I went through Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s article about Nasir El-Rufai titled ”Sanusi Lamido On El Rufai” with amusement. I am glad that he has reiterated his love for Nasir and expressed his tremendous respect for him. He has also spoken well about Nuhu Ribadu, who is also a mutual friend, and he has said that anyone that is their enemy is his enemy as well. I am happy for Sanusi’s reiteration of love for his two friends and when it comes to both Nasir and Nuhu most people know that these are precisely my sentiments as well. As I have always said when things were really bad in this country these two men were amongst the few that gave some of us hope that we could still have a united Nigeria where northerners and southerners could live and work together in peace and harmony. Sadly I cannot say the same about Sanusi.
I got to know him reasonably well because we were both members of a vibrant political association called the Progressive Action Movement between 2001 and 2003. In those days we often clashed as a consequence of our different world views and our differing visions of the sort of country Nigeria should be and how she ought to be structured. As he argued in his essay, at that time, I was a regionalist and yoruba nationalist who had stopped believing in a united Nigeria simply due to the horrific experiences that General Sani Abacha’s administration had put the people of the south-west through for five terrible years and due to the fact that General Ibrahim Babangida had annulled the June 12th 1993 presidential election of a great and illustrious son of the yoruba in the person of Chief MKO Abiola simply because he was not from the north. Being a hardline northern conservative people like Sanusi saw no wrong in the actions of either Abacha or Babangida and consequently whenever the two of us were put in the same room sparks were bound to fly.
This is because at that time I was a hardline foot-soldier of NADECO and I reflected the thinking and feeling of every self-respecting yoruba man. I believed then, and I still belive today, that if we cannot have a Nigeria where all the people and all the tribes and nationalities are treated as equals, regardless of tribe or faith, then we should not have a Nigeria at all. The Sanusi’s of this world opposed that view and they believed that some Nigerians were born to rule and that some faiths are greater than others. This represented the fundamental difference between the two of us at that time and that difference remains until today.
He also spoke about the views that I once had about President Olusegun Obassanjo before I met him, before I got to know him and before I joined his government. Sanusi was absolutely right there. At that time my views about Obasanjo were precisely what Sanusi said they were. Permit me to reiterate what those views and perceptions were here. I, together with virtually every other self-respecting yoruba man at that time, regarded Obasanjo as a tool of the north and we believed that he was released from prison and given power by the northern generals and ruling political elite to serve their interests in 1999 and as a pawn to stop the yorubas from breaking away from Nigeria. That is what the overwhelming majority of yoruba people believed then and that is why Obasanjo was overwhelmingly rejected by his people in the 1999 presidential election. It was after my brother Akin Osuntokun took me for a series of meetings with Obasanjo in 2001 on my return from self-imposed exile in Ghana and after the late Chief Bola Ige, his Attorney General and my mentor and political leader, encouraged me to get closer to him that I knew that Obasanjo had changed and that his intention was to serve all Nigerians and not just the north. This was precisely why I joined his government.
Now to the point of this contribution. What I find curious about Sanusi’s article is the following. He expresses so much love for El-Rufai and Ribadu yet he so gladly served a government and President that tried to kill, jail and discredit them both and that ruthlessly drove them into exile. Worse still he did and said nothing in their defence at the time. I see that as a contradiction. With friend like him, who needs enemies? Yet people have different ways of manifesting their loyalty to their friends so perhaps we should give Sanusi the benefit of the doubt here and assume that he was not playing a double game of deceit, treachery and subterfuge and that he did not sacrifice his friends and sell his soul to the devil. My own style and approach to friendship is very different. When I give my friendship I give it totally and I have never been comfortable with those that swim with the tide.
I guess whichever way Sanusi Lamido Sanusi decides to manifest or express his love and loyalty to his friends is not my business. Yet what is my business is to try and figure out why he felt the need to bring me into his love letter to Nasir El-Rufai. What relevance my name is to that whole narrative is quite beyond me. Clearly he brought me into it in bad faith and with malicious intent and I suppose he did so simply because of the role that I played in the oil subsidy debate and the bellicose poistion that I took. Perhaps the fact that I referred to his boss, the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as an ”agent of the IMF and the World Bank” upset Sanusi and he felt that he had to rally to her defence and speak up for her. If that was his motivation he would have done far better to just keep quiet and let Ngozie fight her own battles. I have no doubt that she would have done a far better and more cerebal job than Sanusi has done.
There is also another reason why Sanusi felt the need to bring in my name and this has to do with the various intellectual clashes that we have had over the years. I thought that he had grown up and gotten over the series of heated debates that we used to have in the newspapers when he was a public commentator and when I was a NADECO footsoldier 10 to 15 years ago but evidently I was wrong. On his part the bitterness is still very much there.
Yet despite his malevolent thoughts for me what I found the most amusing of all was the fact that in his article on El Rufai he also asserted that I had written ”in defence of Nasir” and that the words used were mine and ”not El-Rufai’s”. I really do wonder where on earth Sanusi Lamido got the idea that I was seeking to represent Nasir El Rufai’s views or speak for him on this matter. I challenge him to produce the article in which I wrote ”in defence of El-Rufai” on the oil subsidy issue.
Nasir is a respected friend and he is more than capable of speaking for himself. I am not his spokesman. I have defended him on various occassions when lies are told about him just as he has often defended me but the issue in this particular debate was ”oil subsidy” and not ”El Rufai” or indeed ”Fani-Kayode”. The essays that I wrote about the removal of the oil subsidy was my own contribution to the raging debate and I believe that as someone that has been in active partisan politics for the last 21 years and that was part and parcel of those that brought the Goodluck Jonathan and Yar’adua administration into power in 2007 and 2011 respectively, I have a right and indeed a duty to do so. My contributions to the oil subsidy debate, which were encapsulated in just two articles titled ”Who Will Deliver Us From This Goodluck” and ”The Problem Is Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala” respectively were both directed at his two bosses, namely Mr. President and the Minister of Finance whom he reports to, and they did not have anything to do with Nasir El-Rufai. Nasir’s views and mine on the removal of the oil subsidy just happened to be the same but my write-ups had already been published in various newspapers before he publicly expressed his views on the matter in a number of interviews.
Sanusi also criticised my words and writing style in a subliminal manner which is certainly his right and prerogative. Yet the truth is that I have no apology to him or anyone else for either my words or my style and it is clear that I reflected the sheer disgust and anger that most Nigerians had about the plan to remove the oil subsidy. And that disgust was directed more at the econmic and globalist hardliners in the Jonathan administration like him and Ngozi than anyone else because the removal of the oil subsidy was their brain-child and they sought to justify it before our people. Sanusi spent many hours on television pontificating to the Nigerian people about the ”blessings” and ”beauty” of having our petrol pump price at 145 naira per litre but unfortunately for them they failed to convince anyone but themselves. So shameful and dishonest was their attempt to defend the indefensible that, in my view, they should have both been compelled to resign and they would have done so if people placed any stock or value on honour and decency in this country.
We must never forget that many people have been killed over this issue simply for protesting against the proposal to remove the subsidy and plenty of brutality has been displayed in the streets of Abuja and the south-west by our security agents. As I write this essay soldiers are still deployed on the streets of Lagos and many of our people are living in fear and trepidation of them. Some of us feel very bad about this series of events and we blame people like Sanusi Lamido Sanusi for misleading our President. The truth is that men like like him are completely detached from reality and they simply have no empathy with or compassion for the ordinary people. And neither can they identify with their hardship and suffering. That is the difference between a straight-jacket, unfeeling and cold-blooded monetarist and technocrat from the heartless world of international high finance like Sanusi and a warm-blooded and humane politician, lawyer, ”freelance contributor” and ”public commentator” like me. Unlike him we know the pain that the people will suffer from their heartless policies, we recognise the hardship that they are suffering and we know what they can and cannot take.
I congratulate Sanusi for whatever feelings and affection he may have suddenly re-cultivated and rediscovered for Nasir El Rufai but that has nothing to do with me and he should leave me out of it. Despite his plain cheek I wish him the very best yet he can be rest assured that I will lose no sleep over what he thinks or does not think about me.