The Blair-Brown Partnership


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The Blair-Brown Partnership:

A Lesson For Nigerian Politicians




Danlami Alhassan Giwa



May 11, 2005


Anyone who had been chanced to watch Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and his articulate Chancellor of the Exchequer, (Finance Minister), Mr. Gordon Brown, at a pre-election press conference, cannot help feeling sorry for our politicians in Nigeria who do not understand the meaning of maturity, fraternal partnership, team spirit and rapport between leaders.


While our politicians expend needless demonic energy undermining one another, their counterparts elsewhere in the world lay more emphases on the common good of society. In fact, even more significantly, politicians there subordinate personal ambitions for the common good of party and country. The spirit of fraternity or cordiality that attended the Blair/Brown pre-election press conference was a clear message that personal rivalries should not overshadow Party common objectives.


The so-called cryptic mutual rivalry or disagreements between the two leading British politicians were effectively buried at the joint pre-election press conference addressed by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. When there are national issues crying for attention, public or private rivalry, and sometimes even subtle hostility between political leaders in power is not in the interest of the very society they pledged to serve together. In our domestic politics, however, the reverse is the case. For example, our politicians promote their egos at the expense of collaboration that is required to achieve team spirit in policy implementation.


A typical sad chapter in the PDP second term policy implementation is the no-love-lost relationship between President Olusegun Obasanjo and his Deputy, Atiku Abubakar. In fact, since a second term of any sitting President is a crucial stage for consolidation, the open hostility of President Olusegun Obasanjo towards Atiku Abubakar is not in the interest of smooth team work that is badly needed to move the nation forward.


The idea of going after perceived enemies who had offended you during a first term, for whatever reason, is not healthy for good governance and second term consolidation. It is not enough for leaders to publicly declare no malice against anyone when privately their hearts are tipped with the rapier of revenge! The unrelenting but subtle hostile actions towards a Vice-President by his boss does not only contradict the principle of collaboration, but also dangerously undermine policy implementation.


It is not enough for leaders to beam toothy smiles and exchange of   vigorous handshakes before television cameras for dramatic effect, only for them to be seen later engaged in unhelpful and malicious rivalry. In the Blair/Brown pre-election press conference, the atmosphere of two men genuinely united by a common cause to make Labour Party greater and British citizens happier through better policy consolidation was unmistakable.


What made their joint press conference even more inspiring is the fact that Mr. Blair and Brown were speaking just like two brothers bound by common fate and objectives. If, indeed, there ever existed any deep-seated rivalry between them, their common cause appeared to have obscured such mutual rancour. Unfortunately, our politicians are not learning any lesson from the genuine manifestation of statesmanship in the Blair/Brown partnership. The frosty relationship between President Obasanjo and his Deputy, Atiku Abubakar, which can no longer be hidden even from the casual observer, is neither in the interest of the PDP nor the country.


One is especially concerned about the evil influence of certain politicians behind the obvious chilly relationship between President Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar. Any tense atmosphere of mutual relationship between Obasanjo and his Deputy is particularly bad for our democracy, more so when there are grim challenges ahead. Considering the fact that the time remaining for Obasanjo and Atiku to finish their second term is severely limited, any strain in their mutual relationship is not a positive sign for an administration sincerely committed to transform second term election promises into real gains for ordinary Nigerians.


The political in-fighting in the PDP and the bitter struggle for influence in the Party, exacerbated by the undisguised hostility of the President to his key team player, the Vice-President, are all indications of dissipating negative energies at the expense of grave national issues demanding urgent attention and action. The unfortunate idea of dealing with one’s enemies at a critical stage of second term consolidation puts the success of policy implementation at grave risk. When there is a limit to how far we can stretch the patience of citizens to wait for the dividends of democracy, the nation can ill afford political bickering and vindictiveness by its leaders at a critical stage of a second term consolidation.


We can, therefore, borrow a leaf from the incredible team spirit between Prime Minister Tony Blair and his putative future successor, Chancellor Gordon Brown. Despite the strenuous efforts by mischief-makers to draw a wedge between them, the duo refused to play into the hands of such sinister manipulators of events and the public mind. Like genuine democrats committed to the greater and common interest of the British people, the two Labour political figures have sent a powerful message to the world about the importance of brushing personal ego aside for the sake of the Party benefit and the wider good of society.


Leaders at all levels must subordinate their parochial emotions to the interest of their nation. The unrelenting actions to humiliate, psych out and politically emasculate Atiku Abubakar by his boss, at the instigation of forces who do not even mean well to the President, is abhorrent to the concept of team spirit between the two PDP political leaders. Whatever offence the Vice-President may have committed against his boss is not beyond forgiveness, more so at a time when all PDP leaders must put their shoulders to the wheel. Wrangling and pursuit of vengeance is not in the interest of the PDP administration. Can the President afford the luxury of losing focus, when he lets his mind unnecessarily dominated by the passion for revenge against perceived “enemies within”? When you have work to do, in order to faithfully execute your campaign promises, the trivia of vengeance can divert so much energy that might otherwise have been applied to addressing the crucial challenges facing President Obasanjo’s second term in office.


Another lesson of the Blair/Brown rapport at crucial moment is the fact that a divided team is almost always a defeated team. In fact, the biggest headache for the Conservatives is the incredible unity of purpose by the key members of the Blair administration. The Conservatives, who had sought to exploit or aggravate the seeming behind-the-scene political rivalry between Tony Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown, were disappointed by the marvellous display of team spirit between the two men at a joint pre-election media briefing, aired live by Sky News Network on April 28, 2005.


Nothing strengthens an administration in the face of challenges better than the unity of its political leaders. The warm partnership between Tony Blair and his perceived rival, Gordon Brown, had thrown a spanner into the works of the Conservative Party, especially when it was making anaemic struggle to recapture power in 2005 after it was “comprehensively defeated” in 1997 (to borrow the words of former Tory Prime Minister Mr. John Major).


The PDP is today torn dangerously apart by suspicion and bitterness, and the systematic hostility of the President to his key partner in the administration, the Vice-President, is making many admirers of the Party unhappy. Rivalries and residual grudges should be buried on the day political leaders are sworn in. The next most important issue after inauguration is the challenge of translating campaign rhetoric into practical positive action to make life better for the voters.


It is high time Mr. President shook mischief-makers off his back, especially those around him who busy themselves reminding him of his perceived “enemies” and suggesting “strategies” of how to deal with them. What the President badly needs around him are men and women with pure minds and hearts, who can invest their intellectual capital into the aggressive efforts to make the second term of the administration result-oriented. Sycophants, who cover up their deficiencies by hijacking the ears of the President, telling him tales of “enemy” sabotage, are a burden or a curse to the Obasanjo administration which is focused on specific goals of economic reforms, ethnical re-orientation of public life and the crusade against rampant corruption.


The same sycophants who had tainted the Babangida and Abacha regimes are very much around, ready to throw the Obasanjo administration off the beam on its set course of painful, but unavoidable economic reforms and new moral direction for Nigeria. As President Obasanjo repeatedly declared, vengeance belongs to God. However, as sycophants gain influence on the hearts and minds of political leaders, they may seek to play on the fears of the President by creating phantom “enemies within” or exaggerating their threats. By dubiously winning the trust of the President, they consequently open the window for protecting their privileges, which is the motive for their sycophantic enterprise in government in the first place. Their ultimate mission is not the good of the nation but to create fatiscent walls of trust between or among our political leaders for their own selfish advantages.



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