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Are we really being ruled by a cabal?

By Muyiwa Adetiba

The Senate President and until last week, a Presidential hopeful, Dr Bukola Saraki has said countless times that Nigeria is being run by a cabal. He reiterated his position a few weeks ago when he again said: ‘Nigerians voted for Buhari but a cabal is ruling us.’

President Muhammadu Buhari; Saraki, Senate President and Dogara, Speaker

This is a weighty statement from a man who as number three, should have a ring side view of how Nigeria is being governed. What he has been saying is that governance has been abdicated either willingly or unwittingly. Both have serious implications.

The former suggests irresponsibility while the latter suggests a palace coup. Either way, it means the man we voted for, the man whose face we see on our TV screen as representing us, has become, in a sense, incapacitated.

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The head we therefore see is a figure head and the voice we hear is a parody. It means there are masked faces and shadowy figures running the affairs of the country not on Buhari’s behalf, but in his stead. Personally, I do not believe this to be true. I do not believe Buhari is, or can be anybody’s figure head.

But then, I don’t like Saraki, have a ring side view of the inner workings of this government. In the interest of the country therefore, I expect Saraki to mention the names of the cabal next time he brings up the issue if he is concerned enough.

To be sure, rumours of a ruling clique within the villa were first started by one Dr Junaid Mohammed and stoked by none other than the President’s wife who has since remained reticent about public issues. The rumours started almost from the beginning of this administration and became stronger during the President’s illness.

They gained currency with the emergence of sacred cows along the corridors of power who could not be sanctioned and became rife when visible ministers including those who made his emergence as President possible became somewhat emasculated. The rumours became almost believable when the very things the President stands for, the things he is passionate about like transparency, fiscal discipline, security, anti-corruption etc were being compromised with impunity even in the inner recesses of his office.

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Somehow, it was becoming difficult to see the imprimatur of the President, a shy but reportedly kind hearted man, in many of the things going on in the country.

The problem could simply be the President’s style of leadership. He believes in delegation of powers and responsibilities. That, in itself, is not a bad management style. It was my preferred management style. I’d rather macro manage than micro manage. Technically, one frees you to look at the bigger picture and allows you to move at a faster pace while the other bugs you down with details—which you may or may not be good at—and thus slows you down. The caveat with macro managing is that you must surround yourself with a good team. You must also have an effective reporting system because the chances of howlers are greater. (As Editor and media manager, I found myself in trouble a few times for articles I did not see.

But then, I had time to shape the character of my publications which I felt was more important). In delegating, many in public offices tend to always put loyalty to individuals above competence. That is as dangerous as putting competence ahead of loyalty. There has to be a balance because, while you need competent people to get the job done, you still need people to watch your back. Even then, loyalty should tilt towards the causes you believe in. One should stress also that delegation is not abdication. That would border on irresponsibility. A good system must also be in place to check the excesses of subordinates. The line in the sand must be bold and clear with stern warnings for those who tend to cross it.

Every leader, especially a political leader—Buhari cannot be an exception—has a kitchen cabinet however called. It is usually made up of people from diverse backgrounds with only two things in common; closeness to the leader and loyalty to his cause. The more competent the cabinet, or clique or cabal is, the more positive its input to governance. The more positive the input, the more successful the leader becomes. Unfortunately, a leader’s kitchen cabinet usually reflects the character and personality of the leader.

A serious leader will invariably surround himself with a serious kitchen cabinet. A liberal mind will surround himself with a liberal kitchen cabinet. As the saying goes, ‘only the deep can call to the deep.’ Conversely, a shallow mind will always play in shallow pools. As I see it, the President’s governance issues and disconnect with the people is in his choice of kitchen cabinet coupled with his personality. In picking people he can trust, he picked people largely of a particular mind set. His kitchen cabinet, or cabal, is not diverse enough to accommodate the peculiarities and interests of Nigeria and Nigerians. From the names being bandied about, it is a conservative clique that sees power and governance from a narrow prism.

Hence the charges of insensitivity and disconnect in sensitive appointments. The replacement of Kemi Adeosun, a southerner with yet another northerner, a Christian with yet another Muslim, is another example of insensitive appointments. It seems to me that the President’s kitchen cabinet is far from being altruistic. The members may be close to him as long standing allies and friends, but their interests are not in the causes the President espoused when he was campaigning for votes. His earlier declaration of ‘I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody’ now seems like a cry from a different world. We now have an idea of who and where he belongs. Or put differently, where he has found himself. The other issue is his personality. In delegating, he has ceded too much powers without a firm reporting system or check in place. In other climes, some of his ministers should have been removed. These people—his ministers and advisers—have defined his presidency.

But all is not lost. While the other side is still horse trading on political power, he has the chance to lay a fresh blue print, this time with specifics, on a new political and economic structure for the country. He will be breeding discontent if he thinks he can continue to run the country along the present lines. He should also tell us he intends to be his own man by getting rid of his so called cabal, those we did not vote for but who are said to be ruling us. We await a real change.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.