Not many know that President Buhari has a nephew with him in the Aso villa who wields enormous influence in the presidency. Only a very few people outside the government know about this gentleman. He is mostly known to those within the presidency. His name is Mamman Daura. He is considered a strong but silent force in the presidency and one of the powerful individuals behind President Muhammadu Buhari. He is president Buhari’s nephew, though he is about three years older than the president and they have been together since they were kids. He is also said to be the head of the Untouchable Cabal in Aso Rock that many have been talking about since the inception of the Buhari administration. He is elderly. He is about three years older than the president. He cuts the picture of a warm and unassuming personality but those close to him say he is as firm and as principled as they come. This man is said to have the power to shield the president from those he does not want the president to see. He lets the president hear only what he wants him to hear. If there is one man whose word is law in the villa, apart from the president, it is Mamman Daura.
When the governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, appeared on national television two weeks ago and said there were some elements in the villa who want the party to lose the presidential elections because their preferred candidate did not win the APC primary, many already concluded he was talking about Mamman Daura and his clique. According to governor El-Rufai, it is these elements who are behind the scarcity of fuel, scarcity of naira, whether it is the old or new notes, and the nationwide power outage. The idea is that while the people are suffering and trying to find a way around these crises, they will become so frustrated that they will vote against the APC at the polls. El-Rufai has not exactly been the best of friends with Mamman Daura. They obviously rarely get along. El-Rufai said, “They know me, I am not afraid of anyone. And when they start saying, ‘the president said this, the president said that,’ they know I will walk into the president’s office to confirm, did you actually say this? This is why they don’t like me.’ But after all that’s been said and done, nobody has been bold enough to mention the name of the man so many within and outside the presidency love to despise. Not even the ‘bold and fearless’ Mallam Nasir could say the name of the man he claims is behind the problems plaguing the APC right now. You would have to have some guts to come out publicly to say the president’s favourite nephew is the arrow head of the cabal that’s trying to jeoprdise the chances of the APC winning the presidenial election. Or worse still, that he is part of the people alleged to be behind the fuel and naira scarcity in the country.
Governor El-Rufai is not the only person close to the president that has had issues with Mamman Daura and his cabal members, the first lady, Aisha Buhari, has also had a running battle with this powerful man in the villa. Indeed, their conflict was so intense that the first lady came out to publicly vent her anger and frustration. She alleged that some powerful individuals close to her husband in the presidency have hijacked his government and the president no longer has control of what’s going on in his government. It is believed that it was because of her constant friction with Mamman Daura and his family (his entire family lives with him inside the villa) that Aisha relocated to Dubai to be well away from things she described as annoying in the villa. The president was often torn between taking sides with his nephew or his wife. Ordinarily, one would expect that very easily, in times of dispute, the President would choose his wife over Mamman Daura. But it can never be such an easy choice for him to make. What many do not know is that Mamman Daura and the president have both come a long way together. He has been a part of the president’s life much longer than Aisha has been. Let us share with you a bit of the history between the president and his nephew, Muhammadu Buhari.
In the book, Muhammadu Buhari: The Challenges of Leadership in Nigeria, John Paden, an American professor, offers a historical insight into the significant role Daura played in the formative years of his “uncle”.
According to Paden, it was Daura, along with Waziri Al-Hassan (Buhari’s foster father), that encouraged Buhari, a reluctant student in his early years, “to settle down and take his studies seriously”.
It was also Daura that “strongly encouraged” Buhari to join the military in 1961.
Daura, Paden wrote, would become a “life-long inspiration and confidant to Buhari” who guided him all through his formative years.
Buhari would go on to become military head of state in the final years of his career.
So while Aisha might have been married to Buhari for about 34 years, Daura had known her husband for 80 years.
Paden revealed that “after the death of his mother in December 1988, Buhari was released and traveled to Daura for the mourning. When he arrived in Daura, he found his farm much as he had left it. His senior brother (the father of Mamman Daura), along with the Barden Daura, had managed the cattle, sheep, and horses in his absence”.
The George Mason University professor wrote: “When Buhari’s father died, Waziri al-Hasan – the son of Emir Musa became the guardian of Zulaihat (Buhari’s mother) and her six children, including her youngest, Muhammadu. This played a major role in the upbringing of Buhari.
“This extensive kinship network also affected the future of Buhari in another important way. His senior brother was the father of Mamman Daura, who was three years older than Buhari, although technically his nephew. Mamman would become a life-long inspiration and confidant to Buhari. He was especially critical in encouraging Buhari to pursue lifelong education.
“Like many boys at that time and place, Buhari went to Quranic school before going to primary school. He was not enthusiastic about these studies. Early each morning, he would get up and have to fetch firewood for his teacher for the evening Qur’anic readings. There were also several hours of Qur’anic lessons in the morning, at a time when Buhari would rather be outside playing.
“In part because of his love of the outdoors, Buhari was a reluctant student in his early years. He would often skip school altogether, although this always resulted in beatings with a cane by the schoolmaster. Only with the encouragement of Waziri al-Hasan and Mamman Daura did he eventually settle down and take his studies seriously.”
Young Northern boys were being encouraged to join the army in the years around Nigeria’s independence, and Buhari was encouraged by his uncle to consider a military carrier.
“Meanwhile, the Emir of Katsina, whose emirate adjoined Daura Emirate, was encouraging bright young men to go into the military and train to become officers. His own son, Hassan Katsina, had become a military officer,” Paden wrote.
“When Buhari was considering his options in 1960, Hassan Katsina would often take the secondary school boys out for night hikes and to sleep under the stars. Buhari enjoyed the great sense of adventure of these nighttime ventures into nature.
“In addition to considering the military because of the example set by Hassan Katsina, Buhari recognized that officer training provided a pathway to further education. Yet another impetus was provided by Mamman Daura, who strongly encouraged his “younger uncle” to consider officer training and higher education.
“Buhari, who was now nineteen years old, had to take several exams even to be considered for officer training. He was able to pass English, mathematics, and general knowledge, plus he met the physical requirements. Still, the competition was nationwide, and only about seventy boys would be selected for officer candidate school. Of these, only half would be commissioned.
“The competition was thus stiff, but Buhari was among those selected. One of the key qualities needed in the military was “leadership.” Buhari would prove himself time and again to possess that rare gift.”
So, without a doubt, Mamman Daura has had such significant impact in the life of President Buhari. He will always have a strong influence over the president. It will certainly be difficult for Mr. President to ignore him for his wife, Aisha Buhari, or for Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, or anyone for that matter. The man has played such a pivotal role in his life it will be unthinkable for anyone to disrespect him or treat him with contempt and not incur the wrath of Mr. President.