The Curse of Power — Femi Fani-Kayode

Nov. 9, 2013

This is a grim and depressing essay and the subject matter is painful to digest. I take no pleasure in writing it and I would suggest that those that are easily hurt, over-sensitive and unduly emotional should stop here and go no further because this is not the stuff for weak stomachs or gentle souls. Yet those that choose to go on and read it to the end can be rest assured of one thing- that there is a purpose for this interesting contribution and there is a morale to the tale. Now sit back, relax, fasten your seatbelts, prepare for take-off and come fly with me. Here it goes. When one studies the history of our country critically and takes the time to do the appropiate research one thing becomes very clear- that, in Nigeria, politics and the power game is a dangerous calling and terrible business which, more often than not, comes with a heavy price tag.

That price tag includes pain, anguish, betrayal, humiliation, persecution, misfortune, hardship, loss, death, strange ailments and tragedy for those who reach the top and their loved ones. It is rather like playing Russian roulette- there is one live bullet in the six empty chambers of the pistol and one doesn’t quite know when that bullet will go off when the trigger is pulled. The gamble and risks taken are not only compulsive but they are also addictive and at the same time utterly deadly. Sadly the result is as follows- virtually every single one of our national leaders and those that have ever ruled this country has suffered immeasurably at some point or the other in their lives, whether it be before, during or after they came to power. They too have shed tears in the loneliness of their closets and have eaten portions of what the bible describes as the ”bread of sorrows”. Yes, even the rich and powerful cry and even they suffer loss and tragedy. This is the case for leaders all over the world but in Nigeria it is far more pronounced and common than anywhere else. Here the angel of death, misfortune and sorrow seem to stalk those that find power and, like an ugly old crow plucks out the pink feathers and precious eyes of a beautiful flamingo, she cuts short and plucks away their lives or the lives of their loved ones. Like a light bulb attracts a moth and leads it to a sudden end, so power attracts those who seek it with equally tragic consequences. As painful as it is, let us look at the facts.

In the early ’60′s Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the first Premier of the Western Region, lost his first son and years later his second son and second daughter were cut short in the prime of their lives. Chief S.L. Akintola, his bitter poiltical rival and the second Premier of the Western Region also lost his first daughter in the early ’60′s and years later his youngest son was also cut short. Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode, the Deputy Premier of the Western Region, who was a close ally and second in command to S.L. Akintola, lost his second son. Sir Adesoji Aderemi, who was the Ooni of Ife, a close ally of Awolowo and the first ceremonial Governor of the old Western Region, lost his first son. Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Premier of the old Eastern Region and Nigeria’s first and only ceremonial President, lost his first wife.

President Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s second democratically-elected President lost three wives and one son whilst Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of the Northern Region, lost two sons and one daughter. Awolowo and Obasanjo went to jail for three years each whilst Ahmadu Bello went to jail for three months.

S.L. Akintola was killed in the prime of his life just as were Ahmadu Bello and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s first democratically-elected leader and Prime Minister. As a matter of fact they were all killed on the same night- the night of January 15th 1966. President Shehu Shagari, Nigeria’s second democratically-elected leader and first executive President lost four children whilst he was in power and was locked up for over two years after he was toppled. Chief MKO Abiola, the winner of the June 12th 1993 Presidential election, lost two wives, was locked up for 4 years and was eventually killed. Chief Bola Ige, the first democratically-elected Governor of Oyo state and the former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of the Federation lost his first son and he himself was later murdered. Chief Bisi Onabanjo, the first democratically-elected Governor of Ogun state lost his first son. Alhaji Lateef Jakande, the first democratically elected Governor of Lagos state, lost his first daughter. Dr. Omololu Olunloyo, the second democratically-elected Governor of Oyo state lost his son. Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, the first Minister of Finance of Nigeria was killed. Chief Alfred Rewane, one of the founding members of the Action Group and a leading figure in NADECO, was killed. The list is endless and I could go on and on.

Alhaji Musa Yar’adua was Minister of Lagos Affairs in the First Republic. He was blessed with a long and peaceful life. However two of his sons were not so lucky. His first son, General Shehu Musa Yar’adua, who was number two to General Obasanjo when he was military Head of State and who for many decades was one of the most powerful men in the country, was murdered whilst he was in prison. His second son, President Umaru Yar’adua, was cut short in his prime by a strange and inexplicable ailment after he had been President for only three years. He was succeeded by his number two, Vice President Goodluck Jonathan. Jonathan lost his brother and his mother-in-law one year after the other after he became President. Worse still those that he had been deputy to throughout his political life, either as Deputy Governor or Vice President, always suffered one form of misfortune or the other, whether it be death, shame, incarceration or impeachment, and he would end up stepping into their shoes and taking their place.

When it comes to our military rulers the story of consistent tragedy is no different- General Aguiyi-Ironsi, our first military Head of State was killed. General Yakubu Gowon, our second military Head of State, was toppled from power, exiled and lost his brother. General Murtala Mohammed, our third military Head of State, was killed and lost both his son and son-in-law. General Olusegun Obasanjo was our fourth military Head of State and we touched on his misfortunes earlier. General Muhammadu Buhari, our fifth military Head of State, was toppled from power, locked up for a number of years, lost his mother whilst he was in detention and was not allowed to attend her burial, lost his number two (General Tunde Idiagbon) in very strange circumstances and later lost his daughter. General Ibrahim Babangida, our sixth military Head of State, was eased out of power and compelled to ”step aside” amidst massive controversy and turmoil and later lost his wife. His number two, Rear Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, lost his first son. Chief Ernest Shonekan, our first and only Interim Civilian Head of State, was badly humiliated and toppled from power. General Sani Abacha, our seventh military Head of State, lost his son, was removed from power and was killed. General Abdulsalmi Abubakar, our eigth military Head of State, as far as I am aware is the only exception and appears to have escaped any misfortune.

Yet the picture is very depressing. This is indeed a catalogue of tragic events. Sorrow and pain just appears to be following sorrow and pain. It is a vicious circle of misfortune and calamity. Yet the most curious phenomenon and bizarre series of events of all is the fact that every single Head of State or President that has ruled our country from the Presidential Villa in Aso Rock, Abuja for three years or more has either ended up dying whilst there or has lost a spouse before leaving office. Babangida did not stay in the Villa in Abuja for up to three years so he and his wife escaped what has come to be known as the ”Villa curse”. It was the same for Chief Ernest Shonekan who, wisely, never stayed at the Villa at all but who chose to preside over the affairs of the nation from Aguda house next door and who remained in power for barely six months. General Abdulsalami Abubakar stayed at the Villa but he remained there for less than a year. However Abacha, Obasanjo and Yar’adua were not so lucky- each of them stayed at the Villa for three years or more and before the end of their tenure they either lost their own life or the life of their spouse whilst there. The story is that once the three year mark is passed the curse sets in and the clock begins to tick. At the end of the day only one of the two spouses comes out alive. As my friend and brother Mr. Femi Adesina of the Sun Newspaper once wrote, I say ”Jumping Jehoshaphat”. This is truly frightful. Yet one wonders- is it all a mere coincidence or is there more to it than meets the eye?

Are these ”inevitable acts of God” or is it the work of the devil? Is there such a thing as a curse or a jinxed existence or place? Most of us believe in blessings and blessed places yet can we believe in blessings without believing in curses? Can we believe in the power of light and God without believing in the power of darkness and the devil? Can you have one without the other? Can there be good without evil? These are indeed strange and curious events but is the whole thing nothing but superstitious humbug? Possibly so, though I doubt it very much. Yet the truth is that I am simply guided by the facts and we must each make of them what we will.

In his book titled ”The Screwtape Letters” the great 20th century scholar, writer and philosopher Professor C.S. Lewis wrote- ”there are two schools of thoughts about demons. Firstly that they do not exist at all and secondly that they exist but that they have no power”. He then wrote that ”the demons themselves are equally pleased with both schools of thought and they view the atheist with as much disdain and amusement as they do the materialist”. He goes on to say that ”the greatest trick that the devil ever played on humanity was to make mankind believe that he does not exist”. These are powerful insights, wise counsel and instructive words coming from a man that is generally regarded as being at par with the likes of Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Homer, J.R.R.Tolkien, Plato, Tolstoy, Voltaire, Aristotle and Paul of Tarsus and who is one of the greatest and most influential writers and philosophers that ever lived.

Whatever the case and whoever we choose to believe it is my sincere prayer that the Villa curse is broken (assuming that such a curse exists) and that no-one else will suffer the same fate as those that lived there for three years or more before them. Given the fact that the bible says that the Lord ”reveals to redeem” and that the blood of Jesus is more powerful than any curse I have every confidence that eventually it will be.

I am not a superstitious man but I don’t believe in coincidences either. Where there is a consistent pattern of strange and similar occurences and a series of bizarre and inexplicable events then good old-fashioned common sense and logic demands that questions must be asked and answers must be provided. When one considers all these facts and series of misfortunes that have trailed our leaders in the last 53 years of our existence as an independent nation one cannot but conclude that there has indeed been a harvest of hardship, pain and death attached to the highest, most powerful and most prominent offices in the land and to those that are close to or have occupied it.

The truth is that power comes at a terrible price and those that wield it have, more often than not, experienced terrible pain and anguish in their lives. That is the price that virtually every single one of them has had to pay. What a tragedy. Yet at the end of the day I wonder whether it is all worth it. For as the bible says, it is nothing but ”vanity upon vanity- all is vanity”. May the Lord continue to comfort and heal the wounds of all those that have lost their loved ones over the years, including every single family or person that is mentioned or referred to in this essay, and may the souls of the departed continue to rest in perfect peace. The morale of the tale? For all those that are either in the power game or politics themselves or that have loved ones that are involved in it my counsel is that they pray, pray and pray again and that they break every known and unknown covenant. As a matter of fact, as the bible says, they must ”pray without ceasing” for both themselves and their loved ones.

I say this because this battle is real. Yet ”our weapons are not carnal but are mighty through God in the pulling down of strongholds”. May we never be at the wrong place at the wrong time and may our loved ones never be the victims of spiritual bullets that are meant for us. Such bullets, in the good old fashioned Mountain of Fire (MFM) way, shall ”die by fire” and ”return back to sender”. We decree and we declare that the counsel of the ungodly shall not stand over our lives and loved ones and that ”no weapon fashioned against us shall prosper”. Thankfully we have come to the end of the flight and we have landed safely. You may now unfasten your seatbelts. I hope that it wasn’t too turbulent. Cheer up, be strong and keep smiling because despite all the tragedy, sorrow, death and ugliness it is still a beautiful world and much joy can still be found in it. The Lord is faithful to His own. May God be with us all.

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