Beyond 2019 poll and a minister’s ‘principled’ stand against Buhari
Apart from showing the fault lines in the structure of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the recent statement by the Minister of Women Affairs, Hadjia Jumai Alhassan, against the second-term ambition of her principal, President Muhammadu Buhari, has also exposed behind-the-scene intrigues of 2015 and the struggle for political power among geo-political zones in northern Nigeria as the country moves towards 2019 elections.
That makes it three women. But puffed up with pride, not many people would readily agree that we are in the age of the woman. Hadjia Jumai Alhassan, also better known as, Mama Taraba; was merely living the signs of the time when she made what has become the clinching position on the state of national polity going forward.
Most of those who are lining up on the other side calling for the head of the minister, do not remember that she was merely adding her voice to what has become a given about the political future of President Muhammadu Buhari. A greater percentage of that horde had also forgotten that way back in 2011, Buhari had, amid tears, spoken of his decision to quit further search for the presidency. But Nigerians like enthroning the unwilling and unprepared in lofty political offices.
Buhari’s wife it was that fired the first salvo, by telling the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), that she would be reluctant to support her husband for another term in office, stressing that the President tactfully sidelined all those who helped him to ascend the Presidency after three previous failed attempts. Lady Aisha Buhari, despite her candid summations, was vilified and called names, as it is presently being extended to Mama Taraba.
Next to voice frustrations about the progress or lack of it, in the presidency was another Aisha. Aisha Yesufu, the co-convener of #BBOG, had in a short video that went viral, asked President Buhari to consider resigning from office to face his health challenges instead of taking the country suspended animation and paroxysm of speculation.
Going by the foregoing, it could be safely argued that the three women came out to display courage at a time when men have taken to eye service and double speak. It is this benumbing sycophancy that also compelled late Prof. Dora Akunyili to challenge the strong men in the corridors of power to be patriotic for once in tackling the void created by similar health issues of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
None of the principled positions taken by the three women mentioned above succeeded in impacting the nation as Alhassan’s is doing. There are many reasons why the voice of Mama Taraba is resonating and will continue to echo across Nigeria as the build up to 2019 election begin to gather momentum.
From the speaker, now something to say
AS a political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) seems to be waiting for such an opportunity. The utterances of Mrs. Jumai Alhassan have inspired closet authorities to acquire a microphone and become more Buhari than PMB. Governorship aspirants, including those in dire dream of a second term, could now come out boldly to antagonize Mama Taraba, hoping to in the process, show how loyalty and attached to the President they are.
The first political opportunist in that class was the failed senatorial aspirant in Bayelsa State, Preye Aganaba. Sounding more like those ‘Abacha or nothing’ campaigners of old, Aganaba declared that APC has no alternative to the candidacy of Buhari for the 2019 presidential contest.Anticipating some political payback for his surrogate defense of the President, the Bayelsa APC stalwart advised Buhari to consider capable hands to drive the change agenda in the event of the contemplated cabinet reshuffle.
A channel of argument which Aganaba unwittingly opened is that capacity of the President to go an extra term. He disclosed that a constant feature of electioneering campaigns in 2015 was the fact that Buhari has 12 million votes in the kitty, stressing that more has been added.Aganaba said, “I am not bothered about the economy, because that will be fixed. In government, I think we have done well. Yes, maybe we are not where we suppose to be because we also did not know about what we met when we came in 2015, but we have done well.
“I don’t think the President is terminally ill, and like every other human being, people fall sick, but the problem is because he is the President, is in government you begin to hear stories…”.It is left to conjecture how the Bayelsa politician gathered the data he was relying on, but the fact, which many Nigerians believe, is that the President is too tired to drive the change his party promised. Furthermore, many people recall that shortly after the 2015 election was shifted, Buhari had to jet off to London in the name of going there to take deserved rest.
But recent events, including his confession that he had been treating an unnamed ailment for some time in London, show that the President is not in the best of health. What happened is that given his taciturnity, President Buhari enjoys having a lot of people come out with creative lies to defend his shortcomings.
That is what is playing out even in some states where people who have political axe to grind, now side the President in the hope of enjoying incumbency projection and protection during the 2019 election. Ebonyi State happened to catch the bug early enough by staging what they described as celebration for President Buhari’s safe return after medical sojourn in the United Kingdom.
A faction of APC, which staged the rally in Abakaliki, said the rally was in demonstration of their love for Buhari. It is possible that more groups would come out to rally support or even urge the President to contest the 2019 presidential election for their narrow political gains, even when deep down they know that the President’s best is not good enough.
Balance of power in the north
As political theatrics continue in the southern part of the country, in the North, Mama Taraba’s views did much to touch on a very sensitive political issue that have been gaining stridency over the years. It is about the clamour by Northeast politicians to have a go at the Presidency. For some time now, the Northeast has been agitating in subdued frenzy against the dominance of the political space by elements from the northwest.
With the exception of Abubakar Tafawa Belewa and to some extent, General Sani Abacha, no other person from northeast region had held sway at the helm of national political power. It was against this background that in 2011 the consensus arrangement favoured Atiku Abubakar, ostensibly to balance the equation and bring value to the leadership.
Sources in the Presidency also confided in The Guardian that it was for this feeling of alienation that President Buhari started initiating programmes to address the economic impoverishment and political marginalization of the northeast immediately he mounted the saddle.
Yet, in spite of the tokenism, politicians from the zone are talking among themselves on ways to ensure that the presidency is moved to northeast in 2019. Part of the plans by the balance of power advocate is to pencil likely presidential materials to support in 2019.Already in APC, such names as Alhaji Kashim Shettima, Abubakar Geidam and Danjuma Goje are being whispered as likely aspirants. Within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Gombe State Governor, Dr. Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, and the former Minister of FCT, Bala Mohammed, are being rumoured.
Prior to Hadjia Alhassan’s expose, all eyes have been on former Vice President Atiku Abubabar to fly the flag of APC, going by an alleged gentleman agreement entered into with Buhari before the party’s presidential primary in Lagos in 2014. In the light of the foregoing therefore, it is yet unknown whether President Buhari would relief Mama Taraba of her post as being instigated by hawks in the party. And it is believed that if such untoward punishment is visited on the Taraba amazon, the northeast would take that as further proof that their northwest brothers want to annihilate them.
Although many people expect Atiku to defect to another party, but that strategy don’t seem that easy. Of course Atiku had hinted that he would not make any statement about his political future until he meets with President Buhari, ostensibly to find out from him whether he would be dropping his hat in the ring in 2019.
Whether therefore Atiku could still have an opportunity for a friendly and honest discussion with Buhari, in the light of developments surrounding the Women Affairs minister’s utterances is neither here nor there. But the former Turaki, now Waziri of Adamawa, would take the much-needed cue from how the Presidency responds to the principled stand of Mama Taraba.
Dread of Atiku as beginning of wisdom
Only those who are not conversant with the interplay of political forces in APC would not know that the fear of Atiku Abubakar’s presidential ambition is behind the serial failure by the party to inaugurate its Board of Trustees and hold periodic National Executive Committee (NEC) meetings.
Determined to rival former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who came back after being military head of state to enjoy eight years in office as civilian president, Buhari had from day one decided to avoid any direct dealings with those political powerhouses that lifted him to the Presidency.
As a trained military officer, Buhari knows that suspense and decoys are good instruments in warfare. He did not want to provide an opportunity for any of the bloody civilians to broach the topic of 2019 and may be, recall some of the backroom discussions and agreements that preceded the 2015 presidential election. As a soldier also, he knows that when the winner takes all, he makes puppets of the dispossessed.
Given his reticence, Buhari does not seem bothered by the recent disclosure by Atiku that the President sidelined virtually all those who worked tirelessly for victory to come the way of APC in 2015 against the political behemoth, PDP.
Sounding much like a neglected baby, Atiku recalled how the President and APC reclined on his vast resources and networks to defeat PDP and the then incumbent President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
Expressing frustration at his abandonment, Atiku told the Voice of America (VOA): “Honestly speaking, I am still a member of the APC. I was part of all the processes, including campaigns until success was achieved. They used our money and influence to get to where they are but, three years down the lane, this is where we are.”
The former vice President may have spoken few words, but he revealed much. In the first place, he has shown himself as a better politician than Buhari and even went ahead to underscore the President’s poor human relations records. Many readers would recall that even during the campaigns, Buhari was not known to have spoken for more than 45 minutes.
Whether this is evidence of scant ideas of economy of words or even desire to keep intention private would be seen when he declares for a second term or sacks the minister of Women Affairs. Those who want to know whether President Buhari is vindictive are waiting for his body language to be translated into public communication or policy.
The nature of 2019 politics
What happens if President Buhari ‘succumbs’ to pressure to seek a second term? A lot! First he would return to the country to pre2015 situation. The popular refrain among Nigerians was that Jonathan was expected to do just one term. Similarly, Nigerians have seen how far the incumbent has been able steer the ship of state in the past three years and are eager to pass their judgment.
Most of his ardent supporters would see certain desperation and craving power for its own sake by Buhari. The playmakers of APC, namely the promoters of legacy parties that merged, would seek new platforms. And with the current mood in the country, exacerbated by Buhari’s disposition, those who are sold on restructuring would claim their country and say never again to former military rulers.
With the signs of imminent defeat staring him in the face, Buhari may drag the country to war and declare state of emergency to continue in office. Or in the alternative adopt the Obasanjo tactics of staging his political survival through a flawed election.
National Chairman and founder of United Progressive Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, told The Guardian that Buhari has “the right to nurse the ambition to go for a second term,” saying that it is conventional in presidential system of government that incumbents most times is allowed the right of first refusal.
Okorie contended that with the right of first refusal, it becomes suicidal for any member of the party to feel that he wants to contest. “What it means is that there won’t be a presidential primary, because he would be returned unopposed as a candidate,” he said. But what impact would it make or are the imperatives of a likely second term ambition for Buhari? Okorie noted: “For those who are nursing the ambition to vie for APC presidential flag, they should first of all have a second thought that there is an incumbent and if he wishes to run, you don’t have a chance.
“For those of us in opposition, I pray that he runs, because his performance is so abysmal that it would make campaigns easy for us. It is most impossible for Nigeria of today to go through what they are going through and vote for him.
“His sluggish and clueless approach to issues of governance, above all, extreme sectionalism. He has elevated nepotism to a national culture. And his government mostly through his actions, has divided Nigerians more than ever before since the end of the civil war.”
All in all, Mrs. Jumai Alhassan has opened the window for critical evaluation of the Buhari Presidency, but also challenged Nigerian politicians to be most biased for patriotism than parochialism. Those who are speaking tongue in cheek know too well that it is not a god example of political virtue to abandon your party men at the moment you ascend elective office.
However, those who defected to APC to protest Jonathan’s breach of gentleman’s agreement would now see in bold details how it is better not to postpone the evil day by seeking short cut to success. Is the craving for second term the source of Nigeria’s cursed political development? Would the suggestion for a single term of seven years be revisited? Should an incumbent remain in office while contesting the very same position?
There are chances that in 2019 Nigeria would be back to square one. A lot depends on what Buhari does and says in the days to come. But the Minister of Women Affairs, like Aisha Yesufu and wife of President Buhari, has demonstrated that Nigeria needs honesty more than anything else. Deception and greed could be the worst symptoms of corruption.