Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Whispering Drums With Maigani

Musa Ibrahim

Behind The Scene Alliances

It was Aristotle, that great Greek philosopher, thinker and writer of years gone by, that woke up early one morning to reveal that every man born of woman and every woman born of another woman is an animal, albeit, a political animal. And as political animals there were to be no permanent friends but permanent interests.

Today, the whole of humanity is on a towering brink of a political precipice, and, but for certain permanent interests that have to be protected, would have gone into hibernation. Take for instance the war of words that is fought daily between the two world superpowers, the United States of America and the Soviet Union. To Reagan, the Soviets are "the focus of evil in the modern world", predicting that the "march of freedom and democracy will leave Marxism Leninism on the ash heap of history". Constantin Chernenko does not agree and echoes that "the Reagan administration has chosen terrorism as a method of conducting affairs with other states and peoples". And on and on, appearing great and endless debate. But don't tell me you do not know that there is a hotline between Moscow and Washington and that Reagan and Chernenko exchange personal handwritten letters between themselves. Love-lust friends but permanent interests. It is the game of politics.

Over the years, Africans have also learnt and acquired all the essential ingredients that go with the trappings of politics with an ingenious mastery that would have baffled Aristotle. And typical of everything African, this acquisition stretches beyond the bounds of etiquette. To them, there are no permanent friends in politics but personal aggrandizements. Now consider the following:

In 1978 when the ban on politics was lifted in Nigeria as if the country had ever been in a state of political inertia (going by Aristotle's words), people were thrown into a frenzy as politicians scampered for supporters. Friendships were made and broken, alliances were formed and shattered, accords were created and discarded, and in the end, only the most persevering won their various battles. But the politicians had completely changed the political dictionary of the country with the addition of new political words such as "decamping", "carpet-crossing", "accord concordiale", "landslide" and what have you.

Today, Nigeria is supposed to be under a military regime where political vocabularies are an anathema but the behind the curtain manoeuvres show something to the contrary. For, in the midst of the feigned War Against Indiscipline and staggering domestic problems, the top brass of the military leaders are said to be getting some tutoring in the art of politics from an erstwhile ex-senator whose own political record is that of decampment and carpet-crossing.

Winning an election in 1979 to the senate under a minority party, he later changed to the party that controlled the centre in the 1979 elections, and as one of the zonal directors helped make what the soldiers call "rigged land-slide victory of the NPN" possible. Today, he is one of the politicians that is not behind bars. The most intriguing is that while his former colleagues who may not be behind bars cannot leave the country (theirs is house arrest), this man is always in and out of Nigeria serving as an emissary or a diplomat extraordinary and plenipotentiary (apology to Chief K.O. the jawbreaker) in the Buhari-Idiagbon regime.

His assignment is to go round and to extract as much information as possible either from them directly or from some contacts. It is true that at one time or the other, the Buhari regime had sought to make a deal with those regarded as "Nigeria's band of fugitives". After much "bargaining" the ex-senator seemed to have been successful in luring one of the men to the military government's fold. The proceeds are said to be two million pounds for the military government, and the evacuation of the entire fugitive's family from Nigeria to London.

It is also true that only two men from this band have vowed never to compromise their stand against the military. Their names have appeared in the headlines of dozens of newspapers the world over. Theirs is a matter of principle, the most important of all virtues. Against this background, I wish to join ex-Minister Bello Maitama Yusuf in welcoming to London his battalion of relations from Nigeria, and to ex-Senator Mahmoud Waziri, I say more grease to your peregrinations. True, everybody is a political animal - Nigeria's military inclusive.

Live and let live...

Ever since the Buhari brigade assumed leadership of Nigeria, Nigerians have never seen a more callous lot. First, there is segregation among the population. The soldiers have become sacred cows living outside of austerity and indiscipline.

They have their monthly salaries in cash, on time, and are regularly supplied with the much sought after essential commodities without a tear. And as if that is not enough, the soldiers are in the process of being given new attires. And why not, wasn't Shagari's white flowing agbada estimated to have cost untold thousands of naira? So a nine million naira contract for the supply of new uniforms for the soldiers is on the way. Of course, when all is over, not nine million will be on record as the money spent. And there is the air force, the navy, the customs, the police who would also want their uniforms changed too.

Talking of contracts, of percentages and of corruption, who said the military have no grab-grab pecunia maniacs?

Last word: That Punch Story.

I would have loved to answer but shall not, because human energy, my energy, is never more extravagantly wasted than in the persistent effort to answer or respond to issues or allegations that are vague, meaningless and lack substance. Such was the Punch story and I maintain my gait and oath.

talking drums 1984-09-10 one year covering a region in turmoil