No Permanent Enemy in Nigerian Politics

by Ezinwanne Onwuka

It was a roll call of Nigeria’s most powerful political elites during the wedding of Yusuf Buhari, son of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, to the daughter of the Emir of Bichi, Zahra Ado Bayero in Kano State, in a lavish ceremony on Friday, August 20. 2021.

The wedding was a punctuation of colour, glamour and grandeur. Indeed, it could not have been otherwise considering the calibre of people involved in the superlative celebration of love – the only son of the first citizen of Nigeria and and the niece of the Emir of Kano, one of Nigeria’s most prominent Islamic leaders.

Interestingly, the wedding was a rare avenue for the reunion of some Nigerian politicians who were somewhat torn apart by the battle for power. Among several opposition figures who attended the opulent ceremony were President Muhammadu Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, whom he defeated in the 2015 election; Buhari’s main challenger in the 2019 election, Atiku Abubukar and ex-minister of aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, a fierce Buhari critic.

It was shocking to see President Buhari warmly greeting his rivals, his predecessor and the former vice president; and Fani-Kayode having a handshake with the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, whom he had once described as “a religious bigot, an ethnic supremacist, an unrepentant jihadist, a lover of bloodshed”.

As bitter as their feud, so shocking was their gathering: how can you embrace the one that you constantly and consistently backlash? How can you call them your friends and be glad to be in their midst? When does your enemy become your friend?

What Yusuf and Zahra’s wedding has proved is how fluid political loyalties in Nigeria have become. Political interests in Nigeria are shifting sands that are constantly changing in ways that are not always predictable. Alliances are mooted and discarded at the drop of a hat. Erstwhile enemies become bosom buddies and vice versa, giving rise to the expression that in politics, “there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies”.

Which is why talk of peace, handshakes and alliances as precursors of political nirvana, and vituperation against/from the opposition(s) should be taken with a pinch of salt. Nigerian history has proved that alliances of political convenience lack enduring conviction. They are transient, existing only until a common enemy is defeated before disintegrating into the same fractious confrontations that have defined politics from independence.

From the foregoing, it is clear that every political outburst and vituperation draws from a carefully crafted script intended to achieve a purpose. It is not heartfelt and is as superficial as the self-interests it serves. The fine line between “thieves” and “statesmen” is determined by who brings value to whom so that today’s thieves are tomorrow’s statesmen and vice versa.

In Nigerian democracy, which has been seriously damaged, morality, uprightness and political decency have been thrown out of the window. It is all about interest and changes in perspectives. This explains why there is a permanent interest but no permanent friends or permanent enemies.

Nigerian politicians are always united irrespective of their political affiliations. However, the masses, unable to determine what is skin-deep, always take political matters to heart. Consequently, lives have been lost in the service of bitter political foes by day and drinking buddies by night. To the political class, this is just a game of numbers whereas to their supporters, it is a matter of life and death.

Nigerians will only make headway when they emotionally divest from politics; when they adapt the cynical view that there are no permanent enemies, only self-interests.

While there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics, we need to remember that everything in politics is strategic and for this reason, we should learn to be politically intelligent, lest we continue to be fodder for the games they play.

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