My reading of the situation is that our policy direction has nothing to do with Mamman Daura and everything to do with President Buhari. The APC developed a comprehensive policy programme on which they campaigned for power and won. Following the inauguration of the president, he appeared to be backtracking on some of the APC policy positions and appeared also to have distanced himself from the party.
In the media, in text messages, WhatsApp posts, on Facebook and at every twist and turn, the conversation is about the excessive power allegedly wielded by one man, Mamman Daura, said to be the man exercising power in the country. On a daily basis, I read stories about how Mamman Daura is ruling the country and how he must be removed from exercising power, if confidence in operating our democracy is to be restored. When I talk to my friends in the ruling party, the APC, they complain that they fought for power; won power and Mamman Daura stole it from them. This weekend, I reflected on what all these narratives on Mamman Daura are telling us.
I goggled the name ‘Mamman Daura’ and tons of materials emerged on how Mamman Daura is ruling Nigeria. The gist of the narrative is that he has planted a certain Abba Kyari as Chief of Staff to the President who briefs him on all policy measures. On receiving his daily brief, he has a one-on-one with the president and gives instructions on what policy measures are to be accepted and implemented. What he says, we are told, is what happens. These narratives are not complimentary to the president who apparently has no choice on matters and does what Mamman Daura tells him to do.
As a social scientist, I often wonder about the sources for such assertive narratives. If President Muhammadu Buhari receives his instructions in one-on-one meetings, how come the storytellers know what happens, given that there are no witnesses to the discussions? How do we know they were not playing ludo or discussing their prowess in playing football in the 1950s? Why would the president accept instructions knowing fully well he is the one with the mandate and the power? What is the basis of their relationship, as Mamman Daura has no official government function?
Some of the reports I read say Mamman is the nephew, while others say he is the uncle to the president. The relationship might matter a bit since uncle translates as ‘father’, implying a hierarchical relationship in Nigerian language, while nephew is a brother, which could also be senior or junior. Well, we can decide not to split hairs on the details of the relationship because whatever it is, Mamman Daura is perceived to be well placed to play his role. One of the main charges against Mamman Daura is that of nepotism; that he compiles lists of relations for juicy appointments and gives the president to implement. The president, we all know, has lots of relations, so the question becomes why are Mamman Daura’s lists, and not those of other relations, accepted for implementation?
If APC is not in control, Mamman Daura must be; after all he has been seen hanging around the president. If the president had maintained his fidelity to the party team and agenda, I doubt that Mamman Daura would have been elevated into the “real ruler” of Nigeria.
One of the most difficult empirical tasks in political science is that of establishing both the existence and powers of confidants, cabals and even spouses. Because the relationships are closed to outsiders, empirical evidence rarely exists, so assumptions and speculations alone are used to try to provide insights. Precisely because these issues are not open to empirical observations, others seeking access to people in power could also create and spread disinformation on the assumed powers of such people and often, there is no way of knowing the veracity of the stories that are told. Throughout history, however, stories have persisted on how certain people have manipulated and controlled emperors, kings and presidents and some of those stories must be true. Rasputin, for example, was reputed to have turned the Tsar into a marionette he controlled for his own interests.
I remember as a young man, I was upset when Chinweizu published his Anatomy of Female Power: A Masculinist Dissection of Matriarchy because he removed agency from all men who exercise power. His argument was that men may appear to rule the world but women rule the men who rule the world. Bottom power, he told the world was the real power in Africa. His assertions were simply affirmations without any evidence for the simple reason that that there is no one else in the bedroom in which apparently the power is exercised. This is not to say some women may not be powerful; some are. My concern is in generalising the assumption.
To return to Mamman Daura, what I have found interesting is that there are no publications by him to show what his thinking is on anything. If he exercises power on all policy issues, what are his policy orientations and how can we know if the assertions of his powers are true on the policy directions towards which he is allegedly pushing the country. As the matter operates within the arena of rumour mills, it’s difficult to know what we are talking about. My reading of the situation is that our policy direction has nothing to do with Mamman Daura and everything to do with President Buhari. The APC developed a comprehensive policy programme on which they campaigned for power and won. Following the inauguration of the president, he appeared to be backtracking on some of the APC policy positions and appeared also to have distanced himself from the party. It was in this context that speculations started emerging that if the APC is not in control of the policy arena, someone else must be. As the Holy Book says, if you search you will find. If APC is not in control, Mamman Daura must be; after all he has been seen hanging around the president. If the president had maintained his fidelity to the party team and agenda, I doubt that Mamman Daura would have been elevated into the “real ruler” of Nigeria.
The APC has failed to hold its executive committee meeting since it won the elections and it has also failed to appoint the leadership of its Board of Trustees. The party Chairman and the party Leader are in an open and bitter struggle and there are no indications that the party could exercise leadership in policy formulation and implementation. Someone or some people have to fill the vacuum. Rather than focus excessively on the alleged powers of Mamman Daura, it might be more useful to demand of the party where they are in terms of exercising leadership.