Even days ahead of its unveiling, a new book by ace journalist and APC spokesman, Bolaji Abdullahi, is surely stirring the political waters already. Since teasers began to appear in Simon Kolawole’s TheCable last week, many can hardly wait anymore for tomorrow’s presentation in Abuja to grab copy and see what fresh angles “On A Platter of Gold: How Jonathan Won and Lost Nigeria” brings to Segun Adeniyi’s earlier blockbuster, “Against The Run of Play”.
Abdullahi is by no means a casual chronicler of the momentous events that shaped the Jonathan presidency; he was an insider having served as minister.
Perhaps the juiciest extract featured thus far by TheCable is the sensational claim by Stella Oduah that she lost her Aviation portfolio in the last dispensation due to the machinations of now embattled Diezani Allison-Madueke (then the powerful oil minister) in what seems to illuminate intensely the psycho-sexual tension within the Jonathan presidency. History reminds us that empires had risen and fallen over nothing more than lust or wounded love, and the remains of many great men were found near discarded skirt and camisole.
According to her, Diezani strongly believed leaks of her incurring a bill of whopping N10b jetting around “privately” emanated from the Aviation ministry. To exact a pound of flesh, Oduah alleges that Diezani funded sustained media spotlight on her own N250m bulletproof BMW cars scandal.
(A presidential panel headed by then NSA Sambo Dasuki had found the Aviation minister culpable in the shady $1.6m auto deal.)
“She thought I was the one who leaked the issue of private jet that put her into trouble with the House of Reps,” she says, adding “For her, it was payback time. Diezani was paying people to keep the story alive. At the same time, she was whispering in (the president’s) ears that he had to take action.”
But the real meat is in her next comment: “I knew all along that Diezani could not deal with having another female around who had the kind of access I had to the president.”
In what suggests more than official relationship with GEJ, Oduah was quoted by the author to be uninhibited enough to then pointedly demand of the president, “Did Diezani ask you to sack me?”, which he flatly denied.
Of course, in power circles then, it didn’t require much political intelligence to know there were actually five powerful women around the President. Aside Oduah and Diezani, the three others included First Lady (Mama Peace herself), the president’s ebony-black mom and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the “Coordinating Minister” and thick-set Amazon of the exchequer.
Romantics are likely to swoon over that and interpret as omen that GEJ was a “ladies’ man”.
This however makes Jonathan the stark opposite of his successor, President Muhammadu Buhari, said to be very, very “shy among women” (apology Information Minister Lai Mohammed). It then perhaps explains why women today enjoy less visibility around PMB’s wooden paternalism.
Responding to a question posed by a foreign journalist in faraway Germany following First Lady Aisha’s philippic against the presidency last year, Buhari hardly betrayed any emotion in dismissing her sense of political judgement outside what he considered her exclusive jurisdiction: “My wife belongs to the kitchen, the living room and the other room.”
Now, the puzzle is the definition of the “access” Oduah alludes to. Of course, everyone agrees that, both in and outside office, GEJ remains a perfect gentleman, with amazingly charming smile and killer athletic build capable of making the opposite sex drool, ordinarily.
So, could Oduah be referring to a “special pin no” from which other top female officials around Jonathan were restricted? The kind that conferred extraordinary privileges like having their proposals or memos approved with dizzying dispatch, without second look, let alone scrutiny.
The only conclusion that could drawn from Oduah’s revelation is that she and Diezani were both shamelessly locked in a cold war over long-suffering Madam Patience’s fine husband. Now, if a scavenger gets swollen-headed over the possession of a treasure found by accident, what’s expected of the original owner? Between the feuding princesses, every waking moment seemed spent agonizing over which plot the other might be hatching to monopolize the king’s attention.
In the circumstance, the puzzle then: what time did they really have left for official duties? We can, therefore, only continue to speculate and imagine the titanic battle poor Jonathan must have waged against falling into the sort of temptation Adam found irresistible in the biblical Garden of Aden.
When similarly charming Bill Clinton found himself in such tight corner as president at the Oval Office in Washington in the 90s, he succumbed to curvaceous Monica Lewinsky. The ghost of that affair with its salacious details would come back to exact a price that almost cost him the presidency. Though he survived narrowly, he would endure the shame for the rest of his life.
One of Clinton’s predecessors, John F Kennedy, was not that lucky. His hyperactive testosterone is believed to have been largely fueled by the side effect of a medication he took for Addison’s disease. Compulsive philanderer, aside the steady stream of paramours smuggled into the White House through the back door, among his other conquests were government secretaries and one Judith Campbell who incidentally happened to be linked to mafia boss Sam Giancana. This shred of evidence formed the basis of the enduring conspiracy theory that JFK’s assassination in 1963 involved the mob.
Elsewhere in Zimbabwe about the same time Clinton was being tempted, Robert Mugabe had also come under the bewitching spell of Grace inside the White House in Harare. Sashay after tantalizing sashay up and down the presidential office, the salivating ex-guerrilla apparently began to see his dashing secretary in a totally different light. Incentives then came to work longer hours in the office. The death of the much-beloved Ghanaian-born First Lady would finally open the door for Grace to be formally unveiled to the nation as the new presidential consort.
Following Mugabe’s ignominious fall from power last week, pundits may still be divided today over the political epitaph to engrave on his political tombstone. But regardless, there is consensus already that Grace’s vain ways contributed in no small measure in stoking public anger against the old comrade.
Well, the good news is that GEJ left office in 2015 through the electoral door, certainly not through any proven peccadilloes. Maybe, the ghost would have been finally laid to rest had the usually blunt Oduah, presently a senator representing Anambra, taken a step further to stave the ambiguity that incriminates. By either confirming or denying the long-standing rumour in some mischievous quarters that that “access” had, in fact, some amatory taste.
Or, since she is known to be single and available, did she ever, at any time, have a crush on the Prince Charming from Otuoke?
With the raft of grave charges still pending at the British court, we wager Diezani would, on her own, wish to be spared this sort of question, at least for now.