1. General/Chief Olusegun Obasanjo
While General Olusegun Obasanjo was Nigeria’s Head of State, my father was the Duty Sergeant at the State House, Dodan Barracks. One day, one of Obasanjo’s wives found a way to hit him on his head with a stick and he began to bleed. It was my father that shaved off his hair so that the cut could be seen. I don’t know where the doctors and nurses were, but this is a true story, and those with access to Ota can confirm.
Another day, OBJ came downstairs to greet his men but noticed a bit of moodiness in them. After forcing them to speak up, they complained that they were not being well fed. OBJ was so angry he did the needful. Interestingly, he then proceeded to order that, from that day onwards, the men on duty (that is, my father and his men) were to be fed from his own pot and they were to eat the same quality and quantity of food made available to him, as Nigeria’s Head of State. But OBJ wasn’t going to need any confirmation from anyone that his order would be carried out because, for several days after that order, he consistently came down to eat with his men. To cut the long story short, my father said they had never seen so much milk in their lives before that time; nor did they believe pot could hold meat so large and so many. In an obvious overkill, the State House cooks began to bring so many tins of milk just for breakfast and overload soup with so much meat the whole thing became comical.
I am not sure I told Daniel Donald Onjeh, former NANS President (now Chairman of the Governing Board of PRODA) but this, along with other things I read about Nigeria’s history, was why I sometimes defended Obasanjo when issues came up for discussion. Dan and I and two others had breakfast with Chief Tony Anineh sometime in 2003. Tony Anineh, who was then the equivalent of Bola Tinubu of today and called Mr Fix It, thanked Dan for not supporting the Ghali Umar Na’aba led House of Representatives, which had threatened to impeach Obasanjo shortly after the beginning of his second term. But little did Chief Anthony Anineh know that, but for my influence over Dan, Dan would not only have supported Ghali Na’aba and the HOR, but may have led the charge against OBJ, as one of the most vibrant youth leaders in Nigeria at the time. Under the influence of my father’s Dodan Barracks story, I was already an admirer of Obasanjo. You might say I was a secret admirer because his reputation wasn’t that good among members of my constituency, then led by Dan. When the threat of impeachment was issued by Ghali Na’aba, Dan asked me to pen a press release. Naturally, this press release was to toe the leftist line and add pressure to OBJ. But I tried to sway Dan, who nearly got mad at me for dragging my feet and deliberately wasting time. I told Dan to remember that, once his views on the matter had been publicly expressed, he could not take it back because the media never forgets. I said we needed credible information, and we could only get that sort of information from someone we could trust — someone like Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who was then the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, and more or less a big brother to us. So, at my insistence, Dan and I went to see Comrade Oshiomhole. I personally interviewed Adams Oshiomhole so as to understand what to do about the situation. Although I admired Obasanjo, I had no plans to defend him if I could be convinced that the House of Representatives had a valid case against him. However, in Dan’s presence, Adams Oshiomhole said we should ignore the House of Representatives because the whole noise they were making about impeaching OBJ had to do with some money that OBJ had refused to give to them — money meant to serve as furniture allowance. I was so happy that, from the lips of someone Dan could not accuse of supporting OBJ, we were getting the back story that was clearly favourable to him. As NANS President, Dan was under some pressure to issue a press release on the matter — and he did — but, rather than join in criticizing Obasanjo, Dan’s press release (Titled “Caution on Impeachment”) called on the House of Representatives to hold their fire, etc., etc. We had no idea that that press release was so important to the powers that be, until Mr Fix It thanked Dan for it during that breakfast in his house.
2. President Shehu Shagari/General Muhammadu Buhari
In 1983, my father was selected by the army to go to the United States and spend four years there attending a basketball coaching course. He was permitted to go with his wife and four children. But while the details of that trip was being worked out, General Muhammadu Buhari overthrew then President Shehu Shagari, and my father’s basketball coaching course was cancelled. Not many people know that the army used to be a force in basketball. In fact, it was army General, Joe Garba (a ball player himself), that brought the first black American basketball coach to Nigeria. This American became coach of our national team and still lives in Zaria, Kaduna state, up till today.
3. General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida
During the war, my father turned up for a parade without his beret — that soft cap with a badge in front military men wore on normal days. When IBB asked my father why he wasn’t properly dressed, my father said he had lost his beret. This was war time and what my father had said was not unusual. His beret must have fallen off when his life (or the lives of his comrades) was at stake. IBB solved the problem in a very interesting manner. That charmer of men removed his own beret and gave it to my dad.
And then the parade continued.
4. General Abdulsalam Abubakar
As a student of the Federal University of Technology, Minna (FUT Minna), my colleagues and I got together in 1997 and began to demand for a Students’ Union Government. In spite of all the odds, we succeeded and elections were held to constitute a Students’ Union Government. The management of FUT Minna then tried to plant their candidate in power, but the students trusted us and would have voted for anybody we presented. Our man for that election was Comrade Adeleye Johnson, who won the contest and became the President of the SUG, FUT Minna. As expected, the school authority began to try to frustrate Adeleye’s government. Things got to a head during the Convocation Ceremony of 1999. Both General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings (former President of Ghana), were scheduled to be given honorary doctorate degrees by the university. In retrospect, it seems to me that the management of FUT Minna deliberately provoked us because they did not want us on campus at the same time with IBB and Jerry Rawlings, who were to be accompanied by then Head of State, General Abdulsalam Abubakar. So they cut the water supply to our hostel, knowing the predictable reaction. When we began to protest, things degenerated quickly and armed Mobile Police men were drafted in. At the end of the day, when the list of scapegoats to be persecuted was prepared, as de facto leader of the Movement for Students’ Union Government, MSUG (the body through which we had pressed for an SUG), there was no way my name could not be on that list. Dan’s name was there too. The university tried to use both local residents and the police to track and arrest student leaders, but Dan and I escaped from Minna and went to Lagos to report our school to Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who tried to help. But it was Chief Femi Falana (then President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, CDHR) that followed up the case. I think Gani Fawehinmi’s Chambers sued the FUT Minna on our behalf before Chief Femi Falana followed up. In any case, we had been expelled even before the case got to court.
But when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo came to power, he set up a committee under one Professor Babalola to go round Nigerian universities and deal with issues. It was this committee that mediated between us and the management of the FUT Minna before we were reinstated and reabsorbed into the school. We had to withdraw our court case, as part of conditions for peace. I hope you did not fail to notice that Obasanjo played a positive role here. Perhaps this will help explain my admiration and support for him and my rising in his defence when Dan became NANS President years later, and Obasanjo was under attack.
5. Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan
As for former President Jonathan, I wrote a book about him (titled My Phlegmatic President) in which I castigated his phlegmatic approach to leadership, warning him to accept the fact that he was responsible for everything that happened in his government, and that not everything that Alhaji Lai Mohammed said about his government was a lie. Lai Mohammed was then “attack dog” for the ACN, which later became part of today’s APC. In the book, I advised Dr Jonathan to quietly hand over power if he lost the 2015 election because I saw that possibility as early as 2013, when the PDP was still booming and promising 60 years of uninterrupted rule. I gave a copy of My Phlegmatic President to Dr Reuben Abati, then presidential spokesman. Interestingly, a serving Member of the House of Representatives read my book and remarked that the title of the book was a bit harsh. But my warning later came to prove insightful.
Long before the 2015 election, I had an inspiration but delayed in publishing a piece I had written to promote it. To save Goodluck’s government (made up of a phlegmatic president and supported by a phlegmatic vice president), I believed that Nuhu Ribadu should be Goodluck’s running mate in 2015. Nuhu Ribadu had anti-corruption credentials and was Fulani, and Muslim, with a choleric temperament — a near perfect fit for Jonathan. Note that Ribadu was still with the ACN at this point. But a few months after this inspiration, Ribadu suddenly joined the PDP and I could not help wondering if someone had read my mind. Goodluck eventually contested with Sambo and lost. Ribadu eventually joined the APC
But even before 2013 when I wrote My Phlegmatic President, I was involved in Nigeria’s 2010 Golden Jubilee project, anchored by the Nigeria At 50 Secretariat under former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Àlhaji Mahmoud Yayale. Part of my role was to organize for the unveiling of the Golden Jubilee countdown clock in the State House Banquet Hall at the Aso Rock Villa. I organized that event and the Special Guest of Honour was then President Goodluck Jonathan, who attended the event in person and unveiled the clock, which was later installed at the Eagle Square.
Presidential Aspirants Too
In 2003, on behalf of Daniel Donald Onjeh, who was then NANS President, I organized a book launch at the Congress Hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel (then known as Nicon Noga Hotel) to launch a book Dan had written titled The Seed of Unity – Mutual Trust. In that event, presidential aspirants for the 2003 general elections were invited. One of these aspirants was current Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, who attended in person. Mrs Sarah Jibril, the only female contender for president, also attended in person. Then Vice President Atiku Abubakar was represented by then FCT Minister, Engr. Abba Gana; former Senate President, David Mark, was also represented. Even General Muhammadu Buhari, who also contested in that election, was represented.
One Vice President Also
In 2014, I initiated a propaganda project to convince the world that Nigerian cassava was highly nutritious and safe for food. This was at a time when cassava was being aggressively promoted by the government. My project was implemented in conjunction with the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshoodi, otherwise known as FIIRO. It was tough and rough and expensive, but, at the end of the day, we succeeded in baking and decorating a 2-ton cake, which we called the World’s Largest Cassava Cake. This cake was unveiled during the 2014 FIIRO Technology Week by Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo, who represented his boss, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. VP Sambo was supported in unveiling the cake by then Minister of Trade and Investment (Olusegun Aganga), then Minister of Science and Technology, Chairman of the Governing Board of FIIRO, DG of FIIRO, and my humble self. Although he was not a participant, Dr Adewunmi Adesina, then Minister of Agriculture, tweeted the success of the project on his handle.
6. President Muhammadu Buhari
Shortly after General Buhari became President of Nigeria, I wrote a book predicting the trajectory of his government and ending with the next president of Nigeria, to be sworn in, come May 29, 2019. In fact, the title of that book is May 29, 2019. But please note that the forecast in the book had nothing to do with my personal sentiments and preferences.
As at today, I am afraid to report that that book is proving prophetic by the day. In fact, the stage is now set for the fulfilment of its last chapters.
A former Governor of Adamawa State read that book in 2016 and literally forced his friend, Alhaji Dauda Birma, to read it too. It was Dauda Birma (former Minister of Education) that told me this himself, but he declined to mention which former Governor of Adamawa State he was talking about. Dauda Birma ordered for some copies of 2019 and, when I brought them to him, he tried to ask for my source of information in writing the book, but I came up with an excuse and used that to immediately leave his house.
Former DG of Nigeria Film and Videos Censors Board, Emeka Mba, read 2019 in 2016 and said the story was compelling. In fact, we talked about making a movie out of the book and he even attempted to set up a meeting with Femi Odugbemi before he became distracted.
Sometime in 2016 also, popular AIT talk show host, Obiora Iloh, was reading 2019 on a flight from Abuja to Enugu, where he was running a PhD programme. Someone sitting by him in the airplane looked at a few pages of the book and pleaded with Obiora to get him a copy so he could read. That someone was Chief Chinyeka Oha, then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Sports. I later gave Chief Oha 2 copies of the book in Abuja.
A director in the Nigerian film industry, Henry Lodam, read 2019 sometime in 2017 and immediately created a movie script out of it. He is still sourcing for funds to finance the movie, which will be a big budget affair.
In 2013, Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El Rufai, published a biographical book titled Accidental Public Servant. Many Nigerians have read that book, which was published by Safari Books — a reputable publishing outfit. The Chairman of Safari Books is a European from Ireland named Chief Joop Berkhout. The first time I met Chief Berkhout (for a business engagement), he looked at me, guessed my age, and said he had been living in Nigeria even before I was born. I got the distinct feeling that he said that same thing to every Nigerian he met, as long as he believed that person was less than 50 years old.
Chief Joop read 2019 sometimes back and, when we met again, he almost complained that the book had kept him awake all through the night. Apparently, he had made the mistake of trying to read it in the night, and could not drop it until after finishing. May 29, 2019 is that powerful and interesting.
The first thing Chief Berkhout said after blaming me for spoiling his sleep with my very interesting book was a question.
Has Obasanjo read the book?
I said I did not have access to Obasanjo.
Then he asked, has Tunde Bakare read the book? Has Governor Nasir El Rufai read the book?
I answered Chief Joop in the negative on all counts, but I’m sure you can guess the reason behind his questions. Just ask yourself; why would Chief Joop Berkhout — a European that has lived in Nigeria for decades — read a small novel and be asking if men like OBJ, El-Rufai, and Tunde Bakare have read it?
Please read 2019 on Okada Books (www.okadabooks.com) and, while reading, remember it was written in 2015 and first published in November of that year. Going by the forecast in that book (which may or may not eventually prove accurate), Nigeria is set to witness something amazing. Just go to the search bar of Okada Books website and type in Joe Dauda and then follow the instructions. Hint: you will need to click “Refill” at some point to proceed.
Plus: After reading 2019, you may want to have a grasp of global geopolitics — from an apocalyptic point of view and with Nigeria at the centre — by reading The Search, also by Joe Dauda.
For hard copies of either of these books, send your name and location and number of copies required to 07068557522.
See you on May 29, 2019.
May 29, 2019: Read on Okada Books: N500
May 29, 2019: Paperback Copy: N1000
The Search: Read on Okada Books: N1000
The Search: Paperback: N3000 per copy; 2 [email protected] N5000
Joe Dauda is a writing consultant based in Abuja and Lagos. He is available for writing consultancy services — for Books, Biographies, Speeches, etc. — and can be reached through 07068557522.
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