Mama Taraba and the APC Crisis  

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REUBEN ABATI
TUESDAY WITH REUBEN ABATI, Email: reuben.abati@thisdaylive.com
TUESDAY WITH REUBEN ABATI
 
Mama Taraba is Senator Aisha Alhassan, the current Minister of Women Affairs in the Muhammadu Buhari cabinet, and arguably the most influential female politician in Taraba state today. She did something shocking and unusual in Nigerian politics during the last Eid-el-Kabir holidays. While paying homage to former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, she addressed him as follows: “Your Excellency, our father and our President by the grace of God, come 2019…” Members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have been on a war-path with her since then.
They have labeled Mama Taraba a traitor, and an ingrate and have even called for her immediate sack, disgrace, humiliation and outright dismissal for “anti-party activities”. What is not clear is how a serving Minister expressing an opinion amounts to “an anti-party activity.” Alhaji Atiku Abubakar whom she visited is a member and one of the leaders of the APC, and she has since made it clear, not only in private, but through the BBC, that she regards Atiku as her political godfather and mentor, and should he decide to run for President in 2019, she will support him, not Buhari.  
She does not deserve the hate speeches she is getting from the Buhari apologists. If Kaduna Governor Nasir el-Rufai is to be believed, Mama Taraba has never regarded President Buhari as her political mentor. He was not even her choice as presidential candidate in the 2015 APC primaries. She voted for her mentor, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who contested against the incumbent President at the time.
She deserves high marks for her consistency, honesty and courage. Any close watcher of Nigerian politics can easily appreciate the gravity of the risk that she has taken.  It is that kind of risk that could attract a punishment worse than dismissal from the Cabinet. In the estimation of those who are asking for her to be punished by both the ruling party and the President, Mama Taraba has crossed certain “red lines”.
In the first place, she did not go to Daura to pay homage to the President, instead she went to Adamawa to visit former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a man who has declared interest in sending President Buhari out of Aso Villa. In Nigeria’s unwritten manual of politics and governance, political appointees are not to be seen with those who are considered enemies or rivals of the ruler.  Mama Taraba not only crossed that line, she went many steps further.
It is also the rule in Nigerian politics that political appointees are expected to sing the praise of their bosses in public all the time, and should they have any misgivings they can only express those misgivings privately.  The problem this has created is that most political appointees are as subservient as civil servants. They don’t express independent opinions as they should, not to talk of misgivings. They just act as directed. The President or the Governor is considered the wisest man exercising a divine mandate that no man should question. The corridor of power in Nigeria is littered with sycophants. In one state for example, the new Speaker of the State House of Assembly was asked if the legislature under his watch would avoid the temptation of becoming the Governor’s rubber stamp. The fellow reportedly responded: “I tell you, this House of Assembly will not only be the Governor’s rubber stamp, we will be his Seal!”
Mama Taraba has chosen to be different. Those who are criticising her are not stupid either, but it is just so convenient for them to play the role of sycophants and court jesters. They know when Mama Taraba says President Buhari should not run in 2019, what she is really saying is that she does not consider him fit enough for that office. She is more or less passing a vote of no confidence in the President. She is by the same token advertising Atiku Abubakar as a better person. The crabs in the corridor of power have amplified these suggestions to the level of blasphemy. But the truth is that there are many of them who probably hold the same opinion, who are secretly working against the Buhari Presidency, but they would never admit doing so publicly. These green snakes under the green grass, are the hidden saboteurs, the Judases President Buhari must beware of. 
They are like the members of the Akintola group in the First Republic in the then Western Region. In the fight for political supremacy between Samuel Ladoke Akintola, who would later cross to the NNDP (or Der-mor as the people called it) and Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the Action Group, many supporters of the former openly supported Awolowo, but they were loyal to Akintola and the NNDP. There was even a famous song on this: “Bi o ri owo mi, o o ri inu mi, Demo ni mo wa.” The elevation of perfidy into a strategy started long ago in Nigerian politics.  In this instance, Mama Taraba has boldly called the bluff of her adversaries: she says she is ready to quit the Cabinet if she is asked to leave. How many of her colleagues feel the same way but too scared to say so?
With Aisha Alhassan, President Buhari knows where he stands.  It is better for him that this is so. Ordinarily, Mama Taraba should support him. In 2015, she contested for the Gubernatorial position in Taraba state on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, and lost. She petitioned the State Election Tribunal and won, but this victory at the Tribunal which would have made her the first elected female Governor in Nigeria was later upturned by the Appeal and Supreme Courts.
By bringing her into his Cabinet, President Buhari rehabilitated her. He was advised against offering her the position then because she was a known Atiku person. President Buhari needs not regret the choice he has made. His appointment of non-Buhari persons into his Cabinet, including persons who refused to leave the PDP and join the APC, and are still in the PDP or other parties, is an indication of his own largeness of heart and statesmanship.
 
He should be glad that this particular Minister has spoken honestly. At least, he now knows that he cannot rely on her political structures in Taraba state and wherever else she wields influence. In case he plans to run in 2019, Mama Taraba has already served him an early notice – he would have to build his political machinery in that state around someone else. Her critics insist that she should on her own resign and go back to her Atiku.
This raises the question of the nature of loyalty in politics. What determines loyalty?  There is a lot of obsession with loyalty or disloyalty in Nigerian politics. Did Aisha Alhassan take an oath of office to serve Buhari or the Federal Republic of Nigeria? What we know is that political leaders in Africa place loyalty to themselves above loyalty to the state. Which is why our security and law enforcement agencies are so mercurial; they are ever so busy protecting the political interests of the incumbent, and will change should the incumbent change, rather than focusing on their core mandates. If Mama Taraba is efficient in the discharge of her duties as Minister, President Buhari should ignore those who are asking him to sack her.
What cannot be ignored though, is that the ruling APC is truly and terribly in crisis.. The subsequent attacks on Alhaji Atiku Abubakar by the pro-Buhari wing of the APC, following his declaration that he was used and dumped by the President further confirms the depth of this internal turmoil. But was Atiku really used and dumped, or to use his word, “sidelined?” He says: “I was sidelined, I have no relationship with the government. I’ve not been contacted even once to comment on anything and in turn, I maintained my distance. They used our money and influence to get to where they are but three years down the lane, this is where we are.” These are strong words.
The bitterness in Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s tone touches the heart. But can he really claim that he has been sidelined when Mama Taraba, his loyalist and at least one or two others from his political camp are playing key roles in the Buhari government? Could they have gone to work for Buhari without his “permission” or knowledge? The side-talk that they got the job on their own merit is opaque given the clientelist character of political proximity in African democracies.
With Mama Taraba’s statement, Atiku’s protest, and the epigrammatic statement by Senator Shehu Sani about Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, that was thrown in, the support base for President Buhari’s likely shot at a second term in office appears shaky. Senator Sani confirms this when he says: “The Lion Monarch should reach out to the aggrieved but silent Lagoon Lion so that he doesn’t explode like the Hippo. The Lagoon Lion controls waters that can drown… The disloyal Cobra who spat venom before you and the friendly Viper who sprayed venom behind you are all snakes. In comparison the former is of lesser evil than the latter.” In straightforward English, Shehu Sani is saying President Buhari is likely to drown politically if he does not pay homage to “the silent Lagoon Lion.”
The tragedy of the APC is that a party that came to power as a party of change-agents has in all of two years and four months become a party of lions, hyenas, jackals, snakes and rats. Those who have been using these animal kingdom references so freely are party insiders who obviously know the circumstances of their own party. What is seen is an increasingly atomistic political party, looking hubristically, like the dominant party it displaced. It is worse that the party leaders are now speaking in tongues.  
In a statement issued on September 25, 2016, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu sounded a note of warning asking for an urgent reform of the party. He was ignored.  As at this moment, the APC is yet to hold a national convention; it has no Board of Trustees. Internal party processes have broken down. It should also be recalled that when Senator Bukola Saraki made the moves that saw him emerge as Senate President of the 8th National Assembly in 2015, the first and the only prominent party leader he visited was Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
It was a very sensitive move in the APC chess game – the anti-Saraki and anti-Atiku groups within the party are still fuming two years later! In the 2015 election, President Buhari got close to 2 million votes from Kano state. Today, Kano is divided against his Presidency. During the last Sallah, supporters of the incumbent Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, and loyalists of the former Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso turned the prayer ground into a battle-field, using machetes freely on a Holy day! Ganduje is pro-Buhari. Kwankwaso nurses a Presidential ambition.
The big threat to the Buhari Presidency is not the likes of Aisha Alhassan, who speak their minds, but the possible union of the lions, snakes, the hyenas and the rats, hiding in dark corners, waiting to take their pounds of flesh from the party and the Buhari Presidency.
 
  • Mystic mallam

    Buhari for 2019!!! What will his spin boys sell us this time – that he has saved Nigeria from collapse; that he is a changed man, no longer a selfish, vengeful nepotist; that he will now make Nigeria great again? The leadership a people get is truly the one they deserve, the clueless deserve a clueless leader.

  • vince

    apt. Intellectual analysis . Made lot of sense

  • marcos avelino

    You had your time mr self righteous abati , when you served a drunkard dull imbecile president whos oil minister and her gang robbed the country dry . Stop writing politics , write a fantasy novel if you can.

    • Felix Udoh

      Correction my dear brother, no one robbed your country dry. If anything, those people were just taking from the resources in their own backyard.

  • Salmanu Gwarzo

    Pls maintain your objectivity. Hope APC is listening

  • KWOY

    You are not being sincere! Even at the peak of its crisis PDP has never been as bad as APC! You are wrong to say APC is becoming like the party it displaced.

    2ndly, Tinubu is no threat to Buhari! Tinubu is decapitated & gone – bcos he controls only the abt 4 APC states in the SW. But Buhari has all the thousand & one APC states in the North plus Okrocha plus Edo state. Don’t overprice Tinubu pls. And any other strategy he may Devise now will work in exactly opposite way as the one of 2015!

    • Full blooded Nigerian

      Underrate Tinubu at your own peril

      • Wilson

        If he is so powerful, why was his anointed candidate defeated in the just concluded ONDO election?.

    • walefromnigeria

      Tinubu controls only Lagos and Osun. Ogun and Ondo is controlled by Buhari via Amosun. Ekiti is PDP. Ajimobi has said he is neutral.

      in 2019, Tinubu would win only Lagos. Osun hangs in the balance and might go to PDP. Ogun would either remain with Amosun or go to PDP. Osoba, who is Tinubu’s man on ground has fast become politically useless in Ogun.

      No election in Ondo in 2019 while Ekiti would likely remain with PDP but if APC wins, its more likely Tinubu’s group and not Buhari/ Amosun group

  • Pot and kettle

    Aisha Alhassan should resign. That’s the honorable thing to do. I wonder if she expected the video of her Sallah visit to Atiku to have leaked, I think not. The leaking backed her into a corner and she was forced to react. Time for her to go.

    • Michael Kadiri SocioPolitical

      How can you backed into a corner that you always resided in. She has always supported Atiku. Buhari knows this and gave her the job anyway. Why is a cat being attacked for confirming that it is a cat.

      • Pot and kettle

        She was backed into a corner because she may not have expected the video to leak. It’s one thing to make such a statement in ‘private’ and yet another to make a public proclamation.

        • Don Franco

          Dear Pot and Kettle,

          Mama Taraba knew exactly what she was doing; with the proliferation of social media, it’s only a matter of seconds before any social activity is published and viral on the Internet.
          All the men in the APC should cover their faces in shame that it took a fearless fulani woman to point out the obvious, that the Daura Dullard is halfway to joining Yaradua in the great beyond; and any support for him into 2019 will throw up another Yoruba president for another 8 years in our Zoo.

          • sadiqueens

            You’re obviously still recovering from the shocking defeat of your hero GEJ. Don’t worry you will be alright

          • Don Franco

            Dear Sadiqueens,

            Neither GEJ or PMB are my heroes; the one is a congenital drunkard; the other, an illiterate islamic fundamentalust; I’m proudly a Biafran nationalist, for the record. Thank you.

          • sadiqueens

            In that case i apologise but while we proud Nigerians are discussing our country will you please dash down to Abia to rescue your albino emperor currently hiding under his father’s bed to escape the pythons dancing around his house?
            He sure needs all the help he can get now

          • Don Franco

            Dear Sadiqueen;

            I’ll be in Abia if l could, but I’m busy in social media and organizing in NY to teach your Certificateless One a lesson in heckling and demonstration like he got in London during his medical tourism, in consequence of which he returned to your zoological republic.
            Ohamadike is hiding under the bed like Shekau has been killed and captured eleven times since 2015! You’re irredeemable.

  • Gladday

    Mama Taraba should resign from Buhari’s government. That is the correct thing to do. With this level of disloyalty, how do we trust her with effective implementation of the good policies and programmes of this administration as they affect her ministry. I think Mama Taraba should be relieved of her duties to enable her focus on delivering Atiku Abubakar in 2019 instead of expecting her to make meaningful contribution in a government she has publicly denounced so early in the tenure. Abati should not teach us nonsense. He should show us appointees of Jonathan that betrayed him so early in his government. Abati himself still serves Jonathan till date.

    • Michael Kadiri SocioPolitical

      Please Gladday, do not get carried away, and do not follow the press to sensationalise the matter. She did not denounce the government. She has always supported Atiku – she supported him during the process that threw up Buhari. As far as she was concerned, Buhari stated that he was going to run for one term – which ends in 2019. In answering a question, she stated her long held view that Atiku is the man for the job. How is that denouncing the government?
      A Minister does not have to be loyal to a President, she has to be loyal to her country and her conscience. And such a dynamic should not affect her work and the smooth functioning of policy implementation. To be fair, I think Buhari was comfortable with this until everyone is screaming that he should sack someone for expressing views that she has always held.

      • Gladday

        Mama Taraba should not have a different opinion other than that of the government she serves. Yes, Atiku may be her godfather. So also is Atiku godfather to Garba Shehu and so many others. I think once you are appointed into a government, your loyalty should primarily be to that government. If she is so convinced that Buhari will not deliver effectively as Atiku for 2019, all she needs do is to declare her support for Atiku at the appropriate time. We cannot afford to be distracted in providing governance to the populace. Expressing her loyalty to Atiku should not be misconstrued as loyalty to the country. Mama Taraba should focus with the responsibility she is saddled with. Maybe through her efforts and initiatives, people may be endeared to Buhari’s government; I just pray so.

        • Michael Kadiri SocioPolitical

          Her support for Atiku (who btw, I do not care for) is not in itself at odds with support of government policy. There is nothing she has said that indicates that she is no longer loyal to the government.
          Yes, I agree with you that the timing of this declaration is not ideal – but i suspect that electioneering has begun – hence why.
          All she has done is indicate a preference for a candidate in HER and BUHARI’S party. I do not see the opposition to her government here. Should we not be supportive of a different opinion in politics? Rather than the stomach churning sycophancy that goes on?

          • Gladday

            Thank you for agreeing to the fact that the timing of her declaration is distractive. The second point you should also accept is the fact that that declaration coming from that height will portray the government as divisive. A subordinate cannot write his boss off and still be expected to be supportive in achieving the organizational goals. If she truly sees it that they all belong to the same party, then she should know that it is the policy and programme of APC that this administration is working on. So it is irrelevant whether it is Atiku or Buhari at the helm of affair. But she as a typical Nigerian Politician does not see it so, hence her declaration. Mama Taraba, an appointee of Buhari should not have a different opinion other than that of this administration. If they have divergent views on any issue, they should settle in-house before coming to the public. The very moment you no longer believe in a thing, the most honorable approach to it is to walk away. Any approach other than this is dishonorable.
            I am not a Buhari apologist. In as much as I voted for him in 2015, I have come to disagree with some of his policies so far. But that has not influenced my basic belief that justice for all is paramount in life irrespective of which side of divide you find yourself. This time, mama Taraba is wrong and my like or dislike for Buhari should not affect my judgement.

          • ‘ned

            If the time of her declaration is distracting, what of the time of declaration of serving ministers and governors that Buhari will run again in 2019? Is it about Buhari or is it about delivering the dividends of democracy to Nigerians?

        • BB

          Good day Gladday, may I humbly request that your re-read Mr Kadiri’s response above until you clearly understand the very sensible point he is making.

          • Gladday

            I think it should be the other way round

        • Don Franco

          Dear Gladday,

          It is clear that your blinded by your loyalty to the Certificateless One; why you can’t comprehend that even the APC hasn’t come out to say that he’s their candidate for 2019; the Daurace Dullard, being mindful of his health realities as early as 2015 stated that he’ll only serve for one term; now you and the cabal want to insist, against his will, that he go for another 4 years.
          How many sick presidents must die I’m office before you and your cabal will leave well enough alone? Please wake up and smell the coffee.

          • Gladday

            Please re-read my contribution

          • Don Franco

            No, I will not.

        • Shehu

          Did her loyalty to Atiku affect the way she runs the ministry of women affairs?
          Is she sabotaging Buhari in Any way?
          Buhari does not own Aisha. The woman should be allowed to express her opinion.
          We have to understand that there is a difference between Buhari and the govt.
          Mrs Alhassan in my opinion is committed to implementing govt policies and that is what matters.

  • Cheta God

    The truth is that APC is made up of strange bedfellows. There are people in APC who would not ordinarily be seen together because they hold different views about Nigerian affairs. Today a lot have decamped to APC to avoid EFCC. Lets see what happens as 2019 draws near. I salute Mama Taraba for her courage. Sure there are many more who share her views but are not man enough to express themselves publicly.

  • Ralph

    I read the first paragraph and switched off. This man was the spokesman for GEJ who demoted and frustrated Remi Babalola for whistle blowing on the theft at NNPC. Today we now know what Yakubu and Diezanni were doing. Sanusi did same and was fired. GEJ who this clown served would have fired AlHassan immediately, so what is this chap saying?

    • Akins

      I wonder. Abati forgot that his Hero Jonathan fired the former Inspector General of Police who went to welcome Buhari at the airport after election. Yeye dey smell.

      • KWOY

        You can be sure he was a spokesman who was a mole! Go & find Edwin Clark’s letter to him! He was a Yoroba mole in the Jonathan presidency!

        • KlasJ

          I thought it was Edwin Clark that disowned GEJ and this writer was the only GEJ’s ex-staff that took Clark on.

    • Full blooded Nigerian

      Please remind him again. Once revered Dr. now a subset of a nauesating club of national maruaders

    • Ken

      You don’t have any record of what you wrote. Sanusi was wrong. He made his comments because he was queried on the N163b he spent without appropriation. GEJ did not just fire Sanusi just like that. Sanusi said somany unprintable comments but GEJ left him as an independent CBN Gov. There is no evidence of theft by Diezani from NNPC. EFCC has not been able to prove anything in that regard. NNPC has never said that it’s accounts were defrauded. Talk with facts not the media trial.

      • Ralph

        You must be Ken Madueke

  • Arabakpura

    Buhari made APC and APC will go with Buhari especially as both have become challenged stamina-wise!

    • Akins

      Do we have an alternative?Is PDP a better alternative?

      • remm ieet

        There is no alternative because of our wrong conceptualisation of party politics. Politicians know they cannot use the current political arrangement to bring about change. They know we the people cannot change it. So they come every four years to renew their own mandate while jeopardising our own existence.

      • Michael Kadiri SocioPolitical

        Remove the party names for a moment.
        You will see that we are in a one party state.
        There is a political class and in that political class, there is no difference between PDP and APC – they are the same 6 is half a dozen of 12. Run by the same characters, shamelessly robbing the country blind

        • Akins

          You are absolutely correct and my worries. So now which way forward?

          • Michael Kadiri SocioPolitical

            Prayers
            The hope is that as we go backwards, it will indeed be a circle and we will end up on the other side – in front!
            Prayers or dreams