“At the moment it must be crystal clear to all discerning minds that President Buhari’s widely acclaimed magical body language has lost its presumed aura and efficiency. His no-nonsense demeanour is neither instilling fear nor commanding respect and loyalty from among his cabinet members.” —Senator Dino Melaye, APC Kogi-West, in a national newspaper, September 5, 2016.
This article could just as easily be titled, Has Buhari Suffered A Civilian Coup?, and it would be just as apt. Melaye’s statement quoted above, given what had occurred since May 29, 2015, when Buhari was sworn in for the second time as Head of State, should alert all of us to a startling fact – that Buhari might no longer be in control of his civilian “troops”.
In fact, the success of the rebels in installing the leaders of the National Assembly, against the wishes of the President and the other “leaders” of the All Progressives Congress, APC, is a reminder of what occurred in 1985 when a reportedly aloof military head of state was removed in a bloodless coup with nobody to even give him a warning.
Senate President Saraki and Speaker Dogara could not have emerged as they did without an air-tight conspiracy of silence – undoubtedly aided by a president-elect who was once again aloof from the newly-elected legislators who were absolutely vital to his success as president.
Today, there is growing fear that Buhari and the “leaders” of the APC are becoming increasingly isolated and might be leading only a minority of those still claiming to belong to the APC. Unfortunately for Nigeria, even the PDP cannot now boast of a leader; and might stumble along until 2019 without one. That is the tragedy awaiting this country in 2019 – the handwriting is now becoming clear on the political wall.
There are supposed to be two major political parties in Nigeria at the moment, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. But, unless the generally accepted definition of political party has changed, neither one of them can possibly approximate any right thinking persons idea of a political party. Neither of them represents the ideals and aspirations of the people they pretend to lead. They have both become conspiracies by a few people, putting up a figurehead as leader, bent only on seizing power for their own sake.
In every democracy, the president or prime minister is the recognized leader of the ruling party and, by extension, the nation as well. The sort of statements credited to Melaye and an APC leader in Kano State can only occur in a situation where a strong faction or two had emerged.
However, it is not only at the Federal level that the signs of revolt against the APC leadership are apparent. Even at states levels, members now openly defy the wishes of the leaders of APC and nothing happens. The recent party primary in Ondo State was nothing short of total defiance of the party leader – Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and other leaders of the party including the president. Tinubu had a candidate – perhaps with the support of other leaders. Now the leaders’ candidate has lost.
If Chief Rotimi Akeredolu should become governor of Ondo State, the APC leader will have no influence whatsoever in that state. In fact, irrespective of which party – APC or PDP – wins in Ondo, the APC Leader has been demystified. No longer can it be taken for granted that his support will guarantee victory.
In Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole made it clear from the start that he was going to install his successor. The weak plea by the party “leaders” for a level playing field was openly ignored – without any consequences. Times have changed and the “declaration of independence” by once subservient party members is just starting. Osun, Oyo, Imo and Ogun will most probably follow the same pattern. Forget Kwara, anybody thinking another candidate – other than Saraki’s – will be the next governor would need to have his head examined.
With a growing number of the party members doing just what they please, the concept of leadership usually associated with political parties is fast fading in the APC. Unfortunately, the situation is set to get worse, instead of better.
The problems in the National Assembly have raised the question: who is Buhari leading? Certainly, a President who claims to be fighting corruption cannot at the same time be the leader of the mob of unethical legislators at the Three Arms Zone. The NASS is probably the most despised legislature in any democracy on earth. Majority of them claim to be APC; all of them, including Buhari’s staunchest supporters, gladly collect the mind-boggling salaries and allowances which have given the parliament the appearance of a den of robbers. To hold on to the partial support he now receives from that zone, the President and the Executive branch he heads have been turned inside-out on matters of principle.
Take budget padding for instance. On February 23, 2016, Buhari announced to the entire world that the 2016 Budget was padded and promised that the culprits would not go unpunished. It was a grave mistake and in March, on these pages, in an article titled Why Buhari SHould Stop Wasting His/Our Time, I advised the President to forget about the nonsense called “padding”. But, stubbornly, he repeated the threat many times after that. We are now in September and nobody had been punished yet – most likely because no culprit had been found.
Then, a war broke out regarding padding in the House of Representatives between Speaker Dogara and Honourable Jibrin. Jibrin accused the Speaker and leaders of the House of padding; they denied it. The matter found its way to the presidency. Guess what? Dogara is a friend of the executive branch; Jibrin is not.
So, the presidency, which started the entire rumour about padding issued a statement saying ‘There was no padding’. One of those statements must be a lie; and the presidency is responsible for both. It was, to say the least, contemptuous. Are we now to believe that an offense had been committed or not depending on whether the offender is a friend of President Buhari? Then, what is corruption?
However, if there is one thing losing Buhari followers by the millions everyday, it is the economy and the hardship it has imposed on Nigerians. When the president utters those totally false words – “I share your pains” – he not only fails to impress the people who actually suffer the worst forms of hardship, he is rewarded with derision.
Recently, I have made it a habit to go to various newsstands – not to buy paper because I can send my staff to do that – but to join and listen to the free readers making comments about public affairs. The day after his official visit to Osun State was no exception. And, once again he had made that statement. What Nigeria’s real sufferers thought of the president after reading that statement is best left in the gutter where it belongs. Not a single one of them was convinced and all left the stand feeling that they had been betrayed by a man who promised them change but now is literally asking them to get ready to change to another planet – “while shedding crocodile tears”, as one said.
So, who is Buhari leading now? Many in his party are not behind him; the PDP will never follow him; and the vast majority of people living in poverty no longer believe in him. If not Buhari, who is the Nigerian leader at the moment?
Dele Sobowale is a columnist with Vanguard Newspapers, where this article was first published.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.