By Emmanuel Aziken
Not for the first time, Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo again, wrong-footed several of his numerous foes last week.
The rabidly passionate Buhari Media Organisation which does not spare insults in its defence of President Muhammadu Buhari was particularly confused. How to react to President Obasanjo’s recent troubleshooting among Yoruba and Fulani leaders in the Southwest was an issue.
Determined to say something, perhaps to catch the attention of its sponsors, or project its relevance in the periphery of the Buhari court, the group was determined to make itself heard especially given the fact that the government is still trying to appoint key officials.
“We are tempted to view it as an afterthought, but we commend the former President’s efforts based on the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting,” Niyi Akinsiju, chairman and Cassidy Madueke, secretary of the BMO intoned in a statement last Tuesday on the summit.
It was a rare commendation from the Buhari group towards the former president.
Several social media commentators just like the pro Buhari media group could not but pour commendation for the initiative.
The summit of Fulani and Yoruba leaders as arranged by Dr. Obasanjo was an initiative from one of Nigeria’s most patriotic elements in finding a solution to arguably the greatest threat to the country’s integrity.
Obasanjo’s initiative followed an equally commendable but less controversial peace summit hosted by another former leader, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar in Minna. However, that summit was unjustifiably boycotted by some critical stakeholders because of the presence of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN.
You do not negotiate only with your friends, you especially do so with your enemies!
The move by the two former leaders is especially commendable in the face of the unparalleled divisions that presently mark the polity.
But as many critics observed, the initiative of the two leaders could have been better channeled through the National Council of States, the toothless body created by the constitution to advise the president when the incumbent deems it fit to convene a meeting.
Unfortunately, since January 2019 the body has not been summoned and as such no opportunity for the former leaders to ventilate.
But certainly, the absence of NCS meetings does not stop any former leader from giving an advice to the president during a private meeting.
However, it is now apparent that cordiality between the incumbent and the majority of the former leaders may have broken down almost irretrievably as was buttressed by their absence at the recent inauguration activities.
However, the National Council of States is not the only essential institution that has not been up to its function.
Two notable bodies that could well have helped to offer counsel to President Buhari are the National Executive Committee, NEC and the Board of Trustees, BoT of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
However, the two crucial bodies have simply not been up to their duties.
The NEC of the APC should ordinarily be the highest decision-making body of the APC. The NEC, in theory, should be the body where party policies are rehearsed and passed on to the president for implementation.
The party chairman sits as chairman of NEC and the president, governors and other elected officials take heed!
However, that body has not met since August 30, 2018. That is almost one year ago.
That is despite the provision of the APC Constitution that the NEC should meet quarterly!
Worse is the fact that the APC Board of Trustees which should serve as the conscience of the party does not exist.
It is as such not surprising that the party and the government it has formed stumble from one crisis to the other.
Despite the attempts by some past presidents including Dr. Obasanjo to claim the moral ascendancy, it is a fact that no incumbent can know it all.
A president must open his ears to counsel from all necessary quarters.
As presidential aides aver, problems may not be unique to Nigeria. Even the United States has its own problems with communication.
Americans today are quick to observe that policies and actions flow more from President Donald Trump’s personal twitter handle than from consultations with aides.
Despite what several consider as his salutary endavours, President Trump remains about the most divisive president in recent American history.
But that has not stopped him from striding on as he showed after the recent gun shootings in Dayton and El-Paso. Despite not shifting ground on the fundamental issue of gun ownership, Trump physically visited the two towns affected by the shooting as a show of empathy. In Dayton, the Republican president was reluctantly received by the city’s Democratic mayor.
Like his American equivalent, President Buhari may have been portrayed as divisive. Shutting himself away from the APC’s NEC, BoT, and former leaders worsens the situation.
If he were in the spirit of a true democrat to open himself to counsel from the organs of the party and state institutions like the NCS, he would be by far a better president we all desire in him.
But remaining aloof from us would make him worse than what American Democrats think of Trump.
By moving out and interacting with the people he may well hear and reconnect with us. That is about where his similarities with Trump come to an end.