Presidency’s customary flippant response to senators’ ultimatum to the president shows the administration’s misreading of the political situation, writes Bolaji Adebiyi 

It is significant that the presidency dismissed the ultimatum given to President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday to tackle the worsening security situation in the country within two weeks or prepare to be removed from office. It showed clearly how complacent that institution that was entrusted with the security of lives and property of the citizens had become despite its glaring impotence in fulfilling its basic mandate. 

Concerned by the worsening insecurity situation in the country, the Senate had gone into an executive session to discuss the way forward. It was agreed that the president had performed badly and should be made to sit up or face the consequence of his failure. Rather than report progress to the plenary as required by the rules of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, its president, sat on the resolution, forcing Phillip Aduda, the minority leader, to introduce the matter on the wing of a point of order. He was ruled out of order. Then a walk-out by many senators followed.  

A similar protest occurred in the House of Representatives where Idris Wase, the deputy speaker, who was presiding blocked the move to censure the president. 

Reacting to the incident, Garba Shehu, a media aide to the president, considered Lawan’s action appropriate, describing the senators’ protest as “performative and boyish antics.”  

No doubt, this response demonstrated the presidency’s total contempt for the legislature, the institution, which was emplaced by the 1999 Constitution as altered to oversight it and check its excesses. Such impetuousness could only emanate from a feeling that the legislative arm of government could do nothing because it had been castrated by the executive that it was instituted to watch over.  

Looking at how the leadership of the National Assembly emerged in 2019 and how subservient it has been to the president, the presidency’s arrogance is understandable. After all, Lawan has never missed any opportunity to profess his loyalty to Buhari, going as far as pulling a chair for the president at an official function at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. 

However, the presidency appears to be living in the past and oblivious of the evolving political current in the country. About 70 per cent of members of the National Assembly lost out at the recently concluded primaries of the two main political parties, and, therefore, have nothing more to lose. Secondly, with the general election around the corner, politicians seeking power have no other option than to return to the people and associate with their concerns. So, they would sacrifice anyone to achieve their objectives. 

Had the presidency taken cognizance of these, it would have been less intemperate, and be more concerned about how the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in a National Assembly dominated by the ruling All Progressives Congress mustered the commanding majority of 80 to force an executive session of the Senate and pull a resolution to censure the president. 

The fact of the matter is that the comprehensive failure of the Buhari administration has become such an embarrassment to everyone, including its APC to which it has now constituted a liability as electioneering approaches. Scapegoating Buhari through removal from office, in the circumstances, could be a legitimate tactical manoeuvre. The loudmouths at the presidency may do well to note this and realise that their master is no longer as invincible as they think. 

If the waning political charisma of Buhari is in doubt, the realignment of forces within the APC should clear such scepticism. Carried into office by a coalition of five legacy parties, including the Action Congress of Nigeria, a faction of the Peoples Democratic Party, All Nigeria Peoples Party, a faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, and the Congress for Progressive Change, it was the weakest, Buhari’s CNC, that hijacked power and the government. Subsequently, the others struggled for relevance for more than seven years of the APC administration. 

However, between the March 2022 national convention and the last month’s presidential primary of the party, the PDP and the ACN legacy wings had begun to regain their rhythm with both dominating APC’s principal offices and the latter picking its presidential flag. Even the campaign coordinators announced on Wednesday reflected this emerging realignment. Whether the emergent forces would be prepared to throw Buhari under the bus would depend on the balance of convenience, usually referred to as political expediency. 

So, the presidency’s cynical perception that the senators moving against Buhari are playing to the gallery fails to recognise the sufficient incentive for their action, and that should they choose to operationalise their threat, it would have dire consequences for its principal.  

Interestingly, while his aides are pretending that their boss is still in charge and working hard at resolving the challenges facing the nation, Buhari, by words and deeds, has given up and has begun the trip back to Daura months before his 29th May 2023 terminal date.  

Weeks ago, he told Nigerians that his assignment had been so tasking that he couldn’t wait to return home. This was around the time that terrorists visited the National Correctional Centre at Kuje, about 30km from Aso Rock and released their colleagues who were being held there. On his way out of the country, the president made a detour to the centre, expressed anger at the incident and ordered an investigation.  

As the nation awaited the outcome of the investigation, the terrorists issued a threat to come for the president. The threat came shortly before he travelled to Liberia to deliver a lecture on security. While Buhari was delivering the lecture abroad, the terrorists cynically ambushed and killed some soldiers of his elite brigade guards on patrol around Bwari, some 24km to Aso Rock. The routine post-incidence summoning of the service chiefs followed with the habitual charge to them to do more to deal with the dire situation. 

No doubt, the terrorist attacks on Kuje and Bwari as well the rising spate of kidnapping in the federal capital territory had become too close for the comfort of the federal legislators to continue to condone the care-free attitude of the president hence the move against him. But as self-centred as their action may have been, it nevertheless resonates with the concerns of Nigerians who see that their president has been missing in action and can, therefore, not wait to see his back. Interestingly, the feeling appears mutual as Buhari too has said he can’t wait to take off! 

Adebiyi, the managing editor of THISDAY Newspaper, writes from   

Related Articles