Opinion: Lesson new ministers, Saraki and APC must learn about Buhari. By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

Date: 2015-09-28

Once, I was landscaping the backyard of the Kaduna house of Maj-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), a nephew of his approached me and sought my assistance to gain admission into the Nigeria Defence Academy. I answered him, "Sorry, I do not know anyone there." Then I asked him a question that would reveal one of the most important hallmarks of Buhari. I said, "Why would you come to me when Oga is your uncle. Let him just give you a note to an"officer there and you will surely be admitted into the Academy.! His reply was simple: "General does not issue a note to anyone." That was exactly twenty years ago, in September 1995, when Buhari was PTF Chairman.

Then came the building of the Kaduna Trade Fair complex in February, 1998. I begged the consultants, Afri-Projects Consortium, to consider me for its landscaping. They refused. I rushed to Buhari, for the first time, as his favorite, to intervene on my behalf by "talking" to the consultants. Being a very shy person, I remember, Buhari did not answer me directly. He simply said, "Dr. I only hope it is not too late." From then, I knew I have lost the job. It was the biggest job I dreamt of handling then. I also needed it badly especially after losing my Dad and eldest brother five months earlier and had to relocate to our village on the 1st of January that year to oversee our extended family. And so, helplessly and very bitterly, I saw it left in the bills of the main contractor, G. Cappa, to whom it meant very little.

Since then, I continued to notice in Buhari the same hallmark of non-interference in affairs of others or tarkuhuu maa laa ya'niihi, as a hadith would put it. It became most glaring in the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, when different aspirants including those who were close to him thought that he will stamp his feet in their support during the contests for the party's seats and the conflicts that ensued after the primaries of the 2011 elections. Each of them was disappointed that he did not come to his aid. Buhari expects that people should do what is reasonable, obey the rules and be honest in conduct. Agreed, many of them resorted to dropping his name at the party headquarters in order to edge their opponents.

It is this standard of conduct he set for himself and it is this bar that he expects others to reach, an expectation that led him many times to disappointment when many of his associates fail to live up it. "The conduct of some politicians is just horrible. I wonder how they even go about it", he once told me, when I visited him to complain about an ordeal that I painfully went through for six years since the 2003 elections. Yet, despite the disappointments, Buhari remained where he has always been since his days in the military.

The party wanted him to prevail on Saraki and put his weight behind its candidate, Lawal, just as Obasanjo, Jonathan or any typical Nigerian would have done. Buhari - now President Muhammadu Buhari, PMB - upheld his promise that he will not interfere with the two other arms of government. In the end, Saraki and Dogara emerged as the President and the Speaker of the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively. PMB said, "Here is my hand. Let's work together." The party and its chieftains became very angry with PMB. But he insisted on his policy of non-interference. Saraki and Dogara naturally celebrated the principled stand of PMB and promised to give him full cooperation at the National Assembly. Now it seems that since then the humbled party leadership or some politicians within the APC did not go to sleep.

Saraki's opponents in the APC, whoever they may be, started to hatch his downfall. There is so much rumour now circulating within the party and the press that Saraki and his followers are set to frustrate Buhari on anything he presents to the National Assembly. Some Buhari loyalists have even started to confront pro-Saraki supporters senators in their constituencies. Well, Saraki's opponents, it appears, did some digging and reincarnated the problems that the Sarakis have with EFCC and the CCB. Finally, they have succeeded in turning the heat on Saraki and the Prince of Kwara politics is not finding it comfortable. His wife was invited by the EFCC, to which she had to go, finally. Then Saraki himself was summoned by the Code of Conduct Tribunal. He initially resisted and run to a High Court and later to the Court of Appeal. The court turned down his request and said, "Mr. Saraki, go to the tribunal and defend yourself." He rushed to the President and the President also said, "Sorry. I promised not to interfere in the judiciary as well. Submit yourself to it. Simple. If you are innocent, you will be acquitted; if found guilty, you will face the law like any other Nigerian." The President has shown a remarkable consistency on his principle of non-interference. I hope both the party and Saraki have learnt from their experiences. PMB is not a president like Obasanjo or Jonathan. This must always be at the back of their minds in facing any internal crises. He cannot be that father figure that will adjudicate on party matters. The courts are there to carry out any adjudicatory function.

PMB will, in sha Allah, name his nominees as he promised us before the month runs out. He will not be intimidated by any threat of blockade there. I can predict exactly what he will do right here. He will not lobby the senators or send them consignments of bags filled with dollars. It's business unusual, the Senators must learn. To his nominees he will simply say: "Go and defend yourselves on the floor of the Senate. I will not fight on your behalf. I will not interfere."

That will be the first lesson that the ministers will learn from PMB. He will not come to their aid if they misbehave in office. It is a lesson that the APC and Saraki learned the hard way. It is a lesson that Nigeria needs. It is a lesson I learned twenty years ago.

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