The Meaning of Cabal in Nigeria


Getting to hear the word ‘Cabal’ in Nigeria is similar to hearing to the word ‘money’ as it is frequently used, more particularly within corporate settings but more importantly, in politics.

Cabal is frequently used in describing the presidency (note: not the president). In Nigeria, there is a general belief that the Cabal is so influential and powerful that they not only control the president but also control the country by making decisions or by influencing decisions that would later impact or affect Nigerians at large.

In this post, we talk about the meaning of Cabal in Nigerian politics, what it means, who they are and what they do.


Meaning of Cabal in Nigeria

Cabal in Nigeria refers to a small group of political individuals or people united in some close or clandestine or sinister design, usually to promote their private views or interests in an ideology, state, or other community, often by intrigue and usually unknown to those outside their group particularly the general population. By operations, the Cabal is often spearheaded by an individual who is largely more powerful than others within the circle and closer to the elected individual at the helm of affairs.

The word ‘Cabal’, as we know it, cabal came to prominent use in Nigeria during the dying moment and after the death of late President Yar’Adua.

During the administration of former president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, there were rumours that the former president was controlled by ‘five powerful women’ including the First Lady, Dame Patience Ibifaka Jonathan, Allison Madueke Diezani, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Stella Oduah, and Arunma Oteh. Although they were distant, supposedly highly influential and powerful individuals who influenced the president one of whom was Ibrahim Gbadamosi Babaginda.

In Buhari’s administration, the word has become more pronounced as not only Nigerians and political analysts have aired their opinions on who controls an aging president as Buhari but the First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari have gone public severally about certain individuals controlling and influencing the president.

Cabals are mostly close allies, political advisers and possibly, relations of the president who take advantage of the situation to push their agenda.

Every president must have people who advise him. It is not a sin, it is not an offence to have people that you take into confidence.

What is the meaning of cabal? I just googled Thesaurus and among many other definitions, what they are saying is that cabal means ‘conspire, intrigues, mystique, occult, secret. There is no government in this country that we have had that some people were not accused of being a cabal in that government and it is because every administration, every president must have a secretariat.

Elsewhere, they call it ‘kitchen cabinet’, but in our own country we are being derogatory and we term them cabal so that it will tarnish their own good standing.

Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity (2019) (Defending ‘supposed Cabals’ within Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) regime).

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