The leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, received the biggest surprise of his adult life last week.
Without any prior sign of the evolution of her views on self-determination, Aisha Buhari dramatically subscribed to the motto of Kanu’s secessionist movement that President Muhammadu Buhari had tried so hard to shoot dead and ‘’crush.’’
The wife of the president virtually apologized to the irredentist for her husband’s persecution of the Biafran activist. She pulled Kanu close and kissed it better.
Aisha borrowed from someone who borrowed Kanu’s pejorative metaphor of Nigeria as an Orwellian zoo and mainstreamed the taboo caricature. By so doing, she amplified the dystopian portrait of Nigeria as a ridiculous, civilization-free jungle, a thriving Hobbesian virgin land, with a pecking order that makes the weak the legitimate food of the strong.
Aisha had not meant to file for ideological divorce. But, when she tacked on her supportive addendum to Senator Shehu Sani’s Facebook post which allegorized Nigeria as a messy Animal Farm and ‘shared’ it, she effectively aligned herself with the leitmotif of the Biafra 2.0 cause. She identified with the case against the sub-human ecosystem of Nigeria. She echoed the rallying cry of Kanu’s phenomenal personality cult.
Senator Sani presented the irreverent fable as a commentary on the present situation of the Nigerian polity. However, Aisha embraced the post because the essay in pathetic fallacy resonated with her. The allegory spoke to the pain and powerlessness in the pit of her stomach. She watches the ‘’jackals and hyenas’’ frolicking on her husband’s lawn and she regrets that has no authority to stun them.
It is understandable that the highly privileged Aisha feels like one of the weaker animals of Nigeria. She is unarguably the most disempowered first lady since May, 1999. Unlike Stella Obasanjo, Turai Yar’Adua and Patience Jonathan who were allowed the liberty to cultivate dominant public personas from the reflected glory of their husbands, Muhammadu had forbidden her from wielding the aura of the spouse of the president. He decreed that she was to remain a wife, not to comport herself as an alternate president.
Last year, while the president was in Germany on a state visit, Aisha lamented, in a BBC interview, that her husband’s administration had been hijacked by a gang of strange intimates that brought nothing to the table. It was the public ventilation of the bedroom counsel her husband would not heed.
Buhari responded with a sexist brickbat. Standing beside Chancellor Angel Merkel, he tactlessly answered that he would not condescend to address the substance of his own wife’s critique because Aisha had embarrassed him by overstepping her bounds. She belonged in ‘’my kitchen, my living room and the other room.’’ In other words, she was wrong to presume that her experience of managing a beauty parlour qualified her to offer unsolicited advice on the sophisticated subject of statecraft!
With Buhari’s protracted sick leave increasingly amplifying the merit of her initial grumble, Aisha felt she had a bounden duty to reiterate her point. This time, though, she betted that Buhari would not shame her. She made bold to claim that her ‘‘Lion King’’ of a husband, upon his return, would drive away ‘’the jackals and hyenas’’ with a royal roar.
Well, that’s wishful thinking. The jackals and hyenas would never get ‘a quit notice’ from Buhari. Those animals that Aisha would gladly put to sleep are her husband’s pets.
Those ‘’hyenas and jackals’’ that Aisha can’t stand are her husband’s chosen company. He cherishes them. He would rather muzzle her than serve her their heads on a platter.
The jackals and hyenas run ‘’the kingdom’’ on his behalf. They are his surrogates. He ceded power to them.
Except he has been transformed by some epiphany or angelic revelation, it is most unlikely that Buhari would return from London and start a bush meat hunt of the jackals and hyenas.
Aisha’s husband loathes his responsibility as the head of the government. He abdicated his presidency early in the day for that same reason. Buhari took office without the irreducible minimum energy and passion a president needs to make a mark. Campaigning for the position seemed to have so burnt him out that he decided he deserved to use the entirety of his four year term to recoup.
Buhari’s laxity has always been the main bane of his government. His malleable passivity created a conspicuous vacuum of presidential absenteeism. He is the president who elicited the scornful question, ‘’who is the presidency?’’, from his own appointed aide? Buhari trumps Goodluck Jonathan in fecklessness!
The count of the days Buhari has spent away from his job is a mere arithmetic exercise. His presence has never had much of an impact. He has always been either an acquiescent pawn or a passive spectator in his own government. He flinches from leading from the front. His philosophy is that a duly constituted government should run on its own accord. He need not provide influence or exert influence.
Buhari is most absent when he is present. And he is most present when he is absent. His physical presence minimizes his due relevance. He becomes powerful when he grows sick, travels abroad and becomes a pampered puppet in the hands of his cabal of closest aides. His sick leave energizes an unscripted power play that somewhat magnifies the negligible significance of his person.
Every leader needs the basic quality of inner self-assuredness that radiates outward as gravitas. That’s what makes the leader a leader. Even Donald Trump, the flamboyant buffoon, has it.
President Buhari lacks that innate value. It’s hard to pinpoint whether his deficiency derives from inferiority complex or his fatalist worldview. But Buhari, both in his earlier incarnation as a military head of state and his second advent as president, is most content to serve as an exalted, apathetic non-leader.
Aisha hopes that her husband will return and retake ‘’the kingdom.’’ Buhari is not that knight of her dream. He cannot thrust himself into a challenging command of events. He cannot disrupt his inertia. It’s not just not in him to take the reins.
Moreover, it’s too late for Buhari to make up the leeway. The sun has already set on his era. He wasted the first half of his term which was his narrow window of opportunity to shape his government and execute his agenda. He trivialized his historic invitation to be a transformational leader.
The country has now devolved into a campaign playground. The jackals and the hyenas are jockeying for a place in the sun in 2019.
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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