As discontent and rivalry take centre stage in Nigeria, By Zainab Suleiman Okino

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The sum total of everything—the good, the bad and the ugly may form the mass of our existential life and the nation’s but why do we place the highest premium on frivolities at the detriment of grave national malaise? Why will Big Brother Naija, a reality TV show in Nigeria  gather over 250 million votes in 99 days and a prize money of  N60 million when two consecutive presidential elections of 2015 and 2019 could only produce  28.2 million for both Buhari and Jonathan and  26.5 million for Buhari and Atiku? Why should the clash of egos among men and women elicit so much excitement in the country while a subject like our presidential election that control the levers of power, influence, money and the destiny of our nation attract less interest and enthusiasm?

People were appalled and amazed about the high votes in BBN in comparison with low turn-out of voters during elections including the presidential elections. Some are even calling on NASS and INEC to adopt the BBN style of housing wannabe-contestants for election and eliminating them one by one until a winner emerges.

Trust Nigerians; even that can be rigged. Their supporters can work behind the scenes to buy recharge cards for people to vote for contestants of their choice. Besides there is no violence and thuggery associated with election which scare people away from politics in BBN. On a serious note, there are lessons from BBN. The youth who constitute the largest percentage of the voters can surely exert their energies to choose visionary leaders instead of waiting to take over power because the Not Too Young To Run law has given them the leeway.

After the BBN distraction came the president’s marital affairs. Now why is Buhari’s marriage or no marriage be so important setting the social media abuzz and making it talk of the town more important than the economy; an economy that looks beautiful on papers and leaves no food on the table for families or naira notes in the pockets? Somebody actually sat down, thought of giving vent to the rumour in town about Buhari’s relationship with Sadiya Umar Farouk, a minister in his cabinet, designed a card with a date and time to booth and passed it off as their IV card; and Nigerians bought into it sheepishly.

And if I may ask, what is new in such rumoured relationships?  Obasanjo was acclaimed to be a lion in that respect, so we were told; Jonathan had a jewel in Diezani Alison Madueke and her machinations to have a hold on the president led to the sacking of another rival who later became a senator after some minor issues.  However none of these has ever taken the nation by the storm like Buhari’s. Now I understand, Buhari is (should I say was) an angel, a cult hero that is infallible.  So to the extent that some mischief makers printed wedding cards, the president’s wife, who was probably forced by the cabal to stay off, returned home hurriedly to reclaim what rightly belongs to her. Anyway, did the president not say he belonged to no one? Who would have thought Aisha, his wife, was one of them.

I agree that the first family’s lives cannot be in the closets and as public figures, sustained by us, the tax payers for them to live life to the fullest, we have the right to know. But the right to know what? Should we not demand for good governance, accountability, and transparency more than what we are getting now?

On the other hand, their roforofo fight has given us more insights into the Buhari presidency closet. That interview with Mamman Daura’s daughter, Fatima Daura, is a tell-tale sign of the cabal’s iron-hold on President Buhari, which might have deprived Aisha Buhari of her husband’s ‘attention’. Tell me which woman will not go mad over that.

Anyway that’s a secondary human interest side of the story that matters only to the flesh and not to the country. The issue to interrogate is this: Fatima Daura in the BBC Hausa interview said “…you know there are several houses and apartments in the Villa. When the president got into office, he gave the Glass House to our father, Mamman Daura” who was later asked to “move to a bigger apartment”. He was there until Yusuf Buhari’s accident and the president’s decision for Yusuf to move to the Glass House, and then Aisha’s tantrums came into the open, to the extent that she recorded it.

Although, they (Mamman Daura and the President) are related and have been friends from childhood, I do not understand why a man of about 80 years, without a portfolio in the cabinet, instead of ‘once in a while visit’ to his brother-president, would relocate with his family to go and stay with an equally septuagenarian president, to the extent of causing disaffection between the couple, and giving vent to the influence of the famed cabal on the president.

Fatima Daura herself is an adult, and working somewhere, but lives with her siblings, mum and dad in the Villa. Although she talked about Aisha’s rage and violent disposition, something is also not right with their permanent stay in the Villa.

For the president’s marital affair to become a discourse on the front-burner there must be some powerful forces behind it. The first one may be Aisha herself. Recall that she was away for two months (out of anger perhaps) and there were insinuations of her quarrel with the cabal and maybe her husband over the appointment of Sadiya Umar Farouk as minister. The cabal had their way and Sadiyya was appointed.  Then suddenly the marriage conspiracy came up. The marriage plan could have been hatched and orchestrated by the first lady’s camp to spite the poor lady-minister and get back at the cabal, who are now helpless and silent, after Aisha’s triumphant return to take over what rightly belongs to her—the position of first lady and as the president’s wife.

Second is Vice President Osinbajo’s angle. When the Vice President was stripped of some of his powers as head of the economic team, oversight of NEMA, Social Investment Programme and a host of others, his supporters and sympathisers went agog; they  theorised over his ambition and North-South dichotomy, made assumptions, expressed surprises and insinuated everything unimaginable.

When the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development was created, it was not just new; it was like an orphan; no agencies, parastatals or departments under the new ministry. In fact, people were asking “which one be this again? Is it going to be another ministry of special duties, which though has no specific duties, but actually does everything that pleases the president including organising the domestic affairs and going on errands for the president; no be special duties?

By the time some spins were done and matters strung together, Sadiya’s baby ministry became the beneficiary of some of Osinbajo’s “lost powers”. The conspiracy theory, as it were, is that the brouhaha over Sadiya’s marriage to President Buhari could be the handiwork of the Vice President’s supporters and sympathisers, and it doesn’t have to be with his consent.

Now, the discontent, power-play and rivalry (which are self-inflicted and are about self-interest) that are on display is symptomatic of the larger “battles” discussed in “hushed voices at the top”, which we all know and hear about, while the business of governance is now comatose. So while these shenanigans are ongoing, the purchasing power of the people is near-zero, the economy is in shambles, kidnapping and banditry are now ubiquitous, Boko Haram has become a prayer point in our mosques, churches and shrines .

Yet social media and conventional media have joined in the fray of celebrating (and enjoying) the salacious fake marriage of the president and the altercation between the first lady and the cabal. If these are the core of our concern, why should we complain that Nigeria is not working?