Home Opinion Bago’s Stooping to Conquer: Minna’s Hilltop Conclave

Bago’s Stooping to Conquer: Minna’s Hilltop Conclave

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By Ahmed Yahaya-Joe

“Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present, controls the past.”

– George Orwell in 1984 (1949)

An old Fox, the Lion of Bourdillon, and a Wolf. Every picture tells a story. The attached amalgam is no different.

The segment from Minna however tells two from Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power.

Firstly, “The man who initiates strong reforms often becomes the scapegoat for any kind of disaffection.” – p.394

Secondly, “Isolation exposes you to more dangers than it protects you from – it cuts you off valuable information, it makes you conspicuous and an easy target. Better to circulate among people, find allies, mingle.” – p.130

While I shall endeavour to return to the segment from Abuja in my conclusion: two salvos.

  1. The Presidency, “Across the North, we understand that some of the sub-regional geographical forces are actively conspiring against the stability of the Nigerian nation.”
  2. Femi Fani-Kayode (FFK) on the chief reason for mass abductions and spate of kidnappings, “to discredit and undermine the credibility of our president and the federal government.”

What was on the agenda of the Minna closed-door meeting reportedly for “one hour”?

“The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten off wolves.”

– Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)

While members of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum are the certified wolves in Nigerian politics, no Nigerian leader has had the level of prior preparation for the big shoes of national leadership like General Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) who in his words admits in p.61 of Karl Maier’s This House Has Fallen: Midnight in Nigeria;

“At the risk of being called immodest, if there is any military government that prepared itself before it went in, it’s our government. We knew what we wanted. We knew what areas to address, especially the economy. We read the barometer of the society and we knew what the people wanted.”


Similarly, one does not have to read Sam Omatseye’s new book Beating All Odds: Diaries and Essays on how Bola Tinubu became President to attest to Asiwaju’s level of assiduous preparation ahead of 2023.

There is however a huge disconnect between the manoeuvring for high office and actual governance. IBB suffered his own backlash due to the SAP reforms he instituted. How Asiwaju would handle his own version remains to be seen mindful that;

“If reform is necessary, anticipate the reaction against it and find ways to disguise the change and sweeten the poison.”

President Tinubu would have sneaked into Minna without the ceremonial renaming of Dr. Abubakar Imam Kagara International Airport.

This in turn would not have happened without two 4-star Generals that are not only hilltop neighbours but secondary school classmates signing off on it.

There are too many examples to recount here on how the main vote bloc that gave Mr. President 62% of his winning number is paradoxically becoming distant to the Lion of Bourdillon now the current chief tenant at the Villa.

This is a slow build-up to a political crisis despite the comparative vote haul.

North West 2,652,235, North Central 1,760,993, North East 933,176 on one hand with South West 2,542,979, South-South 799,957, South East 127,605 on the other.

Despite being out of power for more than a generation and still counting the old Fox of Minna still commands quantum influence in the North.

IBB’s non-verbal intervention is no doubt a political lifeline extended to President Tinubu as cameras don’t “gate-crash” into a “closed-door” meeting if not deliberately allowed.

Therefore, a solidarity palliative of sorts on behalf of a section of Arewa albeit a temporary stopgap.

On July 14, 2019, at Ondo, Asiwaju rhetorically asked, “Where are the cows?”

The National Leader of ruling behemoth APC was parrying negative ethnic profiling over the murder of a certain Mrs. Olakurin when he had called at the family home of the deceased guns smoking;

“I am extremely concerned about security but I don’t want stigma. I can go through the history of kidnapping and we know how it started, where it all started, there are a lot of copycats, how many years ago have we faced insecurity in this country and cases of kidnapping?

Is Evans a herdsman who was arrested? I don’t want to be political, I will ask you where are the cows?”

Yet, hear him after the mass abduction at Kuriga, “I’II solve the farmer-herder crisis in three weeks if governors provide grazing land.”

Was Mr. President not properly briefed before his Minna grandstanding?

This is because the main challenge is beyond the availability of grazing land as former Kano governor Abdullahi Ganduje has already enunciated in February 2021;

“Fulani herdsmen of Kano origin do not move out of Kano to other states because we have enough grazing land, ranches, and traditional stock route.

I am inviting herdsmen from all parts of Nigeria to relocate to Kano because we have enough facilities to accommodate them. We have grazing land where facilities have been provided to accommodate the herdsmen and their cattle.

Falgore Game Reserve can take care of millions of herdsmen and their cattle in Nigeria. The location has been designed to accommodate schools, human and animal clinics, markets, recreational centers, and other social amenities that would provide the herdsmen enough comfort to take care of their animals and transact their business without any hindrance.

These killings must stop. We cannot afford to continue to witness these senseless killings in the name of Fulani herdsmen and farmers clashing over lack of grazing land when we have a place like the Falgore Game Reserve, which is being underutilized.”

Soon after stooping at President Tinubu’s office why is Governor Umar Bago seated on IBB’s living room floor?

“Always make those above you feel comfortably superior.” – Law 1 of the 48 Laws of Power

Sitting asymmetrically is not only a mark of utmost respect but an unequivocal sign of complete loyalty in the northern Nigerian client-patron system, “that provides for patronage, security and protection in a partnership of social inequality. An influential person enjoys the allegiance of less influential persons who in turn owe allegiance to a more influential person above.”

– p. 374 Politics of Tradition: Continuity and Change in Northern Nigeria, 1946-1966 (1970) by CS Whitaker

Back at Government House Minna the governor would be the one on the sofa with other less influential persons on the floor;

“Stooping to conquer is a deliberate decision to lower oneself or status for the achieving a goal rather than tow the expected path of resistance.” – Ololade Ajekigbe in Lolo’s Thoughts

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