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Published On: Mon, Jul 13th, 2020

Buhari’s atomistic presidency

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Monday Column by Emmanuel Yawe | 08024565402

I borrow the use of today’s title from Emmanuel Ayandele, the remarkable Professor of African history. He was my Principal at the Jos campus of University of Ibadan in the 70’s. He did a good job in that office and the federal government acknowledged that by appointing him the first substantive Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar.
He got to Calabar and got confronted with what he did not experience in Jos or in any other place his academic career had taken him. The people of Cross River State were at war with themselves and as prolific petition writers they deployed their skills to frustrate all his good intentions to establish a university of repute in their state capital. All his efforts to establish a fine university in the tradition of the University of Ibadan were frustrated by the internal squabbles of Cross River State indigenous people. In frustration, he cried out at a public meeting that Cross River State was an atomistic society, constantly at war with itself.
Today as I witness the Buhari government waging ferocious battles against it’s on very self, I remember the professorial deposition of the erudite Ayandele.
No elected government has come into office with the kind of goodwill enjoyed by Muhammadu Buhari when he was elected president in 2015. Maybe because the incumbent PDP was so thoroughly trounced by the APC , it could not and still cannot offer any meaningful opposition. So sadly, immediately it came into office, the APC government started opposing itself.
That President Buhari’s government was at war with itself was manifest in the struggle for power in the legislative wing. True, the leadership of both the Senate and House of Representatives in 2015 went to APC members; but these were renegade party members that did not enjoy the support of the party leadership.
Back in 1979 when President elect Shehu SHagari faced a more precarious situation with his incoming legislative wing, he acted differently. The opposition parties made up of the UPN, NPP, GNPP and the PRP had a clear majority in both the House of Representatives and Senate. If they teamed up, the NPN executive government would have been still born. How was Shagari able to move fast and outsmart his formidable opponents, the masters of opposition politics in Nigeria? I doubt if the President and his team of strategists have ever asked themselves this question. If they did, they would have been in a position to be saved from the embarrassment they faced with the emergence of Yakubu Dogara and Bukola Saraki. For when you consider the statistics in the legislature on party lines, the APC was in a much more advantageous position in 1999 than the NPN in 1979. Regardless, Shehu Shagari had his way – for four years he got the men he wanted to lead the Senate and the House of Representatives.
But maybe we should not be too hard on the president and his foot soldiers on this score. The 1999 Constitution puts the responsibility of electing the leaders of the legislative branch squarely on the legislators themselves and there is very little an intruding executive branch can do. But the emergence of Saraki as Senate President became a convenient excuse anytime the executive was accused of none performance. Saraki was presented as a saboteur. It was an excuse carried to ridiculous limits.
Let us reflect on the refusal of the Senate to confirm Ibrahim Magu as substantive Chairman of the EFCC. The Senate was roundly condemned when on the two occasions Magu was presented he suffered rejection. But was it the fault of the Senate? In rejecting Magu, the Senate referred copiously to a damning report written to it by the Directorate of State Security, DSS about his unsuitability for that office. The DSS did not do this once. They did it twice at a convenient interval of months.
My elementary knowledge of government is that both the EFCC and the DSS are part of the executive branch of government. I also suspect that they are under the direct command of the Commander-In Chief of the armed forces of Nigeria. Since he appoints them, he should have the power to call them back into line when they go astray. I waited for my president to exercise that power. I waited in vain. Somehow, someone somewhere, a Commander-In-Chief had failed to “chiefly command well”, apologies to Prof Jerry Gana.
The seeds of bad blood that eventually became viral in the two organisations, at a point leading to almost a shooting war on the streets between the gun totting operatives of the two organisations was sowed at this stage. There was tension building up that could lead to an eventual commotion in the executive branch. If those of us outside government could not see it, there was somebody who was outside government but close enough to feel the purse. Aisha Buhari, the president’s wife started yelling at the rooftops that his government has been hijacked by a cabal. This was during the first term of his government. Some of us who support this government and pray for its success hoped that the first ladies worries would be addressed and a repeat of the hysterical outbursts contained. Sadly, this year, there were reports of gun shoot out in the presidential fortress in which the first lady or at least her security team were involved.
Buhari’s strongest selling point for the years he sought to be elected as President of Nigeria was the perception that he was not corrupt and that he stood a good chance of battling the menace of corruption to a standstill if elected. Even now, many Nigerians still see him as Mr. Clean. But his ability to set up a system, a government that is corruption free is very much in doubt. His atomistic style of presidency in which, his close aides and ever body is at war with everybody is not helpful.
The exposures and counter exposures that have come to light since the Magu saga started are rather embarrassing, more so when the whistle blowers are people that hang around the president. From Professor Femi Odekunle, a member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Corruption, came the accusation that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami who leads the assault against Magu is himself enmeshed and besotted with sleaze. The examples he gave leaves me confused as to what this government means when it is talks about anti -corruption.

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