By Olu Ojewale
THE stir caused by President Muhammadu Buhari’s bid to run for a second term in office is rumbling the Nigerian polity. The hue and cry of Nigerian politicians on the decision will not possibly stop until the start of nomination by political parties to field their own respective candidates.
As expected the diverse of opinion on the merit and demerit of Buhari seeking a second term depends on which part of the political divide one is in.
The president formally announced his intention to seek a second term in 2019 at a closed-door meeting of the National Executive Committee of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Abuja, on Monday, April 9.
The president gave an alibi to his ambition, saying it was in response to the clamour by Nigerians that he should re-contest in 2019, adding that he wanted to give the NEC members the honour of notifying them first.
Shortly before making the declaration, the president presented a speech on the report submitted by the APC National Executive Technical Committee.
Interestingly, the president did not say what prompted him to abandon his earlier promise to run for only one term. Buhari had, while canvassing for votes ahead of 2011 general elections, promised that he would only do a single term in office.
Buhari, who was fielding questions from Theophilus Abbah, the Trust Newspaper editor, reportedly said that he would not contemplate the constitutional two terms because of his age.
When Abbah asked why he said he would run for a single term if elected president, Buhari had responded: “I’m not getting younger. If I succeed and do one term, I will be 73 years old.”
But Femi Adesina, special adviser on Media and Publicity to the president, would not want the promise of 2011 to be linked to his election victory in 2015. He said while the president was campaigning for 2015, he did not promise to serve one term.
On a television phone-in programme, Adesina said: “When he was running in 2011 he said, yes he would be a president for one term. But did he win in that year? No.
“The victory came in 2015. So, that being quoted in 2011 is not applicable again because he did not win that year.’’
Interestingly, about eight years later after the 2011 elections and at 75, Buhari seems to have found the ‘youthfulness’ to carry on and even declared to run for a second term in 2019.
Nevertheless, since the announcement the polity has been awash with comments on both sides of the divide. While the president’s supporters argue that he has done well to merit another term in office, his opponents have argued otherwise alleging failed promises; his state of health as well as his old age as some of the reasons why he should not seek for a second term.
In any case, welcoming the declaration, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State was in ecstatic mood as he took to his verified Twitter page to post: “BREAKING NEWS: PMB has just announced to APC NEC his intention to run for a second term of office. Alhamdulillah. – Nasir El-Rufai,” the governor wrote.
On his part, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and chairman of Progressives Governors Forum, PGF, described Buhari’s declaration as a response to a clarion call from Nigerians of goodwill.
In a statement signed by Sam Onwuemeodo, his chief press secretary, in Owerri on Monday, April 9, Okorocha said the president had performed very well in his first tenure and that his decision on second term bid was a “right choice in the right direction.”
Besides, he said the president’s declaration would end the “cheap blackmail” from the opposition over his silence towards his ambition in 2019.
Similarly, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State said the president’s decision to seek re-election in 2019 ”is the right thing that happened to the nation’s political system in recent times.”
Shettima, who made the comment while fielding questions from State House correspondents in Abuja on Monday, April 9, said members of the APC, including the 24 governors elected on the platform of the party, had expressed their support.
“We are fully in support of his decision and it is part of democratic culture: traditionally, the president has the right of first refusal of the candidature of the party.
“So, it’s not something that is unusual or unwarranted or unconstitutional, he has done the right thing, he is going to contest and we are solidly behind him,” Shettima said.
On whether the president consulted with APC leaders before announcing his decision to seek re-election, Shettima said Buhari was not under any obligation to ”consult governors or anybody.”
According to him, the president has been under tremendous pressure to make that pronouncement.
“So, we should heave a sigh of relief since he has finally announced his intention to contest.
“We will give him the kind of support we gave in 2015,’’ he said.
Giving reasons why he would want the president to continue for another term, Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State, said the president’s good initiatives had brought out the country from economic recession which Nigeria was plunged into by mismanagement of past administration and that the momentum would now be sustained to take the nation to the desired enviable position among the comity of nations.
“The president has exhibited high sense of good leadership. He has shown that he listens to the yearnings of millions of Nigerians who called on him to continue the good work he started since 2015.
While urging Nigerians to support Buhari for another term, Bello said: “We cannot afford to go back to the dark days of extravagance and impunity. President Buhari has changed the game. He has brought sanity to governance. The war against insurgency is nearing logical conclusion and our economy is improving.”
Similarly, Adebayo Shittu, minister of Communications, told the press that the president had distinguished himself as his achievement in three years had surpassed what the PDP did in 16 years.