Aso Rock’s Waiting Game, By Dele Agekameh
At the weekend, the president finally put a call through to some of his aides, particularly Femi Adesina, one of his spokesmen. During the call, the president was said to have dismissed those peddling unholy rumours about his state of health as “mischief makers”. He was said to have insisted that he was getting back to form and would soon return home. Obviously, that is good news.
In fact, it is wretched of any human being on earth to wish another person dead knowing fully well that death is the ultimate end of all mortals. It is the inevitable due we all must pay at one time or another during the course of life. Except that in Nigeria, being what we are, we practice what is essentially “do or die” politics.
The president’s health has been a topical issue for some time. Last week this column featured a piece titled: “Buhari: The Price of Ill-health”. It was centered on the goings-on in Aso Rock, the Nigerian Presidential Villa, since President Muhammadu Buhari left the shores of Nigeria on Thursday, January 19, 2017, on a supposed “10-day” vacation in England. The column took a cursory look at the way some aides of the president were fighting tooth and nail to downplay the severity or otherwise of the president’s illness by consistently selling a dummy to Nigerians on the issue. It is very obvious that rather than come clean to the public on the true situation of things, the presidency may have been economical with the truth.
First, they said the president was only going to London on vacation and that he would be back at his desk on Monday, February 6, 2017. As the date drew nearer, the president himself transmitted another letter to the National Assembly to the effect that he needed more time to get through the medical tests he was undertaking in London.
The storyline again changed. This time, the dummy sold to the public was that the president’s physicians had advised him to take further rest. At that juncture, his handlers attempted a bold-face by coming out to tell the public that it is only the president who can determine when he would eventually come back to Nigeria. And, of course, that is predicated on the decision of his physicians, as it were.
The crux of the matter is that beyond the façade going on in the presidency, it is apparent that all may not be well in the Villa. And of course, this may have to do with the true position of the president’s health.
What followed this was the call for prayers to enable the president to quickly get back on his feet and return to work. In this regard, almost all the mosques and churches in Nigeria have been co-opted into one huge prayer vanguard to seek God’s face in the matter. The highlight was a recent event in Kano where a close friend of the president allegedly put a call to him in London. The event was a joint prayer session organised by the state government to offer prayers for the president’s speedy recovery.
Once the president got on line, the caller promptly told him where he was and after some banter, he handed over the phone to Abdullahi Ganduje, the Kano State governor, to have a word with the president. At this time, Ganduje upped the game by putting the discussion on speaker. Perhaps, this was to enable the attendees at the prayer session to listen first hand to the voice of the president from far away London. It may also have been to convince them that the president was still alive, contrary to insinuations making the rounds that he was gravely ill or that he had even passed on in London.
Trust Nigerians to want to convert any opportunity into advantage or political mileage, as the case may be. From that moment, the airwaves and newspapers sprang to their feet, and what followed was a deluge of news, analysis and commentaries that the president, indeed, spoke with Ganduje. That must have been the hidden agenda of the president’s close friends. You may call that sycophancy, but the truth of the matter is that, that singular call has given the president and his handlers some mileage in trying to assure the public that their principal is alive in London. Therefore, last weekend’s call to Adesina may have just been the icing on the cake.
Some other Nigerians with means even took the thing a notch further by embarking on get-well pilgrimages to London. They all came back with sweet tales of how the president was doing well. The crux of the matter is that beyond the façade going on in the presidency, it is apparent that all may not be well in the Villa. And of course, this may have to do with the true position of the president’s health.
According to impeccable sources (sorry, the controversial American president, Donald Trump, recently embarked on a no-win crusade to stamp out “our sources” from the journalists’ lexicon), this was what necessitated the recent change of guards at the Villa. It is alleged that some powerful people want the president out of the Villa at all costs for some selfish reasons using his current state of health as cover-up.
President Buhari is said to be personally worried about the new twists around his health status, so much that he had probably toyed with the idea of putting other things on hold to attend to his health. But the cabal in the presidency will not want to hear anything like that.
Many of them are said to be disgruntled politicians, particularly from the North, the president’s homestead, who believe that they are not benefitting from the Buhari presidency. But the president’s close aides and acquaintances do not want him to move an inch from the Villa, and that is why they have thrown a protective cordon around him. This is probably out of fierce loyalty and not really because of the benefits accruable to them with his presence in the place.
By and large, President Buhari is said to be personally worried about the new twists around his health status, so much that he had probably toyed with the idea of putting other things on hold to attend to his health. But the cabal in the presidency will not want to hear anything like that. They do not want to lose the presidency to any other person other than their own man. Among members of the cabal are some personal aides, ministers and friends of the president who have his ears.
The game plan of the cabal is to keep Yemi Osinbajo as acting president until such a time when the president becomes medically fit enough to return to his desk. As it is, in the ranks of those who are eyeing the presidency after Buhari come 2019, three northerners are said to be seriously in contention. They are: Atiku Abubakar, former vice president; Sule Lamido, former governor of Jigawa State; and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, former governor of Kano State, now a Senator of the Federal Republic. Among the trio, the former governor of Kano State, is said to enjoy the support of a wide spectrum of people across the country, particularly in the north.
If Kwankwaso sails through, it would mean the end of the road for the loquacious Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, who has been positioning himself for the Villa all the while. There are many things working against El-Rufai. Those who are close to him say his greatest undoing is that he is very slippery, a situation that has made people to rightly or wrongly classify him as consistently inconsistent and not a politician in the real sense of the word.
Before his recent trip to London, it was alleged that the cabal around the president tried to dissuade him from giving the vice president the power of attorney to act in his absence. It was said to have been a thug of war. At the end, Buhari was said to have stood his ground and transmitted power to Osinbajo. Even at that, beyond the shuttles, meetings and razzmatazz all over the place, what important documents has Osinbajo been able to append his signature to since he became acting president? That is the question many Nigerians may want an answer to.
For now, it is still a waiting game as Nigerians eagerly anticipate the return of their president to his duty post.
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