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The farewell from Buhari’s fair-weather friends

Protect me from my friends, now that I know all my enemies – Gregory Isaacs Outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari should be realising by now that…

Protect me from my friends, now that I know all my enemies – Gregory Isaacs

Outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari should be realising by now that the last ride to Daura would be a cold, dreary and lonely one. Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina are about to experience what it means when, as Reuben Abati once said – the phones are no longer ringing. For making a last ditch attempt to redeem the cost of governance, Buhari lost the last trickle of friends who installed him and stood solidly behind him. As the days go by, he’s likely to feel like fish doped in water. Why? Even maverick Festus Keyamo is unhappy with his boss and there’s almost nothing he, the boss could do about it. A sad denouement. 

Before moving to Aso Rock, Buhari’s home stay was Kaduna, once the capital of northern Nigeria and the headquarters of northern power. In the last weeks, Kaduna had become the hotbed of northern opposition to its once venerated contemporary leader.  

Just as Nyesom Wike turned Port Harcourt into the headquarters of opposition to its own candidate, Atiku Abubakar, Nasir El-Rufai, an APC stalwart turned overnight against Buhari. By the last count, he had nine other APC governors on his side. They include the most unusual of the president’s quondam friends, Kogi’s Yahaya Bello. In the first years of Buhari’s emergence, Bello could have cleaned Aisha Buhari’s kitchen and made Buhari’s bed if she had allowed him as proof of eternal loyalty to the president.

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He was there when Aisha’s son, Yusuf was airlifted to Germany for surgery and made it a point to be at the airport whenever Buhari returned from his medical vacations in the UK. In response, Aisha mobilised her former ADC to help Bello consolidate his re-election, even going to Lokoja with El-Rufai to kneel for Kogites to keep Bello, the classic underperformer.

Bello had every reason to play Brutus in the unfolding Buhari tragedy. Lately, Aisha appeared either unable or unwilling to help shield Bello’s wife and cousin from the hands of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. As the elders say that the death that kills one’s contemporaries speaks to one in parables. Going by the recklessness of the Bello tragedy in Lokoja, it is only logical that he is expecting a big move except he curries the favour of Buhari’s successor, thereby preserving himself.

The trajectory of Nasir’s opposition volte-face is not totally unexpected, except of course to those unaccustomed to the chronicle of his loyalties. It is a story well chronicled in Obasanjo’s controversial memoirs, an eternal haunting memory to Abubakar Atiku and should be a good lesson for Nasir’s new political bride – Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

When it comes to loyalty, El-Rufai is fast building the fame of a Catholic condom. From eulogising Atiku, his accidental civil servant mentor; El-Rufai graduated into excruciating his former BPE boss and presently eternal enemy. The Kaduna governor has nothing respectable to say about Obasanjo who made him a minister. From dubbing Muhammadu Buhari ‘unelectable’, El-Rufai rose to becoming the man’s most visible supporter and now an enemy of those he vows are misleading the president.  

From antagonising Bola Ahmed Tinubu as a loathsome political godfather of the South West who ought to retire rather than view to lead Nigeria, El-Rufai has bought himself a permanent spot in the APC candidate’s travels. He was one of the Tinubu boys at Chatham House and now says he would rally the North for him at all costs at Saturday’s polls. Last week, while accusing Buhari of plotting an interim government, El-Rufai attempted to install a parallel regime in Kaduna.  

The disagreement with Buhari is as laughable as it is comical. Riding on the crest wave of frugality, Buhari conned his admirers into parting with their widow’s mites to get the APC ticket including, contrary to character; genuflecting before the emir of Bourdillon, then seen as a corrupt kingmaker. Politicians of questionable motives and character literally bankrolled his second term. Buhari knew full well that having punched below his weight in performance, there was no way he could have earned the ticket of his party for a second term, but they allowed him to repeat his failed class.

Now that Buhari is counting his exit days, he looks bent on a redemption campaign the crux of which is to take money and godfatherism out of Nigeria’s politics. He must have relapsed into his philosophy of restoring trust and credibility in the political process.  

This must be one of the reasons that informed his naira redenomination policy on the eve of an election in which he is not qualified to run as a candidate. His friends say he was acting on precedent. In the last election, the Bourdillon home of Bola Tinubu, his party’s candidate suddenly became a sanctuary for two stationary bullion vans on Election Day when movement of goods and persons was restricted.  

Buhari’s dynamically inactive anti-corruption agencies could not have swung in to investigate Tinubu without portraying their piper as someone destroying the vault redeeming his historical electoral failure. He let the infraction slide. In Kano, Abdullahi Ganduje was filmed stuffing dollar bribes into every orifice of his being, yet not only did he escape investigation; he ‘won’ a second term in office. Last week, Ganduje described Buhari as a failure even as he has not missed a single Tinubu campaign rally. Ganduje has been as loyal to his benefactors as Nasir has been to his. Both Nasir and Ganduje say they are not looking for anything from Tinubu.

Buhari must have known that a man capable of commandeering two bullion vans in an election cycle in which he was not running is capable of cleaning the nation’s vault to one in which he is a major candidate. The easiest way to clip the wings of such a powerhouse would be to impose a half-baked misanthropic monetary policy with the same historical sloppiness and maximum pain as the one he did in 1984.  

Besides Tinubu has campaigned like an opponent rather than the ruling party candidate. He also riled against Buhari’s electoral failure until he ‘redeemed and enthroned’ him. There were APC governors like Bello using special purpose vehicles (apologies to Atiku) to advance the party’s luck at tomorrow’s exercise.  

Buhari’s way of effectively checkmating them was to redesign the naira, make it scarce and inaccessible to power brokers and the general public with stringent conditions. His worst mistake was not taking his frenemies in his party into confidence.

El-Rufai saw through the plot and used his notoriety and his closeness to the media to launch a blitzkrieg of campaigns aimed at undermining the man he helped install. The Kaduna governor broke protocol by denying consultation with the Villa on Buhari’s compromise by announcing Buhari’s moves and rallying fellow APC governors as legal gang up at the courts failed. He attempted to foist a parallel government by issuing counter-directives to Buhari’s monetary policy and corralled fellow disgruntled governors into the rebellion. He made himself the arrowhead and spokesman of the internal opposition while maintaining his unflinching loyalty for the person of Muhammadu Buhari.

One of the two primary arguments of these in-house rebels was that the monetary redesign policy was causing untold hardship on the people. That may be true, but it is just one of the spate of misanthropic policies and gross inefficiencies of the Buhari and APC failures to hit the famous man on the street. All the others had happened without the governors giving a hoot, prompting the question – what makes this different.

The second lie of these Tartuffe governors was that Buhari was in contravention of a substantive Supreme Court order, which is far from the truth. While the Supreme Court had issued a time-specific interim order, validity expired before Buhari’s last concession with the N200 note. For once, Buhari is not in contempt of a court order. If he were, it would not be the first time. For once, the Supreme Court justices deftly saved its face by not issuing an outright interlocutory injunction opting for an order instead.

Like the old soldier that he is, Buhari refused to be intimidated. Not being re-electable, the president does not seem to care what happens to Nigeria when he leaves Aso Rock nor is he intimidated by a gang-up of governors when he had witnessed and participated in the planning and execution of military coups. He stuck to his guns. As a pretend friend of the talakawa, Buhari must have seen his popularity rating drop to its lowest when his convoy and helicopter was pelted in Kano as well as his home state, Katsina.

As Nigeria takes another electoral plunge tomorrow, if, as bookmakers have predicted his party ‘wins’ the race, Tinubu would have to accept that his latter-day supporters with chequered loyalty track records are nothing but fair-weather friends safeguarding pecuniary interests. 

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