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NIGERIA: Buhari now going solo

16112015C BuhariIn my articles during the presidential campaign, I had wondered aloud whether a President Muhammadu Buhari would share power with the touted National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. I also answered the question by saying that knowing the professional and cultural background of Buhari, and against the precedents of our political history, he would gradually relegate Tinubu to his proper place as just one of the big men in the ruling party, on assuming power.

Those who were expecting Buhari to “share power” with him in line the merger that produced the APC, I warned, should be prepared for a different ball game if Buhari became president. I even referred to the proverb: “those who dress up a masquerade are usually the first to be flogged by it”. I prognosticated that as soon as Buhari assumed power, his hordes of Arewa kinsmen who were hiding in the shadows while Tinubu and Rotimi Amaechi were rebranding him, supplying him with the propaganda fuel and profusely providing his campaign with endless funds, would emerge into the spotlight and claim the place of pride in his government.

I also added that Buhari would gradually recreate the ruling party after his own image, and as we approach 2019, it will look more like the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, than the APC which Tinubu helped him to build into a winning political platform. These are no “predictions” but merely the political punditry of a person who has monitored politics and power play in Nigeria for over two decades as a reporter, writer and columnist.

Six months after taking the reins of power, Buhari has already gone solo. Tinubu is not exactly “irrelevant” yet, but Buhari is no longer leaning on him for support. In fact, the President is already rebuilding the APC superstructure the way it will serve his political purposes come 2019. Yes, Buhari will run for a second term in 2019. Only death will stop that, and he does not look to me like the man that people like Governor Ayo Fayose and others were painting as teetering on the edges of a sepulcher eight months ago. Those who are doing their 2019 political calculations on the basis that Buhari would not run for a second term had better go back to the drawing board and start again.

The Buhari-Tinubu tag-team was still at work during the rebellion of the “new PDP” faction of the APC in the National Assembly. Yakubu Dogara and Senator Bukola Saraki had trounced Buhari and Tinubu’s common desire to impose Tinubu’s lackey, Femi Gbajabiamila as Speaker of the House of Representatives and Buhari’s flunkey, Senator Ahmed Lawan as President of the Senate by allying themselves with former PDP colleagues to be elected to those respective offices. Eventually, Dogara sued for peace by allowing Gbajabiamila and other candidates of “the party” (Buhari and Tinubu) to occupy principal offices of the Green Chamber.

Saraki, who was determined to blindside “the party”, was however, forced to bow to Buhari when his assets declaration issue suddenly surfaced at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT, with the Tribunal’s Chairman, Danladi Umar seeming determined to nail him. If not for Saraki’s case at the CCT, Buhari might have found it difficult to get some of his prized ministerial nominees, especially Babatunde Fashola and Rotimi Amaechi, approved by the Senate as ministers.

Saraki became so eager to please the President that he not only beat a smooth path for the screening and approval of ALL the nominees, he also personally submitted the list to the President in an elaborate but brief ceremony at the Presidential Villa. Like magic, Saraki got a big, though temporary reprieve at the Supreme Court. Federal Government lawyers prosecuting him became less recalcitrant, which allowed the apex court to halt proceedings at the CCT to enable it look into Saraki’s appeal. Some even believe Saraki might be let off the hook if he continues to play ball as he did in the easy passage of Buhari’s ministers. However, that might prove to be a mere small battle in an overall big war.

Buhari made a very powerful and emphatic statement with the appointment of Amaechi and Fashola as super-ministers. It is a bold pointer to the future of politics and governance within the APC and the nation at large. It was a major sidelining of Tinubu from the government “pie”. Buhari controversially grabbed for himself the nation’s cash cow – the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.

Ibe Kachikwu, the Minister of State will do the leg work as an obedient technocrat. Buhari will put another “trusted” Northerner in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, as GMD. With himself as the substantive Minister of Petroleum and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the NNPC, Buhari will no longer depend on second or third parties (as he did in 2015) for the funding of his 2019 political projects.

With his appointment as Minister of Transport, which also now has Aviation merged into it, Amaechi will wield enough power and have access to enough wherewithal to bring the South-South fully on board for Buhari. Already, Buhari had started early enough to woo the Southern Minority zone with the second largest chunk of political appointments (both within and outside his kitchen cabinet) after the North. With Amaechi, Buhari hopes to detach the South-South from the joint platform it formed with the South East for former President Jonathan. The old North and Southern Minority political connection will be restored. With that, Buhari will not need the South East to win a second term in office.

In the South West, with Fashola as super-minister in charge of Power, Works and Housing, he would wield enough power and influence in the South West and beyond for Buhari not to need the special grace of Bola Tinubu in 2019. Tinubu would be left to either reconcile himself with the new realities in the new APC that Buhari has put in place or please himself.

There is no knowing how far these scenarios will eventually play out in the future. Will the people of the South-South, who tend to see Amaechi as a “betrayer” who helped to push out former President Jonathan accept him as the man to take lead them to Buhari and thus, back to the North? Can they withstand the impending stick and carrot maneouvres, with those resisting it having their political hides burnt by state agents, while those who succumb could smell federal goodies?

What about the South West, Tinubu’s hard-won political kingdom – will Tinubu lie supine and allow his estranged godsons, Fashola, Fayemi and others run things as Buhari’s janissaries? Or are we likely to see another Obafemi Awolowo versus Samuel Akintola face-off and supremacy contest? Or, will Tinubu, somewhere along the line, swallow the bitter pill of Fashola and Fayemi’s “treachery” and wait for another opportunity for a payback?

For that matter, how secure is Buhari’s position in the North, with a number of interesting permutations coming into play as we exit the period of uncertainty in the formative stages of his government? What will Saraki, Atiku and others do as time goes on? And what can PDP still do in the North now that it has zoned its presidency to Arewa in 2019?

We are in for interesting times!

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