The President and the other “Presidents” in the Presidency – By Doyin Okupe


This write-up is not about President Buhari’s honouring the invitation of the House of Representatives. Rather it is a mild exposè of what happens in the Presidency.

The President of Nigeria and many other Presidents in the world are subject of very severe and intense manipulation, even those that appear very strong-willed.

Strongest among the manipulators are the first ladies, top aides, favoured ministers, senior government officials, old friends and school mates, traditional and religious leaders and even concubines!!!

At other times, the head of the security apparatus is more influential than any persons or groups especially where movements are concerned.

You may or may not believe this, a security chief or detail can stop a whole president from attending a function or stopping over to greet a friend or even going out at all, based purely on his own personal interest or program or disposition.

Equally important are the ADCs and CSOs who often times determine access to the Presidents. These two folks can virtually stop practically anyone from seeing the President no matter how relevant, important, or powerful in government or the society at large.

Most of the time the President is a powerless hostage cordoned off in the Presidential Villa often times doing the bidding of his subordinates! This is incongruous but very true.

The most unobtrusive and not too visible influencers are those who parley with him when he indulges in his past times! Like womanising or drinking or his regular sports or worship.

These are the people who overturn decisions that have painstakingly been taken after serious consultations during the day. In the nights when they indulge the President in his past time, they quite easily dismiss solid and sound counsels previously accepted by Mr. President.

You are probably now saying, “Are the presidents fools?”

The Presidents are not foolish. But being the president of a nation is an overwhelming phenomenon that makes the strongest of men become weak internally. Most Presidents are the loneliest and sometimes insecure people on earth.

The presidents I worked with in very sobering moments have told me things that made me weak and faint but which I quickly had to hide my confusion and come back to myself not for my own sake but for their sakes. Because at those moments I realised they were looking for pillars or supports to lean on.

Truth is Presidents in spite of their immense powers are basically human and have fears that are disproportionate to the presumed eminence of their positions.

This is why in some critical positions they will rely on people they have trusted before their ascendancy – their wives, old school mates, religious counsellors and very loyal aides.

Unfortunately, many of these their folks may not be wise enough or possess the required knowledge or experience to guide correctly in these tricky circumstances.

That is why a President is as strong and effective as the people who are close to him or who surround him. Many times, decisions at the presidency may not necessarily follow party lines or established government policies.
I remember a few incidences.

One of my Principals was to appear on television and over dinner a very close associate seriously counselled him to publicly lambast a set of people. He agreed enthusiastically. When the man left, I was alone with the president and politely I advised to the contrary. He was angry and he retorted, “Who are you to tell me what to say and not to say? I believe you are getting too big for these your shoes.”

Then very quietly I reminded him about some very cogent facts that he and I knew about the people concerned and how it will be inimical to his personal interest if he ignores my advice. He sank in his chair and was speechless for a few minutes. When he came round, he asked: How best then should I handle this situation? I told him and the rest is history.

At another time, one of the presidents I served had taken a decision that appeared unstoppable. Ministers, party leaders, presidential aides were just getting to enter their cars in preparation for departure. I heard about the movement which would have presented the President, in my own thinking, as a very uncaring and insensitive leader. It was for this reason that it was initially “conclusively” decided that the President will not attend the event, before very powerful people prevailed on the president and changed his mind.

I was on another assignment and on the way to the airport when I heard the news of the change of plans. I immediately turned back. Tried to reach the president directly and through the villa exchange, it was impossible. By the time I finally got to the villa, the 1st person I met was the ADC, who was literally storming out of the villa.

This was unusual and totally out of character. I asked him, I pray the president is not going.? He replied emphatically that yes, the president was not going. Then I pointed to the convoy of cars. He said, “Doc, don’t worry. I just left Mr. President and I pleaded with him earnestly. I also drew his attention to the fact that by interfering with his political position on this matter, I had overstepped my bounds.

But because I love him so dearly and had signed to lay down my life.

The president was both shocked and bewildered. He asked him not to resign and cancelled the trip without giving explanation to anybody, service chiefs, party chieftains, and presidential aides present and already set to leave.

Such are the complexities that bedevils presidential decisions or indecisions.

Therefore, folks there is an all-powerful Mr. President but he is the head of a conglomerate of powerful forces who make up the NECK of the President and where the neck turns the head goes.

Magana ya kari. (End of discussion)
*Okupe is a former presidential spokesman.