There is more to the dress rehearsal of Mama Taraba, as some call Aisha Alhassan, when she uttered what others thought was blasphemy. She had just set in motion what may become routine in the 2019 political sweepstakes. She said she would poohpooh Buhari and pitch her tent with her mentor, Atiku Abubakar, in the next election cycle.
Not longer after, Atiku threw his own salvo straight at the heart of the Buhari presidency. Some may call it whining, some may call it wise, but what a way to use alienation to launch a political campaign. He let it be known that Buhari threw him out the window. He was defenestrated.
Up to the time of writing, the presidency has ignored the wealthy man from Adamawa State. They probably know he said the truth and are happy the man is sulking. After all, Atiku never rejoiced over the Buhari victory, and he deployed his resources and machine to fluff his momentum. The “change” engine was, in spite of Atiku, revving gloriously to Aso Rock.
Yet, the nation saw Atiku with him a few times after he won the polls. He once called Buhari “the father of the nation.” Winston Churchill’s close friend, Lord Beaverbrook, made the immortal lines: “any man with a will to power can’t make friends.” President Truman was asked about loyalty in Washington and he said, “if you want a friend, buy a dog.”
This is no time to shed tears for Atiku. Neither is it time to caution Buhari on his capacity to betray those who toiled for him. What Atiku and his hireling just did was to show a trend that few writers or even politicians are prepared to touch. The political class is now in a vanguard I want to call The Deathwatch. It is morbid vigil that began when his health began to flag.
The physical side of this vigil seems to have disappointed quite a few who expected the Yar’adua experience. They knew if the man passed on, they would immediately begin manoeuvring for 2019. But it sets the stage for a different kind of deathwatch: for the end of the Buhari presidency.
This means they want him not to run in 2019. And if he runs, they want to explore the possibilities of scuttling him. If he says he would run, many would raise questions about his health. Are Nigerians ready to abide a president whose health status is nebulous?
He spent more time in 2017 under health watch and in hospital than he did working the perennial maladies of this land: poverty, illiteracy, infrastructure deficit, corruption, power, etc. It was a case of a sick man being asked to cure the sick. The physician had to heal himself first. But no one is sure of the state of the physician. Or how far he can go. Will he be able to run a campaign, make whistle stops in Taraba Monday, and fly a turbulent chopper into Ile-Ife on Tuesday?
The APC as a party kids itself that it exists. It is a warren of caves and tunnels without exits and entrances. A chaos. Buhari is the last person anyone should give a party to chair. There are as many factions as many can guess. Buhari, often selfish and aloof, left the party from the very beginning to careen out of his control.
He is unflappable in chaos. He sees it as an ascetic virtue, beloved of the Almighty, so long as his position is secure. Hence, he never succeeded to hold a party together in the past, including the CPP he took away from its parent ANPP. It was supposed to help his ego and ambition to be president.
APC grew into a hodgepodge that worked to the extent it put him in power. He amassed bright and successful men on his cabinet and left them at the mercy of a legislature riddled by men and women more interested in their fairy-tale earnings than the good of the land. So, he has performed without grit, vision or cunning, and Saraki and Company has turned the National Assembly into a powerhouse of resistance within the party.
That is why there is a deathwatch within the APC for his presidency. It is no cheering news if he wants to quit in 2019. The damage is done. The party is damned if he runs, and also damned if he does not.
There are two types of watchers in the party. We have sycophants who want to be annointed by him, in case he decides to retire to his quiescent Daura home. Prominent here is the diminutive governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El Rufai. He calls himself and others like him Buharists. They see the president’s world view as Buharism. I am waiting for someone to define it. Buharism means nothing other than personality cult. If, as some say, he embodies a fight against corruption alone.
It would have made sense if he had a method other than insist on Magu and watch while his closest aides battle to the death under his indifferent eye. If it is handling the economy, he has no vision. On compassion, he has failed as the herdsman saga demonstrate. If it means he has a cult of lower class faithful who think he can walk on water, then he is entitled to his fanatics.
Let us not forget that he could not walk on water when he trekked some showy distance in Daura to his come and enjoyed mouthfuls of ram during sallah break. He did not only cancel another FEC meeting, he did not “walk on water” in Benue where huge swaths of land drowned under a heavenly squall, snuffing lives and destroying livelihoods.
Another septuagerian like him, Donald Trump of the United States, visited Houston twice. His vice presidents also did hard labour. So, the non-Buharists, like Atiku, already want to serve notice that they will run in 2019 elections.
If Buhari runs, will men like Atiku pull out of the party and reduce APC to the shell that Buhari made of the ANPP and CPC? This is no good news for the nation when APC carpet baggers will return “home” to stir an already broiling pot.
We are heading for a political season that will titillate and frighten. It is a quicksand; the sort history always provides when a big man quits without a system. It is one of the trapdoors of charisma. A charismatic personality, or one that generates such excitement, sees himself as the purpose of all things. He equates himself with the society.
The issue with Buhari is that he is living in illusion. He has ruined his party and the consequence will become clear before long. Meanwhile, those who are on deathwatch will have to undertake a long vigil. The man may be enjoying the glories of office so much that he may want a second term. After all, El Rufai, who may not be sincere about it, says he wants him to run again.
Buhari may be feeling like a character in Joseph Conrad’s novel Nostromo. A big bird circles over him when he is sleeping, hoping the man is a potential carcass. Getting up and stretching his body, he tells the bird in sardonic triumph, “I am not yet dead.”