A few days ago, I wrote an article on 5 reasons why President Goodluck Jonathan’s act of renaming the University of Lagos was a fantastic error on his part. Several flurry of comments and hair scratching later, I have changed my mind. Not about the reasons—the reasons I gave remain valid—but about referring to it as an error by the President. In fact, I now consider it a smart move—one of the smartest political moves of the past fifty years, and an act worthy of earning the President a place in the history of smooth operators. I am certain that the Evil Genius and the Farmer President are sliding into envious rages for not having been smart enough to figure out this apparently innocent move. If you were ever in doubt about it, let me convince you of exactly how smart Goodluck Jonathan is. Here we go. Again.
1. Dumbing Down Abiola’s Mandate
Quick Question? How do you handle pressures to immortalize a President-elect that you don’t give a crap about? If you answered “Rehabilitate the person as a past President of the country and immortalize the person with a date in the calendar”, you either didn’t read my question right or you need to spend more time with Machiavelli. If you answered “Name one of the several hundred educational institutions after him and hope the supporters shut the crap up”—Bam! You’re on target. See, GEJ has had several sleepless nights from people knocking on his door to honour MKO—who well deserves such honour—problem is, Goodluck, like almost every other PDP leader has no time for MKO ideas. MKO declared himself as President when the sitting government failed to do so. People were clamouring for MKO to be honoured as a past President—not as a businessman or philanthropist. But the President didn’t vote for MKO, he didn’t fight for MKO and he doesn’t think he owes MKO his Presidency—and neither does the President’s godfather. But GEJ is smarter than most people credit him with, and so as to get MKO activists of his back—without offending the sensibilities of his political party—he tosses them a bone, and renames the University of Lagos, a valued institution in the South-West, after MKO. It was an honour in the sense that rainbows are described as paintings—it’s a valid and beautiful combination of colours, but it is not on a proper surface. But for the now, he dared anybody to contradict his action as an honour. The President could have picked the University of Abuja, right in the heart of the country, but he picked the South-West. This was not arbitrary and the reason for this brings us to the next point.
2. Rubbishing the South-West
Since the January protests, the Presidency and the PDP have had issues against the South-West in general and Lagos in particular, and masterstroke revenge had been carefully planned. Wait for May 29, and then give the South-West a gift everybody will admire but which the South-West will reject. Like giving a school textbook to a child as a birthday present. It looks great to everybody except the child—and the child seems like an ungrateful brat for refusing it. Of course, some people in the South-West don’t want to exchange the honour of Unilag for the honour of Abiola; of course, Abiola fans in the South-West would refuse a “honour” that is not reflected in Abuja or that is not a true recognition of Abiola’s mandate; of course, most people in the South-West would refuse a honour granted illegally and unconstitutionally by a Presidency perceived as dictatorial. The President saw all of these and loved it. Suddenly great pro-Abiola activists from Soyinka to Tinubu have begun to look like ungrateful kids who do not want to accept the thoughtful gift of a parent. Smart move, Mr. President! Nobody saw that coming. Renaming the University of Abuja would have brought attacks on the President from all corners (and maybe attacks on the South-West for rejecting a false honour), but renaming the University of Lagos would bring attacks only against the South-West. I’m sure Prof Soyinka had a fitful night trying to come up with an appropriate response to the President’s gift, caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Anyone who can make Soyinka have a restless night to come up with an answer is either a genius or the devil. And I’m not so sure about the devil.
3. Dividing up the June 12 Faction into Tribal Camps
Even better than rubbishing the South-West was getting other tribes to attack the South-West. After May 29, the country suddenly divided along tribal lines. Even pro-Abiola factions outside the South-West hurled insults at the South-West for refusing to accept the President’s gift. Tell me, how many leaders ever get that kind of overnight support from hitherto previous mom-supporters? Renaming Unilag was a masterstroke, I tell you! Only someone with the intellect of Goodluck Jonathan could have predicted the tribal warfare that would ensue within Abiola’s own camp—a divide and rule strategy unprecedented since Lugard’s administration! Suddenly MKO’s secure constituency is on the verge of disintegration—IBB failed at it, Abacha didn’t get a chance, Obasanjo missed it, but Jonathan did it—he divided the June 12 advocates and cut them into tribal pieces. I think he deserves a rousing ovation for this alone. Applause please.
4. Creating Political Party Tensions
And while the MKO faction is wrangling over the proper approach to Mr. President’s dubious honour, the ruling political party cashes in on the situation by accusing the main opposition of inciting the ensuing protests. The calculating President had figured out that the students of the institution would not take the disruption of their University’s brand identity, without a preparation process, lightly—and his political party was prepared to use the eventual protests to advantage. In a move which would be laughable if not for its chilling consequences, the PDP promptly accused the ACN for sponsoring and executing the near violent protests. The situation was 1965 and 1993 combined! Shut down the governments of the “Wild Wild West” and declare emergency rule in Lagos State! Unfortunately, the University authorities and the state government killed off this sweet idea by calming down the students—so much for the party sponsored protest. Anyway, all is not lost for the President on this score—students are always a volatile element and can be ignited soon again.
5. Distracting Everyone from Relevant Issues
But the greatest accomplishment of the President, and evidenced by the fact that you are reading this article—in fact, I admit to be a willing tool of the President in this regard—is the fact that he has successfully distracted everybody from the failures of his administration and instead misdirected the citizenry to begin a fight with itself. Everybody is talking about renaming Unilag; people are hurling insults over who loves Abiola the most; Nigerians are insulting the South-West for being narrow minded; Unilag students and alumni have been flung into a conflict they did not initiate and the President goes on with his affairs quietly. This is the Kansas City Shuffle. Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! No more inquiry into the fuel subsidy probes, no questions about the failure to bring about the promised electricity generation and distribution, no more criticism of the single term agenda, no investigation into the Justice Ayo Salami issue, gone is the talk on the Boko Haram security issue—the national audit of the past year of Goodluck Jonathan’s government is left aside and the Presidency sails into another year of carefree administration!
The man is a genius. You have to give it to him.