I worked in the Villa for three years as President Olusegun Obasanjo’s spokesman on public affairs and a lot of grey strange things happened there.
Amongst them is the fact that the two people that served as Senior Special Assistant to President Obasanjo on Media and Publicity one after the other, namely the much-loved Mr. Tunji Oseni and then later Mrs. Remi Oyo, both contracted a terrible terminal illness whilst in office and died a few years later.
Apart from that many other aides that worked in the Villa at that time were also afflicted with strange diseases and a sudden and tragic end.
Amongst them were Col. Solomon Giwa Amu, Obasanjo’s hard-working and good-looking ADC and Mr. Stanely Macebuh, his brilliant and cerebral Senior Special Assistant on Public Communications.
I was so moved by Abati’s piece that I decided to share the following thoughts about the spiritual challenges that those in power have faced.
When our President can get up and tell the whole world all the way from distant Germany that his wife “belongs to the kitchen, the living room and the other room” simply because she dared to speak her mind to the BBC then you know that he is in the grip of something evil and that demons are speaking through him.
It is all part of the spiritual dimension of living in the Villa that Abati was referring to in his essay. The President’s mind has become twisted and he is now possessed by strange and powerful entities. He needs a lot of prayer.
Yet the problem is much bigger and wider than that. When one studies the history of our country critically and takes the time to do the appropriate 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 political rival and the second Premier of the Western Region also lost his first daughter in the early 60′s and a few years later lost his third and youngest son. His second son was also cut short in his prime a number of years later.
My father, 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 four wives and one son many years ago 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 first wife, lost his daughter and now he has publicly described his second wife as nothing more than a “kitchen, living room and ‘other room’ wife”.
His number two, General Tunde idiagbon, was cut short under very strange and suspicious cirumstances.
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 first son, was removed from power and was killed.
General Abdulsalami 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.
President Jonathan stayed there as President for four years in a stretch but the travails of his wife and her series of illnesses and medical complications which suddenly and miraculously ceased and abated after he conceded the 2015 election indicates that had he continued in office after 2015 he may have lost her and the demons of Aso Rock Villa would have come for their prey. Thankfully he left before they could lay claim to it and before the curse was activated.
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.
When one considers all these facts and series of misfortunes that have trailed our leaders in the last 56 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”.