Nigerians gripped by the chilling uncertainties of a receding economy and the concomitant sky-rocketing prices of goods and services have in the past few weeks been confronted with a new kind of tension in President Muhammadu Buhari’s ailment. The ailment which blew open earlier in the year has apparently taken a toll on the activities and business of government pitching officials against each other, changing the tempo and tenor of governance and reopening a fresh vista of ethnic tension. At the heart of the festering tension is the jostling for control by pro- Buhari elements in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and the presidency, and an emerging front in the vanguard of constitutionalism.
A more truculent layer in the bubbling mind game is the coagulation of ethnic interests ahead of the 2019 presidential election power sharing formulae. Also in the mix is the alarm raised by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai warning soldiers against hobnobbing with politicians in the grim hope of cashing in on the new development to hatch a coup. Top northern leaders including the spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum, NEF Prof Ango Abdullahi and outspoken second republic member of the House of Representatives Dr Junaid Muhammed stirred the hornet’s nest when they spoke against the backdrop of the president’s medical vacation abroad and the determination of the North in a worst case scenario to ensure that power is retained in 2019. Abdullahi had said that, “If the worst case scenario happens and Buhari is not back on the seat, the constitution is very clear that the vice president takes over till 2019. But for 2019, power sharing will take precedence over anything else.” Barely 12 hours after he fired the salvo, a more acerbic and pointed reaction to the brewing tension over the president’s sickness came from Junaid who warned that the North must have two tenures should Buhari fail to complete his current term in office. Accusing the National Leader of APC, Bola Tinubu and the immediate past chairman of the party Bisi Akande of insincerity over Buhari’s ill health, he said, “They are far from being sincere. Both of them are playing politics and they are blaming other people of playing politics. Clearly, Tinubu had the ambition of being the vice president of Nigeria. He is blaming other people for denying him the opportunity of becoming the vice president and eventually the president.” He contuse: “Clearly Akande was being alarmist when he said some people are creating confusion. He should tell us the people that are creating confusion. Should Osinbajo take over, power should return to the northern region for a solid eight to 10 years. One thing I know is that if Osinbajo becomes president from whatever date to 2019, he cannot contest that position again.” While the nation is rocking under the weight of these developments including a death hoax, Sunday Sun’s feelers at Aso villa , residence of the first family indicates that the president’s family members are calm, relaxed and unperturbed, a situation that takes the wind off the sails of the growing tension in the land. Correspondingly, anxious Nigerians online have besieged the internet space searching on various platforms for clues on the state of health of Buhari, making him the most important personality online in the last 10 days. On Monday, May 8, shortly after the outbreak of the fake news of his purported death, an estimated 120, 000 people searched for information about him, with the phrase “ Is Buhari dead?” on Google and the number is increasing daily.
Reacting to the brewing cauldron, which has also impacted on assent to the recently passed 2017 budget and the swearing-in of two ministers confirmed by the Senate, Nigerians representing various shades of opinion and interests have aggregated their views. Those who spoke to Sunday Sun include the National Publicity Secretary of the foremost northern socio- political group, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Alhaji Ibrahim Mohammed; the National Chairman of the Progressive Peoples Party, Dr Damian Ogbonna; the former national chairman of the defunct Alliance for Democracy, AD, president of the Kano Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, NACCIMA and National President of the Movement for Justice in Nigeria, MOJIN Alhaji Abdulkarim Daiyabu; former chairman of Labour Party, LP Dan Nwanyanwu; a former national deputy chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Chief Olabode George and a former governorship aspirant on the platform of PDP in Nassarawa state, Musa Elayo. Others are the Executive Secretary of a pro- democracy group, Prime Patriotic Forum, Alhaji Abdullahi Aminu; the National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Dr Ike Oye; the president of the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, Comrade Eradiri, and a former governor of Cross River State, Mr Clement Ebri.
Tension, deliberate and self serving –Mohammed Ibrahim
Firing the first salvo, Ibrahim played down on the palpable tension simply describing it as “ a storm in a tea cup”. Speaking further, he said “there is no crisis, no confusion in the country.” Accusing some vested interests in power of deliberately simulating tension to achieve their inordinate goal, he said “People are just creating unnecessary confusion and it is deliberate. What I wonder is what is in it for them and why they will go to this length to do things that will undermine our unity and democracy.” Ask to name those that are behind the confusion he demurred, adding that “they know themselves. What Nigerians want now is dividend of democracy, not 2019? What have they done with the mandate given to them to better the lot of the people? Where are the infrastructure, better healthcare and education?” He said Nigerians have paranoia for decent political succession, insisting that the simmering tension was contrived because of 2019. “When Jonathan was there, from 2012 they started campaigning. That was what they did to Jonathan then. Many groups emerged campaigning and we don’t want that again. There is a constitutional order which guides the nation.” He, however, declined to comment on power sharing in the 2019 presidential elections, hinting that the ACF will make its position known in due course.
APC should meet and form a Transition Government –Damian Ogbonna
Ogbonna said the tension over Buhari is “funny.” According to him, it is clear to everybody that the president is very sick which is not strange to human nature, but he is disturbed that people are striving to make a capital and mischief from it. The PPP national chairman said: “We don’t know the nature of his illness. We have not been told, but we know he can’t govern. The constitution is very clear that he should hand over to his deputy fully and take off until when he is fully fit to govern. When the constitution does not do that other things happen and that is what is playing out. There is no half measure in handing over.” He continues: “This is not the time for tension. We don’t have the luxury of wondering who is in control or not. The kind of situation we have is that we don’t know who is in control. People are governing using his name where there is a sitting acting president, that has created economic uncertainty and tension especially when we have a president who is not on full time.
“He (acting president) does not know when the president is coming back and, therefore, cannot make policy decisions. What the president should have done should have been to invest him with full powers without ambiguities like the choice of the word “coordinator” in the letter to the Senate pending when he will return and be able to fully govern. That would have reduced tension and given him the impetus to make policy decisions.” On the signing of the budget into law, he said; “he cannot sign the budget or swear in the new ministers because evidently he doesn’t know when the president is coming back.” He also consigned rumours of a coup d’état to the apparent deficiency in the ceding of powers to the acting president. “ We have gone beyond that. It came up because no one appears to be fully in charge. Those talking about coup are living in illusion. No coup will succeed in Nigeria because there are people clamouring in the North-east, South-east and South-south for secession. No country will deal with them, not even the United Nations, UN. It is just a talk to frighten Nigerians. It will never happen and if it does, this country will cease to exist and they will not enjoy it.
“APC does not understand that there is a constitution in Nigeria. The party needs to come together and take a decision on the next step to take to douse tension, obviously a transition government.”
The North must continue forever –Abdulkarim Daiyabbu
Honestly, we have suffered more than enough. We must not entertain military coup again. Nigerians are ready to challenge them especially now that we have a government of ‘change’. They are desperate. It is crystal clear they have nothing to offer. They have pillaged and looted the country all this years. Look at how IBB and Abdusalami conspired to release Obasanjo from jail and made him president. Three of them are conniving again now that Buhari is sick meeting in Minna to dictate to Nigerians. They don’t own this country. The country belongs to Nigerians. What do they want to tell us? They have raped the country all over. Look at the number of private jets at the wedding of IBB’s daughter’s wedding? Who are they deceiving? Buhari’s illness is exaggerated. IBB went abroad on medical vacation for nine months when he took over and there was no tension. We have not forgotten. Why are they making it look as if there is tension now? We are not colonized. IBB should not think that he is too powerful or invincible. Now, we have known things about what happened between Yar’Adua and Jonathan and we will never allow it to happen again. All agreements on the future of this country should be open and be honoured. The North must continue to rule forever. Quote me. It was our disunity that brought about this recklessness. Nobody can rule Nigeria except the North. Quote me. Democracy is about changing things and bringing joy on the faces of people and not what they are doing now.
Only rule of law, nationalism will bring tension down –Olabode George
When I said that they are a congregation of strange bedfellows, people did not believe me. A country is governed by rule of law and that is how we can survive. The constitution should apply in all circumstances and situations. Don’t allow anyone play God. It creates tension. There are three equal branches of government – Legislature, Judiciary and Executive. There is nothing like coordinating vice president in the constitution and this is why we have this problem of tension now. Romans Chapter 13 says; Pray for your leaders. We are praying for Buhari. If they follow rule of law, tension will go down. Those who are championing this thing should go to court and seek interpretation of any section of the constitution that is not clear to them. I am begging them, please don’t plunge this nation into crisis. Don’t tribalize this thing. Remember the 1962, 1964 crisis. We are still in it. Gowon tried to forge national unity through the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC scheme. The fireworks coming out from there is unnecessary. Are we committed to Nigeria’s unity? Buhari owes allegiance to the sustenance of the sovereignty of this nation. I beg him; I beg those who are putting Nigeria under siege. The late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe once wrote that “man to man is so unjust, I do not know who to trust …” That is the safety net for Nigeria. We don’t want to become Somalia. Kadan Kadan; gently, gently.
I am studying the situation –Dan Nwanyanwu
I am currently in the United States of America, USA and studying the unfolding situation the best I can. If the acting president swore in the Chief Justice of Nigeria why can’t he swear in the new ministers? However, I cannot make a well studied comment now until I come back
Buhari can rule from anywhere; acting presidency a misnomer –Musa Elayo
There is no cause for alarm. Whether the president is there or not the machinery of government is alive around him. He has released a letter to the Senate in line with the provisions of the constitution. The president is elected and has the mandate of the people. If he wants to delegate his powers it is within his purview. He can cede his powers temporarily to the vice president as acting president but that is temporary pending when he comes back. The president of the nation is the president wherever he is. The concept of acting president is a misnomer because he cannot act when the president is there. The last time he was going he relinquished his powers. But this time, he is saying I’m in charge, you only coordinate. He can sign the budget in London. If the acting president signs, there is nothing wrong there. There should be no quarrel or tension. There should be synergy. The president is still in charge and should exercise his powers. The president’s body language as far as I read it suggests that he wants to be in charge. The acting president can’t do his work unless he allows him, and so the president must be briefed and the acting president must get approval from him. The president must approve those he wants to approve. He is still the president of the country. As he is in London now as president he can commit the country to a wide range of multilateral agreements with other countries.
Wherever there is power struggle there is tension –Aminu Abdullahi
It is the evil rumours that is fuelling tension. I want the DSS to fish out those behind the rumour about the death of the president. Why do they want the man dead? For me, anywhere you see people struggling for power there is tension. There are people who want Buhari to be in charge even on his sick bed while there are those who want his deputy to be in charge until he is fit. It is normal. But people should stop spreading rumours of the president’s death. Haba!
People should pray –Ike Oye
There is need for prayers. Buhari will not die until he fulfils his destiny. People should also pray so that we can continue to have a smooth running government in his absence, devoid of manipulations. There should be a conscious effort by everyone involved to avoid that kind of situation.
South has a right to insist on president in 2019 –Comrade Eradiri
We in the south have the right to insist on 2019. The problem is that of disunity in the South. The North is united. If we unite we will beat them hands down. If they rig, we will also rig. Osinbajo, your loyalty is to the country. As acting president, you can ask the cabal that is creating tension to stay out and you do your job. Osinbajo is listening to side talks. He is a lawyer and we expect him to insist on rule of law. He should exercise his powers. Do they have monopoly over violence? Those who rigged Jonathan out were supported by southerners and we claim to be educated, exposed and intelligent. But the so called people we call illiterates, the almajiris always beat us to the game. I have really given this a serious thought.
A coup now can only pave way for secession –Ebri
For me, the constitution is our supreme law. It must be obeyed or we do not deserve to be called a country. That means if the worst scenario happens as a result of the tension over Buhari, the constitution will apply. We must maintain this and no selective application. Now on 2019 and the forces that are positioning for it, the North can only take back power by winning a majority of votes. There are many political parties and each will present candidates from different ethnic zones and it is left for Nigerians to decide. If it is a matter of boasting, then we are not getting it right and things must be challenged. Soldiers must know that they are under a constitutional democracy and Nigerians must defend the constitution. The way Nigeria is now, I don’t know how successful a coup can go . And if it happens, it may open up the way for secessionist groups to move out. It is a good thing that a warning came early from the Chief of Army Staff. Nigerians should be vigilant and contribute towards nipping in the bud or thwarting any act that is ugly and unconstitutional and strive to protect the unity of the country and the survival of 18 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria.

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