Nigeria Politics: A Mastery of the Art of Chess


First and foremost, it is important to have a basic knowledge of the boardgame called Chess.
The game of chess is a two-player boardgame which consists of sixteen pieces made up of one King, one Queen, two knights, two bishops, two rooks (also called castles) and eight pawns.

The game dates as far back as the 7th century and have been a favourite past time of several kings and emperors, who played the game in a bid to sharpen their intelligence and improve their battle strategies. Mastery of the game of chess requires tact, intelligence, wit, and, most importantly, patience. It can be tagged a mind game. Enough said about the game, though there can hardly be enough said about chess.

Indigenous politics came into limelight from 1960, when Nigeria gained independence. Being a rookie in the art of chess (Nigeria politics), tribalism resulted in the formation of three political parties: Nigerian People Congress (NPC) — a Hausa/Fulani party, National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) — an Eastern region, consisting of mainly Igbos, party– and Action Group (AG) — a Western region, consisting of mainly Yorubas, party. Due to the lead in population, the Northern-majority party, NPC, captured the most seats in Parliament and controlled the political sector of the nation, with Sir Tafawa Balewa and Sir Ahmadu Bello becoming Prime Minister and Premier of Northern region respectively. On the chessboard, the duo could be represented as the King and Queen. Although the Prime Minister enjoyed more political authority when compared to a Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello (due to his position as Saraduna/Sultan of Sokoto) is represented as the then king on the chessboard.

The opposition comprised of the Eastern and Western region– though they were not in coalition–, with the then President/Governor-General, Sir Nnamdi Azikiwe (of the Eastern region) and Chief Obafemi Awolowo (of the Western region) serving as King and Queen respectively on the other side of the chessboard.
During a game of chess, when a pawn successfully gets into the ‘royal territory’ of the opposition, it is given the privilege of transforming into a member of royalty (ranging from a rook to a Queen). This principle occurred on the opposition end of the chessboard as Samuel Ladoke Akintola, upon selection as Premier of the Western region, took the privilege of becoming a ‘Queen’ and tried changing certain precepts of the Action Group (AG) party. This didn’t go well with the older Queen (Chief Obafemi Awolowo) who sought to use his power as leader of the AG party to knock the younger Queen (Ladoke Akintola) off the chessboard. This caused a bloody unrest in the opposition tent and due to the bone of contention being a pledge of coalition to the ruling government, it waded into the turbidous territory and knocked the older Queen off the chessboard thus installing the younger as Queen Supreme of the opposition.
Law 15 of the 48 Laws of Power (Robert Greene) states: Crush your enemy totally!
In ancient times, when an Emperor took over an empire, he slaughtered all loyalists of the previous regime in a bid to curb all forms of rebellion.
Applying this law, Ladoke Akintola disbanded the Action Group (AG) party and established a new party– Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP). Out of loyalty for its installation, the Queen Supreme, led a marriage of its child, Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) to the ruling government party Nigerian People Congress (NPC). This coalition left the Eastern region party, National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) and the rebels of the Action Group (AG) in the opposition.

The game was however brought to a abrupt halt when a group of military officers knocked the chess pieces off the chessboard, crushed certain pieces to dust and began playing checkers on the board. The pieces crushed were chieftains of the NPC-NNDP coalition. Due to the military officers (involved) being of Eastern region origin, the coup (which was tagged a tribal coup) angered the Northern and Western region.

Though the game of chess and checkers have lots of similarities, the rules of play are quite different. From 1966 to 1977, the military played the game of checkers with the politics of the nation. The dictates of the Head of State, and his inner caucus, was law. The inner caucus which enjoyed countless privileges was termed the Supreme Military Council (SMC). They marauded with impunity, ruling with an iron fist. There were coups and counter-coups as they marauded the political waters without any checks being able to be imposed on them.

In 1979, chess pieces were returned to the board when a military officer, in the person of Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (the then Head of State) decided that the game of checkers had enjoyed enough field day on the chessboard. A new political party was formed (from the NPC-NNDP coalition) and called the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) with Alhaji Shehu Shagari assuming the role of King (President) of the ruling side of the chessboard.

A few years later, the board was again emptied of chess pieces and replaced with checkers, as the military swooped into the political waters and sank the sailing democratic ship.
Precepts and dictates of the royal household (the Head of State and Supreme Military Council) were word and law. However, due to the rule of play in the game of checkers, a King is never assured of being the King until the game is over. Application of this principle knocked the King, who displaced the chess pieces, off the board and a new checkers piece became the King.
In 1993, the chess pieces were returned to the board by the checkers King when General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida handed over to a civilian interim government, headed by Ernest Shonekan, to rule the nation.
Ernest Shonekan can hardly be regarded as King on the chessboard as his rule was so short-lived that the political game was hardly played.

The chess piece were, once again, dismissed from the board as the checkers (military) left the barracks and descended on the nation like a hawk would on a defenseless chick.
The game of checkers came into play with the King (the then Head of State, General Sani Abacha) posing a powerful stance of supremacy and dictatorship, knocking off , and sometimes smashing (checkers or chess), any piece who was considered a threat to the then pattern of play. However, every person, thing, e.t.c resident on Planet Earth has an expiry date and this caught up with the King Supreme and on the 8th of June, 1998, Gen. Sani Abacha died of cardiac arrest. General Abdusalami Abubakar assumed the role of King Supreme (Head of State) of the nation.
A timetable had already been scheduled to return the chess pieces to the board, to which the new King Supreme adhered to.

On the 29th of May, 1999, the military handed over rule to civilians and returned to the barracks. This was when the real game of chess began. All the years of displacement from the board had accorded several chess pieces the opportunity to attend the ‘Institute of Chess’ in a bid to master and understand several aspects of the game. Several checkers pieces cross-carpeted to become chess pieces. This made the game a lot interesting.

Political parties were formed and the political tug-of-war began. Prominent among the newly formed parties were the People Democratic Party (PDP)– a regional/tribal diversified party, the All People’s Party– a Hausa/Fulani party — and the Alliance for Democracy (AD)– a Western region (Yoruba) party.
A checker-turned-chess, in the person of Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (the then military Head of State who first handed over rule to civilians), was given the candidacy for the People Democratic Party (PDP).

Having learnt a certain level of mastery of the game, the People Democratic Party (PDP) applied the strategy of regional/tribal diversity to the game and this put them at a vantage point thus earning the position of ruling side on the board. On the opposition side was the All People Party (APP) and the Alliance for Democracy (AD). The opposition had the similarity of no-coalition to that of the political inception.

Due to its strategy of diversity and togetherness, the People Democratic Party (PDP) held power and ruled the nation for sixteen years with late Alhaji Musa Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan respectively ruling the nation at different times. The tenure of the latter, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, saw the disintegration of the People Democratic Party (PDP) as several top chieftains left the party. Mastery of the game of chess is never to be taken for granted and this eventually led to the loss of power to the opposition.

The years which the People Democratic Party (PDP) spent in power were used by the opposition to attend the ‘Institute of Chess’ and this improved their intelligence and understanding of politics. The major opposition parties and the chiefs who left the People Democratic Party (PDP) then, acting on the principle of coalition, merged to build an Armoured Personnel Carrier called the All Progressive Congress (APC). The opposition parties which formed this were the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the All Nigeria People Party (ANPP). The All Progressive Congress (APC) was formed on the 6th of February, 2013 in preparation for the 2015 elections.

The Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) fielded a checker-turned-chess, in the person of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, for presidential candidacy and they succeeded in wrestling power out of the hands of the People Democratic Party (PDP) thus sending them back to the ‘Institute of Chess’.
The victory resulted in the switch of sides on the chessboard, with Gen. Muhammadu Buhari becoming the (King) President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the All Progressive Congress (APC) party becoming the ruling side of the game.

If the principle of tact, wit, intelligence and patience is re-taught to the People Democratic Party (PDP) in the ‘Institute of Chess’, and the All Progressive Congress (APC) doesn’t make the same mistakes they did, it might be quite a while before the People Democratic Party (PDP) get a hold of power again but I am neither a fortune teller nor a seer so ONLY TIME CAN TELL!

Article by Agwah Michael
(Founder 247NewsUpdate Blog, Researcher, Human Rights Activist, Social Critic and Political Analyst)
Twitter: @AgwahMichael
LinkedIn: Agwah Michael

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