Everything that should happen to instruct the president to make a move in terms of the quickest, plausible way out have happened. Yet, the president has not made any such move. He doesn’t even brief the nation in any authoritative manner at a regular interval, for instance, much less talk of any drastic options beyond presidential statements considered generally to be lame and evasive.
The matter is made more complicated by the pervasive belief that the president is personally implicated in the insecurity crisis. Coming from his peers in the community of retired Generals, this claim of the president’s complicity has totally unmade the president, whether he is aware of that or not. Reality is a matter of perception, even as complex as perception is.
Any other president would have made a dash for a line of action that absolves him before God as well as before his countrymen and women. As much as it is difficult to know what might have gone on behind the scenes between him and the retired Generals railing against him, it is doubtful President Buhari has adopted a statesmanlike approach to it. By the time General T Y Danjuma visited The Villa a few weeks ago, feelings had sedimented against the president in much of the land based on what the General had said in 2018 regarding the president’s Fulani ethnic group waging a war on the rest.
A professor of Political Science wondered at the Social Influencers Summit in Kano in May 2019 (https://intervention.ng/16928/) why anyone would believe the Fulanisation narrative, citing how ridiculous it would be for the Fulani who are less than 1% of the population in Nigeria to successfully wipe out the Tiv nationality, for example. In the tension soaked state of siege in contemporary Nigeria, the issue is who, between a Professor of Political Science and a retired General of T Y Danjuma and Obasanjo’s stature would people believe on the Fulanisation narrative?
Completely delegitimized and perhaps hemmed in by a vicious forces of primitive accumulation, the president has been unable to mobilise the key variables that would have restored any semblance of order. Such variables would have been a coherent political party, a highly analytical and a quick thinking security architecture, a national consensus among the elite and a highly legitimate state. Unfortunately, Nigeria is at a point where none of these appears to be the case. The state is not only overwhelmed, it is manifestly lacking in capacity to re-invent.
Some analysts have alluded to a vegetating president as the explanations just as some others make reference to incompetence. Do they add up? They do not. How can the president who had the energy to campaign across Nigeria in 2019 be so sick that he can neither hear nor see any evil soon after? A sick president who still shows up at public occasions cannot be that sick that he cannot instruct legatees on what he wants. If there are no such instructions, then inference of complicity becomes inevitable. What about being so intellectually challenged to even know his left hand from his right as far as the security crisis is concerned? President Buhari obviously lacks the maneuverability of an Obasanjo or an IBB when faced with tough situations but he doesn’t lack the basics by which to navigate his way. He suffers intellectual challenge only to the extent that he believes in the people that have been given to him to run the show for him and who are obviously smarter than him.
Against this background, First Lady Aisha Buhari emerges as the most authoritative theorist of the Buhari Presidency in the narrative of the cabal. Although she did not go into the political economy of the cabal, it is all about primitive accumulation. How do we know that? We know that from the targets of her wars, the locale that makes such people targets in the First Lady’s obvious struggle towards expanding her own space against those of the forces that have blocked her access.
Aisha Buhari , more than any other actor in this drama, puts the president on the spot. The Presidency can say that the law will take its course in the latest confrontation between her and a presidential aide but even that can only be a damage control statement because they don’t know her next script. It is now clear that every move she makes, the president’s image suffers. That has been the case since 2016. Orthodox critics would say she is being naughty but there is an aspect of her naughtiness or rebelliousness that coincides powerfully with popular interest – the insider account about the nature and direction of the Buhari regime that she embodies like no other.
By her discursive moves, it is possible, for instance, to draw the conclusion that the president cannot think of an option such as a Government of National Unity, (GNU) because bringing in more versatile people into the government would dislodge the cabal from their hold on the president. Yet, in the view of some of the most dispassionate assessors of the situation at hand, a GNU remains the most credible option that can bring down the country’s political temperature fastest. Those who would vote Aisha Buhari as a model rather than a Lady Macbeth are, therefore, almost certain to outnumber those who would not. That is as far as this particular point is concerned and especially as the insecurity crisis remains at a disturbing level as it has been since December 2016.
Nobody is left in doubt that the security architecture in Nigeria is not structured to clinically put down internal revolt. With less than a million combined strength of the armed forces and para-military operatives in a nation of over 200 million, that is a fair statement to make. It is more so when matched unto the security threats at work. They range from terrorists to bandits; herdsmen and ‘herdsmen; opportunistic criminals seeking survival from devastating existential challenges; ethnic formations seeking reconfiguration of the state; kidnappers in search of quick money; the traditional armed robbers as well as cultists. To this list must be added a new layer of actors in crime perpetrating domestic violence.
And the problem is beyond insecurity. The economy has remained equally sick. The anti-corruption war has suffered the image of the government and the president itself. When we leave those three key domains that the president set for himself, we move to three key other areas that the president has done very badly. These are, (1) the adoption of the ‘change’ slogan in the 2015 campaign as a matter of discourse, (language game) rather than as a matter of ideological commitment to Nigeria. It is absolutely difficult to think of the implications of this Buhari outing in Nigerian politics. (2) The prohibitive energy cost regime peculiar to the Buhari regime particularly when related to Buhari’s personal history of Nigeria’s energy hub and (3) the willful destitution of the universities at a time universities constitute the single most important building block of power in global politics.
Might the dynamics then work out in such a manner that the First Lady acts an instrument by which President Buhari of Nigeria is liberated from whichever forces is holding him hostage eventually? Another question that only time can tell!