It has been a week of one development after another and President Muhammadu Buhari doesn’t seem to have any ground breaking conceptual or practical responses than the routine. Is it possible that he has already played all his cards and there is no last card to play? This is the question some of his admirers as well as adversaries are pondering upon as the president appears to lack a last card to deploy.
A Federal High Court sitting in Oshogbo has granted leave to commence an action against the National Assembly in order to compel it to impeach the president. Policemen said to have been unpaid for five months went on a protest march earlier in the week in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. Meanwhile, seven policemen were killed on duty Monday night right inside Abuja, sending shock waves across the country. Ripples from the latest round of killings, this time in Plateau State, are yet to subside and there is no guarantee that there won’t be a next one. Members of the British House of Lords are saying 380 million guns are circulating in Nigeria, enough to go round everyone in the country, including babies and their mothers and still leave another 150 million intact. The call for shuffling aside the service chiefs is mounting. Lastly, the ruling party has finally fragmented and the president has suffered near total isolation in the past two weeks. All these leave the country sinking into two dangerous moods of despair and desperation.
The expectation is to see the president move. That hasn’t happened. Is he bidding his time? How could he be bidding his time when the scales started falling off since?. Last December, the president announced the retention of the service chiefs but only for the security crisis to multiply and for notable elements to start calling for them to be shuffled aside. Two, killings in Benue, Plateau, Kaduna, Taraba and Zamfara have intensified, creating deep divisions, bitterness and tension between and among between groups, alienating the president and The Presidency further and further.
Three, not only the top elite but also the security establishment have fragmented as can be seen in protesting policemen. Granted that it has happened before, it was never on this scale! Critics of the action say it is treason. Sympathetic voices are asking those who say so to explain how they expected the policemen to cope with the situation. Perhaps by hunting and rearing bush meat? But Boko Haram has already killed the animals in the area while others have migrated to Cameroun, Chad, Niger and so on.
Four, it is generally doubted if there is anyone above the age of 70 talking to the president. Except General Abdulsalami Abubakar, all the members of the national cohort such as Gen Obasanjo, IBB, Gen Danjuma, Gen Gusau have broken with him and are unlikely to be talking with him, not even through a hotline, back channel or third party. Younger elements around him are believed to fear him so much as to refrain from saying anything that would upset him. Meanwhile, it is not clear what members of the much talked about cabal tell him: national interest or specific interests?
The last but most disarming of the president is the unravelling of the ruling party. A big fight that has ensued since 2015 on the rights and privileges of the legacy parties in the coalition is now over with the party in ruins. The n-PDP which felt short changed for all their electoral weight and resources, has rubbed it in now by pulling out yesterday evening. All the king’s men and the king’s horses could not put Humpty-Dumpty together again. This was evident from the party’s congresses across the country. The Speaker of the House of Representatives did not attend the APC primaries in his home state of Bauchi. In Adamawa State, the present Secretary to the Government of the Federation attended a different congress from that of his governor. It was the same story in Kano, Kogi, Kaduna, Oyo, Lagos, Katsina, Imo and where else!
The puzzle in the fragmentation of the APC is that of where it is coming from? Is it from the party leader’s lack of political party building skills or the elite consensus against the president, for whatever reasons? It is a difficult question to answer because, right from late 2015, the schisms had started developing. Loud grumblings could be heard from ‘The Lion of Bourdillion’ – over getting his nominees through, not being consulted and so on. Then there was silence. Then the president fell sick and The Lion resurfaced. The Lion came on again when he was saddled with reconciling the interests in the party but only for the quarrel between him and the then party chairman to resurface. In the end, he prevailed although only to the extent that Chief Odigie Oyegun didn’t get it at last but which does not mean that Tinubu aka The Lion of Bourdillion got it. The congresses shattered the party.
Now, there is virtually no party because what has just happened is the tip of the iceberg. The exodus has just begun. It will acquire an overwhelming momentum as soon as the elite find a consensus presidential aspirant/candidate for 2019. And there seems a contingency in place of how to manage the fall outs. Who knows, the Federal High Court ruling could be a way of forcing the president to share power between now and May 2019 because even a lame duck can still cause so much ‘damage’ on his way out although without being in a position to stop the killings, the president would lack the moral capacity to cause ‘damage’.
Has the fight which began on January 23rd, 2018 proceeded so quickly to the current phase? January 23rd,, 2018 was when OBJ released an open letter advising the president to take an early leave on account of nepotism, condoning corruption, incompetently confronting the security siege, handing over his mandate to some other people and ill-health. Then there was a counter-narrative from The Presidency locating the open letter in a fear-inspired response by those who have skeletons in their cupboard. That is the narrative that Nigeria would break if President Buhari wins a second term versus the counter-narrative of the killings as corruption fighting back. Each one has a question mark!
Long before now, each of OBJ, IBB and TY Danjuma have told the world who they knew Buhari to be. OBJ said Buhari is very stubborn. IBB said he is uncompromising and unsuitable for a complex country such as Nigeria where consensus is required on everything. TY Danjuma said he was a perfect Chief of Army Staff but too inflexible to be a good material for the position of Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters. All these are written down, either in books or media interviews. What guarantee did Buhari give them in 2015 that they all watched him sweep into power? Did they just take, hook, line and sinker his self-representation as a born again democrat? Did they not fail the test of guiding the nation properly by the endorsement they gave to Buhari in 2015? What is the guarantee that they may not repeat that sort of judgment in 2019?
As for The Presidency, the question is when did the president discover that IBB, TY and OBJ have dirty skeletons in the cupboards and that such is the reason they are fighting back? Was it when he assumed office in 2015 or long before then? Can he acquit himself of a charge of being economical with the truth in making that claim? These are people he knew all along but whom he coyed up to in 2015 so as to win election. Would they then not be right to fight back if he wants to deal with them after riding on their back? That is assuming that there is substance in the claim that everything happening is the handwork of corrupt people. Finally, politics and power are about negotiating accommodation and keeping quiet on certain issues. Why does the president appear unable to do that even as a politician? Can anybody be so powerful as to be able to do without that, especially a president who appears to have already exhausted his card in this Tombola? Whether it is corrupt people who are on the move or not, taking a light view of consensus or refusing to keep quiet on certain issues can be a frightening conception and practice of politics, with imponderable consequences for a society.