Stories by Omoniyi Salaudeen
The scenario playing out at the seat of power gives a clear indication that some close aides of President Muhammadu Buhari are working at cross purposes. In this interview, a prominent Kano-born politician and pioneer chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Senator Rufai Hanga, says it is high time the president looked inward and re-examined the loyalty of his lieutenants.
You must have been following the comment attributed to the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, about Buhari. Perhaps, one can safely say that 2019 power politics is already on. What do you make of this development?
I agree; the 2019 politics is already on. I mix with a lot with people, from the side talks; it is obvious that 2019 power politics is already on only that people have not openly declared their intentions.
Would you then expect somebody who is still serving under a sitting president to make the kind of statement she made about her boss?
She has defended her position, saying Atiku had a hand in her appointment. She even said it that he (Atiku) was the first person to inform her of her appointment as a minister. Two, she said she had been with Atiku a long time ago. And I want to believe her because it is not only Buhari’s people that are in government now. Three, she said Buhari told them that he was not going to contest in 2019. So, I don’t see any reason people should blame her for saying she would go for Atiku in 2019. I really admire her courage because I learnt that some supporters of Buhari in the defunct CPC had earlier told her that they would never support Buhari in 2019, if he decides to contest. So, what is wrong in her saying she is not going to do this or do that? I think she is very courageous and I admire her for that.
Would you say that the people working with Buhari are actually loyal to him?
It depends on how one sees it. But for me, I see it as disloyalty. By Buhari’s nature, once he gives you responsibility, he will also give you authority. So, he doesn’t normally stand behind to see what is happening. He trusts people because he thinks everybody is like him. Since the beginning of this administration, some people have been working at cross purposes. It is not only Magu and Malami that are in disagreement. Even the DSS are not in harmony with Magu. And it is not helping matters.
At this juncture, don’t you think Buhari needs to re-examine his cabinet and the people around him so that the objectives and agenda of his administration can be realized?
I think it is high time he did that. I believe majority of the people working with Buhari were not handpicked by him. They were selected for him. I think he should have appointed people who had been with him a long time, who know his body language, so that whether he is around or not, they all can do whatever he sets out to do. But unfortunately, majority of the people around him are catering for themselves. Buhari is a very honest person, but the people around him are busy making money. And there are evidences to show. There are people who were living from hand to mouth before they joined this government. But now, they are dishing out thousands of Euros and pounds. Such people are not helping Buhari himself.
What do you think the president can do to make the lawmakers key into the anti-graft war?
Not only Buhari, but we Nigerians are also not happy in both ways. The legislators have their own limitations. They are being accused of corruption, they are being accused of dishonesty, they are being painted black by the ignorant public, while they are busy watching corruption on the part of the executive too. Not all the legislators are bad. There are some of them that are good and mean well for the country. But unfortunately, they are being painted black. Let’s hope Buhari will do something this time around.
Would you expect Buhari to seek re-election in the next general elections with the way things are now?
As things are now, I don’t expect him to run for the 2019. And I am sure, he won’t want to contest. People clamouring for him to contest are doing so for selfish reasons. They want him to contest so that they can continue to wreak havoc as they are doing now. Buhari is an honest man, he is a straight forward man, he loves Nigeria and Nigerians. If he contests again, these people will continue to do what they are doing now. If for that reason, he won’t want to contest. We want somebody who has vision for Nigeria, we want somebody who is strong enough to come and do the things he is doing. And I am sure; Buhari will recommend that kind of person. If he doesn’t, we already got some people in our minds; Nigerians have got people in their minds. I pray for him to be well, but I don’t think he will contest in 2019. My prayer for him is to sit down and guide Nigeria as a statesman. I pray for him to sit down and continue to watch what he has established and admire what is happening.