Takeaways from Alhassan’s bravado

Sen. Aisha Alhassan

What should have been early and riotous commencement of hurricane 2019 (presidential race) in the ruling party was carefully deflected and downgraded into a non-lethal family affair by leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC). All through last week and one before, the story in town was that of minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, who had the effrontery to declare her preferences for 2019. She was categorical, when she said President Buhari would not be entitled to another shot at the presidency, at least from her viewpoint. She alluded to an understanding that was reached to that effect.

Many Pharisees shouted ‘crucify her’. They wanted the head of the fearless woman, instead of thanking her for doing what they lack the courage to say. Hypocrites!

Some governors who have been nursing inordinate ambition in their closets were the most vociferous in condemning Alhassan, because if her preferences sail through, they would lose out, either in their plot to be vice president or to run in case Buhari drops out for obvious reason of old age and health challenges. For what they dubiously interpreted as satanic verses, these spineless governors hurriedly put her on media trial.

But the good news is that the party has temporarily offered her relief, after she reportedly apologized. Alhassan was at the party headquarters on Thursday, where some claimed she was interrogated for two hours. The party’s national chairman, John Odigie Oyegun, was said to be in attendance, among other leaders. At the end of the talks, herself and party spokesman, Bolaji Abdullahi walked to her parked SUV, and reporters were briefed of the encounter.

According to Abdullahi, the strong woman from Taraba admitted her error and apologised. He said: “Now, having offered her explanation, we acknowledged that as a member of this party, she is entitled to her opinion and entitled to her choice. However, as a senior member of this party, her statements represent an act of indiscretion because with the kind of position she occupies, even within the party, she is a party leader in her own right, so what she said was not what she was supposed to say at the time that she said it.”

On and on, party spokesman explained that even though she said things that hurt the party, she has been forgiven. On that note, it appears the party has managed it well, even if it is just to grant her temporary relief. At the appropriate time, the woman will be made to pay for her sin. I personally cannot be deceived, but I acknowledge the deft handling of what could have been a very messy case. It is already, but to have promptly put it under control is perhaps, the kind of crisis management style long expected of the chairman on other matters ailing the party.

On the verdict of ‘go and sin no more’, the leadership must have wisely reckoned from her tone of explanation that even though she was sincere in explaining her shortcomings, she could spill more beans if the matter were allowed to escalate. She also does not represent herself alone, but a tendency that is well beyond her, which also has to be well managed. Going after her so hastily could breed further headache for the party, the leaders must have reckoned.

So, it is good that those who expected more trouble for her and the party were disappointed, even though temporarily. That is a commendable takeaway. The matter was promptly handled like a family affair, and it was brought to a quick end, which I explained might not be the real end. But it is a fair deal for all.

Earlier, we were told the leadership was going to invite the Women Affairs Minister and her professed godfather, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, for grilling. We didn’t see that last week. Maybe at another forum, the former vice president will come explain reason(s) for his own tantrums. He said a bit of it already, that after he helped to empower the party and government was formed, he was abandoned. Atiku is a big fish, maybe at a higher level of interrogation, he too will be asked to explain further. He deserves some respect.

Earlier last Wednesday, Alhassan walked jauntily to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in the Villa, not showing signs of fright. She moved around and expressed the fundamental freedom that is hers alone. Her fellow ministers also warmed up to her, going by pictures that were shown.

On that note, the Presidency deserves commendation, for not being in a hurry to pay back. At other times, a more bullish presidency could have locked her out, or just do something terrible to acknowledge her vitriol. But like I said, there will be sufficient time to do that, sure. President Buhari cannot be expected now to learn such act of generosity in old age. The soldier politicians that we have had are not known to forgive easily and forget. Even if a new wave of compassion has come over Buhari, his foot soldiers in the governors’ camp will want to pay back, not because they love Buhari, but because the minister’s impudence jolted their cowardly ambition.

One of the reasons given for Alhassan’s reprimand, by the party, even though she had been forgiven, according to Abdullahi, is that the timing of her provocation is not a ripe one. That means she is too much in a hurry, even though what she said about Buhari’s qualification for 2019 is her prerogative.

And I ask, what is the appropriate time to discuss issues of 2019? This is one area the political class has not excelled in since 1999, and it is at the bottom of the tension in parties, whether in states or national. They do not have succession plan. They keep a heavy lid on the subject, pretending it is a distraction for governance.

Had Obasanjo hinted his former vice early of his intention to do a second term with clear assurance that since power was to return to the North, Atiku would benefit, the former vice would have had no reason to plot to overthrow his boss. Knowing Obasanjo for whom he is, Atiku couldn’t trust him 100 percent. During the 2007 transition, the PDP field was throne open. Wealthy candidates like Peter Odili had gone round the country on campaigns and wasted resources, only for Obasanjo to pull out his joker at the last minute. Umaru Yar’Adua was brought out as the party’s candidate. And that was the beginning of another trouble for the party, because its zoning arrangement suffered derailment once Yar’Adua was unable to continue with the North’s slot.

It was succession dispute that ruined chances of PDP in 2015, when Jonathan, after six years in office still held on to the party’s ticket. That was the reason for the exodus, which depleted the PDP and enriched APC.

Therefore, it is not too late for insiders in APC to know the party’s plan for 2019. This is mid-term and in every democratic clime, this is time to begin preparation for the next election. The argument that election matters could distract governance is sham. It is a lazy argument for non-performing parties. In fact, preparation for the next election is supposed to fire performance in office.

It is on that note I invite Mr. President to make up his mind on 2019 and free the party to explore from its array of good and moderate hands. The APC did not enjoy good timing between when it was hurriedly patched together, and the period campaigns broke for 2015. Many things were done hastily just to present candidates for that election. Now, voters need to know those who will come up for elections and have enough time to investigate them. This country is too challenged for just any man who can win elections. Now we know there is a difference between wining votes and actual competence. There is a difference between crowd pulling and capacity for the job. And all parties, voters should think deeply!



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