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The Godfather's Red Eyes

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Posted to the web: 7/8/2007 5:16:04 PM

Red is the colour of blood, the colour of anger, the colour of danger. Red is the colour of the godfather’s eyes. Don’t let anyone fool you: The godfather’s blood is hot right now. The godfather is in a war mood. His fury is fit to fry a thousand chickens, all at the same time.Of course, you know who the godfather is. The taciturn, ex-cop, also called the leader; the old man who goes by the sobriquet, Mr. Fix It. The man who popularized the slogan: 'No Vacancy in Aso Rock and PDP-controlled state government houses in 2003.' The man who, when he sneezed, the so-called largest party in Africa caught cold. Not anymore. All that seems to belong to yesterday. Today, someone, somewhere, is trying to unfix Mr. Fix It. Someone is bent on playing the political dirge for the old man. The never-say-die old politician is being forced on premature [yes, premature even at his grand old age] political retirement, certainly against his wish. Now, we wait for his next move: Will he fight back like an enraged bull or go down without a whimper?My prediction: Godfathers anywhere in the world usually don’t go quietly into the long night. They do the last battle. They pull all the stunts in their book of tricks. They resist every attempt to demystify them. They won’t blink an eyelid bringing down the roof of the house, just to prove that the godfather’s fury knows no bounds. The don’s last fight is usually bloody and messy. So it is with Chief Anthony Anenih, the once powerful leader of Nigeria’s ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, who is currently facing a tragic reversal of fortunes. And by the way, there are no tears for him.You know the story of Anenih’s fall from the mountain of power to the valley of despair and powerlessness? As chairman of the PDP’s Board of Trustees, BOT, for four years or thereabouts, his words were law. Party leaders and stalwarts crossed his path to their peril. Many spoke of him in whispers. Awe and respect mingled to create a cultic figure. Like a mafia don, the leader spoke very little, preferring to let action do the talking for him. And it worked magic. The weak at heart and the sycophantic had little choice worshipping at his feet, while the stone-hearted were taught lessons in obedience and loyalty. During the leader’s reign, loyalty assumed many meanings, including an unwritten law never to argue with the boss or leaders of the party on any issue. Many were those crushed because they were stupid enough to forget the simple rule: The leader is never wrong and even when he’s wrong, then his wrong becomes right. In his days of power, all he had to do was raise the hand of anybody, be he a swine, at a political rally and the man was sure to win an election. So, it was natural that political wannabes courted him. And it was natural that he basked in the glow of knowing the enormity of the power he wielded. But last week, the leader was dethroned. He was dethroned few days after the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the PDP had affirmed that he remains chairman of the BOT. In a palace coup plotted and executed by the wily general and former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Anenih was shoved into the cold night. No reason was advanced, other than the party was complying with provisions of its amended constitution which stipulates that only a former president or former national chairman of the party could aspire to the position of the BOT boss. The amended constitution also gave the new BOT chairman power to be the headmaster of the party, with sweeping powers to whip any erring party man into line. This gives the strong inkling that the ex-president had slyly negotiated for himself power outside power. The amended PDP constitution as it stands today gives the ex-president power to commit murder inside the party, literally speaking. It makes him even more powerful than the man he made president. Who then says the ex-military men are not the true grandmasters of politicians? The men versed in politics of subterfuge. Politics of selling dummies. Politics of ambush and strike. Politics of killing a man in one hundred ways. Surely, Nigerians who underrate ex-military men in politics do so at high risk. How could men who specialized in plotting coups and counter-coups not be adept at the game of man-eat-man which politics in this clime has been reduced to?Indeed, there is something ironic in the fall of Anenih. It’s not just that the man he did everything to perpetuate in power would later do him in, he was surprisingly not wary enough to know that once the ex-president finished crushing all his perceived enemies in the party, he would eventually turn to his friends and political allies. Anenih, in the thinking of those who once humoured him with the grand title of the leader, has completed his tasks. Time to go. That’s the only reason to advance for the rather brazen manner the old man was shoved aside, just when he thought he was still the same man who bestrode the political landscape like a colossus between 1999 and 2007. Lesson for the Esan chief: Nothing lasts forever. For every actor, there is entry and exit point.The tragedy of most Nigerians, especially the political leaders and those who find themselves in governance, is that often times they develop no exit strategy in their glorious moments. Like dreamers on fantasy island, they are often in delusion that their reign will be forever. Until their dreams collapse before them in pipedreams.After playing godfather and leader since 1979 at the advent of the defunct Second Republic, that is for nearly 30 years, in old Bendel state and later at national level, I don’t know if the old politician gave serious thought to retiring from the dangerous game. A man who played prominent role in installing governor in his native Edo State since 1983 and at the national level since 1993, honestly had no business sitting tight in the limelight of active politics in 2007 at the age of nearly 80. It is no surprise that he had to be helped to the exit door by the same people he had once fought on their side.Anenih must also count himself lucky to have been on the correct side of politics, in that the party he always supported were the ones at the center of power. Were it not so, some of his activities in government would by now be exhumed for thorough examination. Anytime a motorist drives through the Lagos-Ore-Benin road, he immediately remembers that once-upon-a–time, a man called Mr. Fix It was minister of works, and was required to fix that nightmarish road with funds appropriately allocated to the alleged tune of hundreds of billions of naira.He remembers that the roads remain unfixed. He also remembers that the man charged with that responsibility has offered no cogent explanation as to what happened during that period he held sway. An unfriendly man in power would have made the minister uncomfortable. But because most things in the PDP are treated as family affair, no questions will ever be asked. And in any case, not when the man involved is the powerful leader. Na wa!What has happened between OBJ and the leader over the BOT tussle is, in my view, the contest between two men blinded by vaulting ambition and lust for power. A case of one fox outfoxing the other. Two men who should be in retirement; one to Otta farm, the other to Uromi village. But they rather chose to remain at the epicenter of power, and since there is only one space at the top, the foxier got it. And the other is groaning, his eyes fire-red. Last line:I don’t expect Anenih to go down without a fight. I hear he is already plotting on how to avenge his rude shock in the hands of Baba. To be sure, his loyalists are still very much in the party. For Baba, he can’t afford to sleep with his two eyes shut. Either way, the fight between the two men will be better for the PDP and the nation. Don’t ask me for my reasons. Just imagine the fear and tension in the land all the time both men were in hot romance, and draw your conclusions as to what will happen now that they bicker. I wish the combatants well.

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