Kerry as Departure Point

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DIALOGUE WITH NIGERIA BY AKIN OSUNTOKUN 

On the subsisting topic of the last encounter between American Secretary of State John Kerry and President Muhammadu Buhari I can capture the recurrence no better than the Barometer column of the Nation on Sunday with the caption “Corruption fighting back”?

“On the sidelines of the conference on climate change, COP22, in Marrakech, Morocco, President Buhari reportedly told the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that corruption was fighting back in Nigeria. It is not known whether the U.S. diplomat asked for a status report on corruption. But according to the president’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, President Buhari told the U.S. top diplomat that he was optimistic Nigeria would win the anti-corruption war. Whether in the Marrakech event or in the flurry of statements by the president and his aides and ministers, no details were ever provided on how corruption was fighting back.

“Were those accused of corruption not expected to press legal options to prove their innocence, a process Mr Kerry is undoubtedly familiar with? Or were there any indications they malevolently and conspiratorially forced the price of oil down and caused the president to adopt policies that constrained the economy? …But what is even more damning is the constant recourse by Nigerian leaders to report themselves to foreign leaders and powers, complete with status report on their citizens, political parties and even the judiciary. Is it not time this neo-colonial mind set was obliterated? Is it not time this ‘house Negro’ mentality was demolished?”

This, of course, is not the first time that Secretary Kerry will come to play the conspicuous mentor to President Buhari. It first became manifest with — as it turned out, a superfluous haranguing and hectoring of President Goodluck Jonathan to the effect that the United States will not tolerate a disruption to the announcement of the 2015 presidential election.

In totality, there appears to be a compelling case for change in the government of Nigeria in 2015, not the least for the fact that the incumbent President Jonathan gave the unmistakable impression of being overwhelmed by the power politics complexities of Nigeria. And to be fair to him he is somewhat extenuated by the hindsight that he never aspired and neither was he prepared for the top job. And by comparison, it is a sad commentary on the below par performance of those who assiduously coveted the office over an extended period and stood on the vantage position of being presumably prepared by dint of prior incumbency.

It is also the case that — against the background of a festering regional wide animus over the truncation of the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua presidency (accentuated by the radical Islam inspired world class Boko Haram insurgency) the options for Nigeria’s political stability was, perhaps, limited to the exit of Jonathan — regardless of the actual democratic outcome of the election. Instructed by the globally escalating radical Islam terrorist phenomenon, the America-led Western world had reduced the utility of their foreign policy to the service of the containment and isolation of the plague to the regional sanctuaries.

Viewed through this prism, America’s foreign policy towards Nigeria is best understood as guided by the most pragmatic strategy of defeating the Boko Haram insurgency hence the utility of Buhari-who had emerged the most credible religious/political leader of the Muslim north. This is a unique credential that confers on him the authority to delegitimise the Islamic fervour posturing of the Boko Haram sect and face down the insurgency.

In the context of this (realpolitik) calculation, the bias was evident in the American military non-cooperation with Jonathan in fighting the insurgency — it would rather, someone with the credentials of Buhari take the glory. Not only did it refuse to sell the enabling weaponry to Nigeria, the US government successfully pressured other potential country supplier against availing Nigeria the military wherewithal. This was the foundation of the patron/client relationship between Kerry’s America and Buhari’s Nigeria that has waxed strong heedless and insensitive to any other countervailing Nigerian reality.

Kerry was here the other day and curiously limited his itinerary to visits with the Sultan of Sokoto, Buhari and a cast of Northern states’ governors. What manner of balanced and realistic diplomacy is it that purports to engage the problematic of contemporary Nigeria without, at the minimum, overtly engaging the Niger Delta political bloc as a priority? What is wrong with meeting with the region’s political actors and leaders including the militants?
Buhari has been a major beneficiary of the simplification and reduction of Nigeria’s malady to corruption and has revelled in lavishly expending the accruing political capital derived from his projection as the avenging angel. The abiding lesson of a lavish lifestyle propensity is that those who so indulge themselves sooner than later run out of the currency value. The Buhari presidency has become adept at contriving and attributing all governance problems and challenges as “corruption fighting back”.

By all means, let us accept the priority implied in “Nigeria killing corruption before corruption kills Nigeria” but it is not only corruption that promises the lethal ability to decimate Nigeria and it is of lesser consequence than unbridled promotion of sectional hegemony and nepotism. The civil war of 1967 to 1970 was not inspired by corruption neither was the near civil war situation of the 1993 presidential election annulment crisis. Anyone who has witnessed the appalling sub human living condition of the inhabitants of the Niger Delta creeks (defecating, bathing and scooping water to cook from the same domesticated puddle of water) would have gone far in identifying the casus belli of the (Nigeria oil economy crippling) guerrilla war rebellion of the Niger Delta.

I do not know how American embassy officials in Nigeria would compose their diplomatic dispatch on the contrived intra and inter party crisis dogging the Ondo State governorship election, what I do know is that it raises fundamental questions on the sincerity of the anti-corruption posturing of this government. It is very unlikely that Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu would feel so strongly wronged in the choice of the APC standard-bearer if there is no veracity to the allegation that the party primaries was manipulated to work to the answer of a predetermined outcome. It does not get worse for the APC than the consequential boycott of the presidential flag off of the APC Ondo governorship election campaign by former party chairman Bisi Akande, Governors Akinwunmi Ambode, Abiola Ajimobi and Rauf Aregbesola of Lagos, Oyo and Osun States in solidarity with Tinubu.

Borrowing a leaf from this page was the apparent subversion of INEC and the Nigerian judiciary in the service of a high wired conspiracy to scheme out a superior PDP competition and render the field supine towards the objective on enthroning Rotimi Akeredolu the governor of Ondo State.
To illustrate — “INEC substituted candidate Eyitayo Jegede who emerged through a proper primary process it duly monitored with Jimoh Ibrahim, who emerged through a process in Ibadan with no legally accredited delegates, no police report and was not even monitored by its official.

In a nutshell, INEC is saying it need not monitor the primaries of any party and that any individual dissatisfied with their party’s choice of a candidate can simply organise their own primaries anywhere in the country, and get a Justice Abang to order INEC to recognise such a candidate by judicial fiat. You cannot approbate and reprobate at the same time. In Edo, it approbated and in Ondo, it reprobated (under the guise of obeying a court order) on the same issue. In the recent election in Edo State, it is pertinent to recall that INEC recognised the candidate produced by the Makarfi-led PDP…”

In tandem and against the spirit of fairness which requires the expeditious dispatch of the appeal sought by the authentic candidate of the PDP, Jegede, two appeal panel of judges, one after another, avoided pronouncement on the case-a matter of days to the election. Inadvertent or not, the behaviour of INEC and the judiciary in this instance was quite suggestive of a mutual conspiracy to stop or irreparably damage Jegede’s candidacy.

President Buhari has adopted the attitude of see no evil and may well not be personally involved in the machinations but there is no power in Nigeria that can compel the orchestration of a conspiracy of this magnitude other than the dominant powers of the ultimate political Nigerian office. One of Buhari’s favourite martyrdom recall is the alleged frustration he encountered in getting justice from the Nigerian judiciary on each of the earlier three occasions he contested the Nigerian presidency. The question is how he has applied the lessons he learnt from this and other related experience.

By the same token, would I be unfair to make the observation that the silence of the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Panel on corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, is rather unbecoming? Neither can he plead the constraint of his new capacity. He was not known to have exercised similar restraint in liberally and proactively pronouncing on contemporary political — legal controversies coincidentally only when the APC is the injured party. Corruption like all potentially polarising agenda will succeed only when the promoters especially the chief promoters can honestly lay claim to prosecuting a pan Nigerian agenda —in letter and spirit.

Why do good things happen to bad people like Donald Trump? Where is the incentive to seek the high moral ground if base personalities like Trump are the ones being elevated by providence? As a believer, I have been wondering on the wisdom God intended to impart to us with the permission of the unthinkable emergence of the ‘grab them by the pussy’ American President-elect. To be succeeded by a bigot who spearheaded a racist and demeaning questioning of the first African-American President citizenship would certainly rank as a worst case scenario for Barack Obama.

The illumination I eventually received was that just like Trump was the worst case scenario, the wish and accomplishment of getting Hilary Clinton to succeed him would have amounted to a perfect case scenario for Obama and would have conferred on him the halo of playing God. Perfection belongs to God only.

Ditto for the Clintons — for whom the prospect of Hilary’s presidency would amount to a life of perfection. It is literarily the Devil’s luck that a cruelly flawed character, Trump, has to be the beneficiary of God’s mysterious ways. This is however a beginning. Scores will eventually even out.