By Adewale Sanyaolu Despite being a country with the second largest deposit of bitumen in the world, Nigeria, according to Foraminifera, a marketing and research firm, spends about N2 billion yearly on importation of asphalt, a derivative of bitumen. The occurrence of bitumen deposits in Nigeria is twice the amount of existing reserves of crude…
Let us please start with a caveat. Dr. Bukola Saraki, President of the Nigerian Senate, is not known to us. And that is for starters. The main grub is that we are not interested in knowing him or cultivating his office. The rap being pushed around that a person is as important as his office sounds, is pretty bullshit. Like most enlightened peoples, we hold it to be a self-evident that the poet, even in his rags, is superior to Caesar in his purple. And the Senate is not even Caesar. More, to consolidate our plea we have the irrepressible sage, Oscar Wilde, for witness: ‘‘Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it.’’ So, we rank the office of the poet-citizen over and above those of makers of schoolboy histories, like Caesar, like senators.
Now, the sad part is that there is a lot of received wisdom that are wrong but popular with Nigerians. To take an example, it is alleged that President Mohammed Buhari left the Senate and the Federal House to elect their own presiding officers. According to the promoters of these moony tales, Buhari was acting according to the doctrine of non-interference and separation of powers.
The point of it is that it never would have so happened. First, politics is in the hunt for power, and the power game is a theatre without borders. That is a president, any president, will interfere everywhere to grab power, save he is stopped by other contending powers. Thus if Donald Trump does not interfere in any aspect of American politics, it is not because he doesn’t want, it is not because he has a self-limiting heart. It is because he can’t. There was never a president, who was modest enough he did not want more or even superfluous powers. If man is a political animal, then presidents are worse than political beasts, boa constrictors and all.
If we came back to the main issue, then this. The APC is a composite of factions. They are, 1. Buhari/illiberal North, 2. Alhaji Abubakar Atiku/Bukola Saraki/liberal North, 3. Bola Tinubu/South-West/putatively leftwing leaning, factions. The others, fellow-travelers’ factions, were led or inhabited by Rochas Okoroacha from the South-East and Rotimi Amaechi, etc. from the South-South.
And now the interesting nuance is as follows: The Buhari and Atiku tendencies are sub-united under one loose Pan-Northern federation. Meanwhile the South-Western tendency has a Tinubu nucleus, but with a lot of wildcard elements, like Babatunde Fashola, a federal minister. The import of this, is that truant elements like Fashola are able to cut deals with northern or other factions without clearance with the Tinubu nucleus. This is what makes the Tinubu leadership of his faction/region tendentious despite media and dramatic impressions.
Then the APC coalition won the presidency. Expectedly there were inter-factional tussles for turf dominance. However, the Buhari intra-northern faction has by the logic of his candidacy taken up the presidency. The presidency is the lion share of the fallen game. The next in line was cubs’ share of producing the leadership officers of the Senate and the House.
The ideal thing would have been for the legislative leaderships to be conceded to the larger South, the North having taken the presidency. And the South-West being the regional dominance partner will influence who wins the slots even if from outside its domain. But things seldom get tied up this neatly.
And the South-West players committed a strategic blunder. They chose to take no prisoners, to make no strategic accommodations. For instance, the South-West pushed the proposal that the APC victory was actually a national plunder, which was secured essentially by the North and South-West alliance partners. For the South-West the booty was to be insularly shared out by this Group of 2, G2. That is in the calculation of the South-West, the South-East, South-South and the North-Central are to be dismissed into historical marginalia, if national powers were to be successfully looted.
The proposal was both a both a Svengali-style smart move and also South-West’s Achilles’ heel. By imputing the very idea of an intra-conspiracy, the South-West gave fillip to the idea of metastasis or rashes of conspiracies. And the way to fight conspiracies is not by being sissies. This is especially if you are in knowledge that the point of conspiracies is the uncompetitive elimination of others. Of course, no co-conspirator will stop at the victory over outsider enemies. Immediately the game is fallen, all co-conspirators begin inter-factional skirmishes to oust old alliance partners and emerge hegemons.
That is by logic, a co-conspirator, whatever his professions otherwise, is a very dangerous beast. He is actually after your power or death or both. Coconspirators are zero sum chancers; their sense of betrayal knows no bounds.
While the South-West wanted to be taken on face value on their professions of goodwill, the northerners thought otherwise. And the only way to wage war against co-conspirators is to generate your own conspiracies. And the Atiku faction sold a South-West threat to the Buhari strain of their pan-northerner faction. The Atiku bogey was that the South-West, which already had bagged the vice presidency were intriguing to corral the Senate Presidency and Speakership of the House into their private domains. To the northerners, the South-West purpose was to prepare for an inevitable clash of powers tomorrow. That is, if the South-West achieves the power scheme it plots today, then she would have won the battle tomorrow. And this will remain so, even if the South-West or its national leader merely chose northern protégés for the posts. And the Buhari faction bought into this.
Now the Buhari faction owes the South-West a lot, but on paper. Tallied, the votes the South-West contributed to the election of Buhari were miniscule. But it had one qualitative importance. It made the Buhari presidency possible at all. Without that South-West beachhead, the Buhari presidency would never have happened. But the fact is that after the presidential victory, the Buhari revisionists calculated the South-West contributions by number of votes only, not strategic importance of votes. The effect of this was the historical dismissal of Southwestern claims to any singularity in the emergence of the Buhari presidency.
So, the critical fact is this: Buhari faction bought the Atiku counterfactual tale that the South-West are intriguers, capable of future if not present political malevolence. But the Buhari factional hands were tied. They had once ‘inked’ sweetheart political deals with the then monolithic South-West faction. So, the Buharimaniacs cannot be seen to be going against the midwife of their dreams. And this, just after the auspicious berthing of the presidency.
It was because of this dilemma that the Buhari faction retained the Atiku faction, as the monkey paws to pull the chestnut out of the fire. It is an old trade in alliance politics. Severally, Hitler, for instance, deployed Mussolini, as monkey hands to do his bidding while hiding his.
That is the Buhari faction outsourced the containment of the South-West to the intra-northern faction led by Atiku/Saraki. Why do we say this? Two days before, this correspondent was informed that Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu would emerge as Senate and Deputy Senate presidents respectively. The fact of the results being pre-known by outsiders like us is proof enough that the government – via intelligence services or stool pigeons – were in full and complete knowledge, and approved or countenanced their emergence.
This is very important. That is, while the SouthWest was campaigning for non-democratic exclusion of other zones, Atiku/Saraki faction had the presence of mind to want to include others, to properly ‘‘federate’’ Nigeria. That was an outstanding political engineering feat. Perhaps, Atiku had a long eye on the future or genuine sense of inclusiveness for all. It is not out of place to recall that immediately after victory, Saraki paid Atiku the kingmaker, his ducal homage.
Of course, immediately this happened, the outflanked South-West faction led by Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, set up media war rooms. Triggering incendiary media mayhems, they alleged that the Saraki-APC was mutinous, was targeting the derailment of the presidency. The Buhari faction, which outsourced the routing of the South-West in the first, schizophrenically fell for the forged tales of Gbajabiamila. The details of Buhari’s cooption by Gbajabiamila is beyond the brief of this paper. However, it serves well to record that it was on the basis of the Goebbels-style propaganda of the South-West APC that Buhari was blackmailed into dragging Saraki through politico-judicial anti-corruption circuses. And alas, Buhari by that act, was unintentionally weakening his presidency. Was that not the secret ploy of the Gbajabiamila/South-West tendency?
The lessons are as follows: If the South-West partisans had insisted on a Pan-Nigerian distribution of power, they would have counterintuitively accumulated the most powers for themselves, certainly more than they have now. The game France is playing as pan-European, anti-American moralist [not self-serving, Gaullist chancer a la South-West APC], ensures all Europe plays as equal, rule-based partners with America. To save France, the French had first to save all Europe. And Europeans are happy ever after.
But in suggesting for a conspiratorial exclusion of others, the South-West justified their own exclusion in the first. And as the Buhari regime became irredeemably Fulani, northern, Moslem, etc., freedom and justice loving Nigerians sought out the Senate and its presidency, as arrowheads to confront insular and illiberal nationalisms a la South-West/Buharimaniacisms.
That is, if the Senate/Saraki has become too powerful, as revanchist intellectuals and sympathetic newspapers canvass, it is a fallout of the insidious plot of South-West APC/presidency to exclude others from being Nigerians.
Thus if tomorrow power is ‘‘federated’’ properly, Saraki and Senate will automatically revert to their default powers and influence. And that is in the nature of the universe.
•Ego-Alowes is author of several books, including the classics: Minorities as Competitive Overlords; Economists as Assassins: The Nigerian Connection; Corruption in Nigeria: Resolution Through New Diagnosis; How and Why the Yoruba Fought and Lost the Biafra-Nigeria Civil War.