ON August 19, about 24 hours before he arrived in Kano for the wedding ceremony of President Muhammadu Buhari’s son, Yusuf, and Zarah, daughter of Emir of Bichi Nasiru Ado Bayero, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar delivered a damning verdict on the performance of the Buhari administration.
Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was re-elected for a second term at the expense of Abubakar, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 presidential election, and there are indications that the former vice president is getting set for another shot at the presidency in 2023.
Speaking at the launch of a book written by Chidoh Onumah, titled ‘Remaking Nigeria: Sixty Years, Sixty Voices,’ at the Yar ‘Adua Centre, Abuja, Abubakar noted that Buhari had failed.
“Who would have thought that our country would become a haven for kidnappers and all manner of bandits to the extent that their nefarious activities would become a major industry? They have been allowed to operate so openly and brazenly that it would surprise no one if they applied for registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE),” the former vice president said.
Abubakar noted that Buhari’s style of governance had worsened insecurity in the country and led to agitations for self-determination from various quarters. He also observed that Nigeria had become worse under Buhari’s leadership.
“Five years ago, the Abuja–Kaduna road was not a virtual no-go area. The South-East was not a virtual war-zone, and Amotekun was not needed to protect lives and property in the South-West. These are among the clearest evidence that the issues that were the focal point of the book that brought us here more than five years ago have become even worse.”
But about 24 hours after launching the fierce attack on the Buhari government, Abubakar was in Kano, at the Emir of Bichi’s palace to wine and dine with his ‘political enemy’ Buhari in the presidential and royal wedding which brought members of the opposition PDP and their counterparts from the ruling APC under one roof.
Unspecified number of private jets – different reports put the number between 50 and 100 – lined up the runway at the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, as members of Nigeria’s political elite, and a few from some neighbouring West African countries, particularly Niger Republic, converged to celebrate the marriage between presidential and royal families.
Pictures that later emerged from the wedding showed Buhari and Abubakar in a very friendly pose, trying out what is now referred to as ‘COVID-19 handshake’ to the administration of other privileged individuals in the gathering.
There were unconfirmed reports that the former vice president played a sort of official role in the wedding ceremony.
Ordinary Nigerians, many of who have made enemies from engaging in heated arguments – which sometimes turn violent – over their ‘political leaders’, would not have imagined that all these could be possible months after Abubakar issued a statement to attack the Buhari government following a Bloomberg report which noted that Nigeria was set to emerge as the nation with the highest unemployment rate on Earth.
In the March 28 statement titled ‘World’s Highest Unemployment Rate: Time To Help This Government Help Nigeria’, Abubakar said, “I have never felt so bad at being proven right, as I am by the report from Bloomberg Business on Saturday, March 27, 2021, that Nigeria is to emerge as the nation with the highest unemployment rate on Earth, at just over 33 per cent. We warned about this, but repeated warnings by myself and other patriots were scorned. And now this.”
Abubakar said Buhari’s policies were not working and blamed the country’s economic woes on the Buhari administration’s “discredited command and control policies that have led to massive capital flight from Nigeria”.
Abubakar went ahead to describe the Buhari administration’s decision to undertake a $1.5 billion rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refinery, which he stressed has failed to turn a profit for years, as ill-advised.
Declaring that Buhari lacked the capacity to govern Nigeria, Abubakar added, “What this government must realise is that the unprecedented insecurity Nigeria is facing is the result of youth unemployment. Idleness is the worst feature of unemployment because it channels the energy of our youth away from production, and towards destruction, and that is why Nigeria is now the third most terrorised nation on Earth.
“We are at a precipice as a nation and the truth is that all stakeholders and elder statesmen have to speak up on time, while there is still a Nigeria to save. This government obviously lacks the capacity to address our current challenges, and we must help them, not because of the government, but because of our people.
“In a situation where we are simultaneously the world headquarters for extreme poverty, the world capital for out of school children, and the nation with the highest unemployment rate on Earth, there is a very real and present danger that we might slip into the failed states index – God forbid!”
Despite the scathing criticisms, Abubakar and Buhari were embracing and making merry at Yusuf and Zarah’s wedding in the ancient city of Kano on August 20.
* The curious case of Femi Fani-Kayode
A former minister of aviation Femi Fani-Kayode was the most unlikely person most Nigerians would expect to turn up in Kano as Buhari’s wedding guest.
Fani-Kayode could lay claim to the title of Buhari’s fiercest critic – alongside Reno Omokri, a former aide of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
In April 2020 Fani-Kayode assured Nigerians that he would never waver in his commitment to speaking out against the ‘atrocities’ of the Buhari government, which he had called numerous unprintable names.
“My opposition to the Buhari government for the last five years has been as constant as the Northern Star and it remains as strong today as it ever was. I warned Nigerians what would happen if he came to power in 2015 and I was proved right. I warned them again in 2019 and again I was proved right. I have spoken and written more than anyone else in this country over the last five years about the atrocities of the Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram and the tyranny, wickedness, evil, corruption and incompetence of the Buhari regime,” Fani-Kayode said.
“My opposition is not just to Buhari but to the dark and sinister forces that he represents and what he stands for which is beyond the comprehension of the overwhelming majority of the Nigerian people,” he added.
Despite his stand against the Buhari ‘regime’, Fani-Kayode on August 18 announced to bewildered Nigerians, through his Facebook page, that he had arrived in Kano for the presidential and royal wedding ceremony.
“Flew into Kano with my friends and brothers Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State, Governor Babagana Umar Zulum of Borno State, Senator Sani Ahmed Yarima, Senator Ali Ndume, Ambassador Bashir Yuguda, Hon. Minister Isa Pantami, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu and others for the wedding ceremony of President Muhammadu Buhari’s son, Yusuf Buhari, to HRH Nasiru Ado Bayero, the Emir of Bichi’s daughter, Zahra Ado Bayero,” Fani Kayode wrote.
What was even more mind-boggling was the fact that one of the people Fani-Kayode referred to as ‘friends and brothers’ was minister of communication and digital economy Pantami, a man he recently described as a ‘Jihadist’ and ‘sociopath’.
After a news report exposed Pantami’s support for Islamist Jihadist terror group Al-Qaeda, Fani-Kayode lent his voice to calls for the minister’s resignation, or dismissal.
“Simply put, Pantami is a homicidal, sociopathic and psychotic individual… who is a hater of Christians and non-Muslims. He is a religious bigot, an ethnic supremacist, an unrepentant jihadist, a lover of bloodshed, carnage and terror and a psychopathic and clearly insane individual who may well have been responsible for the slaughter of many innocent Christians over the years as a consequence of his inflammatory rhetoric and reckless actions,” Fani-Kayode said about Pantami in an April 22 Facebook post.
Apparently, besides travelling to Kano in the same aircraft with Pantami, Fani-Kayode became buddies with the communication and digital economy minister, who officiated the wedding ceremony in his capacity as a trained Imam.
Fani-Kayode took to Facebook to share photos he took with Pantami at the wedding ceremony.
In the picture, the face mask worn by both men did not conceal the fact that they had smiles on their faces as they posed for the camera.
However, Fani-Kayode came under heavy criticism on social media after he shared photos.
Disappointed Nigerians accused him of lacking honour.
But the former minister has defended his actions, arguing that “you can be friends with your political adversary and still disagree”.
Posting more pictures showing other top members of the PDP and the APC, Fani-Kayode said in the caption: “Buba Galadima with Ahmad Lawan, GEJ (Goodluck Ebele Jonathan) with PMB, GEJ with VP (Yemi Osinbajo) and Atiku (Abubakar) with PMB. Politics is about bridge-building regardless of your differences. It is not war. You can be friends with your political adversary and still disagree. It’s called politics without bitterness and being civilised.”
The APC and the PDP are plotting each other’s downfall in the 2023 elections but that did not stop chieftains of both parties from fraternizing and making merry at the wedding ceremony. PDP governors at the wedding ceremony include Douye Diri (Bayelsa), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Bala Mohammed (Bauchi), Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (Sokoto) and Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa).
Buhari and his predecessor, Jonathan, have been having a sort of friendly relationship after engaging in highly acrimonious campaigns ahead of the 2015 election, with Jonathan visiting the presidential villa on a number of occasions to see Buhari.
But that has not stopped Buhari from continuing to blame the Jonathan administration for nearly all the problems in Nigeria, about six years after he (Buhari) took over as president.
In a national broadcast on the occasion of Nigeria’s 60th anniversary on October 1, 2020, Buhari said Jonathan and other former presidents destroyed the country.
“Those in the previous governments from 1999 to 2015 who presided over the near destruction of the country have now the impudence to attempt to criticise our efforts.”
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has a habit of attending social events, was conspicuously missing at the Kano wedding ceremony but Jonathan was among Buhari’s most high profile guests.