President Muhammadu Buhari has unfolded his re-election bid yesterday at
the meeting of the APC National Executive Committee (NEC) and the
National Working Committee (NWC) in Abuja. Now what next?
The Nation’s Group Political Editor, Emmanuel OLADESU, examines the prospects and constraints of his ambition for second term.
The race for the presidency commenced yesterday.
his predecessors who declared their re-election bids in big rallies,
President Buhari informed APC leaders and officers that he would be
running again in 2019. It was without funfair. The president gazed at
the future with optimism and confidence, urging the ruling party and
Nigerians to renew his service to the fatherland for another four years.
The push for second term will dominate public discussions until the
presidency is won and lost in next year’s elections.
Commander-in-Chief was frugal in his speech to the members of the NEC
and the NWC, who converged on the party’s national secretariat in Abuja,
for a critical meeting for the resolution of the logjam triggered by
the tenure extension proposal. The president’s request to the political
family was that there should be no vacancy in Aso Villa, the seat of
government, in 2019.
The declaration is not devoid of logic. A
basis can be found for it in law and political tradition. Since 1960, no
civilian president or head of government has called it quits after his
first term. Constitutionally, President Buhari is entitled to a second
term, whether he has performed or not. Politics and morality exist in
clear-cut antithetical relationship. In addition, he is favoured by
rotational formula. Since the presidency has also been zoned to the
larger North by his party, the party leader is qualified to run.
it has implications for general administration. Will the president
still stay focused? Will the pursuit of a second term not distract his
The declaration has ended some months of speculations
about President Buhari’s intention. It may have altered the calculations
of likely contenders, who thought the president would step aside for
health reasons. Yet, the ambition of the President for continuity has
polarised the polity. It is good news to his sincere fanatical
supporters and praise singers hoping to profit from their eye service.
President Buhari has challenged to a duel his major critics,
particularly the internal opposition leaders, outside forces that have
dared him to seek re-election and risk the consequences, and other
stakeholders who have castigated him for leadership deficiency.
to observers, President Buhari is seeking re-election, contrary to the
advice of some critical opinion moulders, especially former Presidents
Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida, who have continued to threaten
fire and brimstone, contending that his second term may herald the
liquidation of Nigeria. Another letter from Obasanjo may be imminent, in
view of the declaration, to reinforce his earlier point. The president
has also rejected the counsel of other highly placed citizens, including
eminent leaders of the divided North, who, after weighing the odds,
advised him not to run in national interest. In past elections, these
entrenched northern forces had always turned their back against the
Daura-born General. Now, the bold declaration has jolted them out of
Sources said the president may have consulted
with key party leaders before making the declaration. It is debatable as
some party officers expressed shock at the sudden disclosure. The
declaration has coincided with a period of anxiety for the ruling party.
The APC is warming up for congresses and the national convention,
unmindful of the crises the exercise may unleash, in the absence of an
effective, time-tested reconciliation and crisis-resolution mechanism.
President Buhari may have also challenged his would-be opponents at the
APC primary to unfold their aspirations. Caution is the watchword.
Predictably, there is no chieftain of note who will compete with him for
the ticket in the ruling party. But, the division in the APC, which may
escalate, if the congresses and the convention are not properly
managed, may give room for defection by ambitious presidential aspirants
who may take refuge in the opposition parties.
Ahead of the
declaration, President Buhari, for the first time, tried to put his
house in order. He briskly corrected the mistake of sidelining some
party elders who worked for his victory in 2015. He reached out, in
particular, to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who he acknowledged as a master
political strategist. To a large extent, he also demonstrated a rare
dexterity in managing the tension generated by the tenure extension
agenda, without necessarily offending the two blocs in the intra-party
dispute. Instructively, members of the warring blocs are his trusted
loyalists. As he is guiding the party to thread the path of the rule of
law, he is also pacifying those who have lost out in the elongation
drama by dangling the carrot of waivers.
immediate foot soldiers in the actualisation of his second term agenda
are APC governors. Many of them have urged him to declare his ambition,
promising to mobilise for him at the general election. They also hope to
garner enormous returns from their political investment. Some of them
are relying on the president’s clout and popularity to get second term
mandate in their respective states in next year’s elections. The front
liners are governors Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Abdulazeez Yari
(Zamfara), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Yahaya Bello
(Kogi) and Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano). The Kano governor has even
threatened to sue the president, if he declines to re-contest. A source
close to the Progressives Governors’ Forum disclosed that the onus is on
these governors to kick-start the endorsement of the president for a
second term in their respective states.
The president’s ambition
has polarised the polity. Opinion is divided among Nigerians. Those
pushing for continuity hinge their position on the achievements of the
president in the last three years, despite the constraints. During the
2015 presidential campaigns, President Buhari promised to fight
corruption, revive the economy, restore security and provide jobs for
Nigerians. But, reality dawned on him that the situation on ground would
limit his capacity to deliver with speed. He met an empty treasury. Oil
earnings dropped abruptly, owing to the twin factors of crash in price
in the world market and vandalisation of pipelines in the Niger Delta.
He was accused of slow in taking decisions, but he claimed that he has
President Buhari has made a modest contributions to
the remaking of the country. He has tried to fight corruption with
vigour, without a supportive legislature and judiciary. In fact,
corruption is also fighting back. Although critics have berated his
administration for a one-sided war, it is clear that nobody is insulated
from the radar. Also, the president appears to be above board as the
anti-corruption curator. He has not mocked his antecedent by joining the
privileged class of corrupt Nigerians in the corridor of power.
Buhari has contributed to electoral reforms by upholding the sanctity
of the ballot box, even when the outcome of the poll is in favour of the
opposition. He has not perceived supplementary elections held since
2015 as a do-or-die affair. Neither has the president given his nod to
the indiscriminate deployment of the federal might for partisan reasons.
despite the impediments, President Buahri has fought insurgency. But,
the anti-terror war has not been completely won. Although the majority
of abducted Dapchi girls were rescued, many Chibok girls are still
languishing in captivity. Terrorists have also turned attention to soft
targets. Thus, as the Army records a breakthrough in the troubled
Northeast, more casualties of bombings by insurgents create a hollow in
the anti-terror score card.
The economy is still work in
progress. Although the country has exited recession, many Nigerians
continue to wallow in poverty and squalor. Diversification through
agriculture has been attempted with measured success and jobs created.
But, it has been a drop in the ocean. Under President Buhari, the
economy has not been totally healed. Unemployment is soaring in
geometric proportions. Families are in want of three square meals. Many
Nigerians live in agony.
The anti-second term campaigners believe
that the president has failed on the economic front. Also, the
president has been criticised by his style of governance, particularly
his snailpace approach to decision making. There was an allegation that
he has allowed the cabals to hijack his government. Thus, those
sidelined from the party and the government believed that he is not
effectively in charge. The perception is that President Buhari has a
reputation for dumping those who assisted him to get to power after
consolidating his hold on the exalted office.
Buhari’s ratings may have dropped, following his poor handling of the
farmers/herdsmen clashes in the North. Many lives have been lost due to
the conflict in Benue, Taraba and Zamfara. Recently, former Defence
Minister Lt-Gen. Yakubu Danjuma, cried out that the Army had colluded
with herdsmen to kill many innocent people in the region. His allegation
is still being investigated by the government.
President unfolded his re-election bid, there were speculations that a
few chieftains were eyeing the presidency. They include Sokoto State
Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso and Senate President
At the weekend, Saraki’s media aide Yusuph
Olaniyonu, debunked the rumour, saying that his principal is not in the
race. But, will Tambuwal and Kwankwaso still run? Do they have any
chance at the primary? Can either of them beat the president at the
shadow poll? Will they slug it out with the president at the primary or
defect to another party to realise their ambitions?
observers, the outcome of the congresses and convention may have
implications for the APC and the president’s second term bid. Gladiators
are spoiling for war. The battle of supremacy is raging in some
chapters. Governors and senators are fighting for the soul of the party
in some states. If the congresses are marred by crises, aggrieved
chieftains may defect to rival parties under the guise of division in
the ruling party. This may have implications for the electoral fortune
of the APC in 2019.
If the President secures the ticket of the
APC to run, can he beat the flag bearers of the Peoples Democratic Party
(PDP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which is being perceived
as the third force?
Presidential aspirants in the PDP include:
former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who has declared his ambition in
Rivers State and hired former Ogun State Governor Gbenga Daniel as his
Mobilisation Officer/Campaign Coordinator for the Southwest, former
Jigawa State Governor Sule Lamido, his Kano, Sokoto and Kaduna
counterparts; Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa and
Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Gombe State Governor Ibrahim Damkabo and Ekiti
State Governor Ayodele Fayose, who has insisted on contesting, despite
the fact that the party has zoned the slot to the North. Can any of them
beat the president at the poll? Will the PDP survive the politics of
presidential nomination? How will the PDP convince Nigerians that the
mistakes of the past 16 year will not be repeated?
believe that, if the cracks in the APC are not mended, and there is a
wave of defections, the tragedy that hit the PDP in 2015 may not be
Many APC senators and House of Representatives members
have been at loggerheads with the presidency. Will they sheathe their
swords or jump the ship, ahead of next elections? Does the President has
the skill and capacity to keep the house united?
to the National Chairman of the SDP, Chief Olu Falae, disclosed that the
party is not opposed to an alliance with the PDP and other smaller
parties. So far, no APC chieftain has defected to the SDP in any of the
APC-controlled states, except in Adamawa. However, aggrieved PDP
chieftains in the Southwest, particularly in Ekiti, have gone to the
But, will the Obasanjo-inspired SDP have an accord with the
PDP, which the former president has discredited? If aggrieved chieftains
defect from the APC, will the SDP be the beneficiary? Can the PDP/SDP
alliance stop Buhari?
Will President Buhari overcome the odds and achieve his aspiration? Time will tell.