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The limits of personal loyalty

Nasir el Rufai and Uba Sani, a governorship hopeful Nasir el Rufai and Uba Sani, a governorship hopeful

BY NA’ALLAH MOHAMMED ZAGGA

Senator Uba Sani was sheepishly following Nasir el-Rufai around during the 2023 gubernatorial campaign. He behaved and acted like a lap dog. Many thought he was a fool but the man was just stooping to conquer. Many misread his body language and assumed he was naive; he was not.

IBB, Gen. T.Y. Danjuma and other northern power brokers used their resources and influence to impose Olusegun Obasanjo as the PDP presidential candidate at the expense of the late Dr Alex Ekwueme who was the originally favoured candidate at the party’s national convention in Jos. They thought by bankrolling a “reluctant” Obasanjo to become president, they would be able to control him, but the Ota farmer became his own man to their own chagrin.

OBJ played the same game by imposing Umaru Musa Yar’adua as president. He thought Yar’adua was gullible. But soon enough, Yar’adua started to dismantle Obasanjo’s policies and investigate the failed $19 billion power projects and the reversal of the fuel price increase imposed by OBJ. In fact, Obasanjo admitted that at the rate Yar’adua was going, he was privately living in fear of being arrested by his successor, especially his refusal to stop the national assembly from investigating the failed power projects.

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So, there is no such thing as a “safe” successor. Rabiu Kwankwaso had assumed that Abdullahi Ganduje was a lackey who had no mind of his own. Ganduje proved him wrong and that was the beginning of their political estrangement. The late godfather of Kwara politics, Olusola Saraki, said he was advised by elders to anoint his son Abubakar Saraki as governor because all the “strangers” that he supported before had betrayed him. He lamented however that even his own son also hijacked the party from him to establish his own structure. The rest is history.

Therefore, the current estrangement between Uba Sani and el-Rufai is not surprising. No intelligent leader would like to live in the shadow of his own predecessor permanently. He would initially make concessions, but ultimately he must assert himself to survive. Sim Fubara was almost removed by the Rivers house of assembly which is dominated by Nyesom Wike’s minions. However loyal you are there may come a time when you have to choose between protecting public interest and personal loyalty to someone. Does loyalty mean sacrificing public interest in order to protect your predecessor?

The day I saw el-Rufai’s son saying that Sani is “surrounded by incompetent fools,” I knew things might get worse. He also insulted the speaker of the house of assembly. This is the first time in our recent history that the son of a former governor would publicly insult his father’s friend and successor. I can’t imagine Buhari’s children publicly insulting Atiku Abubakar for criticising the policies of their father. In fact, I can’t imagine Kwankwaso’s son insulting Ganduje for “betraying” his father.

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What is happening in Kaduna is a rude awakening. No one wants to be controlled by an outside power; no one wants to be held accountable for another man’s sins. No right-thinking person wants to live the image of being someone else’s stooge forever. Public interest should not be sacrificed on the altar of protecting personal friendship.

If you argue that a successor must protect his predecessor at all costs, then what becomes of accountability and public interest? Are you suggesting that Sadiya Farouk, Emefiele, Hadi Sirika and other Buhari officials should be left alone so as not to discredit the Buhari administration? Are you saying that the fraudulent Air Nigeria project should not be suspended by President Bola Tinubu in order to protect Buhari’s legacy? Are you saying that if a governor discovers fraudulent contracts or contracts paid for but not executed, he should not make noise in order to protect his predecessor from embarrassment?

There is a fine line between loyalty to friendship and protecting public interest. Governors took an oath to perform their duties faithfully and impartially. I guess they are not taking this oath for the fun of it. Former President Obasanjo jailed his closest political ally and friend Sunday Afolabi over the national ID card bribery scandal. Going by the sanctity of oath, are you saying that OBJ betrayed Afolabi because of his sacrifices for the success of the former president? So, loyalty to friends has its limits when it comes to the larger public interest.

Na-allah Mohammed Zagga writes from Abuja. He can be contacted via Facebook

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