It was the first time the president became a party man since 2015. He had been playing president since he was sworn in. Muhammadu Buhari just realised that his famous mantra about being for everyone and for no one was a fantasy of idealistic perversion.
You cannot be for and against simultaneously. You cannot bring to politics what Achebe describes in his A Man of The People as the “niceties and delicate refinements that belonged elsewhere.” Buhari is not a young starry-eyed idealist like the Odili in Achebe’s political novel. Faced with the tumultuous reality of 2019, he knows he has to align or fall. He has chosen an ally and thrown his weight in the ring. Where else to do that than the hot button issue of the APC. Whether to align with the perfect stooge Odigie-Oyegun and his bumbling governors or stick with the beckons of the rule of law and Asiwaju Tinubu.
He chose the latter. He became, to all intents and purposes, a party man. He announced himself an APC wheel horse again. He has to be and he has to show temper and take a risk. He had shut down early in his flush of victory in 2015.
He was quiet when Bukola “Eleyinmi” Saraki overthrew his authority as party leader, tossed him to the dumpster and took over the legislature in cahoots with the enemy party. They also defied the party spirit de corps and rules of the law chambers.
Buhari caved in with silence, and his silence emboldened the hawks who beat their chests in public and in the shadows for riding their way over the law and decency in a nocturnal subversion. They became great and majestic in impunity.
We welcome back Buhari into party politics. But it was politics that drew him more than he drew politics. He is in the throes of a second-term dynamic, much less than he enthuses over the turmoil of the soap box. Buhari is an example of a man who loves power but loathes the way to its tower. He does not love the smooching, the coaxing, the sly manoeuvres, the underhand rhetoric or the Mephistophelian intrigues.
So, he shied away from its entrails of a pig. Now, he has to step into the sty. Buhari is now ready to get dirty, the so-called mister clean must swim with the sharks and soar with the hawks. Where there are carcasses, he must abide the vultures.
The president shocked not only those who supported the elongation of Oyegun’s stay but those who had flayed it. He said Oyegun should not get a year extension. The party should subject itself to the law. He was saying this is a nation of laws and not of men. It is not about Oyegun or what the governors want. It is about the groundnorm; it is about a principle higher than the giants of the party.
But the party titans who coddle the perfect stooge have fallen into a strange position. How do they openly confront a sitting president, especially one who has not rattled them into an open fisticuff? He has not played an Obasanjo, who bullied governors into sheep of bleating obedience nor a Jonathan, who rallied them with powerful aides and the dangle of carrots.
No one is sure how Buhari will fight an intra-party warfare. Is he going to coax, or bully? An excellent reporting from The Nation’s northern bureau chief and one of the best reporters of this generation, Yusuf Alli, unveiled the drama in the dark room of the APC. Muiz Banire and Governor Akeredolu, both enablers of the stooge, argued against the rule of law and for Oyegun’s extension.
Both SANs found it difficult to counter a resurgent Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, also a SAN, who entrapped them with a precedent. He cautioned the duo of Akeredolu and Banire not to be carried away by their fervour of the gerrymanderer. These men are not passengers of the law. They are scavengers of power. That makes them no better than the Jonathan-era governors who wanted 16 to be superior to 19. They wanted to subvert the rule by overturning numbers and falling foul of simple arithmetic. In the APC case, they are trying to make a rule through fiction. They are trying to dethrone the rule of law with a precedent. But Osinbajo reminded them that a recent precedent in Kano makes a mincemeat of their own precedent. The APC hierarchy is facing a precedent of law versus a precedent of impunity.
The precedent of law took place in Kano APC when the party, just like Banire, Akeredolu and their cohorts, decided to impose a caretaker committee. The Kano State House of Assembly candidate that resulted, Dorawa-Sallau, was rejected by the Supreme Court. The PDP candidate who came second in the election was handed the legislative seat. Kano APC has been sulking since. The implication? Buhari could win the 2019 poll and the Supreme Court could give Aso Rock to PDP. I can see the PDP smacking its lips. It is APC’s worst-case scenario since the Supreme Court cannot upturn its own precedent.
You can understand why a Buhari becomes a politician again. No one wants to be an Esau giving his birth right to Jacob. Osinbajo told his opponents that retaining Oyegun is a risk they don’t want. That is one impunity PDP will be praying for. If that scenario works, PDP will be an agbero who reaps where he did not sow.
Hell has no fury
Pope Francis recently denied that he foreswore the existence of hell. The report went viral. What he did not deny was hell but as a place of fire. Of course, there is hell in the words of scripture. But it is not a place of fire. It is one of the great errors of orthodoxy. The Pope probably teased it and chafed cowardly at its backlash. Christians have accepted an orthodoxy they cannot defend in Bible. When God created the world, he did not create a place of fire? If it was so important, Moses, who wrote the Pentateuch would have told us. Hell in both Hebrew or Greek means grave or bowel of the earth. The phrase hellfire in translation from Gehenna was what Jesus referred to in Mark about the place where the fire never stops. It was a perpetual place of sacrifice outside ancient Jerusalem. The children sacrificed died there as against the concept of eternity in fire. He even used the phrase “if your hand offends thee, cut it off” as metaphor since the kingdom of God does not accept imperfect beings. Again, why did Jesus go there? He himself said he would be in “the belly of the earth,” for three days just like Jonah was in the belly of a whale. Amos wrote that when God’s wrath comes, some people will “dig into hell.” If hell is the place of punishment, why will the wicked have to dig if it is prepared or why would they go there if it is boiling? In revelation, John says “hell and death were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” If hell is fire, why will it be cast into it? Second death is different from the first mortal end in this life. To paraphrase Shakespeare, hell has no fury. Not to a God whose mercy endures forever.
‘A lot of man’
Recently I had a conversation with a few political junkies over an event in which Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was going to be the toast. A fellow appraised the crowd size and quality and remarked, “that crowd is a lot.” In reply, I quipped, “Asiwaju is a lot of man.”
We witnessed that March 29 as we have done in the past decade at the colloquium held to mark his birthday. This time it was his 66th. The event is seen as a sort of political tourism in Nigeria as well as fest of ideas, a pause to test the pulse of the nation.
But for many, it is a place to be seen. The political who’s who attends. Governors stroll in, and so too their aides. Ministers waltz in. We could not miss the rollcall. For governors, see the list: Aregbesola, Akeredolu, Tambuwal, Abubakar, Ajimobi, Okorocha, Amosun et al. The ministers could not be missed even in their backrow: Rotimi Amaechi, Kayode Fayemi, mouthy Lai Mohammed and bellwether Babatunde Raji Fashola, also former governor of example in Lagos and a moving spirit behind the colloquium. Of course, the host governor Akinwunmi Ambode. The traditional rulers from Ife to Lagos were royally conspicuous. Also political wheel horses like Segun Osoba. For the second time, president Buhari was unmistakable in the birthday, although it was his third appearance if we count his 2015 attendance.
The vice president stole the show as he ribbed the Jonathan-era corruption. His most potent attack being the N1 trillion heist that could have constructed most of the major roads in the country as well as the Second Niger bridge.
It is Nigeria’s momentous individual birthday fest, for the powerful to smooch and preen. It was for a lot of man, the Jagaban.