It is yet another season of political power play. Each government comes with its version, but they are all the same. They seek power, but without the deep conviction of how to utilise it for the transformation of society. At the end of the day, they leave citizens stranded. Nigeria is stranded.
When Nigerians demanded democratic rule after years of military encroachment, there was a justifiable urgency to have power transferred by all means. There was, however, no serious debate on how to utilise the enormous powers and resources. Too much was left in the hands of the political parties and their sponsors. Too much was left in the hands of the president and the hangers-on.
Today, it is a shame that Nigerians have resorted to street protests, in order to command a hearing from those they have enthroned. Those who begged for votes yesterday and promised heaven on earth are now locked in the same power play they accused others of. Voters who thought they saw Change in 2015 are now blaming their blurry sights. They were sold gbanjo. Even for the elected, it has become a game of survival. There is now a difference among those in the inner chambers and those in the periphery. We saw it the other time. Forget photo tricks.
I was worried, that after it became manifest that President Buhari needed more than the original 10-day medical break he asked for, the next thing to surface in the social media was that some people had asked the Acting Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo to resign. Some of the stories were that Osinbajo needed prayers because some people have mounted pressure on him to resign. Resign for what? What prayers for a man whose office is well protected by the Constitution? He is physically fit as fiddle, and has not offended the relevant sections of the laws. In terms of competence and character, he exhibits ample supply of the two. Yet, they say some northern governors and other powerful interests were holding meetings to demand that Osinbajo resigns. It didn’t make sense to me, that the one who is physically fit was being pressured to resign, while his principal, President Buhari, who has health challenges, was not pressured to resign. I dismissed it.
It didn’t make sense that anybody would think of asking an Acting president to resign just like that. What replacement were they going to recommend, when President Buhari has already transferred power to his former vice, via the letter transmitted to the National Assembly on Thursday January 18; were they going to create a power vacuum in the Presidency?
The social media sustained that cloudy state of affairs for nearly one week, until one State House Correspondent summoned courage, last Monday, to ask if the Acting president was under any pressure to resign. “I’m Not Under Pressure To Resign. I was voted for by the people of this nation- myself and Mr. President- and so the people of this nation have not asked us to resign,” he declared with an unassuming smile.
That seemed to put that matter to rest, and put to shame those faceless rumour mongers. But watchers of political events, who tend to look beyond the immediate, are not amused. They are quick to draw a corollary between unfolding state of affairs in Aso Rock with what played out in the days, when President Umaru Yar’Adua presented with serious health challenges in 2010. Yar’Adua’s health issues were shrouded in secrecy, to the extent that he travelled abroad in February 2010 without transmitting to the NASS the letter that was to transfer power to vice president Goodluck Jonathan, in line with Section 145 of the Constitution.
That breach or more politely, act of indiscretion, because Yar’Adua was every inch a gentleman to underwrite any mischief, became a major source of contention between those in the then Federal Executive Council (FEC), who thought Jonathan should be invested with acting powers, and power mongers in Yar’Adua’s kitchen cabinet, who thought otherwise. The latter group’s major worry was that in the event that Yar’Adua failed to come back, as it indeed turned out, the powers of the Presidency would constitutionally remain with Jonathan in line with Section 146. It wasn’t that they did not know what the Constitution recommended. They were just unable to relate with that reality, because in their mentality, the Presidency had gone up north for eight years and Jonathan is not from the north.
It took the intervention of the Senate, ably led by David Mark to step Nigeria down from the volatile intrigues, to recommend the Doctrine of Necessity, which conferred on Jonathan acting status. Yar’Adua was unable to return to office and throughout that period the country was a hotbed of power play. It took time for Jonathan to stabilise the polity and before you know it, 2011 elections were underway. Technically, the period 2007 to 2011 was dedicated by the PDP to sort out its issues of whether or not rotational clause in its constitution allows Jonathan to inherit the remaining months Yar’Adua left behind.
That is one of the troubles with Nigeria. The Yar’Adua Presidency was procured under the PDP, of which Jonathan was nominated and elected as vice president. It was a joint ticket, supposedly belonging to one family. But when it became clear that Yar’Adua was no longer fit for the job, some PDP members from the north could not imagine why Jonathan should inherit their property.
The theory of threats and pressure being mounted on Osinbajo to resign are likely sourced from what played out in the PDP. Osinbajo was nominated by their party to be vice president. Buhari agreed to it and they were jointly presented for the 2015 presidential election. They campaigned together and shared the same vision for the country.
What Nigerians expect is that the APC would be at least one step ahead of where the PDP left off. Before the elections, there were insinuations that candidate Buhari was no longer as fit as fiddle. Age had taken a toll on his stamina and he showed exhaustion and fatigue during the campaigns. But because he was the best and only candidate to send PDP out of power, all the telltale signs that would have warranted double-checks on the part of APC were totally ignored. Those who dared to offer warnings were routinely abused and denounced.
It is even worse that the government is climbing into mid-term without much to show. This is the year for serious work for the Presidency and Nigerians are tired of stories. They want a Presidency that is vibrant and clear on issues. Nigerians want an economy that is working, with a clear roadmap on electricity, health, manufacturing, fixing of roads, providing internal security and generally making life comfortable for the people. This government has not come near 20 percent of its promises and people’s expectations.
The APC is going to come under more pressure, as this episode plays out. The President will return in good shape to continue with his mandate. But it goes beyond him. There are variables man cannot take for granted, so long as we remain humans. Every second from now will exert more pressure on the President’s energies. He should do the little he can and delegate. He should not allow power mongers to stampede him into matters that age and mental fitness have taken out of his reach. He should disown 2019 and begin to groom a candidate for his party. That will douse the tension that has soaked APC, waiting just for anything inflammable to consume it. If he does not do that, his inaction will invariably unleash on the polity a rat race for 2019. The race will be fierce in the APC and it will distract governance a good deal.
As Buhari returns, he should rebrand and endeavour to work to leave behind more enduring legacies. The ferreting of hidden loots by the EFCC is a great art. Nigeria needs such art to transform from present abnormality into a country with a sure future. Buhari cannot afford to leave Nigeria worse than he met it!
Alabi Williams wrote this article for Guardian, where it was first published.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.