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Oshiomhole as Buhari’s Enforcer
Last week, Adams Oshiomhole told us loud and clear what we all knew but which many people were either reluctant to admit, or say publicly. If it was a Freudian slip from the new garrison commander and chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), then it was an important one that confirmed our worst fears about the capacity and competence of President Muhammadu Buhari to govern the country.
Things were happening at such a dizzying speed that one could hardly keep pace. Clouded by the mad hysteria of defections that had hit the ruling party and was largely overlooked by the media, what Oshiomhole had said deserves to be resurrected as it provided some information germane to understanding the Buhari persona. It remains the most striking of all the madness of last week’s events (others were largely expected).
Oshiomhole’s declaration that he was not prepared to condone disrespect for his office if the president condoned such behaviour struck a chord with me. Why was this slip so important? Because it confirmed what some discerning Nigerians have always suspected: That our president is weak, and does not have control over the running of his government.
This was how Oshiomhole expressed his frustration: “They have taken undue advantage of the president’s fatherly disposition. When we expel the minister, we will prevail on the president that he can’t keep in his cabinet people who have neither respect for his own decisions nor have respect for the party without which they would not have been ministers. I am convinced that what they are doing is not with the endorsement of Mr. President…”
While I sympathised with Oshiomhole for the reality that had just hit him about how weak Mr. President is, I was however unimpressed by his attempt to clothe that weakness when he said ministers were taking “undue advantage of the president’s fatherly disposition”. The known fact which Oshiomhole correctly identified is that the president condoles disrespect for himself and his office. And that has encouraged the emergence of different power cells in the government, pulling it in opposing directions.
The truth well-spoken by him is that ministers, heads of parastatals and security chiefs owe their allegiance to these competing power cells. You see, Buhari runs a centrifugal government with no strong centripetal authority; he hardly knows what is going on in his government but appears to always be content when told certain actions have been taken in furtherance of his ethno-religious and re-election interests.
My gut tells me Oshiomhole has seen clearly how weak and indifferent the president is to happenings around him and is alarmed. Consequently, he has taken it upon himself to attempt to enforce some measure of discipline and order amid the chaos. But this is doomed from the start. The situation is far too deep and complex for a party chairman to deal with. As a matter of fact, power blocks within the presidency, which derive their oxygen from the president’s weakness, will frustrate him. So Oshiomhole is wasting his time.
Remember he did not emerge on the strength of his own merit; he emerged through a deal among the power cells. Despite Oshiomhole’s momentary bluster, I am sure he wouldn’t work at cross-purposes with them. Even if there is a collision, the president may be reluctant to side with Oshiomhole especially in this era of mass defections, so as not to endanger his re-election chances. This is a cul-de-sac for the party chair. So let’s not get carried away by his aggressive rhetoric, or overbearing zeal about suddenly wanting to enforce party discipline or harping on the so-called party supremacy.
In any case, Oshiomhole started off on the wrong foot by his aggressive rhetoric, militant and attack-dog tactics like “we’ll crush” rebellion, or when he referred to aggrieved members leaving the party, as “mercenaries”. As the governor of Edo State for eight years, Oshiomhole should have known better that being a labour leader is one thing, but being the national chairman of a big political party, more so the ruling party, is a different kettle of fish entirely. He had promised to deploy his negotiating skills to resolve the crisis in the APC. Has he done that? I don’t think so. Instead, he descended into the arena he was meant to rebuild. He lost that important chance to rebuild and reinvent his party by his own impetuous and cantankerous approach that is bound to win him and the party more enemies rather friends.
Back to the key issue of this article. In actual fact, Oshiomhole’s revelation helped to put back on the front burner Buhari’s fitness for office. A man who cannot galvanise his cabinet into action, who condoles disrespect for his directives and office is to me, unfit to lead. Evidence of Mr. President’s lackadaisical attitude to governance and indifference to enforcement of his orders abounds. Anyone who claims otherwise, or believes that some people just choose to take advantage of his “fatherly disposition” is trying to hold a frog by the tail. There is no such thing as a fatherly disposition in this context. We are talking about a situation where the president has demonstrably displayed weakness, the lack of capacity and competence to be the commander-in-chief – a situation that has left the country visibly rudderless and drifting precipitously towards anarchy and chaos.
For God’s sake, how can a man who is in the habit of tongue-lashing his countrymen and the youth when he is in a foreign land be said to have a fatherly disposition? How can a president who believes Nigerian youths are lazy, yet he is doing nothing to refocus them, be said to have a fatherly attitude? I am unable to establish the nexus with the fatherly disposition where all that is on display is weakness, sheer incompetence and inability to give direction to his government, leading to a lethargic and disoriented low-energy cabinet. There is a lack of synergy among government agencies. The proof of this weakness is glaringly evident and cringe-worthy.
How does one even defend the fact that Buhari sent the name of the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu to the Senate for confirmation as the substantive chairman twice, and on those two occasions, the Department of State Services (DSS) undermined the president’s request for confirmation by writing a counter-report to the Senate on why Magu should not be confirmed? Without implying support for Magu, I make bold to say, it was one of those moments in history, when we saw a display of who was indeed in charge of government and running the show. I was literally short of words when I saw the headlines in the media the next day. Most of them read, “Again, DSS writes Senate..Says Magu unfit…”
There is another instance when the president’s weakness was on full display. At a town hall meeting with the traumatised people of Benue, during a visit to the state, Buhari told the whole world that he did not know that his Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris flouted his order to relocate to Benue, following the mass murders of 73 people by Fulani herdsmen. Several months after his voluntary public disclosure, IG Idris is still in office committing all sorts of atrocities and leading the police deeper into the abyss with his partisan behaviour. He has become the single biggest albatross around the police’s neck. Till date, no disciplinary action has been taken against him for flouting the presidential directive.
In Jos recently, after Fulani herdsmen had massacred over 200 people as revenge for the loss of 300 cows, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari, who has repeatedly claimed that Fulani herdsmen only move about with sticks, told a bewildered nation that all he could do was pray for the killings to stop and also put more pressure on the security chiefs to do more to stop the killings. I must confess, in all my years on this earth, I have never seen or heard anything like that.
Under his watch, Nigerians are being killed like chickens and all the president can do is to pray for the wanton killings and destruction of properties to stop and also put pressure on the security chiefs to end the killings? No marching orders were given to the security chiefs to end the killings? Nor was there any condemnation of the activities of the herdsmen, or any show of righteous indignation by the president at the sheer depravity of the action of the herdsmen. I knew Buhari was incapable of leading a diverse nation like Nigeria but never did I ever imagine things would get this bad. Yet, this is the man Bola Tinubu, Oshiomhole, and many shameless Nigerians are rooting for to have a second term. Amaechi boasted recently that even if Buhari was in a wheelchair, he would win come 2019. In other words, these people actually see many Nigerians as fools, incapable of differentiating a good leadership from a bad one.
Who can forget the secret reinstatement of the fugitive former Chairman of the Presidential Task Team on Pension Reforms, Abdulrasheed Maina? Top officials of Buhari’s government ensured that despite the fact that the president was advised against such an unforced error by the Head of Service, Maina was reinstated, rewarded with a double promotion and paid about N15 million as entitlements. When the scandal broke, the president feigned ignorance, and with great razzmatazz, he directed that Maina’s appointment be terminated immediately. To pacify a disenchanted public and as “proof” that he was not in the know, a probe was instituted to unravel the circumstances surrounding Maina’s reinstatement and identify those behind it.
However, the information that filtered through soon afterwards showed that the president knew all along but allowed the different power cells to carry out the reinstatement secretly until the news broke and blew in his face. Public reaction then jolted him into action and overrode them. It is noteworthy that none of the officials responsible for Maina’s reinstatement was ever punished. The probe report (if any) has since been swept under the carpet.
The truth here is that Oshiomhole correctly identified the problem when he stated that if the president condoled disrespect for his office, he would not. The unfortunate thing here is that as eager as Oshiomhole is to carry out the seemingly impossible self-appointed task of enforcing presidential directives in the government or instilling discipline in the APC, he doesn’t have the tools of enforcement. His style so far is fuelling more resentment in the party of big egos. Lest we forget, a party that was a product of indiscipline cannot expect to reap discipline. If you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind.
This brings me to developments in Benue State. Oshiomhole alongside the EFCC are now accusing Governor Samuel Ortom of all sorts of crimes, maladministration, failure to pay workers’ salaries, including embezzlement to the tune of N22 billion. Surely, the EFCC didn’t just know this, but swept it under the carpet because Ortom was a member of the APC. But now that he has crossed over to the PDP, EFCC has suddenly come up with the embezzlement charge. Does anyone need any more proof that the EFCC is a tool in the hands of the ruling APC to harass and intimidate political opponents?
For those who still claim that Buhari is fighting corruption, let me point out another important contradiction that blemishes that claim. Babachir Lawal, the disgraced former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) who pocketed money meant to alleviate the pain and suffering of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is currently busy influencing political appointments and choices in the upcoming elections. He leads the charge for Buhari’s re-election in Adamawa State. The same EFCC that served Ayo Fayose notice of his impending arrest at the end of his tenure in October when his immunity would have lapsed is unwilling to go after Babachir. The irony here is Babachir has no immunity, and there is prima facie evidence that he was the brains behind the fraud, yet he has not been put on trial. I bet you the day he defects to the PDP, EFCC would arraign him in court within 48 hours of his defection. I hope one day these people will be held to account. May God help Nigeria through this dark age.