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So you want to run for President or Governor in 2019 (2)

By Dele Sobowale

“Poll after poll in Kaduna State, before and after the 2015 elections, clearly show that my fate, politically, and otherwise, is uncannily tied to yours. If you do well, I stand to benefit immensely. If you do not do well, sir, whatever I try to do in Kaduna matters little to my present and any future trajectory.” Governor Nasir El-Rufai, in a leaked memo to President Buhari.

Nasir El-Rufai needs no introduction except in his new role which will be disclosed shortly. But, in that memo, he actually gave a verdict on the President and APC. He went further saying, “In my honest opinion, we have made this [economic] situation worse by failing to be proactive in taking some political, economic and governance decisions in a timely manner. In very blunt terms, Mr President, our APC administration has not only failed to manage expectations of a populace…..but has failed to deliver even mundane matters of governance…”.

El-Rufai is generally recognized as a friend or even a political son of Buhari.

First, one must pity Buhari. It is not often that a friend or son disrobes one in the public. If the President regards him as friend, then he must now understand the meaning of the Saint Augustine’s prayer: “God save me from my friends, I can take care of my enemies”. If a son, he might consider regarding Nasir as “unworthy to be called a son”. For mercy’s sake, he should not regard El-Rufai as an enemy because that would recall the words of a late General and Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, 1769-1821, whose contribution to history was: “Better a declared enemy than a doubtful ally.” Irrespective of how one categorises the governor after reading excerpts of that memo, one must either pity the young man for his monumental folly or admire him for the courage to shoot himself in the forehead. The gates of Aso Rock are now shut firmly in his face and other consequences might soon follow.

The next question is: what could have compelled a person in such a sinecure position to risk everything on the pages of a memo which is irretrievable. Was he suffering from “stress”? Drunk? Under duress? Blackmailed by powerful forces who made him an offer he could not refuse? None of these explanations will do. The man is too lucid to require a straight jacket and he is a tough guy who does not get pushed around easily. And, he never touches hard liquor. So what is it that motivates this man to send him standing in front of a moving high speed train?

One thing one learns from strategic studies is to find the key to this sort of puzzle. If a guy is not an idiot or insane, only something monumental can induce him to risk everything as El-Rufai has done. Invariably, if you openly attack a ruler, one of two heads must fall – the ruler’s or the person attempting regicide. So, why try it without first digging two graves?  The only explanation that would justify such a foolhardy scheme is simple. El-Rufai in desperation has beaten everybody else interested in contesting for Aso Rock in 2019 to the punch. He has unhooked his wagon from that of Buhari whose government cannot “deliver mundane matters of governance”. Obviously, the Governor thinks he knows what those mundane matters are and how to deliver them. He certainly will not want his “present or future trajectory” to be tied down to a “falling star”.

He has another reason. Kaduna State is slipping out of his grasp. Too many people there will be happy to see his back. Yet, he is addicted to holding public office and power. So, he needs a new patch. The Senate is out of the question. So only the presidency will satisfy a small man with giant political ambitions. That is perfectly understandable and legitimate. Starting early is indispensable; wrongly is fatal.

The young man is going about the whole thing the wrong way. Starting out early in the march is fine. But, starting by openly delivering a deadly blow to the existing power structure is the dumbest thing in the world. There are other more promising approaches. Even those within the All Progressive Congress, APC, who share his views about the performance of their political party, must immediately rally round the party flag – in order to mask their own intentions. Some of El-Rufai’s harshest critics will later turn out to betray Buhari when the time is considered right.  Power only respects power. Unfortunately, El-Rufai failed to build a strong power base before stepping into the ring. The best wrestler in the world cannot alone beat a tag team of six powerful professionals; not to talk of the multitude constituting the APC at the moment.  Ernest Hemmingway, the American Nobel Prize Winner, in his book, THE WAY TO DUSTY DEATH, summarized El-Rufai brand of folly (because it is top class foolhardiness) by declaring that “A man alone hasn’t got a chance”.  So, first lesson for all those who are ambitious to eat in the Presidential dinning room is: DON’T MAKE ANY NOISE ABOUT IT YET. DENY IT IF PEOPLE ASK YOU. You have nothing to gain but your political future; and perhaps your life as well. You have everything to lose.

Unconfirmed rumours have it that El-Rufai is working on his Ph.D. He should find out which countries are still accepting African refugees. He might need the information any time soon. He once ran out when things got too hot. The heat is on again. One Aso spokesperson said they would not answer him yet. Uuumm! The safest rat is one farthest away from the reach of cats…

Nasir’s mistakes notwithstanding, the matter of Aso Rock vacancy in 2019 is not closed. Most people rightly assume that Buhari will run again for office in 2019. That should be expected. Power is intoxicating; few can take a small sip and leave the trough. At any rate, no ruler enters a palace alone. He is invariably accompanied by a Kitchen Cabinet and a Bedroom Cabinet. After a while, the fortunate members of those positions tend to see their continuation as God ordained. They never want to leave. So, unless the President is a Gandhi or Mandela, he must be forced out by the law (two-terms) or defeat at the polls or by a coup or death. To those addicted to power, it matters little how they go and how many of their fellow citizens go down with them. Therefore, expect Buhari to opt for re-election. But, on which party’s platform?

The last question might not be as frivolous as it appears. He is now the APC leader. But, which APC? The APC which was overwhelmingly elected in 2015 promised change especially in tackling corruption and Buhari’s track record suggested to millions of Nigerians that he was the right man and that he will appoint men and women who would work with him to achieve desired results quickly. Several individuals who might not have been elected on their own also became State Governors – swept in by Buhari’s babanriga.

The rejection of Mr Magu for the second time by the Senate despite Buhari’s letter recommending the EFCC acting Chairman has exposed as nothing else can the truth that there are at least two factions of APC – one fighting corruption and the other promoting it. At the moment neutral observers of events find it difficult to distinguish which is which. Mr Magu was shot down on account of a report sent to the Senate by the Directorate of State Services, DSS, whose Director General is Mamman Daura – Buhari’s nephew. Nobody would have expected Daura to oppose a candidate supported by Buhari publicly instead of talking to Buhari privately.

As things stand now, Magu’s rejection has opened a breech between APC supporters and the general public. Those who regard Magu’s rejection as justified wonder why Buhari would send the name of a corrupt person to the Senate; they even question his retention on the job in an acting position. Those who want him confirmed citing the “good work” he has been doing at EFCC point to the collusion of corrupt Senators and more recently State Governors to vitiate the fight against corruption. They are all “Buhari’s people and nobody knows now where he stands on the Magu matter. But, one thing is certain, the Magu controversy has further tarnished the Buhari brand image especially given the lack of successful prosecution of accused persons and the embarrassment of the Secretary to Federal Government’s involvement in a land clearing scandal. The two factions of APC cannot continue to co-exist under Buhari without loss of more credibility on the fight against corruption. Irrespective of which side Buhari supports, a good chunk of APC will walk out the door in 2019. How large a chunk?..

Most literate Nigerians voted for Buhari in 2015 solely for the fight against corruption. He has no previous record of success in economic management, health, education, power supply etc. Those were considered secondary to slaying corruption. But, nobody expected him to do it alone. Now that his strongest appeal to voters is being eroded by his subordinates, and performance on other matters, even mundane ones, appraised by an intimate as failure, Buhari now stands on sinking sand. Add to that the fact that those regarded as corrupt still have the largest financial war chest for the 2019 contest and are re-grouping. You can understand why a vacancy exists all over – in Abuja and states….




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