Before the Wednesday event, the President had at various times hosted many groups of people to similar dinner. They included security chiefs, religious leaders, leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress, members of the business community and members of the judiciary among others.
One thing was common to all the categories of guests the President hosted. Despite the fact that it was an Islamic event, the attendees cut across religious divides. There were as many Christians as Muslims among them.
For the Wednesday event which was the 24th day of Ramadan, majority of the traditional rulers were conveyed in buses belonging to the State House to the venue of the dinner which was the Presidential Banquet Hall near the President’s office.
After sitting for a few minutes, the Muslims among them were ushered to the mosque beside the President’s office where they joined Buhari for a special prayer before breaking their fast.
As they were making their way to the mosque, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi; Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II; and Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar IV were driven to the forecourt of the Villa. The traditional rulers who arrived earlier joined them and they exchanged pleasantries as photojournalists struggled to get good shots.
While this was going on, Oba Ogunwusi and Emir Sanusi were engrossed in a discussion. The Sultan of Sokoto sensed that the two traditional rulers needed to face the camera for the photojournalists to get good shots. “Ooni and Emir of Kano, please they are taking our pictures,” he said. The two of them quickly faced the camera. After a few shots, the Sultan again ended the session by saying, “Thank you, that is enough. After all, we do not get to see the pictures.”
As the Muslim traditional rulers continued their journey towards the mosque, the Sultan turned to the Ooni of Ife who is a Christian and said jokingly, “Ooni, let us go and pray. Then you will do your Kalimatul today.” Kalimatul Shahada which the Sultan referred to is Islamic testimony of faith meant for those embracing the religion. The other traditional rulers laughed but Ooni did not see anything unusual in the invitation. “You know I am a traditionalist, I will do anything you ask me to do,” he replied the Sultan who smiled and quickly changed his mind on the invitation and said, “Okay, what I ask you to do in this case is for you to go and sit down at the venue and wait for us. We will join you when we finish praying.”
Oba Ogunwusi then returned to the venue. By the time those who went to pray returned, one of them also approached the Gbom Gwom Jos, Da Jacob Gyang Buba, who is also a Christian and asked why he did not join them for prayer in the mosque. Buba quickly replied, “Don’t mind them. These people were the ones that blocked me from coming,” pointing to nobody in particular.
The youthful Ooni became the cynosure of all eyes at the end of the event as some people present struggled to take photographs with him outside the hall. Another traditional ruler from his state literally turned himself to the Ooni’s protocol and security officer. By the time journalists approached Ogunwusi for interview, it was already drizzling. This traditional ruler jumped forward and shouted, “Eewo! Oba o gbodo duro labe ojo. E fi baba sile ki won wo inu oko (Abomination! A king does not stand in the rain, leave our father and allow him to enter the vehicle.)”. A case of Ooni being “a king of kings.”
Between Buhari and embattled President of the Senate
Since Bukola Saraki emerged the President of the Senate in June 2015 against the choice of the leadership of the All Progressives Congress that preferred (and still prefer) Senator Ahmed Lawan for the plum job, he has been like an orphan in that political party.
Immediately after Saraki’s emergence, the Presidency issued a statement indicating that President Muhammadu Buhari was ready to work with anybody that emerged the leader of the legislature, although he would have wished, as a loyal party member, that the position of the party prevailed on the issue.
Since then, Saraki and Buhari had met many times in the course of carrying out their respective national duties. The President had also taken time to host the federal lawmakers to dinners. The first one was in November last year when he hosted all senators to what he called a presidential dinner inside the new Banquet Hall of the Villa. He later extended the same hand of friendship to members of the House of Representatives.
On May 30, 2016, the President also hosted members of the two chambers of the National Assembly to a dinner inside the old Banquet Hall of the Villa in commemoration of his one year in office.
Buhari was also scheduled to host the leadership of the National Assembly to the breaking of Ramadan fast last week. The event was however hurriedly cancelled when news filtered in that the National Assembly leaders might boycott the dinner.
What went wrong? What could have made those who have been dining with the President decide to make a retreat this time? The answer is not farfetched. The Federal Government through the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had dragged Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, to court for allegedly forging the Senate Standing Rules 2015 that was used to inaugurate the Eighth Senate.
The leaders of the National Assembly did not see any reason why they would come and break their fast with the person who heads the arm of government that dragged them to court. The Presidency however claimed that the event was rescheduled but not cancelled, saying that the initial date clashed with prior appointments of some of the expected guests. I am still waiting to hear about the new date fixed for the breaking of fast, having in mind that Ramadan ends early next week.
Saraki blew everything open on Monday when he issued a statement indicating that the Buhari administration had been hijacked by some cabals who he described as “government within government.” The Presidency again quickly came up with a statement describing Saraki’s claim as not only ridiculous but also preposterous.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, had also issued a statement in which he told Saraki and Ekweremadu that they were the ones on trial and not the entire Senate. Lawal even cleverly advised them to consider resigning from their exalted seats.
Now, with the way the two arms of government have taken their disdain for each other to the public space, it is almost very clear that Buhari would no longer host them to break their fast. It is also obvious that the battle line has been drawn between the two arms of government. Who suffers in all these? These big men or the common man? Your guess is as good as mine.