For Buhari, 2019 Began in 2015

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ENI-B, Email: eniola.bello@thisdaylive.com Twitter: @eniolaseni sms: 08055001956

ENI–B,      eniola.bello@thisdaylive.com @eniolaseni 08055001956

The maneuvering for the 2019 presidential race appears to have begun in earnest. Politicians particularly those in the ruling APC (All Progressive Congress) and the main opposition PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) have started their nocturnal meetings, working on different schemes and scams, crisscrossing the country on shuttle and not so shuttle diplomacy, and weighing the options (known and unknown) to determine where their self-interests would be best served. In a politics driven only by the ideology of grab-power-by-any-means-possible, and where the politician’s only idea of service is preying on public wealth, nothing is ever as it seems.

The line of difference between the ruling APC and the main opposition PDP is neither horizontal nor vertical; the line is rather blurred – it snakes through both parties as politicians decamp from one to the other, and vice versa, at the slightest of excuses. In the circumstance, different political groups from both parties have dissolved into camps of conflicting or coalescing interests with a view to negotiating across party lines. It is difficult to say at the moment how things would eventually play out.

There is even no indication yet that the ruling APC would necessarily offer President Muhammadu Buhari the right of first refusal for the 2019 race. The coalition that brought him to power in 2015 has since dissolved into the different power centres, all involved in cloak-and-dagger operations, their leaders undermining one another, moving and waiting while waiting and moving to turn the table against each other. Senate President Bukola Saraki has been expanding his political base on the platform of his office while revving up the engine of his influence. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a serial contestant, hit the lecture and interview circuits early, making politically correct statements.

The unusual indifference of the Lion of Bourdillion to happenings in the APC and the polity should not be mistaken for withdrawn submission; behind Bola Tinubu’s silence may emerge an unpredictable and deafening roar. There is the perception that the APC would be making a strategic mistake to re-present Buhari for the 2019 race partly because of the party’s inelegant leadership and the apparent collapse of the 2015 coalition, and partly because of the president’s age and the handling of his prolonged illness, his underwhelming performance, and his rabidly pro-north agenda. Although Buhari has not said anything about his plans for 2019, he began softening the grounds for re-election the moment he took the oath of office in 2015.

In what appears a carefully marshaled strategic onslaught, Buhari, since his inauguration in 2015, has embarked on a demolition exercise of anybody or group that might create a problem for him in the 2019 election. I have lately been re-reading Robert Greene’s The 33 Strategies of War and could not but notice Buhari’s preparations for 2019 leap out of the pages. I limit myself to four of those strategies within the context of their application to achieve Buhari’s re-election objective. In he calls the Polarity Strategy, Greene explains that to fight effectively, you need to identify or create some enemies, learn to smoke out those disguising their intentions or pretending to be on your side, then declare war on them. According to Green, “As the opposite poles of a magnet create motion, your enemies – your opposites – can fill you with purpose and direction.

As people who stand in your way, who represent what you loathe, people to react against, they are a source of energy.” As military leader between 1983 and1985, Buhari could not hide his disdain for politicians, the media, and the judiciary. For politicians, his tribunals jailed some ex-governors for 100 years on bogus claims of enriching their parties. For the press, he promulgated Decree 4 in which two journalists were jailed for publishing stories, which though true but which the administration at the time found embarrassing. And for the judiciary, he ensured there was a Decree 2 that not only permitted the indiscriminate arrest and detention of citizens, but more crucially outlawed the courts from adjudicating in the case of anybody so arrested and detained.

Who did Buhari declare as enemies in 2015? Politicians. Journalists. Judges. In living up to the polarity strategy, Buhari had to first make the PDP the enemy. When the Buhari administration increased fuel price from N87 to N148, it attributed the inevitability of the increase to the massive corruption in the fuel subsidy regime of the Jonathan administration. When the foreign exchange crashed from about N200 to above N500, Buhari and his men blamed Jonathan for not saving for a rainy day. When power supply collapsed, it was as a result of 16 years of PDP misrule. For more than two years in the saddle, Buhari and his key aides kept blaming the PDP for every of its difficulties and challenges and failures and inactions, even with former top members of that party major players in the new administration.

Then the EFFC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) made disclosures after disclosures of billions of money recovered from PDP members without any successful prosecution. In taking on the media, members of the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) were accused of collecting N10 million each from the Jonathan administration and forced to make the refund. The government, however, failed to disclose that the NPAN payment was a negotiated settlement to ward off impending litigation from the disruption of newspaper operations in Abuja by security agents. And for the judiciary, some judges were accused of corruption with security agents breaking into their homes in ungodly hours. Almost all those judges have been discharged in court due to lack of evidence.

From external enemies, Buhari took on key coalition leaders in his party, the APC. First was Saraki who emerged the senate president in spite of the party, and was forced to fight a long scorched earth judicial battle at the Code of Conduct Tribunal on charges of false declaration of assets. Saraki mostly held Tinubu responsible for the party’s prolonged non-acceptance of his election and his CCT trial. This fits Greene’s prescription perfectly: “Having enemies gives you options. You can play them off against each other. Make one a friend as a way of attacking the other, on and on.” Tinubu championed Senator Ahmed Lawan who was Buhari’s candidate for senate president. Having won the election through a political sleight of hand with the party refusing to accept his victory, and Buhari pretending to be uninterested, Saraki assumed Tinubu was the problem and accused him of instigating the CCT trial.

As the trial became prolonged and Saraki dug in, creating an alternate power base in the process, Buhari made Tinubu the new enemy. John Odigie-Oyegun, the man Tinubu helped make the party chairman soon turned against his benefactor; Tinubu’s associate James Faleke who was Abubakar Audu’s running mate in Kogi governorship polls was prevented from being the inheritor of the joint ticket following Audu’s death; a coalition of Buhari’s ground troops in the Villa and the party leadership backed by Saraki stopped Tinubu’s candidate from winning the Ondo governorship ticket; and Babatunde Raji Fashola and Kayode Fayemi who could be described as Tinubu’s protégés in the cabinet have since abandoned him. Another coalition leader Atiku, completely cut off from the party administration and government, could only cry out in frustration that he had been used and dumped.

It is therefore clear that Buhari declared carefully selected wars on real and imagined enemies to undermine group opposition, as in PDP, the media and the judiciary, to his quest for re-election in 2019; the president equally tried to weaken possible individual opponents (Saraki, Tinubu and Atiku) in his party. He has also effectively used this strategy for public distraction in line with Greene’s admonition thus: “Leaders have always found it useful to have an enemy at their gates in times of trouble, distracting the public from their difficulties.”

The second is the Alliance Strategy in which Greene enjoins you “advance your cause with minimum of effort” by creating “a constantly shifting network of alliances, getting others to compensate for your deficiencies, do your dirty work, fight your wars, spend energy pulling you forward.” In three consecutive election cycles, Buhari could not win on his own steam despite his massive popularity among the ordinary people in the north. But for the 2015 election, he became the flag bearer of a complicated alliance with principal characters in the APC – Tinubu, Saraki, Atiku, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi – rebranding him, raising funds for his campaign, doing his dirty work, making up for his weaknesses, and burning considerable energy to pull him across the victory line. Buhari’s only contributions to that election victory were no more than his touted integrity and cult followership in the north, the same qualities that had failed him thrice. On becoming president, however, Buhari entered into a fresh network of alliances involving parochial family members and provincial friends, which he has strongly deployed to implement an open pro-north agenda.

The third point, in applying Greene’s Misperception Strategies, the administration has been adept at controlling people’s perception of reality by deploying ambiguity, mixing fact and fiction, and manufacturing a reality in line with national expectation. To feed the national narrative of massive corruption in the Jonathan administration, the EFCC regularly serves the public a salad of truth and falsehood by getting carefully selected media to publish stories mostly attributed to anonymous sources, humongous amount of money found in somebody’s account or property, or refunded to government. In the circumstance it is difficult to separate fact from fiction blended seamlessly in a manufactured reality constantly promoted and celebrated by the administration’s spokesmen. Curiously, the agency has not successfully prosecuted any treasury looter, or officially made public how much stolen funds it has recovered and from whom.

Four, the Buhari administration has been good at using acts of terror to sow uncertainty and panic, in what Greene calls The Chain-Reaction Strategy. Writes Greene, “Terror is the ultimate way to paralyze a people’s will to resist … Such power is gained through sporadic acts of violence that create a constant feeling of threat, incubating a fear that spreads throughout the public sphere.” The application of this strategy has been strengthened by what Greene describes, in Deterrence Strategies, as (the leader) creating a reputation of being “a little crazy” to fight off aggressors.

As military leader in the early ‘80s, Buhari had built up a reputation for being tough, mean, ruthless and unbending. Perhaps in the military organized massacre of over 347 Shia followers of Ibrahim el-Zakyzaky who impeded the movement of the Army chief on December 12 2015, Buhari may have taken to heart Greene’s admonition: “Create this reputation and make it credible with a few impressive – impressively violent – acts.” There was Buhari’s initial tough stance against Niger Delta activists and the military occupation of some communities in that part of the country; an economically crippling bombing of oil installations in a counter action forced government to abandon that approach and opt for negotiations.

How about the Army’s Operation Python Dance in the southeast when government found the activities of Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) unbearable? Apart from these acts of physical violence in the application of terror, there is also the use of psychological violence as manifest in the indefinite detention of el-Zakyzaky and immediate past NSA (National Security Adviser) Sambo Dasuki despite repeated court orders that they be released.

Although there are other strategies one could apply from Greene’s 33 Strategies of War, I wouldn’t want to go beyond the four discussed so far. I do not know if the manifestation of these strategies in the actions or inactions of the Buhari administration is a product of the president’s background, training and experience, or the distillation from the strategy sessions of his trusted aides. Or is it simply coincidence at work?

Next: Four Chinks in Buhari’s Armour

  • OLANIPEKUN

    PMB greatest weapon is his deadening silence, which we often misconstrued to be a prelude to some brilliance that can only come from deep thinking and contemplation.

    Both the PMB and his Kitchen Cabinet lack the capacity to conceptualize geometric thinking being ascribed to them here by Eni B.

    We know him better now.

  • Truth Konveyor

    “And for the judiciary, some judges were accused of corruption with security agents breaking into their homes in ungodly hours. Almost all those judges have been discharged in court due to lack of evidence.”

    Only Justice Ademola’s case was discharged by the federal High Court. The writer was just lying through his teeth to create grounds to engage in his factual,d historical and intellectual masturbation. He relishes in replicating fiction with the hope that it would suddenly become the reality of Nigerians in the hands of Buhari. But we can see through the hatchet job and believe that every reasonable and patriotic Nigerian that is appreciative of the conspicuous acchievements of Buhari will hasten to discard.

  • Mystic mallam

    Okay, Mr Eni B, you’ve come so late to board the wailing wailers train, but we’ll have you all the same, better late than never. I only hope you’re not trying to trick us into believing that Buhari’s clueless errors are part of some profound master strategy being systematically executed. If that’s your aim, sorry, it won’t fly. The man is simply clueless, not fit to rule over a modern state, least of all one as diverse as Nigeria. As for the failings of the administration and the APC which you now admit, bravo. For those of you who seem to have repented selling Buhari to us, one has to admit that it takes some balls to turn around and lick your own spittle. Good for you.

  • “Korede

    I know many of them will make noise here dissipate energies on grammar to express themselves and even abuse people with diferent opinions from theirs in the process. An average notherners will not bother as he is fully equipped with his permanent voters card (PVC) and will be ready to spend hours outside in the rain just to cast his vote to his choice of candidates.

    Eni B is just expressing himself on his feelings of the president and his close associates. I can assure him that he will be shocked when the time comes.

  • onyema22ohaka

    Another piece of afonja sophistry attempt aimed at re-packaging the certificateless daura dullard who is a monumental failure.
    Shameful!

  • Daniel

    Another piece of garbage to give to Buhari what he does not have.

  • RumuPHC

    Dear Eni B,

    I suppose it could have been a more worthwhile and rewarding experience if you had written about the scourge of malaria in the country and its disastrous contribution to infant and maternal deaths, than this attempt to create a sort of intellectual organization and proceedings within the political class and President Mohammadu Buhari.

    Our democracy is a huge Alawada show. Like the famous Baba Sala playhouse, there are no scripts and the actors are ordinary family members encouraged to improvise on set as the play progresses. While the aim of Alawada was to entertain the public, the objective of Nigerian politicians is to grab power and enrich themselves senseless with ruinous consequences for the country.

    Apparently, there is only a single block of political class in Nigeria. Acronyms like PDP or APC are just devices contrived to hoodwink the masses to assume their is plurality and democracy at work. This is easily discernible from the characteristic behavior of the ruling party and who ever is the occupant of Aso Rock. From OBJ to Buhari ; it is the same traits. A colorful and noisy parade of incompetence and poor leadership with much huffing and puffing to cover up for abysmal failure to uplift the lots of the citizens and develop the country.

    The stock in trade of all presidents since 1999 is essentially similar to the conduct of silver back ape in its shrewdness. There are no strategic plans but great deal of brutal tactics to overawe all, consume the most and mate every available female. It is simply about power and domination to promote self. This is the most primitive of all instincts and sadly that is the level of reasoning of our political class in Nigeria.

    General Muhammadu Buhari has been a resounding failure as president. It was actually naive to have assumed PMB was going to be any different from all those before him. Expecting a different result from the same generation of a set of poorly educated and unexposed antiquated Nigerian leaders operating under the same political environment created by their inadequacies , was like expecting a miracle. Unfortunately this is not the time of Jesus Christ and Nigeria is no Galilee.

    The question and real issue today is whether there is going to be any change in 2019. The obvious answer is no. Irrespective of how badly we feel or how much we write, the stage for 2019 is set and the actors are the usual suspects. As long as Nigerians shy away from taking to active politics , asking the right questions and nominating true leaders , the political class will continue to ride roughshod over the masses and have their way with us and our treasures.

    Today, Buhari cuts the figure of a gutted and raged alpha male lion . However dethroning a lion king is not a tea party – it is always a bloody and messy affair. But sometimes the king can just decide to fade into the jungle and live his last days peacefully in isolation till the cold hands of death himself comes forth. I suppose this is the best option for PMB.

    • obinnna77

      Aha. The vehicle. The structure. Something is in the air, with the likes of Rumu-echo chamber sounding out an objective tune. I despaired of your blinkered ‘leader, leader, leader’ refrain. Long may this realism last.

    • Michael Kadiri SocioPolitical

      We sing the same song sir

    • Tell me, with the malaria scourge and infant mortality rate ravaging the land, with Zamfara’s 98% poverty rate and Kano’s abysmal rate in uplifting welfare schemes, how won’t the generality of PMB stronghold still believe he’s their messiah and a little above board. Eni B got it right in this write-up. But like you rightly said, what option is there available?

  • Bendel Journal

    Buhari is a joker.
    Who is behind this ghostsupporters thing?
    They should stop deceiving themselves.

  • John Agbo

    All these are just propaganda. Even Buhari cannot say him want to contest becaus3 he knows he is a total failure. He knows that even if he Riggs the election he cannot still win. Who go vote for Buhari? All him supporters don die finish.

  • Babangida maikudi

    Very soon now it will be called the chronicles of General Bourne. .. stop romanticising high handedness please, this is akin to what popular media culture does with mafia figures like El chapo and Al capone and the rest of them …Please we know what you want to do. ..present Baba as the right choice for 2019 it’s too late for U and wait it’s not yet campaign time and even If it were ….I I will vote for ATIKU Abubakar 10 times over

  • Adams Oloreofe

    They are only going by all means to force Bubu on Nigerians. We are wiser now. All these propaganda and ‘special lies’ will not work this time around. The level of poverty in the country in the last 2 years is shocking. We need to move forward. How I wish Atiku declares his intention now. That’s the only man I think will move the nation forward.

  • James Gunn

    I can’t wait for his tenure to be over. All I can do is use my vote. He is incompetent, nepotistic, unimaginative, backward, unyielding, corrupt, devious, and finally is not in charge of his own government.

  • Michael Kadiri SocioPolitical

    And as I read through the lines, I was suddenly transported into this twilight zone and even kind of became impressed by Buhari….that there was some sort of method in his elaborate incompetence……and then the cock crowed at dawn……and I woke up from this attempt at hypnosis.

    Fact; the only thing the ruling class in Nigeria know is violence, native doctors and pentecostal priests at the same time, lying, cheating, stealing and deceiving – which is enough of a feat. Stop trying to add sophistication and long term planning to their library of evil i beg.

    Just like it was obvious to some of us that Buhari was another Nigerian miscalculation, so it is obvious that this is a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, fake-it-hoping-to-make-it-government.

    Eni B, wake up this is not James Bond!!!

    • FrNinja

      Its not james bond its machiavelli nigerian style. For instance in our so called democracy since 1999 the only candidate that was not selected by the military brotherhood was Goodluck Jonathan. And he couldnt get himself re-elected.

  • Chichi Girl

    Lol. PMB lacks the capacity to be this strategic. This is another attempt to package him as a strategic general. He is just a Fulani man doing what Fulanis do best: hold on to power by any means possible and damn the consequence. It’s such a pity that he will remain in the saddle come 2019. What I can’t understand is why everyone is scared of him. Activists, opposition etc are all treading carefully. No one confronts him or his policies. He has not done a media chat in a long while and no one is complaining. The act of governance is not going on, and we are cool with it. He is yet to resume in his office and no one is talking about it. Book haram rages on, Maina saga etc. the media will do well to replay his campaign adverts to remind us how this government has failed on EVERY promise.
    I don’t know What it will take to build strong institutions in this country rather than create make believe strong individuals we make excuses for. Wrong people every where.

    • obinnna77

      In other words, his advisers are focusing on the essentials. Which is the essence of strategy. Seek ye first the political kingdom, all else shall be added onto you. Fula have been at it, since 1804. They are past masters in political strategy.
      The real issue of import is Eniola’s sudden realpolitik. The SouthWest is starting to marshal it’s propaganda machine, re 2019.

      • Olisa

        Nice one. But I think the Fulani’s mastery of political strategy is a myth. The problem is that the south – especially with their individualistic tendencies and value for life, do not yet have an answer to the over-representation and ethno-religious loyalties of the muslim north in the armed forces.

    • FrNinja

      The alliance between the yoruba APC elite and Hausa- Fulani CPC elite that brought Buhari to power was not based on ideology but pecuniary interests. The alliance remains strong and the boys are happy. The losers in Buharis set of associates are the Judases like Rotimi Amaechi and clowns like Okorocha who Buhari quite deftly refused to flatter with an appearance at Zumas visit.

      In 2019 the only thing that stands in the way of Buharis re election is the collapsed economy and impoverishment of the masses. He was booted out in his first term by the economy and do not be surprised if massive protests greet his reelection campaign.

    • Ngo_Zib1

      pmb Demystified…it is not smart to be dishonest

  • Daniel Obior

    Another pro- Buhari/APC journalist of the pre-2015 election era, has now also found his voice and the balls to speak up. The number is growing. This one seems a bigger fish among the others, having secured a Buhari appointment and presently sitting on the job. Lets watch the space for what next follows in reaction. Wonders never end in Nigeria.

  • Darcy

    All these, while very interesting fails to explain why he ignored the simplest strategy: governing effectively.

    This reads like one of those over-convoluted attempts to have James Bond killed when a simple bullet would do. If Buhari is as strategically competent as laid out above, why not govern effectively, build a legacy and even lay the groundwork for a prospective dynasty?

    Alternate Theory: Man is simply engaged in a rearguard action to preserve his circles of patronage. It is often easy to mistake malice for genius.

    • Michael Kadiri SocioPolitical

      All these, while very interesting fails to explain why he ignored the simplest strategy: governing effectively.
      Abi oh
      But you cannot give what you do not have

  • American Abroad

    Sir:
    All true, but you will do well to recall the aphorism commonly known as Hanlon’s Razor, after Robert J Hanlon, “Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence”. There are very few things more deceptive than an obvious fact. I would suggest that you are over-thinking the Buhari debacle. All in all, alas, my country men don’t think that deeply.

    • power

      I thought I would read your long compelling and interesting articles. lol

      • American Abroad

        My apologies, Sir. Perhaps, next time.

        • power

          Okay cool. I gat u

    • Michael Kadiri SocioPolitical

      Come On…..
      Completely unhappy with this one paragraph
      Not fair…..if you are going to change from interesting to the one paragraph observance, you should at least warn those of us who like to read your articles. Or is this perhaps your warning?

      • American Abroad

        I will try to make amends, my dear friend. But I am also in the midst of writing a preface for a new textbook by my mentor, whilst simultaneously trying to complete a book long (and vainly) promised.

    • Mystic mallam

      Woww Mr AA, you’ve made so much sense today, without returning all of us back to school. I give you a thumps up.

      • American Abroad

        Then, Sir, regrettably, I have failed in this intervention. School , as I am sure you would have figured by now, is a life-long venture. Far be it from me to abbreviate the already vestigial schooling of my countrymen.

        • Mystic mallam

          You’re right Mr AA, and I agree with you, no reservations at all. But, then again, there’re stuff other than highfalutin grammar and alien literature that could be learned in continuing education centres. So, if you must communicate with those of us who have had the misfortune of only ‘vestigial schooling’, why don’t you try a bit harder to actually communicate?

  • Grelia O

    Buhari is not and has never been capable of winning any election. The 2014 election was won for him by a strange coalition of disgruntled PDP members and SW progressives. He has shrunk that base, and has made no inroad in the SS and SE since then. He is less popular today in the SW and NC. His strong objection to any form of restructuring will cost him the entire South and most of NC. Above all, he has antagonized a significant chunk of those who voted for him through his divisive policies and undemocratic governing style. He has zero chance of winning the next election unless he riggs massively. The first thing he did in office was to stack INEC with people close to him, a clear evidence of insecurity, and a statement of his intention come 2019.

  • Iskacountryman

    someone is going to be visited by armed robbers soon…

    • Jon West

      Please tell the Life Patron of Miyetti Allah cattlemen’s association to have mercy ony this once in his life.

      • Iskacountryman

        mercy is a sign of weakness…

      • Iskacountryman

        in our line of business…mercy is a sign of weakness…

        • Jon West

          Please plead on behalf of Eni-B. We cannot afford to lose our main Afonja-genre ThisDay Backpager. May Allah bless you for your efforts and may the 72 perpetual virgins in Al Jinah be your lot.

          • Iskacountryman

            jon…you sound envious…now let me clear some misconceptions…only those who die in the battle get 72…people like us are awarded 12 right here on earth…in fact you could get them one at at a time, depending on your ability to manage…it is not easy being me…dont be so envious…

  • shakara123

    GBAM… It has started. PMB is persona non grata to Eni B.