Home OPINION COLUMNISTS The Buhari/APC Mess, By Emmanuel Yawe

The Buhari/APC Mess, By Emmanuel Yawe

The change Nigerians yearned, even fought for, eventually came as an omelet on the breakfast table – the Senate Presidency. To the surprise, even embarrassment of many, President Buhari and the APC made a mess of eating it.
Buhari said he has nothing to do with it. I think that was the most naïve thing for an elected President to say. Buhari has been struggling these past thirteen years to be President of Nigeria. Was he doing it for a ceremony? Nigerians voted for him because he said and they saw that things were going wrong. He wanted change and Nigerians supported him because they felt he possessed the capacity to change things.
Can Buhari change things without legislative support? Certainly, no President under our current constitutional arrangement can do that. How then can he pretend not to be interested in what is going on in the senate?  The statement that he is not interested in the power tussle and will work with anybody elected to lead the legislature was the most reckless and ill informed thing to say. What if the Senators are planning to impeach him? Will he say what is going on there is not his problem and he cannot interfere with it?
Faced with a similar, even worse scenario, Shehu Shagari, the taciturn President elect in 1979 did not say anything. He moved.
Awolowo, his arch political foe was already on the move.
At the conclusion of the elections, Shagari’s party the NPN was in serious dilemma. He was President elect by mathematical interpretation – 12 2/3. His party had 36 Senators. The UPN had 28, the NPP 16, GNPP 8, PRP 7.  After he lost at the Supreme Court, an angry Awolowo was mobilizing the other parties to cripple Shagari’s government using the legislature. If all the other parties came together, his government would be still born.
Shagari quickened his steps. That was how the NPN/NPP accord came up. The NPP demanded a pond of flesh. First they wanted the Vice Presidency. Shagari refused to dump Ekwueme so they came down to Senate. Shagari refused to allow an opposition party to take control of the Legislature.  They settled for the House Speaker.
The struggle for Senate Presidency returned to an NPN thing. Joseph Tarka wanted it – had been promised it by Shagari after he lost the Presidential primaries. But after the elections, Shagari, the astute politician took a look at the figures and decided to reward the southern minorities in place of his friend Tarka. He broke his promise and turned his support for Joseph Wayas. He did it nicely and Tarka was in complete agreement with him. Alhaji Ishaku Ibrahim, the political strategist from Nassarawa State owes Nigerians an explanation as to how at Shagari’s behest he got Tarka to support Wayas.
At the negotiations with the NPP Shagari was on top. He told the NPN delegates what to concede and what to hold tightly. He did not call a press conference to give an account of what he was doing. He did not call a press conference to disclaim what he was not doing. He simply moved fast – stealthily.
If Buhari messed up the situation in the Senate, his party, the APC did worse. The normal thing in a democracy – parliamentary or presidential – is that when a party graduates from minority status to majority status, the minority leader is promoted. In our own case Senator George Akume who was minority leader ought to have been given a lift to the status of Senate President. In the same vein, Hon Gbajambila, the minority leader of the House of Representatives deserved elevation to the status of Speaker. For some strange reasons, the APC could not uphold this simple democratic convention. The party fumbled and bungled; it could not stand on principle to support Akume’s claim to Senate Presidency.
Another collateral blunder was the mumbo jumbo pronounced by its founding National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande; ‘the APC was not going to embark on zoning because it was invented by PDP’. Could a man, so high up tell such a bare faced lie?
The NPN started zoning, way back in 1978. The PDP copied it in 1999. The APC also copied it in 2014.
At the APC presidential primaries last year, the party had four aspirants viz Buhari, Atiku, Kwankwaso and Isaiah – all of them were northerners. Was this not zoning? In the search for a Vice Presidential candidate to run with Buhari, the party went for a suitable southerner, a Christian. The party fished out a Pastor from a big Church with marital connections with the Awolowo family and made sure Buhari posed for a picture with Pastor Adeboye, the head of Osinbanjo’s Church. Why didn’t Buhari pick Kwankwaso, Atiku or even Nda Isaiah who is a Christian? Is it not because all of them are northerners? Which APC is Akande telling us does not believe in zoning?
In 1978, Chief Awolowo made the tragic political miscalculation of picking Philip Umeadi a southern Christian as his running mate in the presidential race of 1979. The result was that his party was boxed into a tribal cocoon. In 1983, he did better by coming to Bauchi to pick a northern Muslim. If the great sage was taught a lesson in zoning, who is Akande to tell us that the policy is anachronistic and unprogressive?
With its present architecture, the Buhari government badly needs a northern Christian to lead one of its third arms. Senator Akume fitted the bill. I have said so before on this page. Why did Buhari and the APC shy away from giving him the chance?
Nigeria needs a strong leader with a capacity to hold us together and a strong party to act as a vehicle of national and rational mobilization.  Nigerians thought they had both in the Buhari/ APC tally. But at the first test, they messed everything up.
They handed the stage over to Yeriman Bakura, the man with the Taliban like beard. In the year 1999 he set this country on the slippery road to religious war by declaring Sharia as State law in his Zamfara state. He, it was who prepared the ground for some misguided young men to believe that theocracy is possible in Nigeria. The roots of Boko Haram are not too deep.
On the 9th of June, he raised a motion in the Senate which is bound to frustrate the change Nigerians voted for. [myad]

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