In an ancient political plot captured by Shakespeare in his classic, Julius Caesar, a minor character, Artemidorus, prepares what he calls a caveat for Caesar. He reads the warning aloud that he (Caesar) may escape an evil plot by his friends and members of his ‘inner circle’.(Reading aloud from the letter)Artemidorus warns in clear terms:

“Caesar, beware of Brutus. Watch Cassius. Don’t go near Casca. Keep an eye on Cinna. Don’t trust Trebonius. Pay attention to Metellus Cimber. Decius Brutus doesn’t love you.

You’ve wronged Caius Ligarius. These men all have one intention, and it’s directed against Caesar. If you aren’t immortal, watch those around you. A sense of security opens the door to conspiracy. I pray that the mighty gods defend you!

Your friend,

Artemidorus.”

To ensure that Caesar gets his message this is the strategy of Caesar’s friend:

“I’ll stand here until Caesar passes by, and I’ll give him this as though it’s a petition. My heart regrets that good men aren’t safe from the bite of jealous rivals. If you read this, Caesar, you might live. If not, the Fates are on the side of the traitors….”

There is a sense in which we can say that Shakespeare, the seer for many dispensations, wrote these lines for President Muhammadu Buhari now in the eye of the storm created by his own men. Clearly, the only difference inside Aso Villa setting is that there is yet no Artemidorus, a friend who can genuinely stand between the Council Chambers and the road leading to the other room to warn the good man but naïve Caesar (President Buhari) to beware of the dangerous cabal members who are bent on foisting their “unenlightened self interest” on the nation. This is the time an Artemidorus needs to tell our own Caesar.

“PMB, lend me your ears. Beware of Mammah. Watch Abba. Don’t go near Mallamy. Keep an eye on Lawal. Don’t trust David. Pay attention to Bukky. Amaychy doesn’t love you. You’ve wronged Bola. These men all have one intention, and it’s directed against PMB. If you aren’t immortal, watch those around you. A sense of security opens the door to conspiracy. I pray that the mighty gods defend you!”

It is a pity, no one can keep vigil like this Caesar’s restless friend to say to PMB when the cock crows at dawn that, “my heart regrets that good men aren’t safe from the bite of jealous rivals, after all”.

It is so easy for some angry commentators and critics of the Senate to be castigating the Upper House for the plight and frustration of the president over failure to get Ibrahim Magu cleared as Chairman of the anticorruption body, the EFCC. It is also convenient to use the data of those being tried for corruption in the Senate as basis for casting aspersion on the Senate over Magu. But how do we contextualize the presidency that is apparently divided against itself on the messy Magu affair?

How do we blame the Senate for the president’s failure to disarm the ‘gunmen’ in the palace who have always succeeded in shooting down his preferred candidate for the EFCC top job? How did he allow that affliction to occur a second time? The question we (the) bloody outsiders cannot answer till eternity is this? Is it possible for the Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS) to submit two damaging reports on Magu to the Senate without the consent and knowledge of the National Security Adviser, not to talk of the President?

Besides, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo it was who submitted the name of the EFCC Acting boss to the Senate two times. And so, it is relevant to ask if the DSS also bypassed him before submitting a damning report to the Senate in the first instance. It is also so easy to condemn a cabal or the president’s men for the tragic failure to get Magu cleared. But is there any way the cabal can work without the consent of the principal it exists for? More questions: As the earth remains, most people will continue to ask questions about what has become PMB’s parochial appointment.

Is there a sense in which we can blame only the president’s men or cabal for the nominations and approval of all the presidential appointments so far? Has the president who has the mandate of the people too been an innocent bystander in the politics of appointments? Is it not an insult of monumental proportion on the office of the president if we claim the man we popularly elected in 2015 has lost control of his presidency and even his household? Can we ask if the ‘gunmen’ inside Aso Rock have been wielding their guns without the knowledge of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces?

Is PMB’s integrity overrated?

This is the next jigsaw puzzle that the nation may have to face from the terrible reverses that the anti-corruption war suffered last week when the DSS big man who also hails from Daura, did a ‘good job’ of urgent national importance when he overruled the president over his choice of Chairman of the EFCC. And it came to pass that for the second time, the man the president trusted in 2015 to be the central intelligence agency chieftain could not trust the president’s judgment over this critical assignment.

The president, a General from Daura who was not advised to replace the current chief of staff (CoS-P) and even the secretary to the government of the federation, (SGF) among others, was over-powered by a stronger Daura man over Magu? Come to think of it, the two men the president has relied upon to deliver Nigeria from corruption reproach, Magu, an Assistant Commissioner of police and retired Col Hamid Ali, Comptroller-General of Customs have just been humiliated by a Senate headed and dominated by the ruling APC.

Mr. President should note that inaction from the seat of power over the humiliation of two of his brand ambassadors – Magu and Ali – by the principalities and powers at the Senate is beginning to change people’s perception of his integrity and capacity as a leader.

Management of this assault on the presidency is a huge challenge that will determine the future of the Buhari brand equity. Virtue is lost a little at a time, by degrees. In his classic, 7 habits of highly effective people, Professor Stephen Covey counsels managers and leaders in this kind of dilemma: “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, unapologetically – to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside”.

As people are still debating whether the integrity of the president has been massively overrated, he should listen to redemption song to save his presidency.

This week, some of the most serious editorials and credible opinion leaders are saying in lucid terms: overhaul your security and intelligence apparatus.

As it is regularly suggested here, the president should say “no” to the reactionary voices inside Aso Villa and restructure the presidential bureaucracy that allowed him to goof so badly when he mysteriously delayed sending Magu’s name to the Senate for confirmation. After all, Magu was picked to act since November 2015.

No one remembered to send his Magu’s name until July last year while the president was away and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was acting. The Senate sat on it and the spirit of presidential procrastination moved in until last December when the DSS submitted a mangled but deadly report on the same Magu.

The same cycle was completed last week. An organized presidential bureaucracy would have taken care of these missteps. There is nothing new here; former President Olusegun Obasanjo also faced monumental adversarial posture of the Senate in his time. Elder Joseph Ajiboye’s nomination was rejected twice as Auditor-General of the Federation.

And so was Onyema Ugochukwu nominated as NDDC Chairman. Professor Babalola Aborisade too was rejected twice as a ministerial nominee. But the presidential bureaucracy then did not accuse Senate members of corruption for rejecting these nominees.

Rather the presidential bureaucracy led by Obong Joseph Ekaette, the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the ruling party operatives got cracking and did some lobbying and they were confirmed. That was what also happened when the Senate invoked its powers under the constitution and revoked the clearance of Malam Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai as FCT Minister when the minister had just a Freudian slip in a contextual interview that, “silence is the best answer to a fool”.

It will be recalled that President Obasanjo publicly apologized to the Senate and sent emissaries to lobby them to temper justice with mercy. The Senate then was not filled with saints: at least two Senate Presidents, Evan(s) Enwerem and Professor Chuba Okadigbo were removed on charges that had to do with impurities. So, there are lessons to be learnt from this same republic.

The president should take charge of his bureaucracy, his kitchen cabinet, challenge the governing party (APC) leadership to wake up. It is shameful that the APC leaders dozed off when Magu and Ali were suffering indignities in the hands of their members at the Senate. Same for the National Assembly leadership. They should also learn from ‘the old time religion’ of sanctifying their rank and chambers when corruption charges appear as albatross on the necks of their leaders and members.

Covey says people instructively trust those whose personality is founded upon correct principles. People will not trust most of the leaders and members of this National Assembly because the number of times they are associated with corruption stories is increasing every day. They need to deal with that burden and reproach that continue to ruin their brand equity too. They need to manage that reputation before their acts can be respected too.

And “therefore” the president should note the central idea in this note that there is a perception of character crisis in his presidency. Besides, as ‘project 2019’ has begun in earnest, the president should take back his presidency, lest the ‘gunmen’ around him who will continue to claim to be reading his body language continue to gun down even good men that they may consider as impediments to a second term bid. That is how Abuja works and why it does not work. Many associations for “Project 2019” will spring up soon and most of them will continue to blow all sorts of whistles on possible candidates and challengers.

That is what has happened to the governor of Kaduna State Mallam Nasir el-Rufai who is being portrayed in a section of the media as disrespectful to the president for writing a memo on how PMB can finish strong. Most of the ‘gunmen’ and their henchmen are harping on their context that el-Rufai has publicly criticized the president. It has been confirmed that some of the president’s men leaked the memo to call the dog a bad name to justify hanging.

So, there is a part of the lyrics of Redemption Song from legendary Bob Marley that the president can learn from: And here is the part: …How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look? So, Mr. President, if you do nothing about the ‘gunmen’ in your midst, some call ‘the cabal’, they will kill all your prophets while you stand aside and look, So, let there be ‘songs of freedom’ sooner than later, lest we run away with an impression that your integrity may have been massively overrated, after all.