By Umar Sa’ad Hassan
The old Muhammadu Buhari was very reserved and easy-going. There is no record (factual or speculative) of him initiating political alliances or of him going the extra mile to consolidate his political ties other than attending marriage ceremonies and a few other social events.
He was the most loved political figure in northern Nigeria and the politicians jumping over themselves to associate with him badly needed to tap into his clout. Buhari with the leaches aside is a recluse.
When Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu kick-started the process of building a mega opposition party,it was him who reached out to Buhari and an agreement was reportedly struck for Tinubu to ‘lead’ the party and for Buhari to get the 2015 Presidential ticket.
Now as President of Nigeria, a deficiency in managing existing relations may eventually turn out the greatest undoing of the new Muhammadu Buhari and sadly enough, he may not even realize till its too late.
Goodluck Jonathan may have rallied the right people and gotten them to prevail on President Buhari to grant ‘amnesty’ to himself and his wife, Dame Patience whose properties and monies the EFCC keeps seizing without charging her to court. Diezani Madueke too, whom EFCC boss, Ibrahim Magu has been promising to extradite for more than 2 years now. I doubt if Buhari can pull that off with a PDP government in 2023.
There are very few people he can bank on to stick their necks out for him if at all he tries to reach out. The only people that have forced themselves on him over the years are those that stand to gain from him politically and at the rate Buhari is going, he may not only lack anyone in his APC to depend on, he will become a target there too.
At the commencement of President Buhari’s 2nd term in office, most political observers said whenever the issue came up, that it wasn’t safe to think a Bola Tinubu 2023 bid would resonate with Buhari. He would rather have his loyal Vice-President run instead.
A politically naive Buhari in 2015 set about making the APC more democratic and ensured the Tinubu-installed party chairman, John Odigie Oyegun had a louder say. That essentially meant Tinubu had to shed a large degree of control in the party. When a war erupted between Tinubu and Oyegun his former stooge in the build-up to the Ondo gubernatorial election, Oyegun floored Tinubu hands down by ensuring his preferred choice, Rotimi Akeredolu emerged as the APC’s flag bearer over Tinubu’s candidate.
It was so bad the word then was that Tinubu was planning to leave with Atiku and a handful of other people to start a new party. Buhari has always hated Tinubu’s guts and it is a testament to Asiwaju’s patience and political foresight that he has stuck around, sucked it all in and focused on how best to co-exist with his bully ‘friend’ in power. When his annointed candidate for the APC ticket in Lagos state, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu won the party primary, a ‘committee’ was sent from Abuja to Lagos and their first point of duty was spreading the word that the just concluded Lagos primary was not recognized by the party and that a valid one would hold the next day.
Starting a messy war with the people of Lagos a few months to the general elections wasn’t a good idea so eventually Sanwo-Olu’s victory was allowed to stand. Buhari it was presumed, would rather have his loyal Vice-President Prof.Yemi Osibanjo take over and not Jagaban. At the very least, it will guarantee he sleeps good at night. However, happenings over the last couple of months have strongly suggested otherwise. It is not clear whether Buhari waited till he had gotten a 2nd term or that he suddenly grew disdainful of VP Osinbajo but one thing that is clear is that Osinbajo is currently not in his good books. The least Buhari could do was grant Osinbajo supervisory powers over the recently constituted economic advisory council since he didn’t want him heading it after dismantling the old economic management team which he led. The constitution of the council was made to contain a rider that they would report to the President directly.
The Social Investment Programmes were also seized from Osinbajo and after that, he was asked to now seek approval from President Buhari in respect of several government agencies whose governing boards he led as chairman. Most people in the camps of the President and his Vice denying that Buhari was sticking it to Osinbajo totally forget to consider that if it wasn’t so, Buhari would soft pedal at least for the optics.
But the President didn’t stop there. He went to Saudi Arabia and moved to London from there on a ‘private visit’ without transmitting a letter to the National Assembly notifying it of Osinbajo’s acting capacity as laid down by our constitution. Rather he ensured it was in the public domain that Abba Kyari flew to London with the PSC bill for him to sign and also made sure pictures were taken of him doing so. Then Osinbajo’s aides were drastically reduced on the excuse that they were more than the President’s.
The million naira question is WHAT HAS OSINBAJO DONE WRONG?. Is it that Buhari can’t stand the thought of people around him being ambitious or is it that he can’t imagine not handing over to a non-northerner?. It’s really hard to understand.
If there was a genuine issue, an anonymous story trying to justify Buhari’s actions and manage public opinion would have leaked to the press listing the Vice President’s sins. The most noteworthy thing Osinbajo has done since Buhari travelled is host the Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam. He has gone on a farm visit to Nasarrawa, attended an investment summit in Delta, headlined a prayer breakfast by the National Assembly and as of this moment, is on his way to represent Buhari in Niger Republic. The Emir of Daura, Buhari’s home town said last weekend that Osinbajo was the most honest politician Nigeria has had in recent times. It indicates that Buhari will lose a lot of goodwill if the onslaught continues.
Aisha Buhari came out to say before the elections that ‘Nigeria was in the hands of 2 or 3 people and that the men should wrestle it back’. None of the ‘2 or 3’ names mentioned as members of Buhari’s cabal are non-northerners and secondly, if a President from the South emerges in 2023, none of those names wield enough influence to save him if it gets ugly.
The spokesperson of the Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin has said President Buhari stopped handing over to VP Osinbajo since he sacked and arrested his former DSS chief and townsman, Lawal Daura. The weighty implication of this is that a Yoruba President would score a lot of points with his people if he looked into everything Buhari did. There are a number of facts that support arguments of Buhari’s ethnic bias. Add that virtually all of the South East and most of the South-South along with some of Buhari’s fellow northerners would love it and that President would be endearing himself to the entire country.
A political leper bad at cultivating and keeping relationships would be helpless and maybe only then would he realize he should at least have made no enemies if he was bad at keeping friends.
Umar Sa’ad Hassan is based in Kano