Lessons from Abdullahi Adamu’s Doublespeak


When George Orwell’s book entitled ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ came into publication in 1949, little did he realise that the euphemism “doublespeak”; as propounded in his book, was particularly created to describe the temporised and acrobatic nature of Nigerian Politicians. Sunday Ehigiator writes

Senator Abdullahi Adamu; elected under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2011 general election as the senator representing Nasarawa West senatorial district, had in retrospect served in two terms as governor of Nasarawa State, likewise under the PDP umbrella being a strong proponent of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo-led administration, before decamping to the All Progressives Congress (APC), in recent times; hence suddenly becomes antagonist of the former President.

In an interview publication by Vanguard on Friday, April 26, 2002, page 15, captioned ‘I will work for Obasanjo’s re-election-Abdullahi Adamu, Nasarawa Gov’ Adamu defended his decision to support Obasanjo’s second term.
Asked what informed his decision to join the list of politicians who went to prevail on the then President Olusegun Obasanjo in Otta, Ogun State, to seek re-election for second term the following year, he said, “well, on the visit to Otta, yes I was one of the governors that went there. I went there with a very open mind. I can say with every sense of modesty that I was part of it out of commitment. I believe that at this point in time of our democracy, we must not hurry to change guards. I believe that it would not augur well for our democracy at this point in time.”

Asked if Governor Bafarawa of Sokoto State as at that period was speaking on behalf of all the Northerners when he said the North would not vote for Obasanjo again, he said, “For sure he wasn’t; and I say so with all sense of responsibility. He wasn’t speaking on behalf of the Northerners. And I can confirm to you that at no time did we as Northern governors ever sit down, and I challenge anybody to come out and disprove what I am saying including him, to decide that we will not support or vote for Obasanjo if he seeks re-election; or that there was any time that we sat for a meeting and the agenda of that meeting centered round the decision to support or not to support Obasanjo for ABCD reasons, let the person come out and say so. There was never a time.”

THISDAY publication of 28th June 2002, entitled ‘Adamu Challenges Arewa over Obasanjo’ by Josephine Lahor, likewise revealed in its lead story that Governor Abdullahi Adamu of Nasarawa State has said that 19 governors in the North never met nor took a unanimous decision on vexed issue seeking a consensus Arewa candidate to replace President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003. He was further quoted in the publication to have said “but in a situation where nobody consults you and the person believes he has the right to say to himself and for you without your consent, then I think something is wrong.”

In another interview publication by Sunday Vanguard of January 5, 2003, page 20, with the headline; ‘Obasanjo is committed to Nigeria’s integrity, says Gov Adamu, by Jide Ajani. Asked why he has been very rigorous in his support of Obasanjo/Atiku ticket for a second term, he said, “I want to say that I support the aspiration of the incumbent president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo to contest the 2003 Presidential election. I believe very strongly that neither Chief Obasanjo himself nor my humble person has ever told this country that he is the best brain in Nigeria, but we believe very strongly that he is a patriot, a lover of this country. You need to work closely with him to understand this, and given the circumstances in which he took over the reign of power in this country, one cannot but appreciate the fact that to be able to stay on course with the ship of state could not have been an easy task. The economy was in bad shape, the polity was below the line, the unity of the country was under threat as a result of June 12, our standing among the international community was poor. Getting petrol was very difficult at filling stations. It was in the atmosphere that Chief Obasanjo took over the affairs of this country, there was so much threat from the Niger Delta area. To be able to get the acts to move this country as the man has done demands so much from any leader and doing so without recourse to arbitrariness. And the fact that from independence till when he took over through the democratic process, that Nigeria has not had more than 10 or 11 years of democracy, so, we had a system in which the two arms of government, the National Assembly and the Executive did not have the kind of experience of working together in ensuring good governance for this country.”

On the issue of some people accusing the president of causing the state governors’ elect to hijack the party machinery after the 1999 convention, thereby causing a major upset to the system, he said “there is nothing wrong with it. There is no reason why a governor should not take a position in a country that is a federation.”
On the issue of some opponents view that Obasanjo started very well but began to derail when he started thinking of a second term he said. “I will say that the success of any programme depends on the environment. You start up work, all of a sudden something you didn’t bargain for come on stage, your response, your movements can be influenced to the extent to which that event that is intervening can affect what happens.”

Asked his response on the insinuation that the president is stubborn while his supporters claimed he was strong willed; he said. “Honestly, I have worked with him as governor of a state and related to him as the president in the past three years and eight months and gotten to know that this man is a very strong willed person, no doubt about it, and he is such a committed Nigerian and committed to Nigeria as a project and no matter what you do, you can’t shake him on that, I have noticed that in him.”

Asked if he believes Obasanjo still has the goodwill that brought him to office three years ago, he said, “I want you to believe that I am a Northerner to the core, I want you to believe that I have the interest of the North in my heart of hearts and I will do anything for it. But we have a family called Nigeria and every part of this country voted for Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to be president of this country. Well, because of our number, we (North) have always determined the leadership of this country, democratically through adult suffrage and I have no doubts in my mind as to the role the North played in terms of contributing to the election of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Support Obasanjo or not supporting him cannot be looked at from the point of him as a person letting go of his goodwill. No sane human being, not even an animal will squander goodwill willfully, not even a dog, not to talk of a president who has had a beautiful career and who has shown love for the North and the North has shown love for him.”

Saturday Tribune of 4th June 2005, page 8, in an interview with Olufunsho Fafowora, as regards a threat of impeachment hanging on President Obasanjo’s neck, Adamu; believed to be one of the closest governors to Obasanjo was asked if he considered the impeachment moves as a healthy democratic progression for the country; he said, “Honestly, between you and me and God, if the move is well intended and you can pick issues that are right, that can stand the test of time, it is part of democracy. As it is part of their job as long as they do it well and as long as there is no other motivation, if you say this is what the guy has done wrong, that is why we want to take this step, then we talk and resolve the issue. But, you are right, I am one of the closest governors to the president and I don’t have any qualms about that and I thank God that I am. He is my leader, today it is Obasanjo, tomorrow it could be Abubakar or Briggs, I believe he deserves respect. He didn’t take himself. Those of you who knew him, know how he came from prison, he was condemned to death. Then it was converted to life imprisonment. Then 15 years, then three and half years, and he is out and became president. Those of you who have time should ponder upon this. He is not an ordinary person, so, I am loyal, and when he is wrong, I know how to talk to him. But if I have to take him and his office to the market, and strip it there because I have the right to do so, then it is wrong, very wrong.”

In his speech at the Speakers Conference held at Lafia, Nasarawa State on Saturday April 8, 2006, published by The Guardian on Thursday, April 13, 2006, page 63 entitled ‘Elected leaders have a duty to discharge to Nigerians, says Adamu’, Adamu made his position known on the controversial amendment proposal by the committee to replace the two terms of four years each with three terms of four years each for the president and the state governors. He said, “the main controversy over the proposed amendments centres on the proposal by the committee to replace the current two terms of four years each with three terms of four years each for the president and the state governors. As if that is the only amendment being proposed to the constitution. I believe the honourable members of the committee of the National Assembly on the review of the constitution are persuaded that their proposal is a better option for the country than we have now.

“The controversy arose over the suspicion that the proposed amendment as it affects the tenure of the president and the governors; is at the behest of Mr. President – nothing can be more unfair – for the process being undertaken by the National Assembly is not at all the initiation of Mr. President. What is worth nothing with concern however is that opposition to this suspicion appears to be the major political industry in the country today. Some of us are not only disagreeing, they are doing so by threatening thunder and brimstone.”

By May 23, 2006, in another publication by The Guardian on page 9 entitled ‘Adamu in mourning over failure of tenure extension’, after the third term bid was voted against by the Senate and couldn’t see the day light. The publication acknowledged how disappointed Adamu could have felt especially as he did not only lose out on his support for tenure extension but also on his interest to make traditional institution being accorded full rights in the regional government, should he still be in office for a third term.

The closeness, fondness and support of former President Olusegun Obasanjo by Senator Abdullahi Adamu was so great that it was even suggested that he should run for presidency in 2007 in an editorial report of Nigerian Tribune of Thursday 29th June 2006, page 33; since the third term bid was wade off. The editorial entitled “The President We Deserve In 2007”, reads, “Governor Abdullahi Adamu supports Mr. President in all his outings; the reform programmes – privatisation, civil service, and pension reform, new exchange rate regime, educational autonomy, monetisation of benefits, oil sector deregulation, infrastructural development (BOT), the revamping of the power sector, the dramatic improvements of the telecommunications etc. These are all embraced and supported by Adamu even in his small state of Nasarawa. Like the small and poor state of Arkansas under Bill Clinton as Governor, Adamu has taken the same approach in his developmental efforts, through sheer ingenuity, foresight, and handwork just, just as Clinton did for twelve years before becoming one of the most successful and resourceful Presidents in America history. Incidentally, both are in the same age bracket, babies of the post second world war boom of mind 1940’s. We believe that Abdullahi Adamu can metamorphose into that if given the opportunity to serve this country at the highest level. He is technically minded and has the capacity to perform wonders for this country.”

However, fast-track to February 20th2018; just some few days after Obasanjo’s famous letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, asking him to consider taking the back seat in the much anticipated 2019 general election so to allow capable hands take charge of the country’s affair, it was Senator Abdullahi Adamu back on the news headlines again; this time with the stick, stroking his once celebrated hero, Olusegun Obasanjo.

In an interview with reporters on Monday 19th February 2018 while reacting to the letter Obasanjo wrote to the president asking him not to seek re-election, Adamu said the elder statesman lacks the moral standing to give such advice. He likewise revealed that Obasanjo did all within his power to secure a third term in office, including bribing lawmakers with N50 million each to back him up in his bid; an allegation Adamu once denied publicly in 2006.

In his reaction to Obasanjo’s letter, he said “Chief Obasanjo said President Buhari is selective in his anti-corruption war. I agree with him because if the president were not selective, Chief Obasanjo himself would be in the dock today on trial on charges of corruption arising from the corrupt practices in the pursuit of his third term gambit in the National Assembly in 2006,” Adamu said.

“He (Obasanjo) knows, as well as I and other leading members of the PDP, that he badly wanted it and initiated the process of constitutional amendment. He bribed each member of the National Assembly who signed to support the amendment, with the whopping sum of N50 million. The fresh mint money was taken in its original boxes presumably from the vaults of the Central Bank of Nigeria and distributed among the legislators.The money was not his, and it was not appropriated by the National Assembly, as required by law. I therefore, agree that in failing to make former President Obasanjo account for the money, President Buhari is waging his anti-corruption war selectively.

Nor should we forget that President Buhari has also not bothered to interrogate Obasanjo’s role in the Halliburton scandal for which some Americans are cooling their heels in jail. Perhaps President Buhari might wish to look in the Siemens affairs in which the Obasanjo administration was indicted. Since he left office on October 1, 1979, to local and international applause, Obasanjo has systematically sought to undermine every federal administration after him. He has today set up himself as the moral conscience of the nation, He believes he has acquired the wisdom of King Solomon and has consequently imposed on himself the right to decide who rules us and how we should be ruled. Perhaps, part of the reason is that before leaving office in 2007, his party, the PDP, conferred on him the titles of Maker of Modern Nigeria and Father of the Nation. Such titles do have a heady way of making a man seeing his head bedecked in the halos of self-righteousness.”

Adamu alleged that Obasanjo’s eight years in government almost ruined democratic governance in Nigeria as a result of “self-delusion and messianic mentality”.

“He waged his anti-corruption in a manner intended to rubbish all our reserved institutions such as the courts and the National Assembly in a way to be the only Nigerian without palm oil on his hands. The courts quaked over his unconstitutional rampage. Chief Obasanjo left our democracy in a lurch. He was like a wrecking ball. In 2007, he alone, decided his successor in office contrary to the rules of the game, the repercussions and consequences of which are now history. I worked closely with Chief Obasanjo in his eight years in office as president when l was governor of Nasarawa State. I found many things to admire in him. I admire his patriotism and his hard work. But he systematically sabotaged his legacy by bending the system to his personal service and promotion. I do not admire his single-minded determination to promote himself as the strongest and the most incorruptible leader Nigeria has ever had. He waged his anti-corruption war in a manner intended to rubbish all our revered institutions such as the courts and the National Assembly and leave him as the only Nigerian without palm oil on his hands.”

He accused Obasanjo of attempting to rubbish all former presidents and making himself the most successful.
“As a friend, I wish to advise the former president to pull back from the dangerous path of rubbishing all presidents that came into office after him. Bringing everyone down is not a patriotic duty,” he said.
“I fear that if he continues along this path, he would, sooner than later overreach himself and begin the inevitable descent into national nuisance and irrelevance. That would be a self-inflicted wound and a personal tragedy.”
He warned Obasanjo to desist from such pattern; else he “will end up being a national nuisance and irrelevant figure”.

Responding to why he attacked Obasanjo in an interview entitled ‘why I attacked Obasanjo over statement on Buhari – Senator Adamu’ published on Daily Post online publication of 25th, February 2018, Adamu said “What the government did under the leadership of President Buhari showed optimum maturity. Those of us who are not within the Presidency strongly believe that we have rights to make our opinions known on the issue.

“We are necessary stakeholders in what Obasanjo said about the government. I am among the three arms of government, so when someone condemns the performance of the government, he condemns my performance also. When somebody calls for the president not to contest for election, he is passing a negative verdict on the government of the day, and I am part of this government. So I have every sense of responsibility to stand by this government. I am under oath to be loyal to this country, the flag, and the federal government. I believe that the Minister of Information did his job.

“Between me, you and God, I say this with all honour; nobody made me say something about Obasanjo. If anything, I am known for how I stood by Obasanjo and how I supported him. What makes him think that he alone has the solutions to the problems of Nigeria? What qualifications does he have for this? In his first election (1999), he didn’t win one state in the entire South-west of the country, including his own state, Ogun.

“By 2003, he virtually went on his knees and made a deal with some governors that he would support them to get back their seats if they didn’t disgrace him. He betrayed them. The only governor that refused to be hoodwinked was Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who won his seat without the help of Obasanjo. The remaining governors lost their seats.
“When Goodluck Jonathan was in power, he also wrote a letter to him. He believes that the destiny of any president is in his hands. He believes that his support is critical. This must stop.

“I agree with the concept that you ‘look at the message and not the messenger’. But what is right in what the messenger is saying? For instance, why should he accuse Buhari of nepotism? The constitution of this country is clear enough. Buhari must have at least one minister from each state and he has done that. Take a look at the ministers and the portfolios they hold. I don’t believe that every ministry is equal. You can’t say that the Minister of Finance is on the same page with the Minister of Culture or Minister of Information. None of the key ministries (except that of Education and Agriculture) have leaders of Northern extraction.

“If he (Obasanjo) was neutral or didn’t even make false allegations, I may not have responded the way I did. But he is throwing his weight around and people respect him because he is a former head of the country. I am close to him and I know him very well. Every government is not good enough, according to him. If he had solved the problems of this country, why then did he leave Yar’Adua to inherit the kind of problems he did? If he succeeded in his economic policies, why did Jonathan have problems with the economy of this country? Obasanjo, in all good conscience, ruled this country for about 11 years and still couldn’t solve the problems of this country.

“I was a governor and I know what he tried to do, and if walls were to speak, go to house number seven in the Villa here and the walls would tell you what transpired there. The walls would tell you that he actually wanted a third term because he made attempts, many attempts to try to amend the Nigerian constitution such that it would enable him have tenure elongation.

“He tried to work on the party’s (PDP) constitution to see what it would be if he didn’t become the president so that he would have what we call soft landing.

“I am not a passerby in this; I was part and parcel of this movement, and we keep this thing because we have a duty to keep it as much as possible, you know. But when he comes to undo a whole government because it is Buhari, it is about this government. I said it in my release, except you want me to repeat it, that to an extent, he has not been called to answer. Look, I did mention Halliburton sometimes. I talked about Siemens. Did he play any role in the accusation of corruption and what have you? If not, let him come out and say he was not aware. There are some cases; what happened to those cases in Nigeria? Some of the people that are involved in those cases are languishing in jail in the United States of America. Some of the cases started here and nobody is hearing about them again.

“If Buhari wanted, if not for the respect he has for his predecessors, he would have put him on trial. What about the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE)? You know the privatisation that took place and got to him; let him come and let’s have an open enquiry on who played what part. What about Transcorp deals and the oil blocks in this country? He wants to tell us that he is a perfect angel, that there is no palm oil on his hands.”

While this may be the least we are yet to see from Senator Abdullahi Adamu before the 2019 general election, the maturity of Obasanjo with his silence on Adamu’s allegation is commendable.