By Martins Oloja
That polymorphous word, ‘cabal’ has cropped up again. And those deploying it know that there is power in that word, (cabal). They have been manipulating the word to bend minds and win hearts in this land of the gullible. They want to confuse us with the word again. Even members of the ruthless cabal are calling people cabal – just to deceive and get to regain power. For us the young ones, let’s re-examine to explain the classic called cabal.
Ordinary dictionary would define it as ‘a secret political clique or faction as in “a cabal of dissidents”. Another one would claim a cabal is ‘the contrived schemes of a group of persons secretly united in a plot (as to overturn a government) also a group engaged in such schemes: club, group.
Cabal is classically associated with a group of five ministers in the government of England’s King Charles II. The initial letters of the names or titles of those men (Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale) spelled ‘CABAL’; and they have been collectively dubbed as the “Cabal Cabinet” or “Cabal Ministry.” But these five names are not the source of the word cabal, which was in use decades before Charles II ascended the throne. The term traces back to cabbala, the Medieval Latin name for the Kabbalah, a traditional system of esoteric Jewish mysticism. Latin borrowed Cabbala from the Hebrew qabbālāh, meaning “received or traditional lore.”.
The magical word is now associated with conspiracy, crew, gang, Mafia, mob, syndicate, ring, clique, etc. There is one classic example of its use for understanding: ‘No one can seriously believe that decisions taken by a cabal of about half a dozen machine politicians, behind closed doors, amounts to democracy’ (From the Hansard archive).
The word (cabal) is associated with even professional associations: ‘Here, too, the issue had been one of ‘publicness’, with a supposedly voluntary charity having come under the effective control of a small cabal of surgeons’: (From the Cambridge English Corpus).
Even its negative use has spread to demonisation of the media: ‘This includes treating the media entirely as a political cabal and failing to acknowledge its role in publishing truthful information that is indispensable to a free society and that allows markets to operate transparently’.—Jeff John Roberts, (Fortune, 12 Jan. 2023). ‘Not everyone is cowed by the hypocritical criticism from a cabal of press and publicists’.(—Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 Dec. 2022)
Even presidential palaces are being associated with its use: Conspiracy theories were fanned, including that voting by mail was rigged, that the Black Lives Matter movement had ties to witchcraft and that Biden was beholden to a cabal of socialists: (I—Will Weissert, Chron, 7 Mar. 2021). Flynn and Powell have both promoted theories linked to QAnon, a sprawling conspiracy movement united against a nonexistent cabal of devil-worshiping pedophiles L—Adi Robertson, ‘The Verge’, 8 Jan. 2021). The hearings cut through the lies, conspiracy theories and political theater around the Big Lie, revealing a cabal of Trump lackeys bent on stealing the 2020 presidential election.(—Lorraine Ali, ‘Los Angeles Times’, 4 Dec. 2022).
Another explainer puts it so simply: A cabal is a group of people who are united in some close design, usually to promote their private views or interests in an ideology, a state, or another community, often by intrigue and usually unknown to those who are outside their group. The use of this term usually carries negative connotations of political purpose, conspiracy and secrecy. It can also refer to a secret plot or a clique…
The term is frequently employed as an anti-Semitic dog whistle, as evidenced both by its Hebrew origin and by its evocation of centuries-old antisemitic tropes.
The term cabal is derived from Kabbalah (a word that has numerous spelling variations), the Jewish mystical and spiritual interpretation of the Hebrew scripture. In Hebrew, it means “reception” or “acceptance”, denoting the sod (secret) level of Jewish exegesis. In European culture (Christian Cabala, Hermetic Qabalah, it became associated with occult doctrine or a secret.
It came into English via the French cabale from the medieval Latin cabbala, and was known early in the 17th century through usages linked to Charles II and Oliver Cromwell. By the middle of the 17th century, it had developed further to mean some intrigue entered into by a small group and also referred to the group of people so involved, i.e. a semi-secret political clique.
Followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory use “The Cabal” to refer to what is perceived as a secret worldwide elite organisation who, according to proponents, wish to undermine democracy and freedom, and implement their own globalist agendas.
Some anti-government movements in Australia, particularly those that emerged during Canberra’s response to the pandemic, that Scott Morrison’s secret ministerial appointments were evidence of what they said was happening all along – a “secret cabal”.
And so, let there be understanding of the times by various actors that the people should not be insulted with any sophistry at this time of crisis, at this time of queues everywhere over fuel and currency crises that may boil over soon. Who wants to tell us about a cabal that the Nigeria’s vicious political class born of the two political parties has used to confound us in the last 24 years of unbroken democracy? If the presidential candidate of the ruling APC is talking of a cabal inside the Nigeria’s seat of power plotting to frustrate him on his #Project-2023, who is the cabal? Where is the cabal that the Governor of Kaduna state was also referring to inside the Villa the other day? Whose presidency has nurtured a cabal even the Nigeria’s First Lady is also supporting the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai about? We have always been writing about a cabal since 2015. Even an influential member of the Aso Villa cabal who once specifically declared, ‘I am the cabal’, Malam Ismaila Isa Funtua died since July 19, 2020. One of the influential members of the suspected cabal, Abba Kyari, then Chief of Staff to the President had died three months before the cabal himself, Funtua died. Kyari died on April 17, 2020.
‘Inside Stuff’ had done a deconstruction of the cabal through a serial on ‘Why Buhari Is Man of the Decade (1-2)’(15 & 22 September, 2019). There may be a cabal inside the Villa but the point must be repeated that no one has elected any cabal to run this country. Whatever ‘the cabal’ is doing ‘to undermine democracy and freedom, and implement its own agenda should be attributed to the President we elected to solve our problems including the currency and energy crises of the moment.
But the point must be made to ask the governing party’s presidential candidate and the party’s campaign council: What did they do when the presidency with its cabal began to impose a culture of mediocrity and tribalism on the country? Who hasn’t tasted from the ruthlessness of the so-called cabal?
Which cabal worked against confirmation of Ibrahim Magu as Acting Chairman of the EFCC from 2015 to 2021? When the same cabal helped the presidency to sustain illegality of the office of the EFCC chairman from 2015 to 2021, who cried foul from Kaduna to Lagos? Have we forgotten that the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria rejected the nomination of Ibrahim Magu twice in 2017 and the President kept him in office till 2021?. The then DG DSS, Lawal Daura twice wrote to the same Senate that he (Magu) should not be confirmed. What cabal did the then DG, DSS, represent while the President was in London on medical vacation? Where were the APC members and the current presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu then? When this same cabal went for the jugular of the then Chief Justice of the Federation, Honourable Justice Onnoghen on the eve of the 2019 election, where were the APC members who are crying foul today about the same cabal? As I have been writing here, it was curious that the then CJN’s confidential file was violated at the Code of Conduct Bureau and its content was given to a non-governmental individual (NGI) to complain about the CJN’s violation of a Code of Conduct. An institution of governance sold a lie to a national newspaper that the then CJN had a whopping $3 million in his foreign account and 55 houses to his name, all in a desperation to nail him. During the accelerated trial in an Administrative Tribunal, the allegations of $3m USD and 55 houses could not be sustained as documents from his banks and housing authorities clearly showed. Yet he was removed from office without hearing any of the four petitions in the Court of Appeal. While that travail was going on against Nigeria’s Chief Justice, where were the APC chieftains crying foul about a cabal today? What didn’t even their professors of law say about the expediency of kicking out Justice Onnoghen?
Governor el-Rufai too in September 2016, wrote a confidential memo titled, “Immediate and Medium Term Imperatives for President Muhammadu Buhari” (September 22, 2016) to the President. The memo, which was clearly diagnostic and constructive enough to help the president legacy projects for 2019 and beyond, was deliberately distorted and leaked by a cabal in the same presidency – to demonise the Governor. They got a local printer to recast the title to read: Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s Letter to President Muhammadu Buhari: “You Have Failed”. It was sold to the unsuspecting public then that el-Rufai abused the president in a memo and leaked it to the public. The Governor denied the leakage. As my brother Simon Kolawole would have said, ‘It’s all politics…’, yes politics of the office of chief of Staff then. So, who cried foul then when the cabal went for el-Rufai? So, which cabal is Governor el-Rufai referring to in 2023?
Let’s ask even some questions: When so many presidential aspirants including the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele and African Development Bank President, Dr, Akinwumi Adesina were being encouraged and handed N100 million naira worth of APC presidential nomination form, who in this same APC asked, which cabal was behind the encouragement for the crowd funding and crowded presidential race? What on earth do the president’s party leaders want people to do with the direct accusation that a cabal in the presidency is against the presidential aspiration of their candidate? How do we understand the intention of the First lady, Hajia Aisha Buhari who from inside the presidential palace has been accusing a cabal of undermining the efficiency and fairness of her husband, who is our President? If the First Lady is asking us to do something about a cabal inside Aso Villa, who shall we the people ask?