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The Presidential Villa Of Many ‘Presidents’: Who Calls The Shots? By Abdulkadir Salaudeen

History, as they say, repeats itself. In the case of Nigeria, bad history often repeats itself; good history rarely does. This best explains what plays out in the Presidential Villa between the First Lady and Sabiu Tunde Yusuf—President Muhammadu Buhari’s nephew and personal assistant. Nigeria is plagued with leadership problem. A recurring situation whereby the electorates voted a president into office only for the office to be hijacked by other ‘presidents’ who were not actually voted for cannot longer be tolerated. It was former President Olusegun Obasanjo who first made an authoritative submission of this ugly fact. He stated in his book published in 2014 “My Watch” that there were five presidents in Nigeria which in addition to Goodluck Ebele Jonathan—included Dame Patience Jonathan, Diezani Allison-Mmadueke Allison, Stella Oduah and Okonjo Iweala. Obasanjo averred that these women were even powerful than the elected president (Jonathan). This was the dreadful reality in the years of former President Jonathan’s Administration. 

As if it is becoming the norm in Nigeria’s corridor of power to have many unelected presidents (hijackers) in addition to the elected one. Even the government of ‘Change’ cum ‘Next Level’ as claimed by the present administration could not immune itself against these hijackers. This government, being that of ‘Change’, only changes the narration from the proverbial fry pan to fire. In common language, the narration changes from bad to worse. It is feared that the tragicomedy show in the Presidential Villa between the two unelected presidents does not transform from worse to worst in this government of ‘Change’. Many Nigerians remain unrepentant on their conviction that Abba Kyari (the late Chief of Staff), until his demise, was the de facto president in Nigeria. This is why the office of the Chief of Staff was keenly contested despite the fact the Constitution does not recognize it. Now that Kyari is gone, power tussle is taking a new dimension.

The incidence of the contest of ego between Mrs Aisha Buhari and Sabiu Tunde Yusuf appalled me and many Nigerians. This prompted me to ask if anyone actually knows who calls the shots in the Presidential Villa. From the unfolding events since the early stage of this administration in May 2015, one can effortlessly do some finger counting of those who do. The most unfortunate thing is that, unlike Jonathan Era, the other presidents in this administration are virtually from the same family. It makes it look as if ‘Buharicracy’ is the system of government in operation because those who call the shots are his family members. The challenge is that this system of government (at least in principle) is absolutely not in the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria; even the ‘amended’. This will be understood better if we can recall when the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, acted constitutionally on behalf of the President. This did not go well with the other ‘presidents’ who considered it a slap on their birthright and family right. How can somebody from Ogun State call the shots? We all know what happened: Osibanjo was relegated to sharing trader moni and now chairing the committee on TOILET. He is an outsider ostensibly because he is not a member of President Buhari’s family and not from Daura. 

Though I am not very sure who the most powerful president in Presidential Villa is after Kyari’s exit, some are of the opinion that it is Sabiu. Many others argue that it is the First Lady. Some still believe it is Mamman Daura. While I really do not know, we shall wait to see who blinks first between the two ‘presidents’ (Mrs Aisha and Sabiu) in this tragicomedy. However, what seems to be certain is that President Buhari is not the most powerful. The reasons are not far fetched. One, under his watch as the elected president of the country, his wife whom he claimed belongs to ‘the other room’ is more visible than himself in the administration. The First Lady arguably does not belong to ‘the other room’. It is pedestrian to think so! Two, why did the First Lady and three of her children: Zahra, Halima, and Yusuf, accompanied by some of her security aides, led by Shugaba, storm the resident of Sabiu? If Sabiu has actually insisted not to proceed on 14 days self-isolation, is it not wiser for the first lady to report him to the husband (the President)? On this ground, many doubt if they really meet in ‘the other room’. This would have been a discussion meant for the ‘room’ and would have been resolved therein. If not for her strong belief of being one of the ‘presidents’, how would the first lady dare to enforce the quarantine protocol in the Villa? Three, the inability of our elected President (Muhammadu Buhari) to wade into the issue and allowed this to happen under his nose is a gross display of incompetence, or at best, of not being in charge. Haha!

Now that the altercation among the members of our President’s family has led to gun shots within the most sacred place (Presidential Villa) on the political landscape in Nigeria, who will salvage the country? Alas, if our President cannot settle what should ordinarily be a family squabble, do we still wonder why farmers/herders crises remain unresolved? Or why banditry becomes more prominent in Katsina, the President’s home state? We can understand why Northeast is still dreaming of peace even when her tormentors had been declared ‘technically defeated’ more than four years ago. This also reveals the true reason why the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had been on strike for months on issues that can be resolved within few hours. Nigeria’s problem is fundamentally that of leadership. What happened in the Aso Villa can be best read in story books or watched in war films. But unfortunately, it has become a reality show. No doubt, it has found its way into the history curriculum that will be taught to the unborn generations. As long as we continue to allow the Country to be run by unelected ‘presidents’, there are bound to be many somersaults on our many trajectories to economic development and political stability. 

The harm has been done, nevertheless, President MuhammaduBuhari should prove to Nigerians, and to the world, that he is in charge. He should do so by clipping the growing wings of Sabiu Tunde Yusuf and his ilk within his administration. He should re-assert himself as a husband to Mrs Aisha, the First Lady, and possibly retire her to the ‘other room’ if she truly belongs to it. He should investigate, as the President, the trigger happy gun shooters within the precinct of the Presidential Villa and makethem to account for such violation. This is very important. If such is allowed to re-occur and becomes a norm, it will be difficult to discern the sound of terrorists’ gunshots from that of the Aide-de-Camps of the President or First Lady or Sabiu. It is unnecessary to act presidentially when one is not, and has the constitutional right to contest for the presidency. Meanwhile, Mrs Aisha and Sabiu should be patient and wait for their turn to contest for the position come 2023. Before 2023, about three years to come President Buhari should not only be seen as ruling the Country de-jure, he should also be seen as the man in charge. He has three years left to right the wrongs of his government and leave behind an enduring and a good legacy. We direct our prayers to Almighty God to help Mr President to discharge his duty responsibly.

Abdulkadir Salaudeen writes from Federal University, Gashua.

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