Friday, May 29, 2015

How Buhari’ll play his politics

Posted By: Oluwaseun Ogunshola - 11:17 AM


& Comment

How Nigeria’s new president will play his politics is a sort of mystery to many people including his close aides. However, almost everyone agrees that the advent of the Buhari era in Nigeria’s democratic dispensation will bring a change to the way and manner former holders of the office of president had played their politics.
A stalwart of the new president, Osita Okechukwu who has followed him since 2002 said that Buhari would be a sticker to the rules of the democratic enterprise discharging the responsibilities of his office strictly according to the laws of the land and in the dictates of his conscience.
handoverGiven the high expectations on him, Buhari, it was also gathered, would live to his reputation and ensure that the uprightness that has followed him all through his public life is not soured.
But how he plays his politics will be seen in his dealings with the other arms of government, the governors and his party.
The advent of Buhari will for the first time erode the overwhelming influence that Nigeria’s governors had in the past pulled on the levers of the Federal Government. Governors had in the past arrogated to themselves the privileges of appointing ministers they foisted on the president.
However, under Buhari that practise might change. As he said in an interview with a newspaper ahead of his inauguration today, “the type of people I am supposed to appoint, like in the cabinet and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and service chiefs will be different from how the PDP appointed its. Definitely the system is going to be different from what we had under the PDP where governors nominated ministers.”
Unlike some of his predecessors and notably, President Goodluck Jonathan, Buhari is going to work with only those he has personally verified their competence.
That decision, good as it is, also could provoke political consequences as the ministers may be tempted to see themselves as political rivals of their governors in their states. However, the ministers knowing that their appointments are at the mercy of a stern and rule of law president would be tempered in any effort to overreach themselves in their states. The president would also seek to use moral suasion in some of the issues of concern to him as relating to the governors.

At a meeting with the governors of his party just before the presidential election in Owerri, he had told them to urge their Houses of Assembly to review pension laws enacted for governors, describing the financial provisions as indefensible.

The urge was upon the realisation that he could not as president prevail on the governors or the state legislators. Hence, in several issues where he may not have direct power to influence the governors, he would be expected to use moral suasion to bring the governors into line.
Of more significant would be his dealings with the National Assembly.
The new president prior to his inauguration had sought to distance himself from the squabbles in his party over the choice of presiding officers of the two chambers of the National Assembly.
As he told the same newspaper in the interview, he would not bother himself with the politics of the emergence of the presiding officers, affirming that he was determined to work with whoever is produced as Senate President or as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
There is, however, no doubt that the practice of influencing legislators with money to push key legislative proposals or appointments would not be tolerated in the Buhari presidency.
This new dispensation is bound to shake up the system and inevitably bring some sanity to legislative oversight and operations of the machine of government.
Buhari and his party
Buhari may want to deny it, but his approach towards the APC leadership would always be shadowed by the experience and betrayal he got from his former party, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP in his two presidential bids on the platform of that party. It is, however, instructive that in the days leading to the merger of the three parties that formed the APC, that Buhari’s objection to the participation of the ANPP was mellowed by convincing facts on why the party was needed.
Such attitude would be seen in his future engagements with the APC. The president would be swayed by convincing arguments on issues. It is expected that the caucus of the national leadership would continue in pushing forward party positions on issues, but such issues would not be expected to becloud Buhari’s judgment.
Buhari would be expected to make a distinction between the roles of the government and the party in running the country. The party may articulate policies, but the implementation would solely be that of Buhari and those he delegates such responsibilities to.
Relationship with party elders
Party elders such as Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, former ANPP national chairman, Ogbonnanya Onu (if not given an appointment) would continue to play roles from the background and positively so, except they overreach their bounds wherein the president would step in to check them.
It has been alleged that Tinubu’s reported support of two of the leading candidates for the office of Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives is to ensure that he has able men in the National Assembly who can check Buhari should the president attempt to wreck the system that the two of them conceived.
However, such assertions betray the confidence that Tinubu and Buhari have for each other. The two men have over time weathered past several other controversies including the nomination of Yemi Osinbajo as vice-presidential candidate without as much as rocking the boat.
It is thus expected that the two men would continue to push forward the collective goal for which they effected a change in the leadership of the country.
Though Buhari’s position has been consolidated with his new position, assertions that the president would cage Tinubu underplay the simple fact that though he has dropped his cherished title of General, the fact remains that Buhari remains an officer and a gentleman. He would not ordinarily rock the system except something extraneous develops.

About Oluwaseun Ogunshola

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