Abraham Ogbodo: The Limits Of President Buhari

Abraham Ogbodo: The Limits Of President Buhari

By Opinions | The Trent on July 5, 2015
Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammed Buhari boards one of the Nigerian Presidential Fleet planes to Germany

People asking President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in the leadership crisis at the National Assembly need to come out more clearly.

They should spell out what precisely they want the President to do. And I beg to be carried along when they are giving the prescription.

Are they asking the President to summon Senator Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara to Aso Rock Villa, tongue-lash or even flog the duo and thereafter, dismiss them with a stern warning to be of good behaviour?

Maybe they are thinking that being President and elderly too, Buhari will talk to the two men much the same way a headmaster, with a cane in hand, will talk to some obstinate pupils who will listen with their heads lowered in reverence and in the end say ‘yes sir’ and depart to their classrooms. Kindly permit that imagery. I am only trying to figure out how the President will go about this huge task of beating Saraki and Dogara into line in this task his party, the APC, has foisted on him without creating serious upsets.

In Nigeria, the adult age is 18 years. At that age or at most 21 or let’s even say 30, a man or woman is responsible for his or her action. He or she is no longer a minor and his/her sins cannot be forgiven on account of age or be visited on his or her parents. By December 19, Bukola Saraki, a medical doctor who practised medicine in London before returning to Nigeria in 1989 will be 53 years old. He is the eldest son of Oloye Olusola Saraki who died about three years ago. This means that in the Saraki dynasty, Bukola is the undisputed head. He reports to nobody; everybody, including Senator Gbemisola Saraki reports to him. By the Grace of God, the man is the Senator representing Kwara Central and President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is after being governor of Kwara State for eight years, between 2003 and 2011.

The other obstinate ‘pupil’, Yakubu Dogara, will be 48 years old on December 26. He is a lawyer and had practised law before becoming a politician. He also holds an LLM degree in International and Commercial Law, in addition to other professional qualifications he obtained from Oxford and Harvard. He is the Member representing Bogoro/Dass/Tafa-Balewa Federal Constituency of Bauchi State in the House of Representatives since 2007. He was elected speaker of the House on June 9.

Bukola and Yakubu, by all measurements, are old and experienced enough to know what they want. They can freely choose to be obstinate.

However, Bukola Saraki’s obstinacy is several degrees higher than normal. He even refused to listen to his own father once upon a time. The senior Saraki who came close to owning the entire Kwara State had wanted Bukola’s younger sister, Gbemisola to be governor of the state after Bukola, in 2011, but Bukola insisted on his own man, Alhaji Abdulfattah Ahmed. Father and son had had to test strength in the open field at the end of which the Oloye was roundly vanquished. It was probably the first time that the senior Saraki would be defeated in a political contest in Kwara State.

I have decided to rake up these tiny bits of biographies just to make the simple point that, the pressure on President Buhari to call them to Aso Rock Villa and flog them into line is unnecessary. If Bukola could look straight in his father’s face when the old man was 78 years old and say ‘no,’ we should expect him to say even more to President Buhari, who is not his father and only 72 years old.

In the on-going National Assembly leadership drama, where the sub plots are more intriguing than the main story, Bukola is likely to raise his obstinacy to higher levels.

Like an Orwellian script with emphasis on the future, the current plots in the Dome House are not necessarily about today; they shall climax in 2019. Bukola also knows it is a gladiatorial contest, some kind of death game, where an opportunity to decapitate and end the fight is grabbed with both hands.

Currently, he has an opportunity and he is hell bent on making the best use of it. And so, in the APC-sponsored negotiations to reach a truce on the NASS leadership deadlock, the man will be working in a counter direction possibly, to ensure that the forces against his future political growth are stifled today.

Last Friday, the APC rose from its NEC meeting to announce its acceptance of Bukola as President of Nigeria’s 8th Senate and Yakubu Dogara as House Speaker, signaling the first major shift in the party’s position. The party added that negotiations are ongoing to address outstanding issues, which should include, I guess, what to do with Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who was elected Deputy Senate President on June 9 from the opposition PDP.

Now that Bukola Saraki has been graciously accepted back to the fold, one of the likely options on the APC’s solution card is enlisting the cooperation of the Senate President in upstaging his deputy so that the slot can go to the APC.

I am just painting a possibility but if this becomes inevitable, it means the callers shall resume the calls on President Buhari to call on Senator Bukola Saraki to respect party position. And he may likely maintain the same narrative that his hands are tied because the Senate, which is independent of the executive and judiciary in a democracy, elected Ekweremadu on June 9 as Deputy President of the Senate, the same way he, Bukola Saraki, was elected President by the august body. Case closed.

The callers are not likely going to stop calling on the President to do something. And this is where they are going to push the President into big trouble. They are making it seem as if the President will not be able to function until a particular leadership hue of the National Assembly is achieved. On the very first day, President Buhari said that much as he would have loved the so-called party candidates to emerge Senate President and House Speaker, the process, that is the June 9 NASS election was “somewhat constitutional.”

President Buhari ought to have moved forward immediately after saying so by inviting the Senate President and House Speaker to Aso Rock Villa for talks on executive/legislative collaboration in the new dispensation. Instead, he waited on one stop and allowed himself to be talked into confusion by noisemakers.

It should be noted that what happened on June 9 was not the first time this kind of bipartisan ambushing would be used in the national legislature to upstage the position of the main party. It has been happening since 1999 and Aminu Tambulwa, Ghali Umar Abba, Aminu Bello Masari, Dimeji Bankole and Senator Ken Nnamani can speak a lot more on this.

The APC and its leaders have a responsibility to guide the President aright. We are talking of the National Assembly and not the Supreme Military Council or the Armed Forces Ruling Council and there is absolutely no other method outside robust engagement that the head of state can apply to do business under a democracy. He must govern by laws made by the legislature and not decrees issued by the executive. And in the relation between the executive and the legislature in a democracy, the latter is the bride that must be constantly cultivated. Buhari needs Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara more than the duo needs him.

To continue to sound like a headmaster on the prompting of some self-serving politicians, is seeking to wake up a sleeping dog. The sleeping animal could even turn out fiercer than a dog; something close to a lion. The squabbles in the National Assembly have nothing to do with the Presidency no matter how well they are packaged to seem that way. President Buhari should please keep to his executive brief. Na person wen get load dey carry am! He should not elect to swallow panadol on another man’s headache. That kind of sacrifice or generosity will not make him a better president

Abraham Ogbodo is a columnist with Guardian Newspaper.

The opinions expressed in this articles are solely those of the author.


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