Penultimate Saturday, the President returned to the country to a warm reception by jubilant Nigerians, who thronged the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja and the roads leading to Aso Villa. Thousands of Buhari’s well-wishers also took to the streets in other parts of the country to rejoice over his long-awaited return.
The Buhari presidency has been dogged by persistent rumours and speculation that a group comprising some members of the President’s extended family and friends are the powers behind the throne. This group is said to have the ear of the President, influence policy-making and determine those who get major appointments.
Among those identified as being members of the cabal were: the President’s nephew, Mamman Daura; the father to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (Muhammed Bello) Musa Bello; the President’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari; Samaila Isa Funtua and a few others.
While Buhari was away, Osinbajo who stood for him as Acting President held sway and won the admiration of many Nigerians and foreigners for the life he injected into government. Although the Vice President was said to have consulted the President in London before taking major decisions, he reportedly did not consult the members of the cabal whose influence ebbed considerably during the period.
A source who is close to the president said, “While Buhari was away, they tried to ensure that Osinbajo was not in control of the government, by keeping away information from Osinbajo. Kyari’s main job in the villa is to make Osinbajo look bad.”
However, with the return of the President, the cabal is said to be back in power. Reliable sources who are privy to the goings-on in the corridors of power described the President’s return as ‘bittersweet’.
They claimed that with the President’s return, the cabal had taken over again.
“They seem to have a disproportionate influence on what he (Buhari) does, what he says, and who he appoints. This cannot be in doubt; it is the fact of the matter,” one of the sources said.
A former member of the House of Representatives in the Second Republic, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, confirmed the return of the cabal.
He said, “Off the cuff, one must mention Mamman Daura because he’s the kingpin and, in actual fact, he wields more power than the President. He knows; the President knows and those of them who are in government also know. After him, you have to mention the father to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Musa Bello.
“The son was made a minister, even though he has always been a card-carrying member of the Peoples Democratic Party. And, in fact, he was chairman of the National Hajj Commission for four years in a PDP administration. Then, when Buhari won, they made him a minister. Also, you have to mention the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, who is the pre-eminent lackey and errand boy of the mafia. You also have to include one character called Dr. Mahmud Tukur, the younger brother of Bamanga Tukur.
“Essentially, you can say that between the Buhari administration and the Kaduna Mafia is a revolving door. Once you come from the Kaduna Mafia, you occupy a very important position and there is no doubt about that — the same revolving-door policy was operated when he (Buhari) was Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund.
“The names I mentioned are the prominent members of the Kaduna Mafia. Again, it is not a (definitive) list because they keep coming in and out. But one thing about them is that they believe they have a divine right to dominate the North, and if they dominate the North, (they believe) they have a divine right to dominate Nigeria.”
Speaking also, a chieftain of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Alhaji Mohammed Abdulrahman, who also said he was a member of the famed Kaduna Mafia, confirmed the existence of the cabal and its undue influence on the President. He added that the most powerful member of the group had always exerted a great deal of influence on Buhari right from his days as a military head of state.
According to him, Gen. Tunde Idiagbon, Buhari’s lieutenant during his time as a military head of state, often complained about the hold that Daura had on Buhari.
“Since his days as the military head of state, Buhari has been under the influence of Daura. It was because of the funny ways Daura and his people acted during Buhari’s regime that led IBB to overthrow him. You know what? Even Tunde Idiagbon complained about Mamman Daura.
“Whenever we went to Lagos in those days, we spent some time in his house and discussed national issues. Idiagbon discussed with us most of the actions he was taking then. Idiagbon said people like Daura were manipulating him (Buhari),” Abdulrahman disclosed.
Mohammed added that the cabal perfected a strategy that had helped them to sideline the vice president. “What they do is, they make sure they second-guess Osinbajo, what he’s going to do and then they go ahead and get Buhari to commit to a contrary opinion or a contrary line of action. They first try to see what he is likely to do; they don’t go and tell Buhari, ‘This is what Osinbajo is planning to do.’ They get Buhari to commit — sometimes, publicly — to a view, policy or thrust, which is contrary to what Osinbajo has been trying to bring up as a policy. They do that by frustrating him (the vice president) and making sure that he doesn’t have his way.”
However, the elder statesman did not spare the vice president, whom he said was attracting self-inflicted problems to himself.
“Osinbajo is a victim of his blunders because his advisers are tribal. It is a church cabal. He doesn’t have balanced opinions coming from all parts of the country. So, he ends up making some terrible blunders and they (Buhari’s cabal) find it easy to checkmate him.”
Expressing his fears for Buhari’s administration’s capacity to succeed, the ACF chieftain said.
“With the cabal still in the Villa, there is no way Buhari will succeed as a president. It is not for nothing that Aisha (the First Lady) cried out. Do you remember when she spoke about the hyenas and the jackals? They are the ones controlling Buhari now. The President must muster courage and drive away the cabal he has surrounded himself with. The cabal is a bunch of hustlers, fleecing the president and his family. They are not human beings. They are not interested in Buhari’s success.”