By Akin Osuntokun
There is hardly any significant individual who supported the emergence of President Mohammadu Buhari and has not found cause to regret the decision and express disappointment at his stewardship. For those of us who did not and warned on the kind of President he would turn out to be, we have been vindicated over and over again. In addition to my vocational obligation as a student of Nigerian politics, I was compelled by the circumstances of a recent political pedigree to cultivate a unique understanding of Buhari’s politics in a sustained manner since 2002; and draw a consistent pattern of behavior in his public conduct. It began with the decision taken by President Olusegun Obasanjo to not only scrap the Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, but to go further and institute an inquiry into the management of the intervention agency. As revealed by the Haroun Adamu panel, Buhari did not come out of the inquiry smelling of roses. And as recently as January 2015, this was Obasanjo’s citation of Buhari in what was supposed to be good public relations endorsement
”I haven’t said this publicly, I would say it publicly now. When we looked into it, there was really nothing amiss except that that organization went from road building to mosquito net-buying and all sorts of things. ”And what the investigation discovered is a bit of inconsistency in prices and all that. In one area, mosquito net might have been given for N50; in another, N45. And I then remarked that this is fishy. We should look into it’ ”I said okay Muhammadu, between me, you and God, was there any personal benefit for you? And you said ‘no.’ I said that is the end of the matter”. This ambivalent testimony was a teaser to the generally incriminatory note of the detailed report of the inquiry.
As a close political associate to the former President and in my capacity as the spokesperson of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, Presidential campaign in the 2003 general elections I was granted the privilege of reading through the report but cautioned against making it an issue in the 2003 Presidential election campaign. Despite the incriminating evidence in the report, Obasanjo chose not to follow through on the report and hold Buhari to account. In a questionable display of espirit de corps he said he would not be party to the public humiliation of anyone who has had the privilege of occupying the office of the President of Nigeria. Other than gratifying a peculiar sense of humor-with the conversion of the official premises of the PTF to that of the Independent corrupt practices commission, ICPC, I am not aware of any other material step he took to bring anyone implicated in the inquiry to book. Regardless, Buhari felt deeply offended and from that moment on gravitated towards any cause and casus belli that would afford him the platform of getting back at Obasanjo. Even though he had been military head of state, it was difficult to project, from his reclusive and dour personality, a latter day career in partisan politics for Buhari. It would take the personal motivation of the PTF provocation to tilt the scale and push him into the field. Fired by vengefulness, he rapidly evolved to become the rallying figure for Northern\Muslim irredentist politics and personification of the ensuing ethno regional based confrontation of Obasanjo’s Presidency. Instrumentality for the prosecution of this antagonism readily presented itself in the contrived Sharia identity crisis inclusive of his infamous incitement and instigation to the effect that Nigerian Muslims should ‘vote for only those who would protect their faith’. He similarly led a Fulani delegation to confront the then Governor of Oyo state, Lam Adesina whom he essentially accused of taking sides in the crisis between ‘my people and your people’ (the clashes between Fulani herders and native farmers) in the Oke Ogun province of Oyo state. This parochial leadership role was ultimately formalized into the perennial Presidential candidate of Northern irredentist politics-as it transmuted from the All Nigeria Peoples’ Party, ANPP through Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, to the All Progressive Congress, APC.
Beyond the intervening variables of his lack of physical fitness and deficient global enlightenment, the elements comprising his political and governance personality make up consist of the following factors. First is the motivation to build a personality cult around himself and reduce the Presidency to a Buhari palace court writ large. Second is the need to assuage a sense of personal political injury and the appropriation of the allied role of the avenging angel of Hausa-Fulani hegemony. Third is the outsourcing of bureaucratic governance and regime advocacy and defense to the South West faction of the APC. He wants to reign not govern. Fourth and by no means the last is what keen observers of Nigerian politics call the class of 1966 syndrome.
The syndrome is characterized by the arrogation of the knowledge of what is in the best interest of Nigeria as the exclusive preserve of the victorious alliance that took a stranglehold on the power politics of Nigeria since July 1966; and that this victorious alliance should remained defined by the core element of Hausa-Fulani hegemony. The intermittent contestation of this perspective (especially in it’s more virulent resurgence in the Buhari Presidency) has constituted an abiding source of political crisis and instability in Nigeria. It is always a tough call to blend extreme parochialism and primitive insularity with meritorious governance.
Into this mix alights the perplexity of the first lady-the Aisha Buhari political phenomenon. On what becomes of his wife should he win the Presidency, Buhari typically promised much more than he could deliver-when he pledged to do away with the office of the first lady altogether. Not only has he been thwarted in this modest aspiration, his wife has raised the stakes to the hitherto unprecedented level of washing Buhari’s dirty linen in the public. She started this odyssey by exposing him to the first of his trademark international gaffes. Whilst she was busy raising hell at home on the marginalization of her political allies in the ensuing cabal captive politics of the Presidency, her husband was been received by Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. For the international enlightenment challenged Nigerian President the event started going badly when he referred to the federal republic of Germany as the federal republic of West Germany. Plumbed by the international media for a response to the scene his spouse was creating at home-he exclaimed (in a failed attempt at humor) he was not aware of the political party affiliation of his wife but, that, in his opinion, the role of his spouse is limited to the kitchen, the living room and the other room. The tragedy was that he expressed this witless misogyny while sitting next to Chancellor Merkel.
The persistence of what has now become the Aisha buhari brand is first and foremost the externalization and exposure of the disharmony and dysfunction that is at the heart of the Buhari Presidency. Neither, for that matter, does it speak well of a settled and stable homestead. No wife should be encouraged to publicly and habitually embark on vengefully venting her personal frustrations with her husband-even as I acknowledge that this errant behavior echoes my public concerns and serves my partisan purposes. I certainly see no patriotism or idealism in her conduct, what I see is the abundance of turf fight, radical temperament and the willingness to play the dog in the manger role if the incumbency of her husband does not sufficiently accommodate her fantasy and vanities. Were she afforded the status and influence of Maryam Babangida, Maryam Abacha, Turai Yaradua or Patience Jonathan; it is inconceivable that anyone would have heard a publicly discordant tone from her.
Other than the exception of the occasion in which she took issues with the state house clinic, all her angst had been directed at a lack of fairness in the share of the spoils of office especially-as it pertains to her. The allegation that her husband has disregarded the obligation of rewarding politicians (who facilitated his election) with public appointments and patronage has no bearing on the quality of governance. As a matter of fact, it can be an indication of a public spirited resolve to elevate concern with good governance over and above partisanship and any such consideration. Nonetheless and whatever her motivations, the unintended consequence of her errant behavior has served public good by bearing the most authoritative witness to the incapacity of her husband to be a good and competent President.
The light she has thrown into the inner workings of the Buhari Presidency explains a lot of what we know to be critically remiss of this President-his short attention span, inaccessibility, absent mindedness, ignorance, lack of empathy, nepotism and other depredations of the personality cult syndrome. The worrisome implication of her alarm is that the revelations she has made, most certainly constitute the tip of the iceberg-she has spoken of only what she knows and which, in all likelihood, she had minimized. What about the ones from which she is precluded-afterall she doesn’t follow her husband to the office nor accompany him on most of his travels.
It is only meet and proper to end today’s fare with her memorable quote and ponder the enormity of its implications going forward. With this evidence from the horse’s mouth, the Nigerian electorate cannot now claim it has not been provided sufficient grounds to indict and convict the Buhari Presidency and act to put this nightmare behind us in the forthcoming 2019 general elections. The sum of her clarion call is that the man dies in all who keep silent in the face of the Buhari yoke
“ If 15.4 million people can bring in a government and only for the government to be dominated by two people or three people, where are the men of Nigeria? Where are the Nigerian men? What are you doing? Instead of them to come together and fight them, they keep visiting them one after the other, licking their shoes (I’m sorry to use those words). Our votes were 15.4 million in the last elections and after that only for us to be dominated by two people… this is totally unacceptable”.