Twilight of the republic

President Muhammadu Buhari and Senate President, Bukola Saraki at an event recently.

Since our leaders have failed to learn from the past, they have currently embarked on a voyage of stretching the resilience of the nation and its people to the limit. To them, no calamitous consequences could attend this. They feel secure in the delusion that since the civil war could not dismember the nation, nothing else could. This is why when the victims of killer herdsmen cry for justice, they are ignored. It is the same way that those who agitate for restructuring are dismissed as national irritants. The beneficiaries of the warped polity send the subtle message to the oppressed that they have nowhere to go; they just have to learn to accept their bleak lot.

These injustices have not really precipitated an insurrection that provokes the searing memories of the civil war simply because it is the poor citizens of the country who are significantly their victims. Or could there have been the civil war if a member of the ruling class, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, had not considered himself as the embodiment of the persecution of the Igbo? Would the poor Igbo have resorted to secession as a means of ending the injustice being meted out to them by their fellow citizens?

But the country is taken to the precipice of crisis, and its heightened form, dismemberment when it is the members of the ruling clique who feel betrayed by their colleagues. Again, the civil war bears out this – did Odumegwu-Ojukwu call for arms because what was primarily at stake was the need to stop the mass killing of his people or that of redressing a personal insult of those beneath him transforming into his superiors?

Throughout history, the fact is the same – personal squabbles become national tragedies. In the dark days of military regimes in Africa, there were palace coups because some soldiers felt affronted by the arrogance of their colleagues.

Now, the brewing crisis between the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari and the Senate of Bukola Saraki poses a mortal danger to the continued existence of the nation. It has gone beyond recurrent disagreement as a staple of democracy. What we are faced with now is a smouldering fire that could imperil the nation’s democracy.

It is not a crisis instigated by external enemies to bring down the All Progressives Congress (APC) government. Rather, it began with Saraki bulldozing his way into the Senate presidency in total defiance of the expectations of the leaders of his party. Since the efforts to dislodge him by appeals and threats failed, Saraki has been subjected to a rash of corruption charges. Yes, Saraki may really be corrupt. But his prosecution has also been seen as not really part of efforts to genuinely fight corruption, but as a means of hobbling him for his defiance. It has been a long wait for this struggle to lead to the implosion of the party and trigger a national crisis. Until recently, the presidency seemed to be on a higher moral ground . And it was thus thought that Saraki would beg Buhari and the leaders of the APC for him to have peace. In fact, it was thought that there was no need for him to beg since his case was irredeemable – he should just resign.

But now either due to the bad advice emanating from his coterie of advisers or the low quality of mind of Buhari that has not prepared him for the leadership of a complex nation like Nigeria, Saraki has taken the high ground from him and his presidency. Buhari has found himself in this quandary because the charges of corruption he thought he could use to silence Saraki are also hanging on the necks of those in his presidency. Thus it is not only Saraki and his Senate that lack the right moral credentials to lead the citizens. Buhari and his presidency are complicit in this worsening moral crisis of the nation’s leadership.

But this is a fact that the Buhari presidency and its serenaders have refused to accept. They have thus branded everybody who tried to rouse them from the delusional notion that the government was on the right path as an enemy. But with the indictment that the government is afflicted with a disconnect from the aspirations of the citizens coming from Nasir El-Rufai, a leading light of the APC, we wonder how they would continue to sustain the canard of the APC government being the best thing that has ever happened to the country.

Now, Buhari and his presidency may have to consider the option of seeking peace with Saraki and his Senate. Feigning oblivion of the potential damage to his anti-corruption campaign, Buhari and his presidency may go to Saraki and his Senate to persuade them that Ibrahim Magu is indispensable to the anti-corruption agenda of the executive. He would need to convince them that Magu is not terrorising them because they failed to confirm his appointment as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Again, Buhari would need to persuade the Senate that the alleged malfeasance of Babachir Lawal should be glossed over. Since he wants these people badly, he would have to strike a deal that the Senate members should be exempted from the anti-corruption fight. Let those outside the Senate be hauled to the judges, but the National Assembly should be left alone even though its sanctity has been sullied by the many corrupt former governors and other erstwhile public officers sitting in it .

But would Buhari tell Saraki and his Senate to do their worst ? Would he listen to the advice of his learned special advisers that the executive is the numero uno and it can choose to ignore the opinion of the Senate on matters of governance? Buhari may agree with his aide that Magu can keep on acting even after he has been rejected twice by the Senate.

Buhari may not see the need to tell Customs Comptroller-General Hameed Ali that he should wear his uniform and meet the Senate. He may not come to terms with the fact that if at all he reached an agreement that wearing the customs uniform is below the dignity of Ali, the Senate was not part of it. Thus he may not tell Ali to wear his uniform and go to the Senate and defend his policies. Buhari’s legal advisers may tell him that since Ali has been able to convince him, he can equally persuade the Senate that his wearing the uniform of the customs from which he enjoys the perks of office is not only beneath him, there is no law compelling him to be so dressed. Buhari may not even consider the fact that serving a nation requires humility and sacrifice and if wearing the uniform is part of the sacrifice that Ali must make , it should not be too much for him if he genuinely wants to serve .

Or would Buhari opt for genuine compromise and seek peace with the Senate for the sake of the citizens who are waiting for good governance? The obvious danger is that if Buhari and Saraki continue to intransigently maintain their positions, and are overwhelmed by the drive to defend their bruised egos, we might as well consider ourselves confronted with the twilight of the fourth republic.

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  • Mystic mallam

    A brilliant feature article if not for the silly angle on Ojukwu, ambition, power and the civil war. The civil war was borne out of atrocity crimes against Easterners in the North. As governor of the Region, Ojukwu did what any responsible leader would do – to protect the lives of the people under his care. If Ojukwu was wrong, it wasn’t an error of substance, it was an error of strategy – declaring his Biafra before he was ready to defend it. There’s a sea difference between the civil war and the silly, childish ego-driven battles going on between the Buharis and the Sarakis – our self-advertised agents of changeeee.

    • Nwabu King

      I always feel that many Nigerians have never been empathetic to the travails Igbos have endured in Nigeria. I wonder how Nigeria will ever be united if there is no guarantee for the safety of its citizens regardless of ethnicity and creed in any part of the country. Having said that, the nature of politics in Nigeria is tragic comedy. No one, should be above the law. Furthermore, the basis of our nationhood should be revised and renegotiated. We should revert to our 1963 constitution, since, successive military juntas created non-viable states. We remain, frozen in this quagmire called democracy. I continue to ask what so called ‘dividends of democracy’ have we reaped unbroken run of democracy since 1999. How are we to compete with China and industrialized nations if we can’t have constant power? I agree wholeheartedly with Mystic mallam. We need to do something, or else we will continue our plunge into the abyss.

      • Mystic mallam

        You’re really wise Mr. king. Nigeria’s case is restructure or die.