Aside the popular phrase, ‘The Audacity of Courage’, only very few phrases would merit a perfect fit in the thread of any narration composed to render logical explanation to the willingness of the First Lady, Hajiya Aisha Buhari, to subdue her quiet and reclusive life and take on a perceived powerful bloc on the corridors of power alleged to have a formidable grip on the levers of power. Even more tasking is the right descriptive terminology to qualify the level of her displeasure with the activities of this powerful forces christened cabal that spurred her to appear on the world stage where she first brought out the issue via an interview with the BBC Hausa Service. Thereon, she intimated the world about the presence of few powerful men of supreme influence with divergent focus and the danger this poses to the success of the president’s change agenda.
If this move can answer to the description of an insider instigating an uprising of a sort of anticabal insurgency against forces resident in the inner recess of power architecture who command some impressive degree of proximity to the central figure, then only such as command an equal or superior measure of proximity fits the role of the lead force in this anti-cabal crusade. In her first outing, the first lady only stopped at drawing national attention to the existential reality of this powerful group and the likely heavy electoral cost the ruling party would pay in the next election if they are not stopped on their tracks.
It was a hot bazooka from the first lady which shook the pillars of power to the foundation and as such, it took no less a personality of the president to respond. He dismissed the allegation with a jocular refrain that sought to make light the situation. Since then there had been occasional flashes of unease between the feisty and the bursting office of the first lady and the indistinct apparition of this powerful bloc. However, in her most recent outing on the issue, the first lady wore a more determined mood to blow the roof off the heads of the alleged cabal.
Speaking at a leadership summit in Abuja recently, she threw a challenge to Nigerians. “Our votes were 15.4 million in the last elections and after that only for us to be dominated by two people , if 15.4 million people can bring in a government and only for the government to be dominated by two people or three people, where are the men of Nigeria? Where are the Nigerian men? What are you doing? She queried.
Perhaps, for the sensitivity of this issue, only the president was reported last week to have responded to this lethal frontal jab from the first lady among the hierarchy of the ruling party, challenging her and all those who fly the cabal kite to furnish their allegations with evidence and names-dropping.
“I challenge those alleging to show single evidence. What they are saying is different from what is happening. They should come out and say those things they feel were stage managed by the cabal. What the cabal forces me to do. They should mention just one thing,” Buhari stated.
The opposition party, the PDP, which had been ferreting for a cheap shot to deliver to the ruling party, could barely hold itself from responding to the president’s poser. Speaking through the spokesperson of the Atiku Abubakar Presidential Campaign Organisation, Segun Showunmi, the party said, “I want to beg Her Excellency, Aisha Buhari to shatter the glass ceiling and mention those two people that have hijacked our president so that we can either go or beg them or we fight them and liberate the president of Nigeria from their stranglehold. Maybe in a remaining couple of months that he has he will be able to be the Buhari that people wanted him to be. We want to know them so that we can write their names in the black book of history that they were the ones that destroyed the Buhari presidency.”
Lest we forget, the first lady is not alone in this crusade. Earlier on, the fearless and deeply ascetic Customs boss, Col Hammed Ali (rtd), also hinted on the existence of a certain powerful group in the corridors of power.
“We have no problem with our president because he is on course. But I must confess here that we have been infused by people who were not part of this journey and these people are the ones that call the shots today. That is why we are derailing. If we had the right people who had the vision and have been there in and out, I believe that we will not be going the way we are going today. These people that are calling the shots today were not there and when the chips are down, they will disappear and melt within the system. We are the ones that will be asked to account for what happened”, Ali stated.
Historically, cabals are not strange in our polity but, unlike previous cases where the range of influence and control of the cabals are within safe limits of tolerance, agreement and working spirit with the office of the first ladies in previous regimes, this one has seen occasional flare-ups and incongruent working spirit, diagonal and uncentralised to the agenda of the ruling party -at least as claimed by the advocates of the anti –cabal crusade. The picture reveals an imagery where the bigger central cabal resident in the power summit relate with fungi -imperfecti in the system – a surfeit of big and small time players whose interests concentrically align with the cabal- networking a coordinated arrangement that keeps the interest of the bigger cabal afloat and tight. A quick pick on this provides abundant reason why President Buhari, despite appointing Ibrahim Magu to the EFCC in November 2015, has not been able to get him confirmed by the Senate, notwithstanding the combined effort, preference and might of his office and that of his vice, Osibanjo.
The president’s poser –demanding for evidence of cabal’s imprimatur on some of his actions- doesn’t mean there are no few powerful people around him. Rather, he is saying that no evidence to show that he was influenced by them. However, it also doesn’t mean there are no egregious pop-ups in the system which do not have the direct imprimatur and approval of the president but are directed by unseen hands powerful enough to bend institutional procedures for self-interest, even if it hurts the image of the ruling party. Incidences abound that add flavour to the recital of the existence of powerful hidden hands operating behind the scene whose modus operandi is at variance with the intent of the president.
The Abdul Rasheed Maina saga for instance- his reinstatement into the civil service with promotional status through the back channel; the events that led to the sack of the former DSS boss, Alhaji Lawal Daura; the CBN secret recruitment of children of powerful bloc in violation of established procedures; the overriding of the president’s letter to the National Assembly seeking the confirmation of Magu by an officer in a subordinate agency; 2016 missing budget, are valid testimonies of power bloc influences.