In the power game, winning is less and less of the chemistry of the men at work and more and more of the physics of the forces at play.
What is presently happening with the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, specifically, and the National Assembly, generally, is a mystery. But it is a mystery only to those who have not kept vigil over the ways and means of President Muhammadu Buhari since he popped up at Aso Rock.
Expectedly, there has been a lot of misattributions and misinterpretations by the many, too many. So, let us help clear these analytic and category errors the much we can. First of all, there has been the false, or perhaps forged, claim that Buhari had or showed no interest in who emerged as Senate President. That is unequivocally false.
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The details are as follows: Nobody has better portrayed man as a power ranger than Aristotle. With unimpeachable insight, Aristotle characterised man as a political animal. His choice of words were, as with most sages, very important. An animal is not a very thinking being. That is to say, Aristotle was saying that man is reflexively a politician, a chance taker.
Understanding this will help us to appreciate that not acting, non-interference, is a choice, a deliberate and deliberative political move. Yes, non-interference may have come upon one deliberatively or involuntarily, however it comes, it is a choice. And this is in keeping with our lot as sublimated political animals. The other equally important fact is that what choices we make as political animals or politicians are informed by our reading of the balance of forces at play, not the men at work.
Now, to help us understand Buhari’s alleged non-interference in the rites of electing the Senate President, etc, the following recap. Three major tendencies clubbed together to throw President Goodluck Jonathan under the bus and out of power. One tendency was led by or dedicated to candidate Buhari. Another tendency was led by Senator Bola Tinubu. And the third was loosely formed and led. It was the old PDP hands. It just happened that former Governor Saraki was a prominent leader and beneficiary of that group.
Immediately the composited tendencies won, the CPC faction led or dedicated to Buhari took home the eagle feather. One of their kind, candidate Buhari, emerged President. But there is an iron lore in politics. It reads that the coalition with which one wins is not the coalition with which one governs the realm.
There are many reasons for this. But a principal reason, which is representative enough, is that power is not like kola nut. Power doesn’t divide well. Power thus can’t be shared equitably. To repeat, it is impossible to share power equitably however dexterously one tries. This is because all powers tend towards full dictatorships until opposing forces stop them. Thus if a man becomes President, he irresistibly wants more and more power. Yet, he can only get that by continually diminishing other contenders.
So, with Buhari popping up President out of a victorious coalition, his next task was to be a maximum helmsman. We warn, it is not a Buhari disease or tendency. It’s human, all too human. However, being a maximum leader requires that other contenders to that power be dismissed or caged. And as a political animal, the Buhari faction would have sensed the danger of taking the other legacy factions at one blow.
The best move, which is what the Buhari faction chose, was non-interference. The game goes like this: In the Buhari faction having taken the Presidency, it meant that the other factions were at best ducal powers. And what best way to diminish dukes than to have them stab themselves to extinction? And what best killing fields are there in this instance than the two ducal forces decimating themselves as to corner presiding officers of the two chambers? For the Buhari faction, it was an “innocent” but purpose-delivering feint. By letting them kill off or mortally wound themselves, the Buhari faction was there to inherit their carrion or take the wounded captive.
So, by staying out of it and allowing the ducal orders led by Tinubu and Saraki slide into an internecine war, Buhari’s faction killed many birds without even lifting a stone. And it so happened that Tinubu and faction were completely routed and humiliated. And this happened at both the House and at the Senate. Tinubu and faction tried to fight back but Buhari kept his Olympian distance and perhaps contemptuous disdain. Buhari may have asked himself of Tinubu: what is this duke up to? Does he think he has a line to succession? Has he stopped being a vizier, is he now a prince, a prince of power?
So, the political humiliation of Tinubu was Buhari’s desire, delegated desires. But the Buhari faction used the monkey paws of the Saraki formation to fix the job. It was so neat an operation that even up to today many analysts see what happened as Tinubu versus Saraki. No, the two were puppets in a game, a game they perhaps didn’t know they were in. It is just that it got lethal, politically. But in all it served the tightrope purpose it was designed to deliver.
After having successfully cut Tinubu down to size, the next war was to decapitate Saraki. But first let us remember Buhari deliberatively kept off the rite of choosing ministers. At the point he chose to, Tinubu was already too weak and weakened to ask for anything. Anyway, Tinubu wasn’t given any ministerial slot at all, by one account. That is, it is to the political wizardry of Buhari that the decapitation of Tinubu happened with no sign of blood on the hands of the Buhari faction. It is the Saraki paws that came with the blood of the “murdered innocents.” And Tinubu it is alleged has not forgiven him.
Before we go further, the following needs to be emphasized. It is not that Buhari hates Tinubu or loves Saraki. It is just that Buhari wants more power, Buhari wants as much power as he can corner. This, we repeat, is human, all too human.
So, the series of court actions and police charges heaped on Saraki were calculated attempts to weaken or better Tinubusize Saraki, politically. Now, I am not certain whether Saraki is lucky or an ace strategist. Whatever it be, one thing is clear. Saraki has survived, in fact, he has triumphed. It is so much that Doyin Okupe, a former presidential motor-mouth, says: “Saraki will be Buhari’s biggest opponent.”
Let us assume Saraki was a strategist, what did he do, what lessons can we learn from him? One of the most important things Saraki did was to keep his factional forces and powers, both integrated into and separable, from the composited alliance forces. The only immediate comparison that comes to mind is the French Force de Frappe. French nuclear arsenal is both integrated and detachable from the NATO parent nuclear grid. Implausible? Not quite. Just like Arthur Nzeribe, a most neglected political sage, if there was one, says, “everything political is doable.” We have written of these things in more details in Why and How Yoruba Fought and Lost the Biafra-Nigeria Civil War. Readers may wish to consult more. Ahiazuwa.
This Saraki/French power module shows in the political choices of the Kwara constituency of Saraki, son of Oloye. As we write, nobody doubts that Saraki is 75 per cent plus in control in Kwara. And Saraki has not suffered any loss of key personnel. This is not the same case with Tinubu. But for all practical purposes, the Tinubu political dynasty has caved in. Mutinous regional commanders or surrogates are now independent of Tinubu and have become pro-Buhari big boys. They are not Tinubu Boys in Buhari’s shadows. They are their own men there, just as Tinubu himself. In fact, the rumor is that they are to be “elected” by Aso Rock as the new and collegiate Asiwaju-in-council of Yorubaland, a replacement for and an end to the Tinubu run of power. From Banire to Fashola, from Akeredolu to Kayode, there has been a haemorrhage of top personnel and personalities off the Tinubu team. To make matters worse, it is being rumored that Buhari has Tinubu on the leash. That is to say, Tinubu has been so “emasculated” that he cannot move save he is asked to. And this state of affairs serves the Buhari pitch for most powers well. Buhari now has only the Saraki tendency to engage in the battle of their lives.
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Will the Buhari faction win or the Saraki tendency lose? Whatever happens, one thing is certain: both Buhari and Saraki are very deliberative guys despite appearances to the contrary. They are conscious political animals. And when such as those fight, it will be as it is said of elephants making love. The earth will quake and know that beasts are in heat.
In all, we should stop the rap of calling any of these men statesmen. The point is, there can be no statesman in the pursuit of power. All men in pursuit of power, no matter their disguises, are political animals. In the power game, winning is less and less of the chemistry of the men at work. In the power game, winning is more and more of the physics of the forces at play. And animals, political or otherwise, come with a radar to pick the vibrations of the elemental forces of their habitats.
In the end, Buhari will not win because he is a good strategist. In the end, Saraki will not lose because he is a naïve genius. Over long periods, wars are won by coalitions, not the generals. World War II Germany, just like Biafra, had the best generals. Yes, I was there a Biafra veteran, scars and all. And Germany had the worst coalitions. And Biafra was alone with all the forces of evil ganged up against her. So, in such wars, it is either the generals win on a blitzkrieg or, if bogged down, they lose out. In other words, if you have a kobo to bet on the Saraki-Buhari wars, go for the side with the biggest coalitions. Generals fight, coalitions win wars. And this Saraki-Buhari war has lasted long enough that it is a war of coalitions not generals, of physics not chemistry. Ahiazuwa.