Monday, 22 September 2014

The futility of the Arab World War

Salisu Suleiman.

In early 2003 during a trip to the Middle East, I ran into Umar Bello Haliru, an old friend who is a professional based in the region. In the course of our conversation, he told me that war was inevitable, and that it was only a matter of time before the region was plunged into another conflict.

When I asked him why, he replied that for a number of weeks, huge American warships had been observed sailing through the Gulf of Bahrain, and that the US was determined to remove Saddam Hussein and establish a strategic foothold in Iraq.

Less than a month later, US forces launched operation Shock and Awe, unleashing the might of the American military on Iraq. It was supposed to be a short war to topple Saddam, establish strategic military bases and install a political system that would bind Iraq to America’s geopolitical and economic interests.

Former US President George W. Bush also hoped that the Iraqi invasion would destroy Saddam’s perceived threat to Israel and possibly pave way for a potential attack on Iran, also seen as a threat to the Jewish state.

It didn’t quite turn out as planned.

The Iraqis, who were supposed to welcome American troops as liberators, instead saw them as imperialist occupiers. However, weakened by years of western sanctions, the demoralized Iraqi troops could only offer token resistance as the superior US forces achieved victory.

In reality, war was only just beginning: By the time the US finally withdrew at the end of 2011, American death toll was 4,485 and more than 100,000 Iraqis had been killed. The war cost America about $3 trillion.

That singular act of mindless, thoughtless and needless aggression by one of the most incompetent and tactless persons ever to occupy the White House is substantially responsible for the breakdown of established order, spread of terrorism, civil wars, ethnic and religious strife and the unfolding chaos in the Middle East today.

The American invasion turned out to be a ruinous blunder by Bush and his war-mongering cabal of Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State, Colin Powel, Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, and Bush’s permanent sidekick, former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

The script was simple; the Iraqi government was to pay the entire cost of the invasion, agree to permanent US military basis in the country and give preferential oil licenses to US and allied businesses.

If America thought it had found a puppet when former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki took over the reins of power, the truth soon became obvious. Al-Maliki was reading from another script. If anything, he turned out to be just as dictatorial, power-hungry, despotic and intolerant as Sadam.

By the time he was forced out of office a few weeks ago, he had done so much damage to the political and socio-economic fabric of Iraq – including a deliberate policy of alienating minority groups – that the country was worse than it had ever been under Saddam.

Western hypocrisy in Libya, Syria Egypt, Palestine and elsewhere has further complicated the situation.

For instance, if Muammar Ghaddafi was bad news, is the new Libya without him better off today? What are the democratic credentials of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who ordered mass murder to become president of Egypt? What is the rationale for supporting insurgency in Syria simply because the west does not like Bashar Al-Assad?

From Syria to Yemen, From Morocco to Sudan, from Egypt to Oman, from Libya to Lebanon, the entire Arab world is in a state of war. The only countries that seem relatively untouched are the Gulf countries, but there are subterranean tensions. Saudi Arabia may be buying peace with its massive wealth, but there is a limit to how far that strategy can go. It is not be accident that a sizeable number of IS militants are Saudis.

As things are, who can really decipher who is fighting who, and what the reasons for the wars within wars are?

The tragedy of the Arab World War is their blindness to the fact that the same western powers that sowed the roots of the various conflicts are the only beneficiaries of the wars – selling arms and technology for Arab to kill Arab on the ground, while casually selecting and killing additional targets with missiles, drones and jet fighters – without as much as setting their boots on the ground.

The futility of the entire situation lies in the fact that after millions of people might have been killed, women violated, children abused, more millions rendered homeless, communities uprooted, borders desecrated and a whole generation wasted, nothing would have changed.

In the end, Sunnis would still be Sunnis, Shias would still be Shias, Kurds would still be Kurds, Christians would still be Christians, Copts would still be Copts, Houthis would still be Houthis and Yazidis would still be Yazidis.

Monday, 15 September 2014

What next for Marwa, Ribadu?

Salisu Suleiman.
Politics can be as enthralling as it can be atrocious. It can bring fame and fortune, just as it can lead to dearth and dishonour. It can make one a president as easily as it can make one a prisoner. And politics can bring out discipline in people as speedily as it can show their greed.
Earlier this year, when former military administrator of Borno and Lagos states and former Nigeria High Commissioner to South Africa, Brig. Gen Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd.) decamped from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), I questioned the wisdom of that move in a piece titled “Marwa’s Miscalculation”. I argued that Marwa’s decision to leave the APC for the PDP was a grave misreading of the dialectics of Nigerian politics.
In leaving the APC, Marwa had accused the then interim national leadership of handing over the party in Adamawa to Governor Murtala Nyako who only joined the APC after its formation, saying that his supporters were marginalized during the APC membership registration in the state.
Today, the executive council that Marwa accused of handing over the party to Murtala Nyako has been replaced, and Nyako, whom he accused of taking over APC from “the original founders in the state”, has been impeached. I also noted that “all Marwa needed to do to actualize his governorship ambition was to manage the processes and expectations of the various contending groups – in other words, to play real politics”.

I concluded the piece with the words, “Marwa’s miscalculation was to peg the limits of his ambition on the uncertain possibility of becoming a PDP governor of Adamawa against a more probable APC president of Nigeria . . .  by knocking himself out of the contest even before it starts, Marwa has robbed himself of the chance of taking a realistic shot at the biggest prize in the political sphere: the Presidency”.

Almost exactly the same sets of circumstances played out three months later, when former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and former presidential candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Nuhu Ribadu, hurriedly left the APC for PDP on the notion that both parties were essentially the same. If that is so, why leave one for the other?

The reasons for Ribadu’s dramatic departure from the APC may not be fully known, and it may be one-dimensional to attribute it entirely to his vaulting ambition. Some suggest that he was broke – which should not be surprising - considering that the former cop, though a lawyer, had never practiced law, had no concrete means of livelihood and was not a contractor.  Others say Ribadu actually believed the PDP’s promise of an automatic ticket and funding.

Whatever the real reasons were, it was clear to all but the most politically obdurate that Ribadu was never going to smell the ticket, and that like the highly intelligent, urbane and likeable Marwa, had made a politically flawed miscalculation in joining the PDP.  

This is because, regardless of their grouse with the APC, Marwa and Ribadu were both key figures in the party and had sufficient acceptability across the country to fly their banners in any political contest. And with politics being as vacillating as it sometimes is, who says the current presidential frontrunners – Buhari, Atiku and Kwankwaso – will remain on the scene indefinitely?

What happened to Marwa and Ribadu may be political miscalculations on their parts, but a very coldly calculated step on the part of the PDP. The former soldier and policeman both forgot, or perhaps never really learnt that politics is a long-term game and only greenhorns work with the immediate circumstances, as they did.

The PDP as a party may not be known for deep thinking, but it does not take profound thinking to realize that if Marwa and Ribadu had remained in the APC, they would have played vital roles and even penetrated areas where Buhari never did? It therefore made sense on the part of PDP to destroy these potential adversaries immediately, before they grew bigger, stronger and more formidable.

And what better way to do so than to invite them to dinner, and then refuse to allow them to sit at the table? By dropping open hints for Marwa to return to his former party and enticing Ribadu to join his former adversaries, the PDP has played a subtle, but very far-reaching political coup.
The beauty of the masterstroke is the way PDP effortlessly smashed the credibility and political futures of two potential challengers without giving them anything in return. The computation is simple; if either Marwa or Ribadu had become governor under APC, with the entailing power of incumbency and visibility, they would have made formidable opponents for the PDP in any election.

A final food for thought: Assuming the acting governor, Umaru Fintiri actually wins the gubernatorial election next month, can anyone really stop him from contesting again in 2015?   

Monday, 8 September 2014

Still on Buhari and the northern elite

By Salisu Suleiman.

The next presidential elections may still be five months away, but the tempo in political activity - at least going by the frenzy created by the more than 8,000 groups ‘pleading’ with President Goodluck Jonathan to seek re-election - gives the impression that the polls are just around the corner.

It is not clear if the PDP will put its candidates through primaries, but if it does, it will simply be to simulate due process. Any other candidate picking the PDP ticket will lead the party’s implosion. Of course, those ‘eating’ from the chaos in the system know better than to pour sand in their own bowl of garri.  

President Jonathan’s most serious challenger will likely come from the APC, though who that person will be is another matter. For now, lacking the power incumbency and muscle to create a Pyongyang-like mass hysteria of individuals, groups, associations and ‘transformation ambassadors’, the APC is relying on traditional politicking as the party primaries approach.  

Former Head of State, Gen Muhammadu Buhari is no stranger to the contest, having run thrice before in 2003, 2007 and 2011. There is no doubt about the popularity of the peoples’ general, but his mass support has not put him office principally because certain sections of the northern elite fear that the egalitarian Buhari may erode the basis of their privileges.

I am not campaigning for Buhari or even for a northern president. I believe that what should matter to Nigerian voters are the track-records, integrity, sincerity and vision of a candidate, not their region or religion. The reality, as we all know, is different, especially with a president who deliberately finds ways of aggravating religious and ethnic divides for political advantage.

It has been observed, rightly, illiteracy, corruption, injustice and inequality are the major factors fueling northern Nigeria’s ongoing religious, political, social and economic upheavals, and that even the most basic form of good governance will go a long way to mitigate these challenges.  

It is clear that without drastic change, things may get even worse in the north, and consequently, Nigeria as a whole. It is equally apparent that Jonathan has neither the inclination, nor the capacity to manage these challenges.

The question is, now that even the North’s elite are no longer safe, will they bite the bullet and support Buhari if he emerges as the APC’s candidate? As they have in the past, I think that the northern establishment will work for Jonathan.

I do not see Ibrahim Babangida, Aliyu Gusau, Adamu Ciroma, Barnabas Gemade, Jonah Jang, Gabriel Suswam, Bello Mohammed Halliru, Samaila Sambawa, Ibrahim Mantu, David Mark, Jerry Gana, Sarki Tafida, Jonathan Zwingina, and others supporting Buhari’s candidature. For them, the present state of insecurity and uncertainty is more acceptable than a possible Buhari presidency.

That is because the interests of the northern establishment is, and has always been different from that of the ordinary people of the region. The North that supports Buhari has nothing to do with the usurpation of political and economic opportunities to the exclusion of other Nigerians. Buhari’s North is the North that is poor, hungry, illiterate and devoid of hope.

Buhari’s followers are the victims of the corruption and arrogance of the narrow clique in the establishment that has held Nigeria hostage for decades. His north is one for whom the various administrations headed by northerners have not resulted in better lives, education or improved opportunities.

Buhari’s north does not fly to Europe or America every fortnight for medical checkups or shopping sprees in Dubai. This north does not keep bank accounts in London, New York, Dubai, South Africa, Jordan, Beijing and Hong Kong; they own no bank accounts at all. This north that does not allocate all the best positions in the country to its children, qualified or not. Buhari’s north simply wants a better life.

Given the security and economic situation in the North today, if votes were to be free and fair, Jonathan will not get up to 10% of votes from the region. This is because despite proclamations, if Jonathan has achieved anything in the past four years, it has not reached them. To add insult to injury, he is sending the wrong the emissaries to woo their votes – the same people that systematically impoverished the region and the country.

Northern elite may despise Buhari and vehemently oppose his return to office because they suspect, rightly or wrongly, that he may destroy their power base and end their corruption and nepotism. But how long will they continue to ally with, and support a system that has proved to be incapable of protecting the very system from which they derive their benefits?

Does the northern establishment fear Buhari so much that they are willing to support a clueless leadership, whose incompetence threatens the existence of the North and Nigeria, simply because they want to preserve their elite status?

Interesting times make for interesting choices.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Anyim Pius Anyim and the transformation nonsense

Salisu Suleiman.

Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation has an unenviable habit of belittling whatever office he occupies. Anyim was the president of the Senate when the National Assembly received one of its most important dignitaries; when then US president Bill Clinton addressed a joint session of the National Assembly on August 26, 2000.  

Instead of honoring that historic moment in Nigeria’s legislative history, Anyim slept through most of the powerful, thought-provoking address by Clinton. Not even the constant and rapturous applause of other legislators could wake him. The only times he seemed to shake off the lethargy was to stir to wipe sweat from his face before returning to his slumber.

There was a pattern to Mr. Anyim’s indolence: Once, as a senator under the leadership of the late Chief Chuba Okadigbo, he interrupted the late leader during his speech after waking up abruptly from sleep and jumping in to offer a suggestion. When asked what was being discussed, he smiled oafishly, and the upper chamber burst out laughing.

Why the senate chose to elect the heavy-eyed Anyim to replace the impeached Okadigbo over the other senators from the South East zone tells a lot about the caliber of people that make it to important positions in Nigeria’s political structure.

I can only imagine the report the US authorities wrote on Anyim’s behaviour, but watching the event which was beamed live on national and international cable channels, it was as embarrassing as it was reflective of the attitude of our younger generation of politicians that the senate president, who was then only 39 years old, could snore through such a momentous occasion.

It was probably a good thing that Mr. Anyim did not seek re-election in 2003, though his replacement in the senate, Emmanuel Azu mostly warmed his seat for four years before being replaced.

After several failed political endevours and near economic ruin following the demolition of his multi-million naira property built on a drainage in Asokoro, Abuja, Anyim was at his wits end, but managed to bounce back to political relevance when he was appointed SGF in 2011 by President Goodluck Jonathan.

However, it seems Anyim did not learn any lesson from his public snoring sessions in the senate, or simply cannot be bothered. If anything, he seems to have built on his reputation for sleeping off at every opportunity as he did earlier this year when PDP stakeholders from his own Ebonyi state visited the National Chairman of the party, Ahmed Adamu Muazu.

According to reports, while addressing the party elders which comprised the Ebonyi state governor, Martins Elechi, Health Minister Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu and other eminent Ebonyi PDP elders, Muazu took a look at Anyim who had dozed off and said, "Mr. Anyim, I hope you have not started doing what you like doing best”.

It was the laughter that followed from the audience that finally woke up the slumbering SGF.

More recently, at the inauguration of the just concluded National Conference, Mr. Anyim slept through the address by President Jonathan. According to reports, Anyim, who earlier welcomed delegates, slept throughout the 22 minutes that President Jonathan spoke, only waking up intermittently to shake his head as delegates clapped in response to points raised by Jonathan.

What was he shaking his head about?

A newspaper satirically put the SGF’s behaviour in context when it reported that “the amount of responsibility bestowed on the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sen. Pius Anyim, in organising the conference is indeed enormous . . . it was probably the enormity of his responsibility that made Anyim doze off on the day President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated the conference”.

My quarrel with Mr. Anyim is not about his sleeping habits. He can sleep whenever and wherever he wants; if his principal, President Jonathan does not complain, who am I to? My problem is the way Mr. Anyim has reduced the SGF’s office to that of an openly partisan political jobber man.

Anyone who watches television or reads newspapers in Nigeria these days is inevitably bombarded with messages from a group called the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN). Even those who try, as many do, to avoid local channels are not free because once you go online from any Internet Protocol (IP) address perceived to be from Nigeria, you get the same trash – clearly funded by government sources.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation is one of the most important positions in Nigeria. The occupant of such a position, especially at a time when the country is facing existential challenges should have more presence of mind than to become another foot soldier, running from pillar to post to ‘beg’ President Jonathan to contest next year’s election.

Watching the SGF making a mockery of himself in Ibadan during TAN’s South West rally was pathetic. As he did as a senator, Mr. Anyim is ridiculing the position of the SGF. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Ebola disaster as respite for wildlife

Salisu Suleiman.  

Once, while travelling as a passenger in an inter-state taxi, a wild animal had the misfortune of running unto the highway. Without thinking, our driver swerved – not to avoid, but to kill the animal, which he did, though at the price of a shattered headlamp and dented fender.
That a driver could spontaneously elect to use his car to bludgeon an animal to death, knowing that it could result in an accident or damage to the vehicle, was not as surprising to the passengers as was his next move; he opened the engine compartment of the Peugeot 504 station wagon and somehow squeezed the dead animal inside for the rest of the journey.
He was apparently unbothered by the damage to the taxi, didn’t care about the dangers of the toxic oven he’d improvised and certainly had no apologies to the passengers, though he clearly put our lives in danger by using the vehicle as a hunting weapon. The satisfied smile on his face for the rest of the journey was that of a man looking forward to a huge feast of bush meat.
The driver’s attitude is not much different from that of many Nigerians to wildlife; meat. It doesn’t matter if it is a deer, rabbit, monkey, grass cutter, rat, antelope, snake, gazelle, elephant, rhino, bat, hippo or vulture. The sight of wildlife instantly conjures images of steamed, fried or roasted meat. It is not an accident the bush meat industry is a billion naira business in Nigeria.
In many African societies, hunters were (and still are) seen as brave and adventurous. In some cultures, a significant rite of passage to manhood was the ability of a young man to single-handedly hunt down a dangerous animal. Thousands of people hunt for a living because the bush meat industry requires daily supplies of freshly killed or captured wildlife.
That instinct to hunt and kill every wild animal has had very adverse consequences on Nigeria’s wildlife, such as the disappearance of some species which used to be plentiful. For instance, as recently as the 1960s, travelers along Nigeria’s border with Niger Republic sometimes had to give way for elephants, giraffes, antelopes and other wild animals to pass because of the rich vegetation and wildlife.
Today however, one can travel along the same stretch for many miles without seeing a blade of grass or animal. The vegetation is gone, the water vanished, and the animals, extinct. Empirical studies are scarce, but it is self-evident that several species have disappeared, primarily due to unregulated hunting.
Nigeria’s fast vanishing biodiversity due to drought, deforestation, over-grazing, soil erosion and land degradation, have all led to severe depletion of our wild life. Current estimates suggest that there are less than 100 lions left in the wild in Nigeria. The rest have been killed by hunters or driven out by loss of habitat.
Similarly, the Pygmy hippo which used to be found only in the Niger Delta is now practically extinct, thanks to hunters and environmental pollution. Our elephant population has been reduced to a few hundred and our giraffes, extinct. Indeed, Nigeria now imports animals for its zoos.
And then came Ebola.
Since the revelation that the Ebola virus is harbored by primates and other animals, hunters and bush meat sellers have seen a sharp drop in their businesses from falling patronage. It seems that the only way Nigerians will stop eating bush meat is when their lives are in danger.
The appetite of Nigerians for bush meat has fuelled demand for, and led to a systematic obliteration of our wildlife not just in Nigeria, but in neighboring countries because we also import bush meat. The array of wild animals once common  have disappeared due to commercial poaching, lack of wild life protection policies and man-made and natural causes.
As tragic as the loss of human lives from Ebola is, for wildlife, the epidemic deliberately brought into Nigeria by Liberian-American bioterrorist Patrick Sawyer has been a respite. Government has tried to discourage the hunting and consumption of wildlife for decades, to no avail, but Ebola has succeeded in a few weeks.  
While the argument that not everyone can afford to buy meat may be tenable, the fact is that bush meat is often more expensive than mutton, especially in urban areas, so the issue is more about palates than principles. 
As long as the attitude of Nigerians to wild animals is that of something to be killed, and if edible, eaten, then more species of wildlife will disappear from the country. The notion of an animal being rare and endangered is almost totally alien – as if any talk of preserving them.  
In the end though, while the Ebola tragedy may have provided a respite for our wild animals, it is almost a certainty that the moment the threat of the disease evaporates, Nigerians will return to the hunting and eating of bush meat as usual. Old habits die hard.


Monday, 18 August 2014

Atiku Abubakar’s Ominous Silence

Salisu Suleiman.

One costly mistake a politician can make is to underestimate the opposition. Conversely, one of the smartest acts of subtlety a politician can pull off is playing dumb, and getting opponents to underestimate and even take them for jokers.
That is why the moment politicians take others for fools or let down their guards, they expose their jugular. In such circumstances, one attack may be all that is needed to end a political career, or at least earn a crushing defeat.
President Goodluck Jonathan has benefitted from both. As the nondescript governor of Bayelsa State in 2006, few gave him any chance in the political equation; not with political juggernauts like former Rivers State governor Peter Odili and his Delta State counterpart, James Ibori dictating the script and calling the tunes.
Today, Odili is in virtual political exile; Ibori is a prisoner; Jonathan is the president.
Even after becoming president, many people still continued to underrate Jonathan. There was a movement in 2010, led by a self-appointed group of so-called Northern Elders to force Jonathan out of the 2011 presidential contest, or that failing, nominate a consensus candidate to challenge him.
In the end, the Adamu Ciroma led group selected former vice president Atiku Abubakar to challenge Jonathan for the PDP ticket and got a humiliating defeat at the party primaries.
However, the wise men of the North, confronted with a northern candidate in the ilk of Gen Muhammadu Buhari who challenged Jonathan under the now defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), quickly abandoned their professed defence of northern interests and lined up to vote for Jonathan – and got rewarded with juicy portfolios for family members.
The next time any bunch of clowns comes up with any self-styled notion in the name of the north, ask them, which north?
The lesson is that Jonathan is a much more determined power monger than Nigerians realize. Unfortunately, his strategy for capturing and retaining power has exacted a very heavy toll because his chief weapons are the exploitation of ethnic and religious differences across all states.
Jonathan and his goons have also reduced all political debate to ‘North vs. South’,‘Christian vs. Muslim’ and ‘Majority vs. Minority’. These schisms are easy to open, but very difficult to forget. Politics and voting in Nigeria is now ‘We and Them’ – in the most negative connotation.
To return to today’s topic: it is only a matter of weeks, perhaps days, before President Goodluck Jonathan declares his intention to seek reelection. His declaration might have been timed to follow the adoption of the infamous ‘new constitution’ surreptitiously smuggled into the National Conference, to pave way for a constitutional amendment that would enable him seek a new six year term as president.
On this matter, he clearly underestimated the North, which, despite age-long rivalries, spoke with one voice and collectively rejected the new constitution for which a humongous budget had been set aside to ensure its passage by states houses of assembly. The last has not been heard of the matter, though.
The failed attempt notwithstanding, Jonathan will seek a new term as president. Obviously, his most serious challengers will come from the All Progressives Congress (APC) which reasserted its vibrancy by retaining Osun state last week despite the colossal time, energy and resources the federal government devoted to the campaign.
So far, the most visible presidential aspirants on the platform of the APC are former head of state, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Kano State governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and to a lesser extent, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar.
The very fact that a politician that is as ambitious and resourced as Atiku is laying low may be a tactic to downplay his candidature, and then going for his opponents’ jugulars.
Make no mistake: There is hardly a politician in Nigeria that has the mass appeal of Buhari. Only he, without the funds to build and sustain structures, or even to pay all his party’s poll watching agents would manage, as he did, in 2011, to rein in about 12 million votes. Age may not be on the side of the general, but his popularity remains high.
On the other hand, the powers of Nigerian governors are legendary. Though Kwankwaso has been careful not to ruffle feathers, an electoral contest must take place soon. In the event that governors of the APC decide to support one of their own, Kwankwaso will have no option but face up to Buhari.
How the outcome of any potential clash is managed may make or break the APC’s electoral fortunes.
But it could be costly to underrate Atiku. One may agree or disagree with his perspective, but in terms of networks, resources and on-the-field experience, the former vice president is a skilful strategist.
This is why the seeming silence from Atiku Abubakar may be very ominous indeed, for his opponents.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Jonathan’s brilliant, but unintelligent cabal

Salisu Suleiman.

Until Olusegun Obasanjo’s failed wish to remain in office for life, by first fooling Nigerians into giving him a third term in office, collapsed, a number of figures in the administration pulled very powerful strings. Dubbed the Economic Team, it was headed by the current Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, with Nasir El-Rufai, Oby Ezekwesili and Nuhu Ribadu, playing key roles.  
Not everyone agreed with their policies and methods, but the team laid the groundwork for the relative successes of the Obasanjo administration. It managed to trim the size of the bloated civil service (though now revised), introduced the also now abandoned monetization policy to cut waste in government, sold off residential houses across Nigeria on which government was wasting inordinate amounts of money, introduced pensions, public service, energy, telecoms and other reforms, but most importantly, negotiated a way out of Nigeria’s huge foreign debts (though Jonathan has returned us to the debtors club).
If Obasanjo had picked his successor from the team, perhaps, the existentialist threats we currently face might have been averted. But so spiteful was Obasanjo with what he perceived as the team’s less than 100 percent support for third term that, at the risk of destroying what was left of his badly damaged legacy, headhunted and imposed Yar’adua. The team was so influential when Okonjo-Iweala was appointed Foreign Minister – meaning she couldn’t its head, she quit the cabinet altogether.
Whether it was real or imagined, a number of very influential individuals also emerged under late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua. Named the ‘Yar’adua Cabal’, they were said to control the reins of the administration – including taking some decisions in the name of a dying president. Till date, no one knows who really signed the 2010 Appropriation Act, and whose voice we heard on the BBC, purporting to be that of the late president and claiming to be improving. 
The suggested names include Yar’adua’s overbearing wife, Turai, his close friends Tanimu Yakubu Kurfi and Abba Sayyadi Ruma, Chief Security Officer, Yusuf Tilde, then FCT Minister, Adamu Aliero, ADC to the president, Colonel Mustapha Onoyvieta and son in-law, Isa Yuguda. For what it may be worth, their near total disappearance from political relevance should be a lesson for those in power today.
Listening to the likes of Asari Dokubo, Edwin Clark, Labaran Maku, Reuben Abati and his fellow travelers on the road to Destination Jonathan, it is clear that they are failing to learn the lessons of recent history – or even contemporary history – remember Ahmed Gulak? That the once rambunctious and no-holds barred Gulak could be so unceremoniously thrown into a gulag should calm those bothered by the excesses, utterances and exuberance of the basket mouths in power today. They will vanish from the radar of political relevance once their principal leaves office – as he must one day.
To return to today’s focus, who are those in power today, and who are the brains behind President Jonathan? Who are the people that think, talk and act on behalf of the president, and whose words and advice do we hear and see when Jonathan speaks and acts?
One of the first names that come to mind is President Jonathan’s Senior Special Assistant on Research and Documentation, Oronto Douglas. He is credited with advising the president on strategic political issues and has been an integral part of the president’s inner caucus for a number of years. He is smart enough to operate in the background, but the shape and character of the present administration would be different without his input.
Diezani Alison-Madueke needs no introduction. Her sway over Nigeria’s oil industry is reminiscent of Sheik Zaki Yamani, who was the Saudi Arabian Minister of Petroleum from 1962 to 1986, and a minister in OPEC for 25 years. Any subordinate imprudent enough to lock horns with Alison-Madueke will find their heads bashed in – and jobless -- in no time. Her influence is unmatched.
Anyone who saw Osita Chidoka fraternizing with Turai Yar’adua and issuing her a driver’s license when she was the first lady might not believe how he managed to penetrate Dame Patience. But that, exactly, is what Chidoka did. Today, as the Minister of Aviation, he is an indispensable member of Jonathan’s kitchen cabinet, or more lyrically, the Otuoke Oligarchy.
Others with varying degrees of influence, roles and visibility include Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Edwin Clark, Hassan Tukur, Anyim, Pius Anyin, Seriake Dickson, Labaran Maku, Sam Amadi, John Kennedy Opara, Godswill Akpabio, Ayo Oritsejafor, Stella Oduah, Gabriel Suswan, Reuben Abati and others. Not unlike the Abacha era, there’s competition to be part if the Otuoke Oligarchy – as Femi Fani-Kayode is finding out!  
Now, how is it possible to be brilliant but unintelligent? Most of the names above are erudite, but are so ensconced in power, patronage and privilege that they are failing to notice the gathering clouds: that insecurity, corruption, poverty and religious/ethnic politics is a dangerous mix that will erode the very basis of their power. That is how to be brilliant, but not intelligent.