President Muhammadu Buhari’s ambition for a second term in office is seriously threatened, not only by former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s special press statement but also by members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, who actually campaign against his re-election
- Olu Ojewale
FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo practically stole the political scene during the week with his special press statement pleading with President Muhammadu Buhari not to re-contest the presidential election next year. Obasanjo who is known for his letters to sitting governments on the state of the nation, especially when things are not going on in tandem with his ideas, stylishly substituted his typical letter writing with the press statement. Characteristically, his 13-page long statement released to the press on Tuesday, January 23, detailed areas where he felt Buhari had failed the nation in various areas.
In rebuking the Buhari government, Obasanjo said: “The lice of poor performance in government – poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condoning of misdeed – If not outright encouragement of it; lack of progress and hope for the future, lack of national cohesion and poor management of internal political dynamics and widening inequality – are very much with us today.”
Hence, the former president urged Buhari not to run for a second term in office, saying the president would need to rest because of his state of health and age, arguing: “Whatever may be the state of President Buhari’s health today, he should neither over-push his luck nor over-tax the patience and tolerance of Nigerians for him, no matter what his self-serving, so-called advisers, who would claim that they love him more than God loves him and that without him, there would be no Nigeria say.
“President Buhari needs a dignified and honourable dismount from the horse. He needs to have time to reflect, refurbish physically and recoup and after appropriate rest, once again, join the stock of Nigerian leaders whose experience, influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the side line for the good of the country.”
But the Buhari administration on Wednesday, January 24, said Obasanjo’s call that Buhari should not seek for a re-election was a distraction.
In a statement signed by Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture, the government said: “On whether or not President Muhammadu Buhari should run for another term, it is true that many Nigerians have been calling on the president to run again, while others are opposed to his return. However, we believe this issue is a distraction for the president at this time.
“’This is because the President spends every waking hour tackling the enormous challenges facing the nation, most of which were bequeathed to his administration by successive governments.
“He is committed to fulfilling the mandate given to him by Nigerians in 2015. And that’s where we are right now! Finally, we have no reason to believe that former President Obasanjo has any motive beyond the well-being of the nation in issuing his special press statement. We have also taken his admonition in good faith, and we thank him most sincerely for taking time off his busy schedule to pen such a long statement.’’
Besides, the Presidency argued that the former president was probably too busy to be aware of the Buhari administration’s achievements, which were listed in the minister’s press statement.
Notwithstanding Obasanjo’s clarion call, the controversy on whether Buhari should seek for a second term in office did not start from the former president, a former chieftain of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. It actually started from members of the ruling All Progress Congress, APC, late last year.
But since the election year is about 11 months away, Nigerian politicians now seem to have the urgent need to realign their positions in order to reap bountiful harvest from the political field.
Hence, no one should be surprise to start seeing traffic on Aso Rock highway as politicians of different colours and shapes make their way to endorse ‘Baba’ as the president is fondly called in some quarters asking him to re-contest.
On Friday, January 12, a group of seven governors from the APC set the tone for the endorsement controversy when they visited the president at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, a day after the burial of the 73 Nigerians killed by Fulani herdsmen and urged him to run without taking time to mourn with Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, who is also a member of the APC. In the convoy were namely Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna; Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano; Yahaya Bello of Kogi; Abubakar Bello of Niger; Simon Lalong, Plateau; Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe; and Jibrilla Bindow of Adamawa.
El-Rufa’i, who spoke to state house correspondents after the meeting, said governors would want Buhari to continue running the country beyond 2019.
He said: “We are politicians and those of us you see here want the president to contest the 2019 election, we have no apologies for that. We believe in Mr President, we want him to continue running the country in the right direction. People can speculate about 2019, we have no apologies.”
Apparently that did not please some APC members and chieftains.
Reacting to the endorsement, Shehu Sani, a senator representing Kaduna State and APC member, took to his official Twitter handle on Saturday, January 13, to condemn the governors’ action, describing it as unfortunate. He said: “Seven governors in the Villa asking President Buhari to run at this material time when all hands should be on deck to advise or support him to end the mindless bloodletting and carnage in the country is most unfortunate. Human reasoning and human conscience where art thou?” he said.
It is common knowledge in Kaduna State that both Governor el-Rufai and Sani work as opposition even though they belong to the same APC. Their supporters are likely to go with the principals in the event of supporting a presidential candidate.
In a similar way, Timi Frank, deputy publicity secretary of the APC, said that asking the president to seek for a second term at a time when the nation was supposed to be mourning the mass killing of Nigerians across the country was insensitive to the plight of Nigerians.