As Discontent And Rivalry Take Centre Stage In Nigeria, By Zainab Suleiman Okino


The sum total of everything — the good, the bad and the ugly — may form the mass of our existential lives and the nation’s but why do we place the highest premium on frivolities at the detriment of grave national malaise?

Why will Big Brother Naija, a reality TV show in Nigeria gather over 250 million votes in 99 days and a prize money of N60 million, when two consecutive presidential elections of 2015 and 2019 could only produce 28.2 million votes for both Buhari and Jonathan, and 26.5 million for Buhari and Atiku? Why should the clash of egos among men and women elicit so much excitement in the country, while a subject like our presidential election that controls the levers of power, influence, money and the destiny of our nation attract less interest and enthusiasm?

People were appalled and amazed about the high votes in BBN, in comparison with the low turn-out of voters during recent elections, including the presidential poll. Some are even calling on the National Assembly and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to adopt the BBN style of housing wannabe-contestants for election, and eliminating them one by one until a winner emerges.

Trust Nigerians, even that can be rigged. Their supporters can work behind the scenes and buy recharge cards to be shared out for people to vote for contestants of their choice. Besides, there is no violence and thuggery associated with election, to scare people away from the BBN, unlike in politics. On a serious note, there are lessons to be drawn from BBN. The youth who constitute the largest percentage of the voters can surely exert their energies to choose visionary leaders, instead of waiting to take over power because the Not Too Young To Run law has given them the leeway.

After the BBN distraction came the president’s marital affairs. Now, why is Buhari’s marriage or no marriage be so important to be setting the social media abuzz and making it the talk of the town that is even more important than the economy; an economy that looks beautiful on paper but leaves no food on the table for families or naira notes in pockets? Someone actually sat down, thought of giving vent to the rumour in town about Buhari’s relationship with Sadiya Umar Farouk – a minister in his cabinet, designed a card with a date and time to booth and passed it off as their marriage invitation card; and Nigerians bought into it sheepishly.

And if I may ask: What is new in such rumoured relationship? Obasanjo was acclaimed to be a lion in that respect; Jonathan had a jewel in Diezani Alison Madueke, whose machinations and hold on the president led to the sacking of another rival, who later became a senator after some minor issues. However, none of these ever took the nation by the storm, like Buhari’s alleged dalliance. Now I understand; Buhari is (should I say was) an angel, a cult hero that is infallible. As such, to the extent that some mischief makers printed wedding cards, and the president’s wife, who was probably forced by the cabal to stay off, returned home hurriedly to reclaim what rightly belongs to her. Anyway, did the president not say he belonged to no one? Who would have thought Aisha, his wife, was one of them.

I agree that the first family’s lives cannot be in the closet and as public figures, sustained by our taxes to live life to the fullest, we have the right to know. But the right to know what? Should we not be demanding for good governance, accountability, and transparency, more than what we are getting now?

On the other hand, their roforofo fight has given us more insights into the closet of the Buhari presidency. That interview with Mamman Daura’s daughter, Fatima Daura, is a tell-tale sign of the cabal’s iron-hold on President Buhari, which might have deprived Aisha Buhari of her husband’s ‘attention’. Tell me which woman will not go mad over that.

Anyway, that’s a secondary human interest side of the story that matters only to the flesh and not to the country. The issue to interrogate is this: Fatima Daura, in the BBC Hausa interview, said “…you know there are several houses and apartments in the Villa. When the president got into office, he gave the Glass House to our father, Mamman Daura”, who was later asked to “move to a bigger apartment”. He was there until Yusuf Buhari’s accident and the president’s decision for Yusuf to move to the Glass House, and then Aisha’s tantrum came into the open, to the extent that she recorded it.

Although, they (Mamman Daura and the president) are related and have been friends from childhood, I do not understand why a man of about 80 years, without a portfolio in the cabinet, instead of a ‘once in a while visit’ to his brother-president, would relocate with his family to stay with an equally septuagenarian president, to the extent of causing disaffection between the president and his wife, and giving vent to the influence of the famed cabal on the president.

Fatima Daura herself is an adult, who is working somewhere, but who lives with her siblings, mum and dad in the Villa. Although she talked about Aisha’s rage and violent disposition, something is also not right about their permanent stay in the Villa.

For the president’s marital affair to become a discourse on the front-burner, there must be some powerful forces behind it. The first one may be Aisha herself. Recall that she was away for two months (out of anger, perhaps) and there were insinuations of her quarrel with the cabal, and maybe her husband over the appointment of Sadiya Umar Farouk as minister. The cabal had their way and Sadiyya was appointed. Then suddenly the marriage conspiracy came up. The marriage plan could have been hatched and orchestrated by the first lady’s camp to spite the poor lady-minister and get back at the cabal, who are now helpless and silent, after Aisha’s triumphant return to take over what rightly belongs to her — the position of first lady and as the president’s wife.

Second is the Vice President Osinbajo angle. When the vice president was stripped of some of his powers as head of the economic team, had the oversight of the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA), the Social Investment Programme and a host of others take away from him, his supporters and sympathisers went agog; they theorised over his ambition and the North-South dichotomy, made assumptions, expressed surprises and insinuated everything unimaginable.

When the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development was created, it was not just new, it was like an orphan; with no agencies, parastatals or departments under the new mMinistry. In fact, people were asking, “which one be this again? Is it going to be another ministry of special duties, which though has no specific duties, actually does everything that pleases the president, including organising domestic affairs and going on errands for the president; no be special duties?

By the time some spins were done and matters strung together, Sadiya’s baby ministry became the beneficiary of some of Osinbajo’s “lost powers”. The conspiracy theory, as it were, is that the brouhaha over Sadiya’s marriage to President Buhari could be the handiwork of the vice president’s supporters and sympathisers, and it doesn’t have to be with his consent.

Now, the discontent, power-play and rivalry (which are self-inflicted and are about self-interest) that are on display are symptomatic of the larger “battles” discussed in “hushed voices at the top”, which we all know and hear about, while the business of governance is now comatose. So while these shenanigans are ongoing, the purchasing power of the people has gotten near-zero, the economy is in shambles, kidnapping and banditry are now ubiquitous, and Boko Haram has become a prayer point in our mosques, churches and shrines, etc.

Yet, the social media and conventional media have joined in the fray of celebrating (and enjoying) the salacious fake marriage of the president and the altercation between the first lady and the cabal. If these are the core of our concerns, why should we complain that Nigeria is not working?,; 08098209791, text only.

Categories: Column, Opinion

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