The Falcon Turns On The Falconer By Tatalo Alamu

Turning and turning in the ever widening gyre, the falcon finally rounds on the old falconer. It is a scary scenario. When W.B Yeats, the great Irish poet and statesman, penned his famous poem of anarchy and the dissolution of the old order from which our own Chinua Achebe took the title of his most famous novel, he could not have had Nigeria in mind.
As a matter of fact, the proud Irish genius was ruing the dire consequences of English colonialist disruption in his own homeland. The damning ironical similarities could not have escaped a master of sublime irony like the late Chinua Achebe. As it was in colonial Ireland, so it is turning out to be in post-colonial Nigeria.
The rift between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his former protégé and current president, Goodluck Jonathan, is slowly and inexorably assuming the proportions of a great Shakespearean tragedy. This past week, Jonathan, in a breach of presidential protocols and etiquette, dismissed his tormentor and benefactor in very unsavoury terms. Judging by Jonathan’s moody and irascible mien at the opening of his presidential campaign in Lagos, this ferocious reprisal appeared to be a mere opening salvo.
In fairness to President Goodluck Jonathan, there ought to be a threshold for presidential patience and punishment absorption. For weeks General Obasanjo, a grandmaster of the war of punitive attrition and psychological destabilization, has had the full measure of his man, peppering him with vicious jabs while baiting him to exhaustion like a bear at bay.
But we must learn to separate the message from the messenger. The way out of the unseemly rumpus between political father and his estranged son on whom he has showered undue and promiscuous preferment is to locate it within the crisis of political leadership in a post-colonial polity teeming with ethnic and religious contraries.
The colonial authorities, in a bid to retain the political initiatives, deliberately foisted a weak and divided political class on their conquered territories. Whereas different regional factions of the nascent Nigerian nation did not formally come together until the end of the forties, the army in whatever rudimentary form has been in existence even before the amalgamation. With its residual discipline and organizational cohesion, the military is thus the most organic national institution created by the colonialists capable of throwing up messianic nationalists at short notice.
The bigger the colonial head, the bigger the post-colonial headache. In a post-colonial nation brimming with pre-colonial nationalities of unyielding vibrancy and resistant modes of religious, economic and political productions, the post-independence army is usually the most privileged institution with the capacity to produce unifying figures of nationalist fervour whatever their personal deficiencies and lack of adequate mental preparations. In other words, it is a fake and cruel cue that comes with the peculiar flavour of perfidious Albions.
Yet whatever our umbrage at the ugly and nasty turn of events, we must give this to our ancient generals. Obasanjo is possessed by the abiding and resilient hubris that comes with this historically determined military messianism. It is this hubris that has propelled the crusty warlord, ahead of most of his colleagues and contemporaries, to the dizzying heights of a post-colonial society rigged against rationality and order. But it has also seen him at least on one occasion plummeting to the nadir of his fortunes.
It may be a question of personal vanity or extreme narcissism. But when it works, it works very well for the old Owu warrior. But the problem is why the general always ends up at daggers drawn with his own political creations. From Alhaji Aliyu Shehu Shagari whom he singlehandedly and craftily imposed on the nation and who was later to bitterly resent Obasanjo lecturing him on the politics that he claimed to have learnt while the general was still a mere school boy , through Umaru Yar’Adua whom he recklessly and single-mindedly foisted on the nation in a grotesquely rigged election, and now to Goodluck Jonathan, a test tube baby of his political laboratory, Obasanjo has always ended up in mortal conflict with his own.
In all probability, Obasanjo, blinded by hatred and personal aversion for his fellow Yoruba man, never studied the confidential files on Alhaji Shehu Shagari to determine his suitability for the mental rigour and discipline of presidential office. The same can be said of the bizarre political engineering which led him to plump for the medically challenged younger brother of his beloved and loyal former second in command against more compelling and competitive rival claims. In the case of Goodluck Jonathan, it would seem that a meek and compliant mien was all that mattered to the patronizing and paternalistic general rather than preparation, temperamental suitability and adequate mental magnitude for the daunting task.
But whether we like Obasanjo or not and whether we are sold on what he has to say or not, what cannot be denied or taken away from him is the fact that his harsh and unflattering criticisms of his own creations and former military subordinates often resonate with, and are in complete alignment with, the dominant mood of the nation at their particular moment. This was the case with his merciless pillorying of General Ibrahim Babangida and General Sani Abacha as well as his devastating endgame savaging of Alhaji Shagari, Umaru Yar’Adua and now Goodluck Jonathan.
It has been said that a man can make for himself a throne of bayonets, but whether he will be able to sit in it is another matter. Yet by some paradoxical logic, Obasanjo stands head and shoulder above his fellow colleagues and members of the Nigerian caste of retired rulers in his inability to sleep with evil even when it is a product of his own devilish imagination. While others, probably in deference to the ancient code of feudal nobility, maintain the sealed lips of complicity with the ascendant status quo, not so the rampaging and rambunctious general.
This is why Obasanjo’s interventions, however self-serving and apparently disruptive of order and peace, also come with the hallo of profound patriotism and game-changing possibilities. Given what is known as the cunning of history, what is currently working out may well be a case of the iron law of nemesis and the logic of creative destruction.
This is where Obasanjo, like everyone else in this hour of grave national crisis, also needs help. A pandemic crisis is an equal opportunity employer which does not discriminate against anybody. After surveying the ruined tapestry of his gargantuan appetite for mischief and diabolic scheming, General Simon Bolivar, the great Latin American icon and liberator, was known to have rued to himself: “How am I ever going to get out of this labyrinth?”
While Obasanjo’s misgivings often resonate with the ascendant mood of the nation, his preferred solutions are almost always at variance with the mood of the country. During the June 12 crisis, Obasanjo was known to be openly rooting for an interim government while insinuating that MKO Abiola was not the messiah Nigeria was waiting for. This was after fourteen million Nigerians have voted with a whopping nine million rooting for the martyred business mogul.
Given his essentially authoritarian cast of mind and anti-democratic temperament, Obasanjo is often led to despotic “solutions” which often compound the national crisis rather than ameliorate it. Already, there are whispers and in fact open canvassing for an interim national government. The more things change, the more they tend to remain the same. But it is impossible to step into the same river twice. The Nigeria of 2015 is not the Nigeria of 1993. Too much murky water has passed under the bridge and for one there is a dramatic upsurge of painful awareness in the post-military polity.
Let us get this clear. After the bungled and deliberately mismanaged Constitutional Conference, the Nigerian ruling class lost the last opportunity of imposing a solution from above on the crisis both in the interim and in the long run. Constitutional Conferences are elite driven mechanisms for imposing nationalist solutions on a national crisis which require elite discipline and cohesion. This was precisely what was lacking in the last shambolic outing at Abuja.
To be sure, and as this column has stated ad nauseam, elections, particularly in a country hobbled by the trauma of abiding ethnic, religious, regional and economic polarities, do not resolve the national question. In fact, they tend to worsen and exacerbate it. As we have seen in the case of Kenya, Cote D’Ivoire and also Nigeria, elections tend to tip fragile and unstable nations over the abyss into conflagration and civil wars.
But we cannot terminate a full pregnancy without the gravest danger to both mother and baby, just as you cannot abort a flight after the plane has reached a certain critical momentum without crew and passengers being imperilled. Having boxed ourselves into a corner, we must now go on with the election willy-nilly. It is no longer an elite-driven initiative. The Nigerian multitude having been critically engaged in the electoral process, they can no longer be easily disengaged without dire consequences. There is no way the elections can now be postponed without playing into the hands of extra-constitutional forces already on the prowl.
Without any doubt, the nation is trapped between the devil and the deep blue seas. There is no easy way out. The gravest danger of the next few weeks is the fact that with the hounds of national distemper and disaffection relentlessly baiting and chafing at him, an exhausted and disoriented President Jonathan might be miscued into reaching for his own extra-constitutional “final solution” which may then topple the nation into the yawning abyss of anarchy and millennial mayhem. This nation has once again arrived at a critical conjuncture. May the legendary luck of Nigeria save us once again.

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