It must be a very terrible week for the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari. Even for a platform like this which does not report routine news, the early details were gripping in each version of it. Aisha Buhari, Nigeria’s First Lady is at war with a presidential aide involving hot pursuit of a kind in the past few days.
Interestingly, The Presidency is not denying any of the details but saying the president was never at any time directly threatened, that attacks did not take place anywhere near the president, it is not beyond the control of the security system in the Villa and that the president has already made it an issue of the law taking its course.
Ordinarily, that is a family affair except that it is connected to the same president under whom the party which brought him to power is also in disarray. Previously, the same president presided over colleagues who successfully revolted against him without a dissenter. The totality is a president whose claims to leadership is totally interrogated over time.
This is an inference President Buhari would naturally not accept, being a man who sees himself as more sinned against than sinning. But it is no more a question of what he would or would not accept. It has now escaped the boundaries of personal or family affair to the domain of the problem which the opening epigram acknowledges and which is the question of what influence determines how a leader decides his priorities in every context.
There is no way this would not be used as evidence of him as someone who has always had problems managing every other spaces of leadership. More so that, at the national level, his leadership is broadly cited as a condition of possibility for breaking-up of the country. The party level is worse and the president is the leader of the party.
Naturally, people would empathise with a patriarch contending with disarray at the domestic front just as even the most sympathetic would also note that this is no ordinary crisis or another patriarch. This is the president of a potential world power.
The question for all time would be how all these might be happening that the president is totally unable to impose a negotiated accommodation. Very early in the life of the regime, the First Lady made pronouncements that struck the chord with the populace. The idea of a mandate hijacked by a cabal has since become the staple of the public sphere. It was one of such pronouncements. Nothing has been done to demonstrate anything to the contrary. Not even the assumption that second term victory would give the president opportunity to begin to undo the damages.
A flicker of hope came with the appointment of a new Chief of Staff to the president recently. The idea of an educated moderator of informal and formal interaction of power in the seat of power pushed itself up brilliantly. Shortly after take-off, the assumption appears shattered as the First Lady’s interaction with a particular appointee escalated. All hopes of settlement lost but all these happening at a time of grave, generalised insecurity across the land.
So, what is that other thing that takes the little time President Buhari has left for governance that disable him from keeping these sorts of creases from spilling over beyond his control to the public square as to give an insight to the mindset of the man on top?
Is it possible he enjoys conflict escalating to the proportion they do under him? It is a tempting question to pose because a president has nearly unlimited resources for managing fissures at whatever level. It is even easier in a country of criss-crossing allegiances as Nigeria. Above all, can he still regain the groove or is History too distant for him to worry about?