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Buhari presidency: Understanding the inner men

By Leo Sobechi
10 July 2016   |   2:38 am
Right from the electioneering period for the 2015 general election, the prominent names associated with the contest were President Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party...
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari speaks during a joint press conference with his French counterpart following their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Abuja on May 14, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in Presidential Palace in Abuja. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN

Right from the electioneering period for the 2015 general election, the prominent names associated with the contest were President Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on one hand, and General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) on another. All the names of persons and institutions were adjunct, related to them.

When May 29, 2015, Buhari took oath of office and allegiance to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the president and commander in chief of the country’s armed forces, a notable feature of his inaugural address, apart from reiteration of his promise to wipe out insurgency, fight corruption and turn around the economy so that many young people would have jobs; was that in carrying out the duties and responsibilities of the office of president, “I belong to all, but belonged to none.”

Nigerians were elated at that sound bite, especially, against the background of his promise of neutrality, impartiality and objectivity. But with the progression of time, the president started leaving citizens in doubt to the veracity of his claims and credibility of his avowals.

First, he varied his wonderful inaugural expression by alluding to the necessity of rewarding the loyalty and steadfastness of his political allies that accompanied him to wander through desert places in search of political power. Later, he talked about compensating the majority that gave him the winning votes in the election, before considering the rest five percent that voted otherwise.

However, while the president dithered to select cabinet members of aides to assist him in the task of mandate delivery, he fell back on the services of some relatives and confidants. The practice was for the president to set up a small team, usually not exceeding five members, to investigate a matter and bring him reports on outcomes.

It was gathered that some of the arrowheads of the APC merger wanted to use the president’s good image to win the presidential election and become the real power behind the throne. The decision was taken on how to ensure that the president learns to take things easy given his age to avoid a situation that could provide the opportunity for an unintended beneficiary to perform the presidential function.

The key individuals that played crucial roles in those early days were Mamman Daura and Abba Kyari. These men were the unofficial central players in the presidency for the period spanning the pre- and post-inauguration dispensation. One man that played significant role in ensuring the president rescinded his earlier declaration not to contest the presidency again was Malam Nasir el Rufai. He was on the front row of Buhari’s circle of friends in Kaduna that welded enormous influence around him.

Most Nigerians will remember el Rufai’s twitter message, where he announced that Sambo Dasuki and Ita Ekpenyong, were the two major threats to national security, prior to the 2015 election. Buhari continued to listen to his loyalists on issues concerning the running of the campaign and the election. The situation continued even after the names of the presidential aides were announced. Of the first critical appointments made by President Buhari in August 2015, were those of Lawal Daura, Abba Kyari and Hameed Ali; the president had been falling back on their input in administrative decisions.

As such before the first anniversary of his administration, when he gave an insight into how he runs the presidency, the presidency was actively in the hands of a kitchen cabinet. During an interaction with publishers and news editors the president had declared: “…I don’t rule the country alone…”

Barely two days after making that disclosure, former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had also during a book launch in Abuja, reasoned that a close observation of the present administration’s policies, particularly on the issue of the Niger Delta and power sector crisis, showed there was little or no lesson learnt.

But recently, after the controversial arraignment for the alleged forgery of the senate rule, President of Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, stunned the nation when he pointed out that a powerful cabal within the presidency had hijacked power from President Buhari, a retired general.

According to investigations, the senate president lamented the “nefarious agenda of a few individuals, who are bent on undermining our democracy and destabilising the Federal Government to satisfy their selfish interests.”

Although, the presidency reacted to the disclosure through the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, that Saraki did not back up the allegation “with more information”, the reality is tht the idea of a cabal existing in Aso Rock is not new. Some have ventured to name the faces behind the cabal.

At the head of the dome is the president’s nephew, Alhaji Mamman Daura. He was allegedly responsible for the appointment of his two protégés, Lawal Daura and Abba Kyari. Those conversant with Kaduna know the influence of Daura, a former journalist with New Nigeria Newspapers.

Shortly after Buhari won the presidential election, Mamman Daura began what was considered the groundwork of how the administration would be run. He was said to have travelled to foreign countries, facilitated by one of the president’s former military colleague.

Mamman Daura undertook several such flights to South Africa in an effort to unearth the details of Nigeria’s botched arms purchase transaction. Daura developed a foolproof system of bringing up analyses of situations and circumstances with strategies for execution to which he would advise the president on the intended outcome. To these schemes, the president is said to always give a go ahead order, without adding or removing anything.

The web around Mr. Presidency reports had it, was created by Mamman Daura in such a way that hardly any visitor, decision or issue get into the presidency without his knowledge and stamp of approval or frustration. He specifically nominated his boy, the former military administrator of Kaduna State, Abba Kyari, to ensure the execution of the designs.

Then there is Mamman Daura’s son, Kabir, who takes every detail of the president’s engagement. Kabir is the P.A. (Personal Assistant) to the president. He is being complemented in his oversight of the president’s every move by Colonel Lawan Abubakar, the presidents Aide De Camp. These all report to Mamman Daura and they hold unquestioning loyalty and obedience to his directives. They know what letters to get to the president and “what to leave in the custody” of Mamman Daura.

Mohammed Babagana Mongonu’s name may not be on many lips, but he welds his own power of influence on the president. Mongonu was among the first five-man team that investigated the activities of the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col Sambo Dasuki. General Mongonu’s father was a close confidant of Buhari and the family made the president’s tenure as military governor of Northeast very eventful.

The NSA is behind the new defense architecture in the Buhari president, having been at the head of Nigeria Intelligence Agency. One of the first actions he took after his appointment was the sacking of most of the officers that worked under Dasuki, based on his background knowledge of what transpired in the ONSA during the Jonathan years. He was part of the five-man team that set up the groundwork for the Buhari administration.

Mongonu has an authoritative voice in the administration. The sack of military office as well as the recent mass retirement of officers in the military had his input, investigation has it. Together with Lawal Daura, Mongonu sees to the current military tactics adopted in the fight against corruption. The president does not censure or direct them on how to carry out their functions, another source added.

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir David Lawal, makes up the pack, but exists as a back up for the above named operators. The fact of his religious background and state of origin are part of the reasons he was brought in to throw a halo of inclusion to the tightly knit squad that holds the raw power of the presidency.

At the periphery of these insiders (cabal) could be found the Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir Ahmed el Rufa’i, who has been sidelined of late by the insiders and Col Hameed Ali, the Comptroller General of Customs. Like Abba Kyari, Hameed Ali was a one-time governor of Kaduna State. His opinions are seldom questioned by the president.

The characters above take advantage of President’s tentativeness and alleged aversion to intellectual exercise to supplant his attention. “While most Nigerians may not fault President Buhari’s stand on corruption, they cannot honestly ascribe most of the goings on in his presidency to him. He knows his deficiencies and as such brought these men to do exactly what they are doing,” said a source in the administration.If every administration has one secret it protects, the present presidency cannot deny the existence of surrogate presidents, otherwise called the cabal!

Underhand Deals
OWING to the curious nature of power distribution in the presidency, many underhand deals go on, largely unknown to the president. Most of these include, appointments, postings and sundry favours. The most recent was the alleged inducement given to a central player in the presidency for the downward review of the fine slammed on the mobile network provider, (MTN) by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC).

The same officer was involved in the nomination of ministers, in isolation of APC that produced the president or the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. He took the same unilateral steps in league of other members of the cabal in the appointment of ambassadors.

According to sources, a lot goes on in the presidency, which the president is nary aware of. Sources within revealed that a plan is afoot to ensure that the planned cabinet reshuffle would be done in such a way to favour some groups within the APC. The cabal is said to be at work to entrench these former allies of the president to exert full control of the administration and the party structure in preparation for the 2019 election.