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First gunshots in the Villa

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Aso Rock

The now notorious and perennial in-fighting among staff and between the president’s family reached an all-time low the other day when aides of First Lady, Hajia Aisha Buhari, reportedly fired shots at a presidential assistant Sabiu Tunde Yusuf to prevent him from ‘‘escaping from the presidential villa.’’ Apparently, Yusuf had travelled to Lagos and upon his return, the First Lady wanted him to self-isolate ostensibly to protect her husband from COVID-19 infection. Yusuf, nephew to the President, would have none of it. Reports indicate that he escaped arrest by policemen attached to the First Lady, making them fire shots at his vehicle. To say the least, this is yet another embarrassing feud that the seat of government can hardly afford at any time. The drama replayed in the tradition of the absurd is a desecration of the highly exalted seat of government, hitherto unheard of in the history of the Nigerian presidency.

What exactly is going on in the Muhammadu Buhari Presidency? Is there any established protocol in Aso Rock? Who oversees the personal staff of the president? Has there been a change of policy on office of the First Lady, which Candidate Buhari had in 2015 promised would be scrapped? What is the effect of such a dysfunctional family and staff on governance? If President Buhari enjoyed a harmonious relationship with his wife, would she need to personally try to enforce regulations in the villa? What kind of wife is Hajia Buhari? Does she respect her husband and the demands of his office? How much authority does Husband Buhari have over his wife? Which cultural ethos does Aisha represent or project in publicly taking on state officials, thereby disrespecting her husband?

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In December 2018, Aisha openly took exception to the reign of ‘‘a cabal’’ in Aso Rock. She had complained in 2016 too that a group of persons had hijacked governance from the President and threatened not to campaign for his re-election. Her relationship with former Chief of Staff, the late Abba Kyari was curiously frosty. Once he (Kyari) left the scene of power and Professor Ibrahim Gambari took up the position, it was assumed that some order would be established. The latest incident shows that the president has not put his house in order. Nigerians are not in the least amused by the petty bickering currently dominating the space in the presidency. The nation faces a grave security situation and a health pandemic, which have taken hundreds of lives. All hands ought to be on deck in whatever capacity to steer the ship of state into a safe berth.

What happened in Aso Rock between First Lady and Aide Yusuf was a breach of security in the nation’s seat of power. There ought to be sanctions on offenders. Brigandage in whatever guise by people in privileged positions should not be tolerated. It is an odious example which leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Fittingly, the officers who fired the shots have been arrested. They acted beyond the bounds of duty, acceptable conduct, and decency. Sadly, these officers are victims in a vicious power play among rapacious elements in government who have seized the opportunity of the president’s weakness to feather their nests. In any organisation where reporting lines are not properly defined or are based on primordial sentiments, debilitating conflicts often occur. Else, the First Lady has no business chasing after an appointee of the president.

There are big and fundamental issues confronting the president and the nation at the moment. Security has all but broken down in the country. Even the conservative Sultan of Sokoto Muhammadu Sa’adu Abubakar has called on the Federal Government to act and stop lamenting the state of insecurity in the country. The president has summoned security chiefs and warned them that their best is not good enough owing to the level of violence in all parts of the country. Why he has chosen to retain the military commanders and security chiefs who cannot secure the nation’s borders, beats the imagination. The distress in the land is palpable. Citizens feel that the president is missing in action. He appears detached from everyday realities. During the out-gone week, citizens protested government’s failure to secure life and property in the president’s home state of Katsina. Lives are routinely violated across the country. People are hungry and angry. COVID-19 continues to take the lives of citizens. Businesses are shaky because the economy has been badly managed with dubious loans, which will mortgage the future of the country.

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We elected Buhari president to secure life and property of the people. He has failed woefully to achieve this fundamental objective.

His appointees are at his pleasure and must rise to the task of nation building with decorum. They must respect the Nigerian people and show good examples by living up to established codes of conduct at the highest level of governance. By their latest and previous actions, they have imperilled the presidency. An imperilled presidency is a danger to the Republic. No modern leader ought to tolerate such a public show of shame. The buck stops at Buhari’s table. Nigerians demand answers. Nigerians demand action. Before our very eyes, the nation is sliding into avoidable anarchy. What is worse, the ruling party too is in disarray. The feeling that we are sitting on a dangerous precipice and that something could give is pervasive.

Buhari should focus on the responsibility that comes with power. Power is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. It is not acquired to enrich or dispense patronage to kith and kin who lack a clear understanding of the rudiments of governance. Having secured electoral victory on a campaign promise to end the Boko Haram menace, tackle corruption and create a stable polity, the least he could do is to keep the nation intact on the basis of justice, fairness and equity. If his anti-corruption mantra must be taken seriously, he must put his house in order. While it is true that the place of the modern woman is not strictly in the ‘‘other room,’’ the First Lady must mind her level of personal intrusion in the affairs of the state. The onus is on Buhari to create a functional government and give the people hope in a year, which has turned out to be so bleak and forlorn. And here is the epilogue: Enough of these infantile distractions in the seat of government of the most populous back nation on earth!

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