Saturday, May 11, 2013

The King’s Bickering Horsemen


First it was Olusegun Aganga, many months ago, lecturing Charles Soludo on the principles of financial economics, and the right path to Nigeria’s ever elusive economic prosperity. Then there was Oby Ezekwesili, also a former Minister of many things, raising alarm over fast-dwindling foreign reserves. As if that was not enough to set Nigerian tongues wagging, Nasir El-Rufai, the erstwhile Federal Capital Territory Minister, served up a tall tale of his days in the Obasanjo administration in his recent book, The Accidental Public Servant; the same administration Dr. Soludo and Oby Ezekwesili served in.

Not to be left out, the former Aviation Minister, among many other positions, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, recently wailed about the short-comings of the present Jonathan administration, and its concerted effort to roll back the tide of “progress” achieved by the Obasanjo administration (Nigerians are still looking for this tide of progress the good chief was talking about). Going further, he invoked spiritual powers, both divine and otherwise, to descend on the nation and its governors and exert a pound of vengeful flesh on those who, as he claimed, are responsible for the death of 4200 Nigerians, among other horrible deeds.

Just when we were thinking that all the bickering and finger-pointing had died down, here comes Dr. Soludo challenging some of the assertions, personal and general, made by El-Rufai in his book. In his piece published yesterday in many blogs and, I guess, ThisDay Newspaper too, the former Central Bank governor, among many other titles, strove to set the records straight –at, least according to him – on some of the claims made by his former colleague (they both served the same King, Obasanjo who himself had, on a few occasions,  lamented the slow pace of action by his hand-picked and ill-groomed ultimate successor, Jonathan) on some issues and actions taken during their years of service together.

It is not unusual for colleagues in the same government, retired or serving, to bicker over one thing or the other, and the practice is not limited to Nigeria or Africa alone. It happens in the US, Europe, Asia and Central America. Why? Because everyone who has ever served in government, especially one considered a disappointment by the citizenry, always lays the blame for their own official short-comings on someone/something else. That is partly the scene that is playing out among Obasanjo’s horsemen, and no one should be surprised when many more dirty linens will be laundered in public.

As an admirer of these two players, for very different reasons, I read Dr. Soludo’s piece, and was expecting a reaction from the good Mallam El-Rufai; the fact that it came so quickly was shocking to me, and got me thinking that there may probably be more than meets the eye between these two. As they both probably know very well, in the course of governance, one is bound to meet and serve with many people with differing style and ideas; one is also bound to omit some important ideas, proposals, comments, details in meetings, and specific references by aides, friends and colleagues, regardless of how diligent one is in keeping records and notes. In the ever-busy schedule of senior government officials, one is likely to forget, ignore, or misinterpret statements or recommendations that could have been pivotal in achieving success, or turning the tide in whatever venture one is pursuing. That seems to be the case with El-Rufai and Soludo.

While it is important for one to set records straight, especially in a society like ours where records are easily distorted, it is equally important for one to also sift through the jumble to select and only respond to those references that are critically important to one’s place in the history of national service. Who recommended who to what position, where, and when does not qualify as important here. It is instructive for these two young men to understand that they still have many years of public service ahead of them, and that the likelihood of them working together in the future is very real. Therefore, it is in their best interest to settle their perceived differences outside the pages of newspapers, because their actions portray their master, Obasanjo, and the rest of their colleagues in very bad light.

Felix Oti

Arlington, Texas USA

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