By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
When Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo on Tuesday afternoon issued what he termed as a special press release, he inevitably enrolled himself in a special club – to wit, the club of Buhari’s Former Friends (BFFs), those who backed the president’s election but have now turned against him.
It is a club of prominent Nigerians who before the 2015 general elections vociferously came out to support the presidential aspiration of General Muhammadu Buhari.
President Obasanjo’s claims of incompetence, clannishness, and corruption have also been cited by some of the former friends of Buhari in distancing themselves from his government and his second term aspiration.
Dr. Junaid Mohammed: – The first rebel
Perhaps the first person among Buhari’s friends to break ranks with him was Dr. Junaid Mohammed, the fiery Second Republic lawmaker. Dr. Mohammed supported Buhari in 2015 despite his reservations about Buhari’s role in torpedoing the Second Republic where he, Mohammed came to national renown.
Mohammed gravitated towards Buhari partly on account of what he claimed as the deficiencies of President Goodluck Jonathan. However, within months of President Buhari’s inauguration in May 2015, Mohammed apparently fell out with him and by 2016 was already living up to his Second Republic image as the stormy petrel. Even though now advanced in age, Mohammed was one of the few to publicly name those he claimed as members of the cabal who he alleged were ruling in place of Buhari.
“What is happening right now is very unfortunate because evidence has since shown that the President’s handlers are not telling us the truth. They are playing on the intelligence of the masses, who took time to register, vote and some even died while voting. I feel Nigerians deserve better than what we are getting right now,” he told Vanguard in an interview.
Atiku Abubakar – the veteran who gave Buhari the mouthpiece
The point at which Atiku Abubakar fell out with the Buhari administration cannot really be said. Buhari’s associates claim he never wished the administration well despite handing over one of his most potent campaign veterans in the person of Garba Shehu to the 2015 Buhari Campaign Organisation. Atiku has also claimed that he supported the Buhari campaign in terms of logistics and other resources.
Atiku like many senior chieftains of the APC lamented Buhari’s failure to recognise those who helped him to power saying he resorted to a cabal who dictated policies, positions and programmes for the administration that they laboured to birth.
Atiku was also particularly mindful of the failure of the APC to hold statutory meetings, notably the Board of Trustees, BoT, a body to which party insiders believed Atiku hoped to chair and through which to influence the party and government.
Perhaps to checkmate Atiku’s aspiration, it was claimed that Buhari was quick to appoint Mr. Babachir Lawal as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF. Lawal and Atiku are from the same Adamawa State, and it was reasoned in those early days of the Buhari administration that the chairman of the BoT and the SGF could not come from the same state.
Speaking of his resignation and the trend in the party, Atiku said: “after Buhari won the election, he was no longer interested in the party that made him president. Every activity stopped and even the party chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, could not take any decision. I called Chief Odigie-Oyegun to tell him that our party was dying slowly, but he told me he could not do anything unless he got clearance from the president.
“The party became a one-man property. Everyone grumbles behind the president, but they are too timid to raise a voice against the illegalities being perpetrated. I should be bold enough to know what I want and can do so at my age. So, I decided to leave.” Atiku formally left Buhari and the APC in October 2017.
Father Mbaka – the priest who sanctified Buhari
The fiery cleric from Enugu State was unarguably the leading voice in the Igbo Christian community who helped to assuage critical concerns about Buhari’s alleged Islamist proclivities.
Mbaka who endorsed Buhari on New Year eve of 2015 had said in justification of his action.
“Some people said the APC people and Buhari had given me money, but I have never seen Buhari before; I don’t know him. Buhari’s one kobo, as I talk to you, has never touched my hand. I don’t know him; God in heaven is my witness. I am just the voice of the voiceless, the sorrowful and the cheated and frustrated Nigerians
“He (Jonathan) says it shall be well but until when? Is it until you die? If my message will stir them into action, thank God it has achieved its purpose. I am not a politician; my job is to raise my voice from the sanctuary here. The same God that helped the Israelites to cross the red sea did He not punish them in the desert?”
Three years after, Mbaka seemed to have backtracked. In his 2018 New Year eve address to his congregation, the priest said: “Mr. President, you need to change, or you will be changed. You are the one who introduced change as your mantra. Nigerian economy is in shambles and Nigerians are in sorrow.
Nigeria is not just passing through an economic depression but also economic repression and compression. Very soon, Nigerians will know that the country is in a terrible mess. The cabals have messed up the President and confused him. “So, Mr. President, you are to be blamed, not your cabals. You have your brooms, but the cabals have their bags. Either you sweep them away, or they sweep you into their bags. Your methodology is archaic and sluggish.
Dele Momodu – the media advocate
Celebrity magazine publisher, Dele Momodu was one of the earliest supporters of Buhari even before his emergence as candidate of the APC. Momodu was instrumental in canvassing support for Buhari among the critical Southwest media and intelligentsia and possibly in the international community.
His support for Buhari was apparently framed on the claim that the Buhari persona had been largely misrepresented and twisted by the PDP. Mr. Momodu’s advocacy for Buhari among journalists arguably helped to shape the positive media image that helped to overlook those inherent frailties of the aspirant before he became candidate. Mr. Momodu was gifted with at least two photo-ops with Buhari after he became president.
By early this year, Momodu’s angst had boiled over, and in a public letter he wrote to the president on January 6, he said: “it is indeed shameful that those like me who supported you so vociferously have become butts of jokes everywhere we go. Sir, I plead with you to ignore your acolytes who may be telling you that all is well in Nigeria. My unequivocal verdict, without any fear of contradiction, is that things are very bad. While I will not, in all honesty, totally heap the blame on you, there is no doubt that your government has been less than competent.”
Ghali Na‘Abba – the man, disappointed by Buhari
Ghali Na‘Abba, the second speaker of the Fourth Republic House of Representatives, left the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP just before the March 2015 presidential elections and joined the APC. His defection immediately enrolled him into the BoT of his new party. However, the impunity he claimed to have abandoned in the PDP was more or less replicated in his new party. Though he has not defected from the APC, he earlier this month vowed to oppose President Buhari’s second term aspiration on the claim that he has been less than forthcoming as president and leader of the APC.
“I had the occasion to sit down with the president and tell him this is what is wrong. And all he told me was that things were wrong before but now, with his election, everything was right. And I was very, very disappointed,” he said in a television show, broadcast earlier this week.
“He promised to reconstitute the boards. Before, he refused to do that because he thought politicians were responsible for all the evils in this country. He also promised to increase the number of ministers. In a nutshell, the president has not added value to democracy by an inch. It is only when there is democracy and competence that every Nigerian, regardless of who they are, will be able to make it in life. There is no way I can support him”, he said.
Senator Shehu Sani – the man who discerned deodorant and insecticide corruption
Senator Sani was not part of Buhari’s tactical team ahead of the 2015 elections. Sani, through his grassroots activism trounced Buhari’s anointed candidate for the 2015 Kaduna Central Senate seat, General Mohammed Saleh to emerge as the APC candidate. Sani, like several other APC stakeholders supported Buhari for the presidency.
However, when it came to political patronages, Governor Nasir El-Rufai who is perhaps Buhari’s alter ego, saw to it that Saleh who Sani defeated got the patronage of appointments in Kaduna State to the chagrin of the incumbent senator. It was perhaps not surprising that as the cabal behind Buhari put pressure on Senate President Bukola Saraki that Senator Sani lined up with Saraki.
Sani has been an unwavering chorister in the Saraki camp in the Senate and has been one of the lead vocalists espousing the deficiencies of the Buhari administration. One of his most notable utterances was his assertion of the hypocrisy with which the presidency fights corruption.
Following Buhari’s dithering procrastination on the issue of the allegations of corruption found against the then government scribe, Mr. Babachir Lawal, Sani said: “Mr. President, Distinguished Colleagues, I rise through Order 43 of Senate Rules, and I want to submit that President Buhari’s reaction on SGF shows the use of insecticides when fighting corruption at the legislative arm, while he uses deodorant at the Executive arm,” he said.
Senator Isa Misau – the lone fighter
Senator Isa Misau like Senator Sani has had issues with his local governor, Governor Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State. However, even more than that, he has become like a one-man riot squad against perceived incompetence and corruption in the Buhari administration. His first salvos were directed towards the police, actions that made the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris to take legal action to stop the Senate inquiry on alleged acts of corruption levelled against him. For his efforts, Misau has been dragged to court for supposedly embarrassing a government official. The APC chieftain has, however, not lost his bearings.
As the Senate resumed this month, he blasted the Buhari administration for gross incompetence even in its appointments. He said: “So many incompetent people are holding so many positions. Fifty per cent of the ministers are not performing. Since the president assumed office, he has not taken any decision to move this country.
Today we are seeing it, and everybody is avoiding it, nobody wants to say anything. “So many appointments in this government are not on merit. Some people have taken over the government as if they are even above the president. They take decisions anyhow. We say we are fighting corruption, but the the vice-president’s committee indicted Babachir. Today, they are pursuing other people, why can’t they take Babachir Lawal, (former SGF) to court and all of us are here keeping quiet. People who have not done anything are always in court. This is the man that squandered money meant for IDPs, and he is still visiting villa every day.
Pastor Tunde Bakare – Scored Buhari failure in his core competences
Pastor Bakare was Buhari’s running mate in the 2011 presidential election on the banner of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. He followed on to enthusiastically back Buhari for the 2015 presidential election after another pastor, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo took the position of running mate in that year’s election. Bakare is, however, disappointed with the Buhari administration and expressed as much when he delivered his state of the nation address on January 14. He was particularly peeved that the president had failed in what was believed to be his core professed competences, to wit, security, anti-corruption, and economy.
“Nothing indicts the current government greater than its failure in one key performance area that ought to be its strength: security,” Bakare said. “This administration anchored its policy outlook on three main thrusts, including security, job creation through diversification, and anti-corruption, yet all around us are signs of retrogression,” he added.
“As at June 2015, the unemployment rate was 8.2% of a labour force of 74 million, meaning that about 6 million Nigerians were unemployed. “By September, 2017, despite such efforts as N-Power and a range of policies aimed at improving enterprise development and facilitating job creation, the unemployment rate had risen to 18.8% of a labour force of 85.1 million, indicating that between 2015 and 2017, the number of unemployed Nigerians rose from about 6 million to almost 16 million.”
Aisha Alhassan – the brave warrior in the cabinet
The minister of women affairs publicly pronounced her preference for Atiku Abubakar in an interview with the BBC last September. However, should Atiku not run as a candidate there are questions as to where the woman famously referred to as Mama Taraba would incline her political weight
Aisha Buhari –the Amazon in the other room
The first lady was undoubtedly one of the major attractions of the Buhari candidacy in 2015. That was the first time she came out to campaign for her husband, and the way Nigerians took to her showed in the way she was positively complimented in the media and in the way people turned out to vote for her husband. She was also known to have found a rapport with the political class who helped her husband to victory in the election. It was as such not surprising when in 2016 she came to lament that her husband’s government had been hijacked by those who did not come out to campaign or even by those who stood by the wayside.
In an interview with the BBC in September 2016, she said: “He is yet to tell me (if he’ll seek re-election) but I have decided as his wife, that if things continue like this up to 2019, I will not go out and campaign again and ask any woman to vote like I did before. I will never do it again,” she said.
Noting how those who did not share her husband’s vision came to take over the government, she said:
“Some people were 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 said.
Aisha Buhari has apparently not deterred in her bid to recover her husband’s saintly image. Earlier this month she set twitter ablaze when she retweeted criticisms of her husband’s administration by Senator Misau levelled in the Senate.