishing in jail.


Speaking with Brian Hanrahan of the BBC World Television, one of the pro-Abacha politicians, who was interviewed under the dubious status of independent observer, gave himself away when he profusely defended the conviction of Obasanjo and Yar’adua, and indeed, the execution of Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni environmental activists in November 1995. If one has to play back the off-air video recordings of these Abacha apologists, before Obasanjo in the presence of these dubious guys who pose as his “best friends”, they may go into shock or even heart attack.


Ironically, these guys who enthusiastically defended the brutal treatment of our President, are today in the Vanguard of those pretending to defend Obasanjo against his “enemies.”  Why are these shameless politicians insulting our intelligence?


Our President must be wary of fair-weather friends. Men that couldn’t have cared less if General Obasanjo had died brutally as Yar’adua did in December 1997, automatically lose the moral qualification to pass themselves off as the “friends” of our President.


Integrity is one President Obasanjo’s ruling passion, and men with mercurial loyalty should not be trusted as safe friends. In fact, opportunism and integrity can hardly go together. We have to make a distinction between genuine friends that stood by us, through thick and thin, and those who deserted you yesterday because you were in cruel circumstances. Should our President trust such snaky politicians?


In order to divert attention from their own treacherous records, such politicians busy themselves everyday, creating imaginary enemies for the President in order to win his heart by covering their own dirty tracks. Sometimes, if not always, the worst enemies of leaders could be those who surround them, pretending to be their “loyalists” and “friends”. Indeed, we don’t know our true friends until we are in difficulty. Thanks to divine intervention, Gen. Obasanjo would probably have died in detention if Gen. Abacha had succeeded himself without a hitch in 1998.


Curiously, dubious politicians, who infamously spared no energy in defending the conviction of Gen. Obasanjo and his former Deputy, Gen. Shehu Yar’adua, are today the men parading themselves as Obasanjo “loyalists” and “friends”. Despite the increasingly desperate campaign of these snaky characters to drive a wedge between the President and Vice President Atiku Abubakar, one still finds Obasanjo’s deputy a nicer character than these ratty politicians.


Atiku Abubakar was never on record serving as an Abacha apologist, a role many of his political colleagues readily accepted to play for a mess of pottage. He was never a time-server or a toady who is ready to sacrifice his reputation for short-term material gain. How can men who were ready and willing to defend the obnoxious policies of the Abacha Junta, including Kangaroo trials, which allowed no right of appeal even where someone’s life was at stake, be respected as Obasajo’s “best friends” today?


Do Nigerians forget too easily? Who are President Obasanjo’s real friends? Are they those who could not have bothered a hoot if the Abacha Junta shed his blood as a “coup plotter”? Is the friend of our enemy not our enemy too? Was the Vice-President ever on record as opposing the president on any policies or publicly dissociating himself from such policy? Did he ever fail to defend his president on any policy of the PDP administration?


The attempt by these phoney friends of the President to poison his mind against his deputy is a desperate move by such shameless politicians to prevent Nigerians from asking questions about their moral status. With a lot of critical national issues crying for attention, our President cannot afford the luxury of listening to small talks about the existence of phantom enemies. If these so-called friends of our president have no ideas of how to move Nigeria forward, they should leave the man alone to concentrate on the task of bringing the dividends of democracy to the average voter.


Having carefully read and followed the political careers of these discredited politicians, one can easily discover that Atiku has finer stuff than those bent on turning the President against him. His compassion, common touch and deep sense of empathy elevate him above his adversaries. Above all, his magnanimity also earns him the silent, or grudging private respect of even hardened foes. Contrary to widely held notions, the man has never treated Chief Tony Anenih as his enemy. Early last year, he hosted Chief Anenih to a private dinner in demonstration of brotherly good will. The Vice-President earns the respect of this writer because he does not carry politics to the point of deliberate falsehood against rivals, desperately committed to pulling down his reputation.






Faculty of Social Sciences,

University of Abuja,




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