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Time to restore the ‘kingdom’ to Nigerians

Whether now or in the distant past, politics has always been about striving for control of power, and no one wants to be in perpetual servitude. Freedom is always sweet. There was a time the disciples of Jesus met him and asked a critical question- “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” This presupposes that kingdom has always been the desire of the people but they need somebody with the capacity to bring it down to them.

Jesus’ disciples thought their master came for earthly kingdom and felt he was in the right position to liberate them. But the kingdom that their master preached was not the kind they hoped for.

Nigerians, in their feeling of despair, alienation and lack of fulfillment in the kind of leadership they have seen over the years are no different from Jesus’ disciples with their helpless question. That appears to be the singular question on the lips of many concerned Nigerians to President Muhammadu Buhari, concerning the happenings on the country’s political, economic and social landscape.

For some time now, particularly, in the current political dispensation, it has been said that a cabal, a group of powerful elements, who are not core career politicians, have been in charge of power in Nigeria.

This group, it has been alleged, has been the reason all the health and education sectors (in the main) are not working. Rightly or wrongly, the late Abba Kyari, chief of staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, was accused to be the leader of the cabal. It was that perception that elicited the variegated responses to the news of his demise.

While many Nigerians believe Kyari deprived them of quality governance through the manipulation of power to favour few cronies, some other Nigerians, who claimed to know the late Chief of Staff intimately, were effusive in their eulogies.

They all spoke in tandem that Kyari was needlessly buffeted and that he received the bullets that were not meant for him. Among a few Nigerians who saw him as a saint are Simon Kolawole, erudite journalist and chief executive officer of Cable Newspaper Limited; Geoffrey Onyeama, Foreign Affairs minister; Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Aviation minister, Sam Nda-Isaiah, publisher of LEADERSHIP newspapers, and Waziri Adio is the executive secretary of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).

If Kyari was innocuous as some people say now that he is no more, it meant that his principal clothed him in that cloak, wherein he exhibited a larger-than-life posturing and wielded power outside the precincts of the presidency circle, albeit to his detriment.

The workings in the Aso Rock Villa did not agree with the testimonies being bandied in some of the condolences scripted by those who claimed to know the late Chief of Staff very well.

If asked to pen his condolence message, a former Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole’s may not be as flowery as those of the people listed above.

It was said that it was during his tenure in office that, for an alleged misunderstanding with Kyari, the Health Ministry was stripped of its right to make purchases for its needs. That was rather transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture. Reports have it that the situation remained the same until Kyari’s death.

“The perception of Kyari as a man with an insatiable power appetite who had the President of the Federal Republic in a closet is a great contradiction if not disservice to the image he created in his about four decades in the corporate world. And it is a tragedy that his entire career summed up in the mere five years of his power relations,” Niran Adedokun, a newspaper columnist, said.

Bukola Saraki, a former Senate President, suggested that an unnamed cabal might have edged Buhari out of executive control. Reacting to the barrage of court cases that he faced shortly after his inauguration, Saraki said: “However, what has become clear is that there is now a government within the government of President Buhari who have seized the apparatus of Executive powers to pursue their nefarious agenda.”

It wasn’t long after Saraki’s observation that Aisha Buhari, wife of the President, started seeing danger early in the life of the administration of her husband, cried out that some powerful elements had hijacked power from the elected president.

That was in October 2016, when, during an interview with BBC Hausa, a major broadcaster in northern Nigeria, Aisha claimed that “The president does not know 45 out of 50 of the people he appointed and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years… some people are sitting down in their homes folding their arms only for them to be called to come and head an agency or a ministerial position.”

She also claimed that the views of “most” of the people that held positions in the government were not aligned with the President’s.

“They don’t know our manifesto, they don’t know what we campaigned for and they were not part of us,” she said.

On a number of times, the First Lady has had to speak out over being sidelined in the Villa. She had also alleged that two people were hindering the progress of her husband’s administration, challenging Nigerian men to stand up to the two people.

The president’s wife said this at a national women leadership summit organised by Project 4+4 for Buhari & Osinbajo 2019, a political group.

Although she did not mention the names of the two persons, she said they had dominated a government which emerged through the votes of over 15 million people.

“Our votes were 15.4 million in the last elections and after that only for us to be dominated by two people… this is totally unacceptable,” she said.

“If 15.4 million people can bring in a government and only for the government to be dominated by two people or three people, where are the men of Nigeria? Where are the Nigerian men? What are you doing? Instead of them to come together and fight them, they keep visiting them one after the other licking their shoes (I’m sorry to use those words),” the First Lady had said.

In the estimation of many Nigerians, the current administration has neither delivered on the Change mantra, on the crest of which the All Progressives Congress (APC) rode to power in 2015, nor has it lived up to the Next Level promise it made to Nigerians in 2019.

For many, the current administration has only existed to serve a narrow interest of a few individuals. Since 2016, this has been the situation.

Fingers have consistently pointed to some individuals as those who have hijacked power from the elected President and wielded power according to their whims.

It was not only Aisha Buhari that believed that wrong people had hijacked power at the Presidential Villa, Oluremi Tinubu, a senator representing Lagos Central Senatorial District, at the National Assembly, said in February 2018 that the sidelining of her husband, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, whose singular efforts gave rise to the party that fielded Buhari in 2015, was very disappointing.

She complained that her husband was “trashed” after the party won the 2015 election.

“He was campaigning, I did too. We were running three campaigns in my house; and for him to be trashed like that? But I saw somebody who has love for this country. I hate to speak because when I stand in the front of God, I don’t want, because of this man, go to hell,” the senator said.

According to her, “occasionally, I would chip in and I would say, ‘You’re still helping out? Why are you helping out?’ He would say, ‘This country matters to me more.”

After the revelation on the hijack of power and the relegation of Tinubu by the powers that be in Abuja, it was noticed that the National Leader of the APC was no longer visible at the seat of power. Preparatory to the 2019 general election however, it was said that President Buhari drew him back once again. But, Katch Ononuju, an Abuja-based public affairs analyst, alleged that the cabal in government used blackmail and threats to compel Tinubu to work for the return of President Buhari to power for the second term in 2019.

The same cabal that allegedly operated under the shadows of President Buhari were said to have bared their fangs against Yemi Osinbajo, vice president and a professor of law.

In the first tenure of the government, the Vice President was a star figure and probably the most eloquent and articulate voice behind its policies, but shortly after the re-election, the voice of this ardent champion got drowned.

Things started to change for the worst in the corridors of power at the Villa, when on Monday, September 16, the Presidency announced the replacement of the Economic Management Team (EMT), which Osinbajo chaired, with an Economic Advisory Council (EAC), to be chaired by Professor Doyin Salami. That move, according to observers was said to have opened the floodgate of the vicious anti-Osinbajo campaign. The EAC has since continued to report directly to the President.

There were also alleged moves to reassign some top aides of the Vice President from the Presidential Villa to some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). In fact, some of his staffers were sacked.

The developments intensified the speculations that the cabal was out to “curtail” the VP’s powers by excising some agencies under his supervision.

If these developments were terrible for the Vice President, then it was a disaster when an alleged Memo from the Presidency came directing the Vice President to henceforth seek presidential approvals in the running of the agencies under his supervision. At this point, it was not in doubts as to the feud between the Vice President and elements within the Presidency, who had allegedly hijacked power.

A source insists that “it would be hypocritical to claim that the Office of the Vice President was enjoying a robust relationship with the late Chief of Staff.”

Reliable sources claimed that Osinbajo’s rising profile at the time was said to be threatening the cabal allegedly led by the late Kyari and others with serious grudge against Osinbajo who, BDSUNDAY gathered, had vowed to leave no stone unturned to diminish him.

Kyari got more arsenal, as it were, to deal a deadly blow on perceived enemies when President Buhari, while inaugurating his cabinet, ordered the new Ministers to submit any request meant for him to his Chief of Staff, and all executive matters to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.

It was alleged that the wall of enmity at the Villa got cemented following some of the decisions Osinbajo took that made him popular when he acted as the President while President Buhari was away on medical vacation.

First, against all the calculations and interests of the Aso Rock cabal, Osinbajo had confirmed Justice Walter Onnoghen as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria, the first southerner to be appointed into that exalted office in nearly 30 years.

The cabal did not like that and they plotted and eventually advised Buhari to remove Onnoghen before the election through ways many lawyers considered as unconstitutional. Onnoghen was accused of not declaring his assets and was suspended on controversial circumstances. His independent-mindedness is said to have scared the cabal. Onnoghen had presided over Supreme Court judgments that did not favour the cabal, notably that of the former President of the Senate, BukolaSaraki.

Osinbajo sacked the former Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS)  Lawal Daura after it was discovered the former DSS boss spear-headed the invasion of the National Assembly to allegedly effect a change of leadership. This was considered a “cardinal sin” by the cabal as Daura is said to be a prominent member of the cabal. Osinbajo went ahead to appoint Matthew Seiyafa from Bayelsa State as Acting DSS Director-General. But in a swift move Seiyafa was removed by President Buhari and replaced with Yusuf Bichi, who had already retired. This appears to show the desperation in the cabal to keep all sensitive positions to the north and to their fold.

Perhaps, the most devastating blow Osinbajo unleashed on the cabal was his public denial of the RUGA policy meant to settle Fulani herdsmen on land belonging to indigenous people of Nigeria. This, according to a Fulani politician, who wished not to be named “was like a hot knife that cut through their hearts” as the RUGA policy was perhaps the most important agenda of the Fulani cabal which President Buhari was yet to deliver to them.

It has been alleged that the President has been slow in implementing the recommendations of the EAC. Could it be that the advice and recommendations of the EAC were not having the desired effect, principally because of possible conflict of interests? It was said that the likes of Kyari held socialist ideas, which economists strongly believe have not helped the nation’s economy under Buhari.

MKO Balogun, CEO, Global PFI, who saw the constitution of the council as a fulfilment of the yearnings of Nigerians that believed the President needed some strong people on the economy around him, had observed that “the team is the best you can think of at this time of national development with key actors in Nigeria’s economic development agenda in the council.” It would be advisable for the President to put into effect the advice of the EAC without wasting more time.

Analysts also suggest that the President should restore the vibrancy of Osinbajo, who was effectively the face of the government in the first term.

The country belongs to Nigerians and power should return to the people.

 

ZEBULON AGOMUO

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