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…loses control of his men
…Presidency engulfed in unending power tussle
By DICKSON OMONODE
President Muhammadu Buhari spent six months cherry-picking his ministers, including members of the kitchen cabinet. Over a year after, some of them have gone rogue, their action threatening not only the cohesion of Buhari’s presidency, but also the entire APC government.
One of the fall-outs of this power politics is bad policymaking. And Buhari’s negative approval rating on that speaks volumes. Over 60 percent of Nigerians believe the APC government policy direction is getting Nigeria further into the woods, according to GAIN poll conducted in October. From around 63 percent last December, the president’s popularity as a leader dwindled to slightly above 40 percent as of the last survey, the pollster said.
Critics believe the internal wrangling in the cabinet is even capable of doing worse things to the government and the ruling APC. And some six persons running the inner circle of Buhari’s government are to blame, many believe.
Chief of Staff Abba Kyari, SGF David Babachir, Interior Minister Abdulrahman Dambazzau, Director-General, Department of State Security, Lawan Daura, NSA Babagana Monguno are supposed to be associates Buhari has known well enough.
He certainly knew some, including Monguno and Dambazzau in military service, and others in his adventure as the ANPP and CPC leader.
But the CoS seems the most interesting character. Apart from his name that gets profilers mixed up because there are three public figures bearing same, Kyari, with his education in sociology and law (Warwick and Cambridge), and experience in journalism, banking, boardroom power play in the UBA, UNILEVER, Mobil (marketing), has every reason to be controversial.
His rival NSA Babagana Monguno (both are from Borno) has been a shadowy figure all along. He is also a well-read military brasshat with a Ph.D in international relations. His tenure as head of the Defence Intelligence Agency before 2015 was not particularly interesting, according to insiders. He’s also said to be a brash, fun-loving man who likes exclusivity, the reason that pitted him against Department of State Security Director-General Lawan Daura in the arms procurement probe the NSA headed early on.
Apart from edging the DSS representative out of the probe panel, Monguno, in the panel report, roped in Interior Minister Dambazzau, who was a defence chief during the period the probe covered. That further deepened the rift between the NSA and Daura, one of Buhari’s cousins and ex-spy chief brought back to the agency.
Dambazzau was chief of army staff between 2007 and 2010, and was among the actors in the intrigue used to cover his boss then the late Presidebt Umar Yar’ Adua who was terminally ill, yet was ruling by proxy.
But Babachir has got no background in military or intelligence service. But he knows his onion as a bureaucrat, telepreneur (he has two telecom companies) and politician. Most importantly, the APC northeast vice chairman is a diehard when it comes to supporting Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign. And Babachir, a pastor-turned-politician, is known for that.
Apparently, the president knows little or nothing about the power thirst of each of his men who have strong-armed his government as they micromanage him.
As head of Aso Rock staff, Kyari has waxed so powerful they now refer to him as the alternative president. Ministers, insiders say, report to him. He has also become the go-to guy for those trying to curry favour from Buhari, especially suspects in the Dasukigate scandal and fuel subsidy scam. He has been fronting for release of oil tycoon Jide Omokore who has been in Magu’s net. Kyari was also said to have helped the MTN get a soft landing when the Nigeria Communications Commission slammed the telecom giant with billions of dollars in fine last years.
Kyari’s henchman, Daura, with his DSS, has been competing with the EFCC and its chairman. The power tussle got so bad Magu had to tell the Senate the spy agency is nosing too deep into financial crime sleuthing. The intelligence agency raided Umar’s house and came up with $1.3 million.
That is how the war of ego has been raging amongst the Aso Rock heavyweights—at the expense governance. These are men Buhari had thought could help him bring change in Nigeria. A second look from a critical observer might be important. “The President does not know 45 out of 50, for example, of the people he appointed,’ First Lady Aisha told the BBC in October.
Buhari wouldn’t agree to that then. But now that eddies of allegations and controversies blaze within his kitchen cabinet, the president is beginning to come to terms with that reality.
“President Buhari has instructed the Attorney General of the Federation to investigate the involvement of any top government official accused of any wrongdoing. If any of them are liable, they will not escape prosecution,” a two-paragraph statement by Buhari’s media aide Garba Shehu said December 19.
The SGF name certainly will rank high on the list. The Senate called for Babachir removal and prosecution when the Shehu Sani-led committee reported how the SGF cornered some contracts in the IDP camps across the northeast.
What makes it more interesting to critics is how corruption allegations have become a weapon within Buhari’s inner circle. Tagging others as corrupt has been tactfully used in the rivalry between the Kyari camp comprising Daura, Dambazzau, and even AGF Abubakar Malami, and the Monguno side where stand the embattled EFCC Chairman Ibrahim Magu and a member of arms procurement panel, retired AVM Mohammed Umar.
As it turns out, almost all those on the NSA side have been smeared with corruption allegation by the DSS so much so that the president couldn’t help looking into the issues.
Many are of the opinion Buhari has dithered for too long in ordering the probe because he had no idea of how to bring to heel his rampaging men.
If the president’s word is going to be his bond, not only Umar and the SGF will get in the hot seat, Magu, whom the DSS has implicated in a security report sent to the Senate to block his confirmation, is also in for it.
“If those involved in corruption are allowed to remain in government and treated like sacred cows, the government will lose the entire moral right to fight corruption,” Lagos lawyer Femi Falana told the Punch.
So that means Kyari and Dambazzau, too, will definitely have to be grilled. Kyari has been fingered in a number of sleazy deals at the presidency. According to Sahara Reporters, the CoS cut a N500 million deal in the MTN-NCC face-off. The online publication said the president already had the evidence.
Dambazzau, based on the arms purchase probe panel report, also misappropriated billions when he was army chief.
If all these allegations stick against these core officials, critics believe the APC government is well on the way to collapse. And Buhari’s ability to run a tight ship might just have been exaggerated.