IF we could call their brand of rulership governance, elected officials in Nigeria have just over four more weeks to do that. Thereafter they will give up the pretence that they are still interested in fulfilling their electoral promises and bringing the ‘dividends of democracy’ to the people. Their plans will be turned towards how to ensure that they remain in office. Next year then promises to be dire for the Nigerian people as politicians align and realign to seize power electorally. Already the campaigns have begun on a low key but the pushing, jostling and shoving are on and are being felt in the different parties.
At the national level those interested in the highest office have been repositioning. Both the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, are beginning to boil as ambition clash. While the potential decampees are conducting their checks to know where next to berth, the perennial journey men and women have taken to their heels. Musiliu Obanikoro, serial governorship contestant and ex minister has made his long expected move to the APC. Atiku Abubakar has again returned to the PDP. Soon their surrogates will follow them to their new party location and all would be business as usual. Each party would find reason to justify the ‘carpet crossings’ and seek to convince us all that their latest moves are the best for every one of us. But one of the foolish spectacles unfolding before Nigerians now is the rush to push for the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari by some members of his own party. I’ll return to this shortly. Otherwise, there shouldn’t be any question about an incumbent president re-contesting provided they are still qualified to run. The APC ought to expect that Buhari would want to renew his tenancy of Aso Rock Villa. But so much has happened since the president came into office in 2015. Aside his lackluster performance, he has had to spend a lot of his time in office battling to stay out of hospital. His attitude to some of those who ensured he became president has not been too friendly either. It suddenly seemed to have dawned on many of those now around him to imagine Buhari could have been president without the alliance that came together to push out the PDP. The president now has new friends most of them sourced from among those even his own wife, Aisha, confessed she had not known before they materialised around him. And how about the president’s own relations? They have gone on as if they were the ones who put the president in office or joint sharers of the mandate given him by Nigerians. It was for reasons like these that a Buhari presidency after 2019 started looking like a non-starter. Indeed, until over three months ago nobody would have contemplated such thoughts as the man’s health was a matter of deep concern for Nigerians. But thank God he is getting better.
Yet that’s not where it all ends. Buhari still needs to convince Nigerians that he is up to the task of being the country’s president as he gets older and relies more on surrogates and others around him for decision making. A lot that has happened during the Buhari presidency appeared to have been forced on him by surrogates taking decisions in his name. There are parallels between what happened recently in Zimbabwe where an old Robert Mugabe, apparently under the negative influence of his wife and hangers-on around her, took a series of rash decisions that were aimed at keeping the presidency in his household by ensuring his wife succeeded him in office. Is it any wonder that the word ‘cabal’ was used in reference to the clique of surrogates that was said to have converged around Mugabe and his wife? Members of the cabal are still being hunted and brought to account since Mugabe was eased out of power. Nigerians may wish to thank God that Aisha Buhari has yet not shown any traits of the disease of ambition that seemed to have afflicted Grace Mugabe to ‘terminal’ degree, proving fatal for her husband’s presidency. Nigerians have had their own cabal tales, people who are fast turning their closeness to the president into a meal ticket. Members of this cabal have been fingered in a lot of image-soiling activities involving the presidency.
They appear to have a firm hold on the president and have apparently being at loggerheads with his wife. Such a cabal operated around President Umar Yar’Adua and for many months kept this country on tenterhooks by hiding details of Yar’Adua’s health from Nigerians while taking decisions in his name. How will Nigeria fare in the presidency of a re-elected Buhari that depends more on surrogates as a result of advanced age? Let’s not forget that Buhari would not be seeking votes after 2019, for which reason the cabal may become more brazen and arrogant in their use of presidential authority. Who knows what untoward things they may yet want to do? And they would not be short of supporters. We can already see a number of such supporters in the rank of the court jesters that have been falling over themselves to campaign for the president or call for his re-election. Rochas Okorocha who had been busy erecting statues across his state took leave of that strange task to announce to Nigerians that Buhari would not get an ‘automatic’ ticket for re-election. Just a couple of weeks after providing that unsolicited information, he is back singing a different song that 34 of 36 state governors have endorsed Buhari for re-election. Who are the two rebels that refused to endorse Buhari, Mr. Okocha? Not to be outdone, so-called governors of the Middle Belt said they have endorsed the president for re-election. These governors are among the worst in terms of executing their obligation to the electorate. Workers and pensioners in many of the states governed by these men have not been paid for many months. Yet the governors are eager to jump into matters that shouldn’t bother them. One of these do-gooders declared a holiday recently to celebrate the president’s return from his long medical stay abroad.
All of this is happening even as Buhari himself is yet to openly say he is re-contesting. As Nigerians would say in local parlance, why are some people eager to take Panadol for another man’s headache? Can’t we all wait to see Buhari declare his interest in the presidency and justify his claim to it before rushing to endorse him? Since when did it become the business of serving governors to endorse an incumbent president for re-election? Or are they just afraid that Buhari’s record makes re-election difficult if not impossible?