Buhari’s other side and women in public office
One aspect of President Muhammadu Buhari’s public image, which his military career seems to have etched indelibly in the minds of Nigerians, is that of unsmiling rigidity. However, almost three years on saddle as a democratic leader, three momentous incidences have helped to throw up fresh analysis of the Buhari persona.
While it is hard to pin the notion of a Casanova around President Buhari, his reaction to feminine tantrums, shows the pulse of a gentleman. The fact that his cabinet did not parade a lot of women does not detract from his equipoise towards the womenfolk.
From his notable repartee in response to his wife’s global howler against his governance style, to Minister Aisha Alhassan’s bold acknowledgement of her preference for former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the recent display of feminine courage in the Presidential Villa by the Head of Service, Mrs. Winifred Oyo Ita, President Buhari’s other side, have come out in great reinforcement.
Mrs. Oyo-Ita captured national attention by her vigorous and firm stand against attempt by a member of the so-called Presidency cabal to intimidate and pin on her the leak of an official memo from her office on the Mainagate to the public.
The reinstatement of the former chairman of Pension Reforms Commission came as a big embarrassment to the Presidency, and given the inflexibility of civil service rules, it would amount to a grave breach if the memo from the OHCSF was leaked by Mrs. Oyo-Ita.
It must have been this realization that the infringement under reference was the civil service equivalent to treason that the HoS reacted the way she did, not minding that indiscreet eyes were trained in the direction of her verbal protestation.
On the other hand buoyed by how far she had come in the bureaucratic ladder, Mrs. Oyo-Ita did not want to spare the perceived duplicity and functional profligacy that has been doing on in the Presidency, particularly around the office of the Chief of Staff.
The HoS principled stand therefore could be her own way of saying enough is enough by interrogating the Chief of Staff on the issue of leak of official memos to the President. When the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallan Nasir el Rufai, was put on the national spotlight over a similar leak of his scathing, but honest to God letter, the fingers of suspicion pointed in the direction of the office of Mallam Abba Kyari.
At the peak of public outcry that cabal has hijacked the Buhari Presidency, the President was said to have declared that he was in charge and went further to limit the presence of his uncle, Mamman Daura, in the villa, where he had always operated as a shadow of the President.
With the leak of the damning el Rufai letter, some Presidency insiders believed that Abba was fighting a surrogate battle on behalf of the big Uncle Daura, by casting the author of the letter, who was also angling to be the power behind the throne, as enemies rather than friends of PMB.
While most of Buhari’s acolytes who became estranged shortly after he mounted the saddle as democratically elected President, blame the former minister of Federal Capital Territory for their misfortune, el Rufai insisted on entrenching himself as a forward looking Buharist. The leaked therefore contained what could be called social intelligence to stoke a change in style and policy by the President.
Nonetheless, because the old Buharists congregating around Abba believe that such details could be damaging to the administration and offensive to the President, they must have voted for a leak to try and put a wedge between the Lion king and the hyena. But as obtains in the Animal Kingdom, small animals are more equal than others, as such there was no blood flowed.
But Mrs. Oyo-Ita must have smelt a rat and decided to shout in the African tradition to scare the hawks from making a feast of the chickens, the weaker animals. And since the leak did not leave anything to conjecture, but a facsimile reproduction of the original memo, the HoS knew it was her words against the Chief of Staff, based on the fact only the receiver and sender were in direct contact with the document.
The part of the memo referenced HSCSF/HCSF/LU/COR/FCSC/750/T and dated October 23, 2017, which irked all the parties, was just where the author declared: “Please, note that the OHCSF was never in agreement with the reinstatement and consequently never conveyed the approval of the FCPC to Mr. A. A. Maina, nor approved his posting to the Ministry of Interior or any other MDA
“Rather, I sought an audience with His Excellency, Mr. President on Wednesday, October 11th, 2017 after the FEC meeting where I briefed His Excellency verbally on the wide-ranging implications of the reinstatement of Mr. A. A. Maina, especially the damaging impact on the anti-corruption stance of this administration.”
It was therefore the above portion, which clearly exposed Mr. President’s involvement in the reinstatement deal that Buhari’s ‘frenemies’ wanted to bring to the public domain, to either embarrass him or nudge him into a precipitate action against the ‘Boko woman’.
That the President did not take that path of vainglorious politician shows a subdued side of his leadership style. Ordinarily, the political approach of shaking off the discredit of Presidential involvement in a tawdry and illegal job cum promotion racket would have been to suspend one or two staff, hand out bogus warning and attention shifts from the scandal.
There was also a similar occurrence. Minister of Women Affairs, Hadjia Aisha Alhassan, was speaking with a Hausa service correspondent of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the question about 2019 crept up. Without hiding under political double speak, Mama Taraba rendered her candid opinion, stressing that in the event that President Buhari presents himself for re-election, she would go genuflect and tell him that she was going to support Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
The minister did not stop there, she not only added that Buhari did not say he would seek a second term, but also laid emphasis on the fact that Atiku is her political godfather. Such sincerity describes the essential qualities of leadership, including courage and insight.
As in the recent case of the HoS, such open declaration of support for a rival, could earn a minister instant dismissal from the cabinet by her principal. But President Buhari, if ever he was peeved by that scandalous exposition, did not show immediate aversion; neither did his famed body language expose signs of such an untoward possibility.
Even in the case his wife, the President employed humour to downplay the gravity of Mrs. Aisha Buhari’s sincere misgivings about the goings on in her husband’s Presidency. And for a politician’s wife to stand on global stage and de-market her husband and his style of leadership, that was clearly an audacious trespass of a red line.
Although President Buhari’s wordplay that his wife belongs to the other room, seemed to downplay the contribution or place of women in public discourse, it was a better approach than what persons like Daura would have recommended.
Yet, in the President’s response, it was easy to decipher that knowing that there were certain ranges of information available to him that the wife was ignorant of; the President did not see any point trying to contest her candid observations.
Although public policy analysts and experts in organisational behaviour may fault the approaches of the three women but one, the President showed that base sentiment has no place in public administration and leadership.It takes discipline to accommodate differences in opinions. That is the hallmark of advanced democracies, where people are encouraged to be true in their convictions. If husband and wife could differ in their approach to issues, it means that belonging to one political party does not preclude difference of opinion on certain issues.
There are many positive aspects of the actions and conducts of the four major characters in the foregoing analysis, the chief of which is the maturity displayed by the President. The candour of the women under reference commends emulation, because instead of resorting to feigned somnolence or learned helpless, citizens, particularly those in public service must learn to speak out and stand for what is right.
While the honesty of the women, which they conveyed in their viewpoints, serves as a tribute to women in public service, it also underscores the role and essence of the educated woman in society. It is that display of equal stake, instead of timid obeisance, that threw up the backcloth with which the accommodating mien of the President could be seen.
What President Buhari has so far demonstrated is that a leader’s mood and actions have enormous impact on those they lead, because leadership is to inspire. Perhaps it is maturity that conferred on the President the inner strength to be honest even in the sight of painful truths.
Apart from building confidence in his aides, the President’s disposition would not only encourage his aides to be the best they can, but also to be loyal to the truth and thereby upholding patriotism more than parochialism.
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