By Rotimi Fasan
BY now it should be very obvious to Nigerians that the Buhari presidency is totally off course and is probably beyond redemption correcting its observable deficiencies. Which may explain why the Northern Elders Forum are already looking beyond him and are actively shopping for a possible replacement in order to retain and get another northerner to complete what is left of the Buhari presidency post 2019. The fact that more politicians younger than the president are positioning themselves on the sideline to replace the fast ageing Buhari also speaks to the situation. But it would take something equal to superhuman agency to get the regime back on course as it continues to wobble along piling up one outrage upon another.
The visit last week of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria to the Villa reveals issues that are very worrisome and should begin to get us all more concerned about the safety and state of mind of the president. It takes courage and a good measure of belief in the potential greatness of this country to be as frank as the Catholic Bishops were to the president. Those around him almost always seem to be on egg shells, falling over themselves to make him see and hear only what he chooses or, in fact, what they, his minders, choose to make him hear or see. Which is why we should all be really worried. But to go back to the Catholic Bishops: they couldn’t have been more frank than they were during their visit,which must have confounded presidential surrogates to no end. Next time, they would want to be more careful about the kind of individuals or groups they allow access to the president.
The Bishops’ visit must have appeared to them in retrospect as a terrible miscalculation. But then, it has come and gone. Not to the pleasure, however, of the big-mouthed throw-up in Lokoja, a power monger that has the unenviable distinction of being the only Nigerian to occupy an elective office in the present dispensation without for a minute contesting and winning the votes for the office. He opened what Fela would call his ‘basket mouth’ once too widely to say what even a basket would consider too big to accommodate by casting aspersion on the blameless clerics. Having found himself in power through the instrumentality of a president who was to all intent and purposes also a creature of circumstances, it makes sense for this ponce of power to cling on to the man he believes can ensure his bread is again buttered without him ever breaking a sweat. So much for all that talk about making room for the youth in governance.
But the Bishops gave a good account of themselves and ‘spoke truth to power’ in their frank exchange with the president. Not even former President Olusegun Obasanjo had to tell the emperor to his face that he is naked. Which is not to say that his letter was a cowardly gesture. As a former boss of the president and two/three times occupant of the office Buhari now occupies, his letter or reprimand of the president’s leadership style is authorised by his experience as a former president/head of state. It’s just an observation that he didn’t have or need to visit Buhari to make his point. The Bishops, with no experience of power, have nothing beyond their moral authority. Yet, they spoke the mind of most Nigerians to the president. In his response to their warning that his goodwill with Nigerian was in overdraft, Buhari had said he had not been sitting in his air-conditioned office, hands akimbo, watching as Nigerians were left at the mercy of murderous herders. No, the president said such conclusion would be dishonest. Before the bishops left, he promised to do something about the naked nepotism that has seen him filling most important and available positions with individuals either related to him by blood, marriage, or from his state or other states contiguous to his, or parts of the North-East.
But it is remarkable that on this very day that the president was making this promise to the Catholic Bishops Conference, the ink was yet to dry on the paper on which he had ordered the reinstatement of Usman Yusuf as Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme. This, after Yusuf had been suspended since last year, for alleged fraud of about N1billion. That the president could stand before the bishops to make his promise about changes in his appointments while fully conscious of what he had done about the Yusuf case should tell us he is either not aware of what goes on in his presidency, what he appends his signature on or is just having a good laugh at the expense of Nigerians. But Buhari, in spite of unsubstantiated claims by some of his associates that he is very humorous, does not look the part of a comic. He appears genuinely convinced of all that is happening around him. Which then means we should be paying more attention to the possibility that he is probably so much beholden to and held captive by members of the so-called cabal by whom he is surrounded to know what is amiss with his government.
This leaves us with the moot question of whether the president is in the right frame of mind to know what is going on around him. If the cabal around Umar Yar’Adua could so hoodwink Nigerians to the point they almost kept his corpse in Aso Rock while executing power in his name, what could the group around President Buhari not be up to in order to make him do their will? Or why would the president not see what is so obvious to everyone else including his wife except those men by whom he is surrounded? Why would he continue to make promises about errors he does not appear ready to correct or complicate them with more errors? While Nigerians were struggling to make sense of the Babachir Lawal case, in came the Maikanti Barau and Ibe Kachikwu spat, to be followed soon after by the Maina saga. While that was on ground, we had the Munir Gwarzo/Kemi Adeosun debacle and now it’s the turn of Usman Yusuf. All these men had the president’s ear as they wrong-foot the system. And the president continues to make promises upon promises to put things right. Is our president aware of his situation? Can something be going on in Aso Villa that is beyond the power of the president to resolve? Is it the case that Buhari cannot help himself in his present circumstance in which case, he would need Nigerians to come to his rescue?