By Leo Sobechi, Seye Olumide, Samson Ezea and Eniola Daniel
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, showed that he shares nothing in common with the former post-apartheid President of South Africa, the late Nelson Mandela.
At the rescheduled National Executive Committee (NEC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the President threw his hat in the ring by declaring his intention to seek a second term in office.
As expected the President’s declaration puts an end to months of speculations about his political future, not minding that he had for long indicated by his legendary body language that his mind was made up to seek a second term of another four years.
At least for now Nigerians can begin to look to 2019 with clear sightedness as to the desirability or otherwise of another four years for the incumbent.
Implications for the polity
The sudden declaration by Buhari has a lot of implications for the polity. In the first place, the pronouncement would put enormous pressures on the opposition, particularly the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the third force, promoted by former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
National Chairman of United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, had been saying that it would be interesting to have Buhari on the ballot in 2019.
Okorie believes, like others in opposition, that beating Buhari would be very easy given the socio-economic condition of Nigerians.
Buhari’s declaration would more than anything else expedite action on the political field, particularly for those political parties foot-dragging on their intendment for political understanding, alliance or even merger.
The Lagos State chapter of Labour Party (LP) could be said to have beat the gun by fusing into the Action Democratic Party (ADP) for the purposes of prosecuting the 2019 governorship election in the state.
For the PDP the knowledge of who the APC flag bearer is going to be would help them to choose their candidate wisely and avoid such extra-curricular strategies that could work against the long term fortune of the party in the Presidential poll.
PDP should by Buhari’s declaration know that 2019 would guzzle money. With PDP in mind, the President had told the APC NEC that: “the people we are fighting are rich.”
It is possible therefore that in considering the person to fly its flag in the Presidential poll, PDP might be moved to factor in the ability to fund the electioneering and mobilize the necessary funds for the election.
However, the current level of mobilization of the younger segment of the population to take over leadership, money may not be all that matters in the forthcoming Presidential election.
‘Not too young to run’ has brought a great dividing wall on the demographic collective in the country. This would also be among the indices to guide the opposition parties in selecting their flag bearers.
The compound reading of all the above factors suggests that 2019 might not be an easy decision for Nigerians. There are chances that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may also be stretched by the likelihood of a run off in the Presidential poll.
That is if the ruling party does not intrude the power of incumbency in an obtrusive way.
Implications for APC
The President’s desire for a second term would mean different things to the ruling party, particularly the ongoing plans for an elective convention.
It is too early to fathom why the President made a caveat in his disapproval for the tenure elongation by pleading that waivers be granted to members of the embattled National Working Committee (NWC) and state executive members that intend to contest in the party’s congresses.
It must have dawned on the President that the party might find itself in a very precarious situation if most or virtually all the NWC members decide to resign en masse so as to qualify to stand for re-election during the convention.
What that would mean is foisting a compelling need for a caretaker committee on the party, which would no doubt provide a good setting for squabbles to set in.
That could have been what the Governor Simenon Lalong-led Technical Committee meant when they said their recommendations take care of all disparate positions of the pro-and anti-elongation forces.
Invariably the President must have seen that giving the Odigie-Oyegun NWC a mass sacking could have a deleterious after effect on his re-election, because denying the NWC opportunity to seek re-election would rub off negative his desire for a second term.
It is also possible that those pushing the President to consider a second term may have linked a second term for him with that of some of the prime movers of the outgoing NWC.
This fact comes to light when it is recalled that most of the pro-tenure elongation elements are those on the front line in the call on Buhari to re-contest.
Declaring his interest in a second term contest Buhari had said: “People have been asking me to declare for re-election and some have been asking me when I am going to declare. I want to give the NEC the honour to be the first to hear it. I have decided to contest the 2019 elections.”
Perhaps the President may have seen the proposition for a waiver for Odigie-Oyegun and the NWC as a win-win setting that could guarantee the party of victory, even as he pleaded for unity (the unity that could come only when no bloc is disgruntled or mistreated).
Accordingly the President asserted: “In this circumstance, the party should officially issue a statement on the above Waivers so that our house may be full. We all must not be ignorant of the times, and the journey that is ahead of us.
APC will win in 2019 “Just like our party symbol; ‘the Broom,’ which typifies strength in unity, let us strive to remain united in our purpose.
Victory is sure by the Grace of God, and together we must continue to sanitize Nigeria’s political environment.”
Boon to Buharists
The declaration came as a big boon to Buharists in APC, who have been dreaming of such a development. Most of the positive reactions to the President’s announcement came from the Buhari supporters.
For instance, shortly after the ‘proclamation’ the Buhari Support Organisation (BSO) Enugu State chapter sent out a statement saying, “it is a launching pad for the progress and prosperity of our dear fatherland.”
In the statement signed by its chairman, Chief Anike Nwoga, BSO said: “Our celebration is not only because he has paged and reaffirmed the ardent appeal, which Nigerian compatriots had canvassed long time ago; but for the truism that his second term will consolidate the critical and massive infrastructural foundation he is laying.
“BSO Enugu State Chapter rates the Buhari’s Roads, Rails, Agric and Power (RRAP) Projects as the most massive infrastructural development in the annals of the history of Nigeria, ever embarked by one regime.
The Buhari’s RRAP Projects of 3-5 years completion cycle comprises of 5,000 kilometers federal roads, 5,000 kilometers standard gauge rail lines, agrarian revolution and additional 5,000 megawatts of electricity.”
The group expressed the hope that Buhari’s second term “will guarantee the consolidation of the RRAP Projects, a veritable template for sustainable economic development in Nigeria.”
The Director General, Voice of Nigeria and a member of the ruling party, Mr. Osita Okechukwu said Buhari remains the best option for Nigerians in 2019.
According to him, “Nigerians are not sure of what would happen to the critical infrastructures the administration has embarked upon, if he did not seek reelection to complete them.
Okechukwu said that Buhari’s focus on critical infrastructure is the best thing to happen to Nigerians. If there is adequate electricity supply and good transport network, the economy will boom.
This is why we are supporting him to rerun for second term. He said anything contrary to this would deny the country of solid foundation for critical infrastructure.
Although, the VOA DG agreed there is discontent in the land, which truly is because of infrastructure deficit, he said if you ask any manufacturer why foreign goods are cheaper, it is because of epileptic electricity supply and dilapidated transport network.
According to him, “Many Nigerians are yet to feel the impact of the massive critical infrastructural development going on, which he said was due to the determination of the President to follow due process in the soft loan chain.
He added that Buhari’s integrity quotient attracted the loan but he also had to subject the loans to the approval of the National Assembly. Some items in the bouquet of loans are still languishing in the National Assembly.
On the possibility of the armed herdsmen crisis affecting Buhari’s reelection ambition, Okechukwu said, “Time will heal the wounds. Ranches are going to be built and the security agencies are being motivated and their equipment being upgraded.”
He also said other reasons Buhari must be supported is based on the quest of the Igbo to produce President of Nigeria in 2023.
According to him, “Out of the three geo-political zones in the South, the Southeast is the only one yet to benefit from the zoning or presidential rotation between the South and North.”
He also dismissed the sentiment that Buhari may deny the Igbo from producing his successor in 2023. He advised all reasonable Southeasterners to distance themselves from the stereotype and prejudice planted by Buhari’s traducers.
“If he hates the Igbo, how come he chose our two prominent people in 2003, and 2007 as his running mates – Chuba Okadigbo and Edwin Umezoke of blessed memory? How come Chudi Ofodile of blessed memory was his Attorney General and Minister of Justice in 1984? Ndigbo should do the needful by voting for him,” Okechukwu posited.
Immediate Past President General, Aka Ikenga Organization, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike however differed with Okechukwu. He said President Buhari should explain to Nigerians his achievements in security, anti-corruption and economy, which he (Buhari) prides as his major achievements.
Uwazurike said, “The constitution guarantees the right to contest for elections but the contestant must makes some basic promises. The basis for seeking reelection is to continue the good work.
In other words, President Buhari will tell us what he has achieved! He listed three major areas, corruption, security and the economy.
“He should tell us where his achievements lie in those areas. He can say I have fought corruption without fear or favour; but are the charges of nepotism and cover up of corruption against his men not true?
“He should tell us that the insecurity we felt before has been eliminated. That Nigerians are free to go anywhere. No Boko Haram. No armed Fulani herdsmen killers, no banditry, no kidnapping.
“He should tell us how our economy is better off now that the price of a bag of rice and a liter of petrol have doubled. In fact, our medical services have improved. The children of top politicians school here. The promises made to the labour union have been kept.
The independence of the judiciary and the legislature is fully and firmly respected. He must tell us how human rights are respected, how the court orders is obeyed.
The president has to tell us how investors are trooping in and where they are now. He must tell us how factories are reopening. These are the issues he must answer.”
The National Chairman, National Conscience Party (NCP), Yunusa Tanko flayed Buhari for seeking reelection as he also urged the Nigerian youth to take their future into their hands.
Tanko said Buhari expression to seek reelection next year would not stop the NCP from trashing him in 2019.
According to him, “Every Nigerian has the right to contest as long as he or she meets the statutory conditions but the scorecard of the incumbent government does not worth been reelected.
“Nigerians are not pleased with what is on ground. We are not satisfied with the leadership he is giving to Nigeria.”
The NCP national chairman added that Buhari intention to re-contest means nothing because we are fully prepared to run against him. “NCP have already about five presidential aspirants who have indicated interest to run on its platform and more are still expected.”
Meanwhile, Mr. President’s intention to rerun received a boost from the Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum.
In a statement yesterday, the Secretary General of the forum, Mr. Akin Malaolu said Buhari’s decision should be commended.
“We are happy for Nigeria and Nigerians the glorious chapter and the intervention of APC into the affairs of Nigeria. Mr. President second term would further improves the quality of lives, most especially of the youths in the area of job creation.”
But looking back at the intrigues that preceded Buhari’s intention to rerun, The Guardian gathered that Mr. President timing was strategic and aimed for a purpose.
For instance, the NEC meeting held yesterday where the proposed tenure elongation for the APC National Working Committee (NWC) was finally dropped may be the last one before the party’s National Convention scheduled to hold in June.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi, while clarifying that Buhari did not declare to rerun but that he only informed the NEC of his reelection ambition said there was nothing significant about when and where the notice of intention was made.