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.
He said: “For instance in the area of job creation for youths, no government has ever in one day employed 200, 000 graduates. It has never happened but under Buhari’s N-Power, that happened.
“Through this, he has provided jobs for 200, 000 families spread across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
“The government is still processing the employment of 300, 000 more graduates to make it 500, 000, this has never happened.
“In the areas of transport, works and housing, the last budget of the PDP government was less than N20 billion and most of these monies were stolen; diverted to private pockets.
“In 2017 alone, the Buhari government spent N255 billion on those subject matters; transport, works and housing. So, how do you compare?”
He said the government was building new roads across the Southeast states with $100 million dollars SUKUK loan and non-interest loan from Islamic Development Bank.
“For the first time, government is building new railway from Lagos to Kano, from Kano to Maiduguri, from Maiduguri to Calabar and from Calabar to Lagos. So the records are there,” he said.
Shittu, therefore, dismissed critics of Buhari such as former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, a former head of state and others as unimportant.
Shittu told the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, in Abuja, on Monday, April 9, that since the former Nigerian leaders “are not God, there should be no apprehension.’’
In separate letters, Obasanjo and Babangida, had advised the president not to run in the 2019 poll. They urged Nigerians to vote him out should he decide otherwise. The leaders are yet to renounce their stance.
Nevertheless, Balarabe Musa, an elder statesman and former governor of Kaduna State, said he “welcomed the declaration” by Buhari to seek re-election in 2019.
Musa, a chieftain of the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, said that “the PRP has a presidential candidate to field in the 2019 general elections.”
Similarly, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the main opposition party, simply described Buhari’s announcement as an internal affair of the APC.
The party, in a statement by Kola Ologbondiyan, its publicity secretary, said his declaration only makes him an aspirant not a candidate of the party until primaries are conducted.
“Until he becomes the candidate of the APC, we will not spend precious time on his mere show of interest,” the party said.
That notwithstanding, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State said Nigeria does not need Buhari in 2019. The governor also noted that if Buhari was re-elected, he would kill the country.
Fayose, who spoke to journalists in Ado-Ekiti on Monday, April 9, through Idowu Adelusi, his chief press secretary, said if Buhari was unable to read the handwriting on the wall to know when to call it quits, Nigerians would show him the exit door in 2019 by voting him out of office.
“We don’t want grandpa as president anymore… Buhari is old and tired. His declaration today is a slap on Nigerians in the face. He should go home and rest.”
Giving a similar advice, Akin Osuntokun, a former political adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, said in an interview, that Buhari had done his best but his best was not good enough for Nigeria. So, he said: “We would encourage him that at the realistic estimated age of 80 years or above, he should heed the charitable advice of his doctor to return to Daura not later than May 29, 2019, to eat more and sleep more.”
Besides, Osuntokun said: “The President publicly confessed that old age is a drag and limitation on his capacity to function. How does this old age debility factor support his aspiration for second term? Beyond what he said is the evidence of the health crisis that kept him away for over four months-and the numerous half or a third a day schedule he was forced to keep by ailing physical health.
“The resurgence of Boko Haram and the escalating herdsmen militia crisis are the main evidence you need to rate his success in security.”
Not only that, the former presidential aide said Buhari’s record on corruption was adjudged by the Transparency International as “worse than his much maligned predecessor.”
On his part, Kingsley Moghalu, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and presidential hopeful, has said Buhari is undeserving of a second term based on his poor performance.
He, however, noted that he had the right to seek a second term.
Moghalu said: “I do not think he deserves to be re-elected based on an objective assessment of his failed performance. Nigerians deserve a very different kind of effective and inclusive leadership that can unite the country and reverse the poverty that has made our country the poverty capital of the world with the highest numbers of absolutely poor people of any country.’’
Goddy Uwazurike, a former president of Aka Ikenga, an Igbo think tank, said not withstanding his constitutional right to seek re-election, Buhari should tell Nigerians what he had done to deserve another term in office.
Uwazurike said the president should weigh his campaign promises against his performance so far. “He listed three major areas – corruption, security and the economy – as his focus. He should tell us where his achievements lie in these areas.
“He should tell us how our economy is better off now that the prices of a bag of rice and a litre of petrol have doubled. In fact, he should tell us that our medical services have improved, and that the children of top politicians school here,” he said.
On its part, the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, said that Buhari’s re-election might be an opportunity to right what his administration had wrong by delivering more dividends of democracy.
Bestman Okereafor, the NANS national public relations officer, PRO, said in a statement in Enugu on Tuesday, April 10, that: “NANS is wishing the president best of luck as we implore him to be just and fair to all Nigerians regardless of religion and ethnicity.”
In any case, Olisa Agabkoba, SAN, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, said the president’s declaration would trigger upsets in next years’ general elections.
Like many others, the leader of the National Intervention Movement, NIM, agreed that the declaration was within Buhari’s constitutional rights but whether Nigerians would re-elect him for another term is for the people to decide.
On whether there is a credible candidate who can successfully challenge Buhari, Agbakoba said: “That’s to be taken for granted. I am aware there are massive consultations and alignments underway throughout Nigeria and very credible candidates will emerge to make the elections competitive and with strong possibility for upsets across Nigeria.”
Indeed, Omoyele Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporter and presidential aspirant, said he was not intimidated by the declaration of Buhari to seek re-election.
Sowore stated: “I don’t feel threatened by his declaration. His declaration is not a certification of re-election. No reason to worry about. We knew all along that he would be defeated by the ‘inconsequential’ people ranging from the old, young, the weak and strong to the youth.’’
But whether Nigerian electorate would agree with Sowore’s prediction is anybody guest. What has, however, become apparent is that Buhari would not emulate the late former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa.
Mandela, South Africa’s anti-apartheid hero, who became president after his 27-year imprisonment, had rejected a second term despite the popular demand for his re-election.
Reacting to the official declaration of his decision to seek re-election in the 2019 poll, Shehu Sani, a senator from Kaduna State, took to his social media platforms saying the announcement would silence members of the APC who were nursing presidential ambition.
“Now that Baba decided not to be a Mandela, we hope that he becomes a Deng Xioping and not Augustus Pinochet Agarte,” the senator wrote. Instructively, Deng was 74, when he became the paramount leader of the People’s Republic of China from 1978 until his retirement in 1989. He was responsible for economic reforms and an opening to the global economy which China now enjoys. And Pinochet was a Chilean general, politician and dictator, who assumed office at 58 and used his position to terrorise his people between 1973 and 1990. During his 17-year rule, there were executions and forced disappearances of more than 3,000 people. Tens of thousands of others were tortured by his government.
But whichever path the president chooses to follow, he needs to be re-elected first. Notwithstanding the current mood in the polity, it is still Nigerians who will decide his fate for a second term in office.
– Apr. 13, 2018 @ 14:48 GMT |