Power, Politics & Death

So I finally got to finish my first politics-themed book. After years of reading mystery, romance, Christian, and everything else, I guess it’s time to move into a new territory. To be fair to myself, I actually once started reading Bill Clinton’s autobiography, My Life, but I dropped out along the way. I’ve also flipped through Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, and a few others; but I always felt it was easier (and more interesting) to read a 1000-page novel than a 10-page book on politics. 
This book, “Power, Politics & Death”, was written in 2011 by Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, spokesman to Nigeria’s former president, Late Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. I came across the book in a friend’s house, and got hooked by the title. So I decided to read it, and covered its 286 pages in about four days.
I don’t know if I have the locus standi to write a review about a book. In school, it was assumed that engineering students were poor at English, since our brains were supposedly occupied with calculus and its siblings (fallacy!). So, I’ll just be content with writing a crisp summary of the book, based on the points I grasped in it.
Mr. Olusegun was an editor with ThisDay Newspapers, before the president offered him the opportunity to serve as presidential spokesman. In his book, he explains his role in various events that marked that presidency, striving to stay loyal to his ideals of integrity, while holding a post that many of us assume requires telling the public official lies.
The book is divided into two parts, with Part 1 covering defining issues of that presidential era, while Part 2 covered the illness that eventually claimed the president’s life. In the first part, Olusegun covered issues such as corruption, the rule of law, the amnesty deal, terrorism, banking reforms, foreign policy, meanderings in the oil industry, and the president’s attempts at fixing an electoral system that he acknowledged produced the flawed elections that brought him to power.
The fabric of the Nigerian government is riddled with massive corruption. A vast majority of Nigerians would agree with this view, but it’s a different ball game, hearing about corruption from someone whose position gave him a front row viewing position into the intrigues of governance. Olusegun vividly describes various attempts by highly-connected individuals, with vested interests in national issues, to influence critical decisions to be made by the president. With all the sycophancy in the Nigerian system, anyone occupying the presidential office, has to be wise enough to separate the wheat from the chaff; in the plethora of advice that come from all angles. This is more so vital if the president is interested in achieving something meaningful and leaving an enduring legacy.
If Yar’Adua had lived, would he have solidly etched his name in the annals of history as an achiever, a great president? Olusegun’s writing suggests that he believes so. He says the president came to the office with a host of good intentions, a desire to fix a country that was broken in many areas. But the implementation of his policies were hindered by some factors—one of them, wrong choice of some team members. One name that appears repeatedly in the book as Yar’Adua’s version of Judas, is the former justice minister and attorney general, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa. In the entire book, Aondoakaa is painted as a key member of the vanguard entrusted with derailing the policies of Yar’Adua’s presidency. Olusegun’s view may be biased, he may have a personal issue with Aondoakaa, but if I learnt anything from the book, one important point would be the futility of attempting to make progress with a wrong team.
In Part 2, Yar’Adua’s fatal illness is thrown into the limelight. The office of the president is rigorous, even for a perfectly healthy individual. Yar’Adua’s health had been an issue even before he became president. Olusegun covers the president’s recurring foreign medical trips and efforts made to spin the stories positively for the public. His illness would culminate in the November 23, 2009 trip to Saudi Arabia. That trip would then set up chain reactions in the country, with divergent views from different groups, threatening Nigeria’s democracy.
That was the period of the “cabal”, a faceless group that Nigerians, thanks to the media, believed was running the affairs of the country in the name of the sick president. The way the president’s illness was handled, with the Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, being prevented from seeing the president, made many Nigerians believe in the existence of the “cabal”. Olusegun vehemently opposes that theory, stating in clear terms that there was no “cabal” in the presidential villa.
Finally, the National Assembly stepped in to save Nigeria from the constitutional dilemma caused by the president’s illness. The “Doctrine of Necessity” that was invoked to transfer presidential powers to Goodluck Jonathan, was a novelty that saved the country from further political conflict.
The book “Power, Politics & Death” is a good read, quite interesting to read. The writer did a good job of elucidating issues about the Nigerian government. In my own view, I believe he tried to be objective in his writing. It’s a book I’ll recommend for anyone who wants to look into the nuances of Nigerian governance. For me, I’m off to another political book. Hopefully, I’ll also finish this one.

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