…as Cabal plots to entrench northern dominance
By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
A power play is currently underway in the Presidency as the search for who succeeds President Muhammadu Buhari on May 29, 2023 intensifies, Business Hallmark findings can reveal. According to findings, top aides and associates of the president are sharply divided on which geo-political zone should produce the next president.
While the group led by President Buhari’s nephew, Mamman Daura, wants the presidency to remain in the North, another group said to be loyal to the presidential ambition of the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinube are rooting for power shift to the South West.
The undercurrent came to the fore recently when the president’s influential nephew, Daura, demanded an end to zoning. In a rare interview with the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) last Tuesday, he said Buhari’s successor should be chosen based on competence and not based on which part of the country he comes from.
He argued that rotational presidency which began in 1999 has outlived its usefulness. “Rotation has been done once, twice and three times. It is important that this nation should be united as one, the most qualified and competent should be elected and not someone who comes from any particular zone,” Daura stated.
BH reliably gathered that the unexpected comment by the otherwise reclusive and tight-lipped Daura, was a culmination of an intense political battle within the presidency for control. Several sources in the presidential villa told BH that a new force is trying to dismantle the hitherto powerful block led by the quartet of Mamman Daura, the late Chief of Staff to the president, Abba Kyari, late Isa Funtua and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe.
“The death of Abba Kyari created a major vacuum within the Cabal which is currently under threat. The appointment of a new CoS and the unexpected death of a close and trusted ally, Isa Funtua, almost broke the camel’s back by throwing the cabal into disarray.
Daura at the weekend alluded to the headaches created by the unexpected loss of the two allies when he stated that their deaths were very disturbing to him. While Kyari died on April 17 of complications from the COVID-19, Funtua died of cardiac arrest on July 20.
“Truly, the death of two intimate friends was very disturbing. These two great personalities, aside from being my friends were my close associates.What they did for the government since they came in – Malam Ismailia Isa by the side while Abba Kyari in the centre – how they worked for this government was beyond our thought. May Almighty Allah have mercy on them!
“They were close associates, not blood relations; close associates due to our long term relationship”, Daura had lamented.
Findings revealed that the loss of two prominent member of the cabal had greatly undermined the influence of Daura and his group on the government.
For instance, one of the most powerful member of the cabal, the Permanent Secretary of the State House, Mr. Jalal Arabi, was recently redeployed without the input of Daura and the hitherto ‘unquestionable kitchen cabinet’.
Not yet done, the new Chief of staff to the president, Prof. Agboola Gambari, with the active support of the president’s immediate family members, powerful state governors and influential aides opposed to Daura and Kyari”s “reign of impunity”, effected several far reaching changes in the presidential villa.
Among the actions taken were the withdrawal of access accreditation tag of a prominent member who now apply as a visitor to visit the villa and the withdrawal of the name of a candidate nominated to head an agency by the Daura group. It was also learnt that most members of the cabal no longer receive firsthand information of happenings in the Villa again.
“A new cabal is emerging in the presidency and people are being careful to avoid belonging to a wrong or losing camp” the source told BH.
Meanwhile, the cabal is fighting back and roaring to take over control. According to a member of the ruling APC, the unexpected slip up by the usually composed Daura, is a fallout of the bitter bickering within the cable.
“The statement by Daura that zoning should not be considered in the choice of the next president was a subtle way of pointing to the fact that his group was still in control and will decide who becomes president in 2023. Ignoring Daura is to one’s peril. He’s deftly dangerous and can dare a monster for a fight. He will not go down without a fight.
“But he didn’t anticipate the deluge of criticisms and outcry that followed his statement”, a source close to the president confided in BH.
Rattled by the outcry that trailed Daura’s statement on zoning, the presidency quickly distanced itself from it, declaring his statement as personal.
Presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement titled, “Malam Mamman’s views are his own,” noted that the presidency had since the expression of those views been inundated with requests for presidential reaction. Shehu said the opinion of Daura was solely his, and did not in any way reflect the position of the president or his administration.
A close ally of the president, who is also a chieftain of the APC from Ogun State, said the presidential disclaimer is a sign that Daura is gradually losing power.
“Before now, no one would have been bold enough to disown a statement made by Daura. It is common knowledge that whatever Daura says is what the president does. He was the power behind the throne. He is still powerful though. But some people close to the president are trying to reassert their control over him. It depends on where the pendulum swings”, the party bigwig stated.
Another incident that clearly pointed to a major power shift in the villa was the shooting incident involving the wife of the president, Aisha and his nephew, Sabiu Yusuf Tunde, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja sometime ago.
Trouble started when Aisha and three of her children –Zahra, Halima and Yusuf – as well as some of her security aides, led by her Aide-de-Camp, CSP Usman Shugaba and the escort commander, DSP Sheriff Kazeem, stormed the residence of Yusuf Tunde, Personal Assistant to the President, at House 8 by the Pilot Gate of the Presidential Villa, at night and tried to force Yusuf into self-isolation after he returned from Lagos where his wife had a baby.
Sabiu escaped after gunshots were allegedly fired by the First Lady’s ADC in an attempt to apprehend him. He, however, ran into the house of Mamman Daura, where he reportedly spent the night.
The incident was reported to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, who ordered the arrest of the ADC to the first lady and all the security aides that accompanied her to Sabiu’s residence. The security operatives were detained for three days before they were released and redeployed from the Villa.
The president also wielded the big stick against his own security aides by redeploying them out of the villa. The aides were immediately replaced with new ones drawn from the Department of State Services (DSS) and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
President Buhari, who was reportedly angry and embarrassed by the Aso Villa shooting, ordered a probe into the incident. It was gathered that the cabal’s resistance to Yusuf’s isolation was part of efforts to stave off the First lady from dismantling their hold on the president.
According to them, soon after Kyari’s death, the Daura led cabal has been having difficulties reaching the president and dictating who he sees and who he appoints into positions. Sources said the cabal rather started using Sabiu ‘Tunde’ Yusuf, being the closest to the president and who keeps his phones.
Yusuf is alleged to always be around when government officials are meeting with Buhari, records the meetings, and take the recording to the cabal.
But worried at the rate at which the cabal had taken control of things, the First lady and her group, it was learned, decided to come up with a strategy to checkmate their activities and cut their excesses. One of the strategies culminated in the widely reported shootings at the villa.
Meanwhile reaction have continued to trail Daura”s ‘no to zoning’ statement. The Chairman of Niger Delta Right Advocate, Darlington Nwauju, said that the call for the cancellation of rotational presidency was myopic and of no relevance.
He said that rotational presidency and zoning formula were part of an unwritten agreement between the South and North, saying that the gentleman agreement should be sustained. He said that rotational presidency was akin to federal character principle and quota system, saying they were sine qua non for peaceful co-existence.
Also, the Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, condemned Daura’s position on zoning, insisting that the country must continue with the common understanding of power rotation between the North and the South.
The spokesman of the group, Joe Odumakin, said the South was not unmindful of the fact that the North would want to have a shot again at the presidency after Buhari. He however insisted that the South envisages many candidates to indicate interest in the presidency in 2023 but the country must stand firm and respect the zoning agreement.