By Tonnie Iredia
In the last few weeks, several political developments that can dismember the Nigerian nation have surfaced in the country. Due to the quiet disposition of Muhammadu Buhari, our current President, some people often attribute many of the happenings to him. In the month of July 2018 however, the President made a number of profound statements which appear to suggest that he is greatly misunderstood and that there are basic differences between Buhari and his party, the All Progressive Congress, APC. In a lengthy telephone conversation, Musa, my pro-Buhari friend of many years urged me to use this column to reconstruct the popular public perception of the President on the basis of the latter’s July 2018 posture. Musa spoke extensively on three main issues, namely: a) Premature political campaigns, b) Political defections and c) Benue’s impeachment move,
Jumping the gun in the area of electioneering campaigns was our point of departure. Since the beginning of this year, it has been political fireworks all the way. As one analyst put it, our politicians have turned Nigeria into an election nation in perpetuity diverting huge public resources to political campaigns at the expense of governance – a common phenomenon in Nigeria’s political history. The bogus Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) did much of that during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. At that time, TAN moved from one state to the other collecting signatures of fake voters who allegedly wanted Jonathan to seek reelection well before the man declared interest in the contest. The Buhari support groups which go by several titles have similarly behaved in recent times; campaigning actively for the reelection of President Muhammadu Buhari in breach of the extant provisions of the Electoral Act prohibiting campaigns before 90 days to the election.
Why such groups are allowed to be lawless without restraint is an issue. But Musa thinks our president is innocent of it by drawing attention to statements credited to the President in July 2018 asking those campaigning in his favour to halt it and await the time scheduled for that by law. The argument therefore is that having openly admonished his admirers not to jump the gun, any group of persons who are still engaged in premature political campaigns are busy bodies and interlopers. One of the advantages of the President’s counseling is that the media would now focus more on the activities of government and discountenance attention seeking self-appointed agents of the ruling party. In our considered opinion, the visit last Thursday of Information Minister Lai Mohammed to the rail stations in Abuja where first class facilities were exposed is a more credible and effective publicity of government than the mere propaganda of political jobbers masquerading as support groups.
The next point was the attitude of the APC to the gale of political defections. It is no longer news that the ruling party has lost several high ranking members. It all began with the departure of the Buba Galadima led r-APC, followed by the loss of 14 Senators and 37 members of the House of Representatives, then the Senate president himself plus 3 state governors and the national spokesman of the party. Big loss, no doubt! Musa argues that the only person who is really unruffled by the defections is President Buhari. The President’s reaction to the subject as corroborated by media reports was to wish everyone well where he chooses to be; recognizing that the vagaries of political weather are an integral part of democracy. On the other hand, most APC members have visibly taken the defections badly. They are now seen daily on national television making one move or the other to deal with the defectors. Although they claim to have lost no sleep, many of them as this column observed last week, do not look like people who are able to sleep at all. Why can’t they be calm like Buhari?
The last topic was the move by a minority of Benue legislators to impeach their governor. The police had blocked the majority of the state legislators from meeting in the House of Assembly but escorted a few opposition legislators to meet in the same venue for the purpose of impeaching Governor Samuel Ortom. Considering that the police are under the control of the federal government that is formed by the APC, to which the few opposition legislators belong, it is not irrational to see the federal authorities as the force behind the fake impeachment move. Why then should our President who is at the head of the federal government not be blamed for the legislators’ audacity? Musa reminds us that Buhari did not waste time in condemning the act and also dissociating himself from it and other anti-democratic behaviours. In other words, President Buhari is not on the same page with the undemocratic Benue APC stalwarts which imputes that he is also against the APC authorities that sent the police to Benue!
Not many would readily accept Musa’s argument that the president is different from his party, but his open condemnation of the action of Benue APC legislators seems to suggest that those behind the act were on their own. The point is clearer when we compare the impeachment in Benue with that of Imo. The latter did not involve the police or federal authorities. It was essentially a local political problem where the local APC leadership could not rise above selfish interest and as such there was no statesman to halt the political rascality. In breach of court rulings, the state legislators went ahead, as is the political culture in that state, to impeach the Deputy Governor, Eze Madumere without giving him an opportunity to defend himself. We cannot but agree with Musa that Buhari had no hand in the Imo case.
This position has thus been reflected in this article. But then, people like Musa who are ardent supporters of Buhari must also reach out to the handlers of the president to firmly stamp on them, the expedience of instant clearance of all public misgivings that encourage people to pin several negative issues on President Buhari. For instance, the Presidency cannot maintain sordid silence on an allegation of certificate forgery against a Minister of government. To hope that such silence would make people forget the allegation over time is ill advisable. The proven integrity of Buhari places on him as head of government and national leader of the ruling party, a burden to ensure the observance of democratic practices and the rule of law by his followers.