OAUgate: My inference on this topic
Having spoken with quite a number of diplomats, been involved in a lengthy debate with some good pals on Twitter, and on WhatsApp, having tried to, but failed to, speak with Ibrahim Dagash, however having spoken with a family member of Peter Onu, who does not want to be identified, I think it is time to draw my inferences.
First thing is that this discussion is more or less a referendum on President Buhari himself. Not on whether he’s parochial, that has been established, but on whether his tribal sympathies will cloud his judgement to the extent that he will go against a fellow Nigerian. This is what is important.
The premise for the whole brouhaha was that in 1985, at the OAU election, a Nigerian, Peter Onu, stood against a Nigerien, Ide Oumarou.
So here is the fact: Peter Onu was not on the ballot for the OAU election in 1985.
Note that in 1984, Onu continued as acting sec-gen of OAU, while the chair was changed. There is no way he would have continued, if his country had not backed him. But by 1985, that had changed. Ide Oumarou was not jobless when he was called to become candidate for the sec-gen position, and according to at least three diplomats, there was no way Onu could be acting sec-gen and still conduct the poll. So, did Buhari suddenly become more tribalistic (note the more please) in 1985 than he had been in 1984? So, once again, Onu was not on the ballot in 1985.
Now having that out of the way, we still have not answered the thorny question of national interest. This question is important in the light of recent events where Nasiru El-Rufai, a state governor, who happens to be of President Buhari’s ethnic stock, has admitted paying fellow tribesmen who are of the same ethnic stock, but non-Nigerian, money, much to the chagrin of so many Nigerians.
Did Buhari advance the interest of a tribesman over a countryman? The most credible source for this, Ibrahim Dagash, says yes. It is important to note this. It is also important to note that Dagash dwelt on this in a single paragraph in his book. That paragraph, unfortunately, is open to all sorts of interpretation. Some have chosen to translate it as being that Mr. Onu was on the ballot. Others, not so.
This brings us, quite nicely, to the issue of bias.
The reason Dagash is the most credible of all our sources, is that he is non-Nigerian, and has no skin in the ethnic games we like to play here. This makes him less likely to be biased than any other narrator. At this point, I think it is proper to, since I will not name them, give the ethnic composition of the nine diplomats that lent their voices to this discourse — five are Igbo, two are Yoruba, one is Fulani, and one is Ijaw. You can draw your inferences from that.
Now, back to bias. We, my generation have a problem. We have the problem of refusing to let go of entrenched positions even as more facts become available. As a matter of fact, one response in this thread, when I conceded a point of order to Ayobami, saw it as funny that I was conceding a point in a debate. It explained to me why our people tend to hold on tight to positions EVEN in the face of overwhelming evidence. I shudder for my generation.
I noticed that earlier in the thread, especially when the fraudulent account FactsOnlyNG appeared to have it all in place, a lot of pro-Buhari handles were active. Many of them exited the moment it was proven that Dagash’s book existed. As time went on, a lot of anti-Buhari handles began to become active in the thread. And then the floodgates opened, and the fact that I supported Buhari in the elections two years ago suddenly became a reason as to why I was, according to some, trying to exonerate him from tribalism. Laughable if you ask me, but here we are.
I work, in my day job, for a research firm, and I’ve learned one or two things on the job. In gathering evidence of a historical nature, you first use primary sources. Dagash’s book is a primary source, as he was present at the discussion. Other primary sources were brought into the fray in the form of minutes of some meetings. But these primary sources, were not about the 1985 incident, so we were pretty quickly left with a single primary source.
But, one rule is this — you cannot rely on a single source. Your work will NEVER be accepted in any peer review if that is the case. So, you back up your primary source with evidence. Evidence is anything which can support the claim. Such as statements by people who do not want to be identified. Evidence may be strong, or weak. When I spoke to some diplomats I know, my evidence was weak. When I collaborated with @gentleojay to speak to more diplomats that he knew, the evidence became stronger. When Rosanwo joined in the fray, the evidence became stronger still. That the people we spoke with all broadly said the same thing, provides the evidence with consistency. However, it is important to note that there are still unanswered questions, so this may be resumed, likely by someone else, if/when new evidence comes to light.
So, here we are, with so many teachable moments for our generation. First, we do not know compromise. We are as intolerant of other opinions as we accuse Buhari and El-Rufai, and others, of being. In the 1980s, Buhari had others to trim his excesses, and when it got too much, to replace him. What happens to us as a people, when the country is being run by so many Buharis who do not know how to reach compromise?
Second teachable moment — education. A semi-educated person is far more dangerous than a total illiterate. This has been proven time and again. Arguing from an entrenched position despite all evidence to the contrary, is the hallmark of bad education, and Nigeria is full of those. We need to learn how to change our positions in the face of evidence. That, is the only way we can make progress.
At this point, we can call this dig as over.