By Ochereome Nnanna
THE Federal Government under the control of the All Progressives Congress, APC, is in separate pieces. Chaos rules the roost. Two years into the supposed regime of “change” the nation appears to have been abandoned to an autopilot mode, as there does not seem to be anyone effectively coordinating and controlling the machine of governance.
The chaos started from Day One, with the failed attempt of the leadership of the APC to dictate who emerged as the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives in order to tie the National Assembly to the apron string of the Presidency. This failure elicited an equally failed attempt by the party and the Presidency to use the Judiciary and the anti-graft agencies to harass, weaken and change the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly. In the end, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, appeased the party by giving its preferred candidates soft landing.
In the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki the Senate President and his Deputy, People’s Democratic Party, PDP’s, Ike Ekweremadu, also survived the siege by the Executive. President Muhammadu Buhari’s political relationship with major party leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, somehow, went into a brief “off” mode, especially during the governorship elections of Edo and Ondo states in September and November 2016. The increasingly visible Buhari group in the APC successfully won the elections against Tinubu’s wishes. At a point, it seemed that Tinubu was plotting an alternative platform, but he rescued himself from the brink just in time.
Meanwhile, Saraki, the main arrowhead of the “new” PDP wing of the APC, seemed to have filled the brief void that Tinubu created and became welcome once against at President Buhari’s side. Some of the cases against him were withdrawn. He became a frequenter of Aso Villa and started striking the posture of an emerging confidant of the President even during the latter’s protracted medical vacation controversy. In fact, Saraki became so integrated into the APC fold that his best known acolyte, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, was appointed the National Publicity Secretary of the Party to replace Tinubu’s former lackey, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who is now the Minister of Information and Culture.
However, after a brief excursion in the doghouse, Tinubu has gradually inched his way back to Buhari’s side through his gift to the Buhari Presidency, Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. Osinbajo’s excellent performance as Acting President while Buhari was on his sick bed brought the Tinubu group back to the centre of the Buhari Presidency. Such is the nature of the tidal wave rocking the APC as a ruling party.
In terms of governance, the chaos is evident in all the three arms – the Judiciary, Executive and Legislature. President Buhari’s queer handling of the confirmation of Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, was nimbly solved by Osinbajo as Acting President when he was away.
While Buhari was away for nearly two months, Osinbajo simply did the right things and the country which was in turmoil from militancy in the Niger Delta, armed herdsmen attacks and killings, pro-Biafra protests and rising discontent in the populace over the worsening economy miraculously calmed down. Those of us who noticed the difference and said so were accused of trying to drive a wedge between Buhari and Osinbajo or dividing the Presidency. How moronic can you get! Unfortunately, since Buhari came back, many of these demons, particularly the herdsmen’s attacks, made mad upsurges once again, nationwide!
Sadly also, the President’s return to full governance (I presume) appears to have exacerbated the chaos, rather than restore order. The relationship between the APC-controlled Senate and the Presidency is at an all-time low because officials closely associated with the President have become laws unto themselves. The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, has encouraged the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, PACAC, Itse Sagay, to defy constitutionally-valid summons by the Senate to explain relating to their handling of their jobs.
In anger, the Senate, which feels thwarted and rendered irrelevant as a result of the President’s failure to act on their resolutions, has decided to suspend the confirmation of State Resident Electoral Commissioners, REC, for two weeks, a kind of work-to-rule action. In the midst of all this chaos, governance is suffering. The 2017 budget may not be passed before May. The already compromised anti-corruption agenda of the government could either grind to a halt or degenerate into personal fights whereby government appointees will throw caution to the wind and use powers at their disposal against their enemies.
This brings to mind the long-drawn wars going on inside the Presidency itself as illustrated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu confirmation saga at the Senate. After Buhari appointed Magu in acting capacity, he bungled the anti-graft war by delaying sending his name for confirmation. It was not until eight months later when the President embarked on his medical trip that Osinbajo, as Acting President, forwarded Magu’s name to the Senate. By then, Magu had made many enemies even among the senators, some of whom were under investigation. The senators, in simple matter of self-preservation, were willing to welcome anything that would ensure Magu would not continue on his job.
They did not have to wait for long. The State Security Services, SSS, backed by Buhari’s kinsmen in his kitchen cabinet, sent reports damaging Magu’s credibility. Pushed by a counter-lobby in the Presidency featuring VP Osinbajo, Wife of the President, Aisha Buhari and the Itse Sagay-led PACAC, Buhari re-sent Magu’s name to the Senate on the grounds that a second report by SSS had cleared him. The SSS not only sent the damaging report again; it also brought out even more serious documents to prove that Magu was not fit for the job. Senate had what it was looking for, and asked the President to return Magu to the Police from whence he was picked.
Meanwhile, Magu’s supporters have asked Buhari to retain him in office indefinitely in acting capacity, though many Nigerians feel that Magu has been damaged beyond repair and needs to be replaced.
The malady of chaos bedevilling the APC Federal Government is unlikely to change throughout its allotted four-year tenure. The reason is simple: the APC is merely a power-grabbing mechanism. It is a patchwork of power-hungry strange bedfellows, each of which sees the party’s mission in government differently.
President Buhari is not in firm control of anything. Otherwise, the Magu saga would not arise. The much-abused former ruling party, PDP, never had any problem appointing any of the three EFCC chairmen who operated under its watch. Under Buhari, simple matters appear Herculean. As former military Head of State and Executive Chairman of the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, Buhari was always the figurehead who sat aside and let others run the show in his name. This trend has continued under his watch as an elected President.
Ageing and fragile health have added to the problem. It is so bad that he can’t seem to make up his mind if wants Magu. It’s a burden that is left to resolve itself any which way. His kinsmen in the kitchen cabinet and the forces headlined by VP Osinbajo with Madame Buhari’s support will have to keep slugging it out, perhaps until the end of this tenure.
After that, I hope we will not be subjected to another round of this anarchy within government for another four years!