Last week, Senator Philip Aduda, who represents the FCT in the Senate, advertised a terrifying idea to the Red Chamber. He attempted to get the legislature to cast off its rubber stamp status by treading a path that could’ve led to their political demise if contemplated four or seven years ago, when most of the politicians were jumping on President Muhammadu Buhari’s coattail for electoral victory and performing to retain their access to the Villa. Even the whispering of what Aduda sold, the threat of impeaching the president, was unthinkable then.
Aduda represents a constituency that ought to be the safest piece of land in the country. But the FCT’s slow-motioned descent into a habitat of horror stories, with bandits and terrorists baring their fangs to frighten the residents and visitors, should’ve been enough to power his sudden dissidence. However, as the minority leader of the chamber, and official poster-child of the opposition, his demonstration of concern about the nation’s security lapses has been framed as the bidding of the opposition, and it’s already being drowned by partisan allegiances.
What the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, shut out wasn’t even an impeachment motion it was a warning shot to stir the Presidency. Aduda, in his own admission, merely set out to “give the president an ultimatum to resolve the issues of insecurity and give an impeachment notice if the demands are not met,” and the refusal to have him heard provoked him and other PDP senators to walk out of the chamber.
But this gathering storm around Buhari, even if warranted, is propelled by something crude and it’s not the politicians’ patriotic desire to save the country. It’s the opportunism sparked by the expanding political irrelevancy of President Buhari as he approaches the end of his tenure in office. The lawmakers, including Aduda, had watched the country disintegrate over the past seven years as non-state actors terrorise the country from Abia to Zamfara, but couldn’t gather the sudden guts to impeach the president.
The lawmakers also knew the bucks always stop at Buhari’s desks but were fixated on his appointees, from service chiefs and heads of MDAs who had failed the people, while Buhari basked in his imperial privilege of evading scrutinies and unbothered. They didn’t kick when a massacre was masterminded in Zaria, and neither were they alarmed to invite the president to their Chamber when terrorists and bandits exhibited more monopoly on violence than even the armed forces across the country. They knew when he became a paper tiger, but weren’t moved because their political business was booming.
The stars of this threat of impeachment were invisible when Nigeria began to burn under their watch for fear of being isolated from the political dining table and denied executive privileges dispensed from Buhari’s Aso Rock. The ex-lawmaker, Dr Abdulmumin Jibrin, was a victim of this power play in his days at the House of Representatives. He rushed to expose the National Assembly’s criminal padding of the national budgets, and sought protection from both the Nigerian public, fellow lawmakers, and the executive, but found himself on an island of despair, betrayed by the government that promised to fight corruption. He was ruffling the very feathers that hide the fowl’s rump–our systemic corruption–and that must’ve been one of his hardest lessons in politics.
The reason for this 11th-hour dysphoria by the PDP senators is that they can escape Dr. Jibrin’s fate at this point. Buhari is now the aging lion of a pride about to kick him out, and his political neutralisation has long begun. Even the presidential flag-bearer of his party emerged without his blessings, defying the calculated conspiracy to stop him. The lawmakers know he won’t be returning next year, and that he doesn’t possess the resources to remain relevant outside Aso Rock.
Strangely, Buhari was that politician whose photographs even members of the opposition parties in the North used to include on their campaign posters to show the voters that they weren’t his adversaries, and it was a strategy that tamed the president’s waning cult in the region. He took power frighteningly deified, so much that even well-intentioned observations about his political transgressions could signal the wake of one’s political ostracism, and he’s preparing to leave pitiably demystified.
The president’s status in the APC pride is why a low-level pride-mate, Adamu Bulkachuwa, an All Progressives Congress (APC) senator, has agreed with the opposition senators’ threat to impeach him, and that it would prove to the president that they had the constitutional might to “pull his ears,” and to get him to “show that he still cares”. This is convenient to say because, for the first time since 2003, Buhari’s posters won’t be needed to win an election in his constituency, and so their rebellion is a well-timed political strategy.
The senators rushing to throw Buhari under the bus now could’ve done so when he still had many years to care about the office, and couldn’t have risked their undermined rage. Whatever havocs they imagine as the consequences of Buhari’s indifference to the plight of Nigerians have long been wreaked, and even the president has shown that he’s eager to return to where he was before May 29, 2015.
One notable political opportunist who’s rushed to be a star of the image-laundering impeachment drama is APC’s Senator Elisha Abbo who, on defecting from the PDP in 2020 read to the Red Chamber, “It is worthy of note that in the history of Nigeria’s democracy, specifically from 1999 to date, no president has paid attention to the welfare of Nigerians like President Buhari”.
Abbo’s glorification of Buhari’s legacy which, even at that point, had been a documented misery, was a glaring ploy to seek political protection and retain his seat at the table after becoming a pariah for assaulting a nursing mother repeatedly at a sex toy shop in Abuja a year earlier. He had been fiercely vilified in the media, the Senate, and the civil society, and the entire nation was counting on the widely-followed court proceedings to nail his political coffin when he rushed to join the APC.
Nobody who had witnessed power transitions in Nigeria since the return to democracy would’ve declared Buhari as the one who prioritised “the welfare of Nigerians” the most as Senator Abbo did less than two years ago. All the security compromises Abbo, Aduda and colleagues are citing now to support the threat to remove Buhari were there then and this pronounced. The difference this time is that Buhari is no longer a threat to their political interests and, with the elections just a few months away, they know there are no more Ghana-Must-Go bags to share before a new president emerges.