Backlash: A Season Of Retirement
SOMETHING interesting is unfolding. On their own, some old men are retiring from active service citing a number of reasons. It is not even necessary for these elders to do any form of explanation. They do not owe the younger generation any explanation. They finished their race close to 30 years ago, but had to continue when no enthusiastic runners came forth to take over or even wrest the baton from them at the end of their own lap of the endless race.
We sincerely thank the elders for accepting to stop running. Even Apostle Paul did not run forever. He finished his own part of the race and quit the field for others to begin theirs. If in doubt, read 2 Timothy 4:7-8
And so why should 78-year old Baba Olusegun Obasanjo, for instance, in a country of 170 million people of whom most are able bodied youth, seek to run a third lap in 2007 after first and second laps? That arithmetic of third term was even wrong because if the period between 1976 and 1979 was added to Obasanjo’s bowl, what was called third would have been appropriately rechristened fourth term.
God is ever merciful. This same Obasanjo who wanted to rule forever put up a big ceremony in Abeokuta earlier this year to destroy his PDP membership card. Although he did not categorically state, as others, that he was retiring from partisan politics, the action of shredding his party membership card in front of television cameras spoke much louder than his voice. We can also add that the card tearing ceremony made the Abeokuta man different from the lot. If others like Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida would come later to express their desire to retire in simple words like ‘count me out of PDP rebranding’, Obasanjo from hindsight, needed to do his differently to prove that he is really Baba of Nigerian politics.
The prayer now is for the two retired generals to show honour and stay by their declarations. They should not do like their colleague, General Muhammadu Buhari who reneged on his own promise to retire after three failed attempts – in 2003, 2007 and 2011 – to retake the presidency and returned in 2015 to achieve the same purpose. Of the trio, the one that has made real sacrifice is IBB. He is retiring without the benefit of a second chance as civilian head of state, which OBJ generously enjoyed for eight years, between 1999 and 2007, and which GMB now PMB has started enjoying and will enjoy for four years in the first instance.
Even so, let me quickly note that IBB is not the only living former military head of state that has not transformed to a democratically elected president. There are also Generals Yakubu Gowon and Abdusalami Abubakar. The only difference is that neither Gowon who turned 81 last month nor Abubakar who was 73 last June (he is still very young, you know) has betrayed inclination to re-enter the presidency wearing agbada. Both men are engaged in other national duties. General Gowon, for instance, prays for the peaceful co-existence of all the peoples in Nigeria and he has been doing that, using his prayer ministry, Nigeria Prays, for close to two decades. If you remember, the man also prosecuted a gruesome 30-month civil war to force us to Go On With One Nigeria.
The task of General Abdulsalami Abubakar is lighter than that of the old horse who has to pray all year round to keep Nigeria united without collecting tithes and offerings. The former only comes effectively on board when the bells begin to toll for fresh elections to either recruit a new president or endorse a sitting one and other key managers of the political economy. And it is not even in all elections that Abdulsalami has to be on duty. It is when there are foreboding signs, as it was in the last elections that he would be required to mobilise and organise some indifferent elders across the divide to preach peace before, during and after the election.
For instance, with the successful conduct of the 2015 elections and the subsequent peaceful transmission of power from one civilian president to another, even if the receiver is a converted dictator, and from a ruling to an opposition party, Abdulsalami’s work has finished till 2019, when there will be another election and there may be need for a peace committee to preach peace amid frightening build-up. That said, Yakubu and Abdulsalami are very calm, committed and honourable men. I do not see them abandoning their new vocations to pursue processes that will recreate them as civilian presidents.
But I fear the one called IBB. He could bow to popular pressure after announcing his retirement and bid to re-incarnate in Aso Rock even as soon as in 2019. And he will not be doing anything strange. Obasanjo who had said long before 1999 that he had forgotten nothing in the presidency that would compel his return, nevertheless, returned in 1999 to pick up forgotten items, including perhaps, enough cash to build a presidential library and a university of technology. And Buhari has returned in 2015 after a ‘never-again’ declaration in 2011.
Apparently, those Greek and Western philosophers who created all the political taxonomies did not envisage the Nigerian situation. We know of democracy, dictatorship, monarchy, aristocracy, gerontocracy and even anarchy, which means, absence of government. But what shall we say when a government is run by retired generals? Shall we say ex-militocracy? Or ex-generalcracy? It yields to an intractable etymological challenge. But since knowledge is an ever expanding frontier, someday, there will be an answer.
For now, let’s stay with what we know of the Nigerian brand of democracy, which is ‘government of the people by ex-generals for ex-generals and a few of the people.’ My definition may not be as exhaustive and so modifications and suggestions are most welcome. We are all working towards making Nigeria unique in the comity of democratic nations.
Meanwhile, there are many other generals in the background who are not former military heads of state, but who wish to go further under the current system of ex-generalcracy than they went under military dictatorship, given that every aspiration of an ex-general in a government of the people by ex-generals is legitimate. And so, there is still some distance to cover before Nigeria finally transverses ex-generalcracy to democracy.
Good enough, it is not only the ex-generals and ex-military heads of state that are retiring from active service. One ex-federal commissioner of information who turned 87 years in May has also retired. He is called Chief E.K Clark, whose son is ex-president Goodluck Jonathan. He is particularly lucky to have made the presidency through his son. Others were not so lucky. Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, who was 80 in September and Obong Victor Attah, who has prematurely retired at 77, reportedly out of frustration could not even make their sons governors.
No word has come from Chief Tony Anenih on this issue of retirement, but very impeccable sources close to him hint of the desire of the Chief who is also called fixer of Nigerian politics to throw in his fixing tools very soon.
Some people are mentioning Ahmed Bola Tinubu not because of his age (he is only 63) but due to the fact that he has achieved almost everything there is to achieve, either directly or by proxy at a relatively young age. There are no more challenges left for him to surmount.
All of these men are great Nigerians. They represent the powers and principalities of Nigerian politics. And as we all know in the endless struggle called life, we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities!