No matter how philosophers and ancient thinkers would want us to belittle the terms “luck”, “fate”, “fortune” or “providence” in human existence, what remains as a fact is that this terms, have huge influence in who gets what, when and how, and to a great extent dictate the general course of a man’s life.
In his best-selling book, The Mafia Manager, “V” said, a truckload of fortune is better than hard work. You cannot underestimate the power of good fortune. Possess it, and you have almost all you need. Most people who become winners of lottery and realty events, apart from being god at what they do, have at one time or the other confessed to being lucky. In Igbo tradition, anybody who is not so lucky was said to have a white foot. Funny as the scenario may look, one would be disregarding it at their own peril.
In politics, luck or providence is a major factor. In a CNN interview during his visit to China two years ago, President Goodluck Jonathan accepted this. He acknowledged that it is his good luck that has guided his political career in Nigeria, including his meteoric rise from obscurity to the presidency of Africa’s most populated Nation. You cannot blame him. For a former university lecturer in Zoology at the University of Port Harcourt, who dipped his hand into the political fray in 1999 and in just over ten years, rose to the pinnacle of political power in Nigeria, it couldn’t have all been due to his exceptional qualities. There was something more.
Starting his political pilgrimage as the deputy governor of Bayelsa in 1999. When the governor, Alamasiegha was impeached for fraud and money laundering, Jonathan took over from him as governor of the state. Barely two years later, he was handpicked by Olusegun Obasanjo and made the vice presidential candidate in Yar’Adua’s government. No sooner had that administration started, than Yar’Adua died and he was made the substantive president this was in spite of the strong opposition from the Northern establishment and his little experience in Nigeria’s murky politics. A position which in his wildest dream, no matter the number of bottles of orijin he takes, he and the entire Ijaw nation couldn’t have believed was possible given the strong hold the North has had on power at the centre. In otherwords, he defied the logic that politics is the art of the possible. He hardly lifted a finger before becoming president. He served out the rest of Yar’Adua’s term in office. He is at the twilight of his own first term, and now constitutionally wants a second term as president to consolidate on the undisputable gains of his Transformation Agenda as would any right thinking person. He may yet get it. But it remains to be seen.
Let us quickly add that Jonathan is not the only Nigerian leader who got into high office by sheer luck. Our first prime minister, Tafawa Balewa history books tell us got into that office simply because his party leader, the Sardauna of Sokoto declined the invitation to go to Lagos. He was very disdainful of southern politicians and did not want to be contaminated by southern ‘infidels’. Instead, he sent Tafawa Balewa, a former school teacher and he was appointed the Federal prime minister, a position he retained for nearly 12 years, until his assassination in the bloody 1966 Military coup, but which we continue to argue was a revolution but became a coup as a result of the ethnic connotations read into it.
His successor, General Aguiyi Ironsi, the GOC of the Nigerian Army, was a hard drinking and blundering military officer without the slightest ambition of being Nigeria’s head of state. He had previously served as the head of the Nigerian military contingent in the Congo in 1960, and later as the military attaché in the Nigerian High Commission in London. He was just happy to be the GOC of the Nigerian Army, a post given him as a compromise by the NPC/NNPC federal coalition government. He had not even been recommended for that position by the departing British head of the Nigrian Army, Major general Welby Everard, who for professional reasons preferred either Brigaider Maimalari, or Brigadier Ademulegun as history books has it. After the 1966 coup/revolution, power was handed over to him by the rump of the federal parliament. Within six months, he fell from power and was assassinated in a counter-coup by Northern military officers, who were fiercely opposed to his plan to introduce a unitary system of government in the country.
There are also incidences of luck in the circumstances leading to the emergence to power in characters like Col. Yakubu Gowon, Brigaider Murtala Mohammed, General Olusegun Obasanjo etc. but Obasanjo’s case stands out. He succeeded Murtala Mohammed as military head of state. Obasanjo had played no part in the coup that bought in Murtala Mohammed and was reported to have gone into hiding at the Victoria Island residence of Late Chief S.B Bakare, his old friend, from where Gen. Akinrinade fectched him. As a compromise between Gen. Danjuma and Gen. Yar’Adua, the ranking Northern military chiefs, Obasanjo was made the new head of state, a job that he did not want at the time. But through providence and sheer luck, Obasanjo has been twice Nigerian head of state. In 1999, he fulfilled the biblical prophecy in the book of Ecclesiastes, that a person can move from prison to become the king. This is a position that Chief Obafemi Awolowo struggled for during his long political voyage but which he did not achieve though he was eminently qualified for it. On several occasions, Gen. Obasanjo has publicly admitted that providence played a large role in his professional career, both as military man and as a politician.
There are also cases of the power of providence in the rise to political power in some foreign countries. A factor of luck in shaping the career of famous politicians. Here we go: Had president John Kennedy not been assassinated in 1963, Lyndon Johnson would not have gone to become the president of the United states. And had his brother not been assassinated in 1968, Richard Nixon would not have been elected the U.S President.
In the British establishment, had King Edward VIII not abdicated the throne in 1936, to marry a twice divorced American, Mrs. Simpson and been replaced by his younger brother, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II would not now be the British Monarch a position she has now held for over sixty years. It was sheer luck that brought former labour Prime minister, Harold Wilson to power in 1963 when the tottering Harold Macmillian’s conservative government was narrowly defeated by Labour in the elections. Harold Wilson was once quoted as saying that a day in politics is a long time, and that as long as there is death, there is hope for every aspiring politician. He was right. We can go on and on, but suffice it to keep it at that lest we deviate from our immediate concern today.
We have embarked on this abridged history lesson to educate those of us who may want to charge us for being inductive in our logic and thereby desecrating the rules of inducting and Deductive Logic.
It appears the machineries of good fortune are already a foot in the re-election bid of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. A political friend of mine told me sometime that GEJ’s goodluck was already on course the moment the All Progressives Congress (APC) chose the obviously tired general Muhammadu Buhari as its presidential flag bearer. The reason, he hinged on the fact that the general is a poster card of political misfortune. That is to say, he has not the blessing of providence to be a leader at the centre the mammoth crown he pulls notwithstanding. My friend was not done. In him, he saw a man whose personal god said No, But who goes obstinate and says yes and by so doing, challenging his personal god in a fight by not being loyal to the submissions of his ‘Chi’, as Chinua Achebe tells us in most of his stories on the Igbo Folklore. We are told that in such situations, the gods have a way of stamping their authority. It is either, they embarrass the headstrong individual out of power, or confer more advantage to their opponents in a duel of political battle. In the classic, Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe told s of how Okonkwo a very successful man, revered across the entire village of Umuofia was embarrassed by the gods leading to his shameful death.
Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, embarrassing Muhammadu Buhari out of power in 1985 with the latter haven spent a paltry 20 months in charge, could be said to be the gods way of punishing those who usurpate their divine authority in order to assert their superiority over them. The advantage that has been conferred on Buhari’s Opponents since 2003 when he started going against the wishes of his personal god to rule this country, has consistently led to his losing out at the polls in 2003, 2007 and 2011. It remains to be seen whether history will repeat itself come March 28th.
It does not matter what followership such individual may have for it is not just popularity alone that confers power. There are hands unseen that dictate on whose head the crown is worn. Basking in the euphoria of a mob like following is to get it right. It is to say, that humans are their own gods and no longer subject to supernatural powers that subsists in the metaphysical realm. So whatever cult like following the general may be having, it should not be lost on us, that numbers is secondary in the road to power. Some people have said that politics is a game of numbers, but for us here as far as this column goes, it is a game of luck. It deals more with whether the individual who wants power is in the good books of the gods and not of the people.
GEJ on the other hands is a child of providence. We cannot take it away from him. It does not matter whether he has constructed over 50,000 Kilometres of roads, it does not matter whether Boko Haram now wants to carve out a caliphate off our soil nor does it matter whether he has been branded CLUELESS from head to toe in some quarters. All those are secondary for those whom the gods have ordained. It is not his doing. Metaphysics is at play, and like all things that lies within the realm of metaphysics, it cannot be torpedoed by lame and ordinary mortals. That is the greatest advantage the Otuoke man has over his Daura counterpart. Little wonder why he has carried on his political career in humility knowing fully well that he is only but a child of providence who did not win his way to the throne, through oratory, blackmail and other sort obnoxious political gimmicks.
While the Mach 28th date rescheduled for the presidential election draws nigh, it remains to be seen whether providence will run its course again or whether there shall be a paradigm shift in the orbit of history. For Buhari, we shall be seeing whether for the fourth time, he will come under the punishment of his personal god for having not been able to connect the dots in his political misfortune. And for the President Goodluck Jonathan, we shall be sited on the stands to see whether providence is done with him or whether history in its signature manner will be repeating itself.
Whichever way the pendulum swings, it promises to be an engaging encounter but which we insist have already taken place in some other realm but only the televised version awaited here.
The writer is a Law student in the University of Maiduguri and a public Affairs commentator. He is on twitter as @RayNkah