By Rotimi Fasan
IN ‘Beyond Muhamadu Buhari’s anti-corruption rhetoric: return of the fifth columnists?”, I had begun by seeking answer to the simple question of whether President Buhari was still in charge of his administration. That question was directed at the president and/or his minders.
The immediate trigger for the piece that led to that question was the weekend raid of the homes and eventual arrest of some very senior judicial officers in different parts of the country, including two of the Supreme and a few others of the Federal Court of Appeal and High Courts.
One doesn’t need to be a star gazer to correctly diagnose the pathologies, or much less read the Nigerian political space and the execrable activities of our politicians. All that is required is careful attention to history and the everyday drama of political life. Much of what I wrote in the piece in question could have appeared speculative to those unacquainted with the political history of this country and the deeds and misdeeds of some of our leaders.
In that interview, excerpts from which was first aired on Tuesday 11th October, she expressed exasperation about and anger at the activities of some members of the inner circle of the president who had practically taken over control of the government from him. (By the way, my copy for the week had been written and dispatched by the morning of Sunday, October 9, two clear days before any mention of the BBC interview and three days before it was published).
In identical words that would seem like direct lifts from that interview, I had called into question the direction the Buhari administration seemed to be headed against the backdrop of the controversy that surrounded the president’s emergence as candidate of the All Progressives Congress party, APC, and the circumstances of his ouster from power as a military dictator.
I thought a quick reminder of the lessons of our recent history wouldn’t do anyone any harm. Rather it could go a long way to help clear cognitive cobwebs and tell us we might again be travelling down dangerous but avoidable byways to nationhood. Even if today’s millennials and other facebook aficionados, important demographics that would bear the brunt and be greatly impacted by any derailment of the current effort at making sense of governing this country- even if much of this voting population of this country knows pretty little of our recent history (no thanks to those who banished this subject from the curriculum and are now talking of returning it) as to make full sense of some of the questions I raised, it is very much pertinent, I presume, to remind ourselves of some home truths. Such reminders would and should serve as cautionary counters to future alibis, excuses and conspiracy theories, to say nothing of any easy resort to voodoo yarns and spooky S.O.S, cries of metaphysical intrusions as we were last week treated to by former presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati.
Anyway, Mrs. Buhari painted a picture of a president apparently under the illusion that he is in charge when he might already be far under the spell (to take a leaf out of Abati’s Book of the Supernatural) of his immediate minders, a hostage both to power and of his own stubborn sense of moral uprightness.
The spectre of another geriatric or ailing ruler held hostage by power mongers acting in his name should worry any Nigerian old enough to know how Turai Yar’Adua and a few people around Umar Yar’Adua brought this nation to the very brink of disaster. True, Aisha neither said Buhari is ill nor that he has lost control of his faculties, hers are the concerns of a spouse.
But the claim by Junaid Muhammed that Buhari was in Germany for medical reason should not be dismissed offhand. If the demands of office weigh too heavily on the president as to impair his performance, Nigerians should be made aware of things rather than the president handing the levers of power to unelected hangers-on. As to what some have made of Aisha’s comments: No more can Buhari’s failure to rejig his cabinet be responsible for the shortcomings of his government than could Kemi Adeosun or her so-called inexperience be blamed for our economic quagmire when corruption is impregnable and the economy had entered a destructive phase under Goodluck Jonathan and his ilk. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala with all her so-called experience was part of the rot, let all apologists remember.
But it is instructive that Buhari wasted no time to respond to what would appear to him like a broadside from his wife with a put-down of his own.
This is more than can be said about his tardiness or refusal to respond -which amounts to disrespect- when things turn to grave matters of concern to Nigerians. Yet, he wasted no time responding to his wife and insisting she belonged in his kitchen in spite of the do-gooder explanation of his adviser on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, that the president was displaying a humorous side previously unknown to Nigerians.
President Mohammadu Buhari has maintained dead silence to the national outcry and controversy that have followed the arrest of judges of the highest courts of the land more than a week after the incident without allowing Nigerians a glimpse of his mind.
He need not agree with the views expressed by those who said the violations were the hallmarks of his personal style and that the brigandage that accompanied them happened with his say-so. He only needs to demonstrate he didn’t order the mode of the operation even when he fully supported or authorised the fight against corruption regardless of who is involved. But Buhari has said nothing while he found it expedient to ‘banter’ with his wife as Mr. Garba Shehu wants us all to believe. Is this the president’s own way of personalising power, reducing it to a contest between himself, his relations and others around him?
The fight against corruption is one that must be won. We’ve seen how senior members of the bench and the bar have perverted justice in this country and how they’ve tried to intimidate those who have questioned them about this.
But the cleaning of the Augean Stable that the judiciary and other aspects of our national life represent is a fight that must be collectively won. Buhari as I have had cause to note in the past is not a president in the mould of those we can call Nigeria’s philosopher leaders and he would do well to dispense with his messianic tendencies.