The recent case of shooting at the Aso Rock Villa, the home of the president and seat of government is a cause for concern; more so when it is linked to some disagreement within the first family. Although the Presidency underplayed the incident by merely assuring Nigerians of the safety of the president, it was one controversy too many involving the first family. Stripped of all the political and official arguments, it calls for public concern and indeed, reflects the chaos and drift in the governance of the country.
Simply put, President Muhammadu Buhari has not shown sufficient grit and gut over the management of his immediate family, which often has allowed very private and simply intimate matters to become public. He has been unable to insulate his immediate family which includes his wife and children from being drawn into direct personal altercations and confrontations with both distant relations and public officials, which seem to leave the president in a vortex of difficult choices.
Essentially the problem with the first family has to do with the overexposure of family members and relations of the president to public life. Before this government came to office, some members of the president’s family such as wives had played significant roles in public life; which is fairly expected as she is the First lady and the closest person to the president. During the Yar’Adua’s presidency, for instance, appointed officials of government were alleged to report to the first lady in the absence of the president, who was indisposed.
However, since this government came to power, a new culture of ‘family rule’ was introduced where even the president’s relations, other than his immediate family have residency in the seat of power, and even exercise some political powers. Not long ago, there was almost an open fight between the First lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari, and the children of his cousin, and alleged power broker, Mr Mamman Daura, over the occupancy of accommodation.
Before the latest incident of shooting at the Villa, we have had some other unpleasant controversies involving the first family. It was the First lady who firs drew the attention of the nation to the existence of a cabal in the presidency, who had cornered power and hijacked the president for certain narrow interest, contrary to the declared political mandate of the party, the APC, and president’s avowed electoral promises to Nigerians. President Buhari responded with the “kitchen and the other room” analogy which scandalized most of the civilized world.
So, the recent case of shooting involving the first family has become symptomatic of the breakdown and lack of coordination in government and family matters of the president. In this particular incident, trouble was said to have started when on Thursday 11 of June night her Aide-de-camp, Usman Shugaba, attempted to force the president’s cousin and chief of protocol, Sabiu Yusuf, into self-isolation over Coronavirus concerns. Sabiu had returned to his residence after a trip to Lagos where he had gone to meet his wife who just delivered a new baby.
Upon his return, Mrs Buhari and her security aides led by Shugaba went to the residence of Sabiu to demand that he self isolates for 14 days in order not to put the president at risk. This degenerated into a heated argument as Sabiu insisted he was not the only aide to travel to Lagos. Subsequently, the security aides were said to have fired gunshots prompting Sabiu to flee to the nearby residence of Buhari’s cousin, Mamman Daura.
Although the IGP, Mohammed Adamu immediately intervened and had Shugaba and others arrested, and subsequently withdrew over 46 police aides in the Villa, the matter goes beyond such knee-jack reaction. Nigerians should be seriously worried about this incident because it says volume about the affairs of the country, the authority of the president and access of the First lady to the president. It shows the lack of coordination and the existence of power blocs in the presidency.
Whereas it can be argued, justifiably so, that it was not in the place of the Mrs Buhari to enforce a quarantine on the official staff of the president, which ordinarily fall within the purview of the Chief of staff, she could be excused for doing it given that the man works directly with the president and could constitute a health risk to his principal. As his wife, who stands to lose more than anybody in such situation, especially given the underlining health conditions of the president, and also his not wearing a face mask, any infected person around him could be a potential danger.
However, she could have simply asked her husband, the president, to direct action on it instead of her intervention, unless she did not have access to him. It could also be that the president had refused to instruct his nephew, Yusuf, to self-isolate, to force the first to enforce it. Either way, it does not speak well of the first family that the first lady does not have access to the president or that he allowed a purely medical administrative matter to snowball into a security breach.
But more importantly, it again points to the duplicity and hypocrisy of this government which operates on different sets of rules and facts. The Presidential Task Force, PTF, on Corvid 19, has been cajoling Nigerians with all sorts of precautionary measures and rules against the pandemic, especially on the issue of travel and mandatory self-isolation. But here is the immediate staff of the president refusing to comply with such prescribed protocol.
Can it be reasonably assumed that the president was unaware of the situation of the travel to warrant his compliance? What moral justification does the PTF have to impose such mandatory conditions on other people when the president’s staff are excused or exempted? Nigerians should be grateful to the First lady, regardless of her indiscretions, for exposing the chicanery and pretensions of the president as a man of integrity, because the worst corruption is not the stealing of money, but the deliberate abuse of laws and rules.
This matter may have seemed to be personal and family-related but it has wider official and national implications that affect the rest of us. It shows that Nigeria is not a country governed by rules, but the whims and caprice of the president and his relations and officials. It also suggests that the president is not in charge of the country.