Aisha Buhari vs The Cabal: Presidency in crisis as the fight back begins

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While so muck ink has been spilled on the face-off between Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Cabal in the Presidency, who are united in their bid to frustrate the VP ahead of the 2023 presidential election, emerging indications now point to an imminent showdown with the First Lady, Aisha Buhari firing the first salvo against the cabal; in what promises to be a bitter war of attrition in the presidency.

Aso Rock sources confided to Huhuonline.com that presidential aides have been scampering for cover afraid to be caught in the crossfire, after Mrs. Buhari took the unprecedented step of publicly accusing senior presidential media aide, Garba Shehu, of disloyalty and conflict of interests; and all but called for his resignation. In a statement titled: ”Garba Shehu Has Gone Beyond His Boundaries,” personally signed by the First Lady, Mrs. Buhari critically upbraided Shehu of sundry professional misdemeanors, accusing the presidential spokesman of working against the First Family by taking instructions from some people in government rather than from President Muhammadu Buhari.

Without naming names, Mrs. Buhari alleged that Shehu had gone beyond his brief and was waging war on the first family through an orchestrated campaign of calumny in the media using fifth columnists. “As spokesperson of the president, he has the onerous responsibility of managing the image of the president and all the good works that he is executing in the country. Rather than face this responsibility squarely, he has shifted his loyalty from the president to others who have no stake in the compact that the president signed with Nigerians on May 29, 2015 and 2019.

“To make matters worse, Mr. Shehu has presented himself to these people (read Cabal) as a willing tool and executioner of their antics, from the corridors of power even to the level of interfering with the family affairs of the president. This should not be so. The blatant meddling in the affairs of a First Lady of a country is a continuation of the prodigal actions of those that he serves.

While many observers may not be shocked by the willingness of Mrs. Buhari to wage a public relations campaign against the cabal, Huhuonline.com gathered from Aso Villa sources that presidential aides have been caught in the crossfire and there is general fear and apprehension which way the pendulum will eventually switch. In the escalating war, sources tell Huhuonline.com that the first lady feels she has been stabbed on the back by the chief of staff, Abba Kyari, whom she virtually installed into the inner circle of the president. “She feels betrayed by Kyari,” a Villa source quoted Mrs. Buhari’s spokesman, Aliyu Abdullahi, as saying on anonymity. “Well, the first lady has said to hell with the cabal and has now decided to take her case directly to the Nigerian people,” another source quoted Sulaiman Haruna, Director of Information in the office of the First Lady, as corroborating the development.

The First Lady opened a can of worms concerning a protracted family feud, which involved her and a nephew of Buhari, Mamman Daura. Mrs. Buhari was away from Nigeria for over a month and was unusually silent. Her silence generated rumors that the cabal had pushed her to the background amid rumors that President Buhari was going to marry another wife and a viral video in which Mrs. Buhari was seen protesting in the presidential villa were touted as proves that cabal was trying to push her out. Mrs. Buhari, according to sources, has blamed Kyari for the scandal, while accusing Shehu of having knowledge about the plot.

“The Nigerian public was given the impression that on arrival into the country Mr. President locked me out of the villa because he wanted a new first lady; and Garba Shehu, as Villa spokesperson, knew the truth and had the responsibility to set the records straight. But because his allegiance is somewhere else and his loyalty misplaced, he deliberately refused to clear the air and speak for the president who appointed him in the first place. Consequently, his action has shown a complete breakdown of trust between the First Family and him,” Mrs. Buhari noted in her statement.

Huhuonline.com gathered that initially, the first lady was very inclined to tacitly endorse the activities of the cabal as she viewed Abba Kyari as the gate-keeper who would shield her husband from the political vultures in the APC. So close were the two that when the first lady’s office organized a special prayer session for the nation at the State House, images from the event showed Mrs. Buhari sitting beside Kyarif with whom she engaged in discussion. Also in attendance were Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola; Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu; and former Nasarawa governor, Tanko Almakura.

But the rupture came fast and furious after the first lady realized much to her chagrin that Kyari has exploited his apparent closeness to the president to build a formidable power base of cronies and loyalists in and outside the presidency who are answerable directly to him; not the president, who was virtually reduced to a spectator inside the Villa. Matters came to a head when the president was away on medical leave in London, and the first lady was barred by the cabal from seeing her husband, even as the social media was awash with reports that Buhari had died.

In hindsight, Mrs. Buhari recalls in her statement against Shehu that: “The genesis of this fake news started when my husband fell sick and perpetrators of this act were showing fake Ambulance, Hospital and dead body suggesting that my husband is dead,” she said. “That time, I received so many calls from other first ladies and Presidents of other countries to confirm; so I called the attention of NCC, NBC and the National Orientation Agency.” Mrs. Buhari said the rumors could have been laid to rest if Shehu had done his job, yet “he [Shehu] kept mute to cause more confusion and instability for his Principal and his family.” The first lady now believes the deafening silence of the presidency over her husband’s travails and tribulations were part of a well-orchestrated ambush by the cabal to hijack the presidency.

It was against this backdrop, sources told Huhuonline.com that the first lady had to cry out in an interview with the BBC; alerting Nigerians that a few unelected individuals had taken the presidency hostage and were presiding over the affairs of the country. Ever since that BBC outburst, the First Lady had been steadfast in waging internal opposition against the cabal, which she described in her tepid statement as “others who have no stake in the compact that the president signed with Nigerians on May 29, 2015 and 2019.”

There was no love lost between Mrs. Buhari and the cabal when the former Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura, who was answerable to Buhari’s nephew, Mamman Daura, was ignominiously sacked by then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, after DSS agents invaded the National Assembly in 2018. Huhuonline.com also learnt from Villa sources that while Daura and Alhaji Isa Funtua were searching for Daura’s replacement, the president’s brother-in-law was able to pass the name of Alhaji Bichi through the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, to Buhari, who was then in London, for his approval as new DG of DSS.

The announcement of Alhaji Bichi as the new DSS boss paved the way for the ascendance of Kyari in the power configuration for supremacy to wield presidential power on behalf of the absentee President Buhari. Kyari’s position was further strengthened by Buhari’s order after his re-election that ministers and heads of agencies should get to him through the office of the Chief of Staff. The recent statement from the office of the First Lady, which upbraided Garba Shehu, is therefore a further escalation of the war within Buhari’s presidency.

Presidential sources told Huhuonline.com that any time there’s a report of disharmony in the presidency; Nigerians must remember how President Buhari shed crocodile tears in 2011, while declining further interest in the presidential election. Buhari, who was then presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), had declared that the 2011 election would be his last on the presidential ballot. At the International Conference Centre, where he rendered what was seen as a tearful valediction were the party’s vice presidential candidate, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) and former FCT Minister, Nasir El Rufai.

Despite weeping intermittently at the event marking the end of the party’s electioneering, Buhari did not bother to challenge the outcome of the election at the tribunal as he did on two previous occasions. But four years later, propelled by some of those who were present when he announced his exit from politics, Buhari contested the 2015 presidential election and defeated incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Being a contraption of strange political bedfellows who sought to win power before thinking about what to do with the power, Aisha Buhari was the first person that came out to explode about cabals around her husband. Everybody believes that President Buhari is not in total control of the country whether it is said or not.

As the battle lines are drawn between the cabal and the first lady, sources told Huhuonline.com that the presidency is in crisis and nobody seems to be in charge as aides are confused on how to confront issues affecting the president, because of the uncertainty over who has authority over what has to be done. An Aso Villa source confided to Huhuonline.com that the prevailing chaos was evident when the presidency issued conflicting statements on how President Buhari should be addressed, following an editorial by a newspaper, which said it would henceforth address the president as major general, his military era title. The special adviser on media and publicity to President Buhari, Femi Adesina, had earlier said: “If you decide to call him major general, he wasn’t dashed the rank, he earned it. So, you are not completely out of order. The fact that you can do so is even another testimony to press freedom in Nigeria.”

A few hours after Adesina’s statement, another one came from the presidency; and this time, it was signed by Shehu, who described the decision by the newspaper under reference to address Buhari as Major General in his official title and refer to his government as a regime instead of administration, as totally curious and utterly incredible. “It is not within the power or rights of a newspaper to unilaterally and whimsically change the formal official title or the designation of the country’s president as it pleases.” The newspaper had also said it would thenceforth refer to Buhari’s administration as a “regime” to symbolically demonstrate its resentment and protest against what it described as “autocracy and military-style repression” and disdain for the rule of law by the Buhari administration.

Garba’s statement reads in part: “The Constitution of Nigeria recognizes the president as the formal official title of the occupant of that office. Can the newspaper, in its hubris address the president as prime minister as it pleases? “Is it within the paper’s responsibility or power to change the official title of the man who occupies the office of the president? Does that mean any newspaper is free to address the comptroller general of customs a colonel rather than his official title?”

Shehu said Buhari was indeed a Major General, but had retired from that position and now twice democratically elected president of Nigeria. He added that Buhari was the two-time electoral choice of voters. He said the newspaper’s opinion was entirely in line with holding and exercising the right of free speech and freedom of the press, as Adesina said. He urged the newspaper to separate journalism from partisan politics, alleging that its double standards in cuddling some of the past dictators and their open contempt for Buhari clearly showed that the newspaper had sinister motives for its current curious editorial judgment.

It remains to be seen whether President Buhari would side with the cabal to clip the wings of his wife before she takes flight; given that she has decided to take her searchlight to every corner in the Villa and to report to the Nigerian people, all the goings-on inside the presidency. Aisha Buhari is telling any Nigerian who cares to listen, that henceforth, she will no longer be confined to the “other room” as she takes on the cabal and speaks truth to power.