ON June 9, 2015 when the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, tactically defected to the Peoples Democratic Party following the treacherous maneuvers that propped him into office, one had raised some posers in an article titled ‘Saraki, Dogara’s emergence and the Buhari Presidency’ published on June 10. With the gale of lawmakers’ defections from the ruling All Progressives Congress to the PDP and African Democratic Congress last Tuesday, those questions remain relevant. It was as if one had prescient knowledge of what eventually played out on the floors of the two chambers that day when, in spite of all odds, Yakubu Dogara emerged as Speaker of the House of Representatives to wrap up a palace coup that culminated in Tuesday’s eventual exposition of an overcooked stew. We saw it coming even when the APC leadership kept living in denial, hoping it could patch up a house it built with spittle to hoist its flag of political success in 2015. It was a dream that never was.
In politics, if you don’t make calculating, deft moves to preserve your grip on power, you are bound to rue that error someday when the hawks of power come after you. For politics, in my understanding and with the way we play it here, is a scientific warfare in another means. While at it, you cannot afford to doze off. You must always be on the alert, ready to strike if need be. With the benefit of hindsight, I doubt if a neophyte President Muhammadu Buhari truly understood this key element of politics despite his many years in the top hierarchy of the military and as Head of State. In the Nigerian political environment with an ambience of perpetual mutual suspicion, Buhari’s blank cheque to work with just about everyone and anyone with a pretentious mien to move the country forward was suicidal. And we said as much when the 8th Senate was inaugurated and he shrugged off the marriage of convenience as one of the fine attributes of democracy in action. How could that heresy be acceptable to a man who swore to fight entrenched interests both within and without to a standstill? It is either Buhari couldn’t read through the deceptions or he simply didn’t care about the collateral damage it could inflict on party supremacy and cohesion. For him then, as long as it tallied with his political sloganeering of being friend to everyone and to nobody in particular, he must have assumed that it was going to be a roller-coaster ride. Well, it never was.
In the piece mentioned above, I had projected that the absolute surrender of the gavel of legislative authorities to the PDP legislators, in cahoots with some persons whose heads were with the APC but souls glued to the PDP, would spell doom for the fortunes of the ruling party and could make or mar Buhari’s administration. The ominous signs were just too glaring to be ignored by anyone who has the faintest idea about the dynamics of politics in this clime. Specifically, I had asked: “But what does the emergence of these dark horses mean for the PDP that many believe would go into extinction with the loss of the Presidency and many states in the last election? Is the PDP proving bookmakers wrong? Will the re- engineering of the party be initiated from the National Assembly? Is Saraki being positioned as the arrow head of the resurgence of the party? Will Saraki mend fence with the APC leadership which, in a swift reaction, had disowned him? How will the Senate under his watch relate with the executive that may not indulge in settlement as was the case in the Jonathan era?”
Today, we do not need to hazard answers to these posers. In just three years, the reality stares us in the face. The APC is going through an agonizing transformation, hemmed in by forces within. The insect that is eating deep into the heart of the APC lives inside the soul of the APC. Those who nudged Buhari to keep dancing on as they watch over his back have abandoned him in the middle of nowhere. Interestingly, they have gone back to the vomit of 2014—the PDP. However, it was not surprising to keen political observers that, when the bubble finally burst on Tuesday after months of tensions and speculations, the two undertakers turned out to be Saraki and Dogara. In reality, these two have operated with double identities as leaders of the National Assembly. It was true that they joined forces with the APC to bring down the Jonathan administration; they never left the PDP for one day. They were just tagging along looking for the appropriate time to jump ship. And that time began with defection of the first batch of legislators earlier in the week. Now, we are being treated to the drama in which their supporters have been pleading with them to defect immediately to the PDP just like we saw in Benue and Kwara states during the week.
While one cannot blame the leadership of the PDP for gloating over what they described as the ‘loss of political virginity by Buhari’, one is curious to know what kind of power-sharing formula the PDP has put in place to accommodate the demands of the defectors most of whom would insist on automatic tickets in the 2019 elections. It is yet to be seen if the party has truly learnt the hard lesson from its 16 years of maladministration and three years of political hiatus. Beyond the return of some of its prodigal sons and daughters to its fold, nothing suggests that the PDP has weaned itself of the political rascality and malfeasance that almost got it into political oblivion in 2015. It would be soul-lifting if this latest gale of defection does not end up as part of the wily deceptions of its inglorious past.
However, it is instructive to note that Saraki and Dogara have merely borrowed a leaf from the same script the APC used in grabbing power in 2015. The case of Governor Aminu Tambuwal, who was then the Speaker of the House of Representatives, is still fresh in the mind. Tambuwal waited till the last day of the coup before pulling the rugs off the feet of the PDP leadership. That is exactly why no one is surprised that both leaders didn’t defect with their colleagues on Tuesday before adjourning sitting till September 26. It would have been suicidal to do that, knowing that it wasn’t clear if they could muster majority vote to remain in power. The strategy, I assume, would also provide them ample time to recruit more defectors to the opposition party before the elections. It didn’t start today. It started right from the inception of the 8thNational Assembly when the new bride decided to explore the possibility of a romantic foxtrot with her ex-lover. As it is, the chemistry clicked and thus begun the prolonged battle to frustrate the executive in both chambers.
If Buhari was unbothered then, it would be suicidal to toe the same line now not minding the fact that he wished the defectors well. Nothing points to this fact more than the series of meetings the President has been holding with the remaining lawmakers in his party. With the sudden deflections of two out of the 15 senators that allegedly defected pledging their allegiance to the APC, the success of the Saraki/Dogara coup is under serious threat. It is too early in the day to celebrate Buhari’s political deflowering as the PDP spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan had put it. The experience of the last three years of working with the enemies and being assailed with pebbles and stones should count for something. Having realised that it wasn’t a smooth sail as he had wished despite the betrayal, the Buhari of today has done away with the aloofness that cost him dearly last week. Those underrating his ability to strike hard might just be in for a surprise. The Buhari of today has the benefit of deeper reflections of the choices he made in the past. The die is cast and we can only wait to see who emerges victorious in Nigeria’s seasonal game of political treachery and deadly intrigues. No doubt, the next few months would be interesting times for our cloak and dagger politics. Wouldn’t it?