Kauthar Anumba-Khaleel, in this report, examines reactions trailing President Muhammadu Buhari's announcement that he will seek re-election.
For months, Nigerians remained in the dark on whether or not President Muhammadu Buhari would seek a second term in office. While the speculation lasted, a section of Nigerians (individuals and groups) had mounted pressure on him to declare even as others who are unimpressed by his style of leadership and are of the view that he lacks the wherewithal to captain the ship, Nigeria, were hoping that he would not run again.
However, the president last week, at the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) leadership laid the speculation to rest, when he announced his intention to run for a second term in office, in the 2019 elections. The announcement which was confirmed by the national publicity secretary of the party, Bolaji Abdullahi and the Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon. Alhassan Ado Doguwa, while addressing journalist after the meeting.
Also, the Presidency's official handle confirmed his decision by tweeting "President @MBuhari has just announced his intention to seek the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and contest for a second term of office in the 2019.
Similarly, Kaduna State governor Nasir el-Rufai tweeted "Breaking News: PMB has just announced to APC NEC his intention to run for a second term of office. Alhamdulilah". The governor notably asked the president to seek another term when he led some governors to Aso Rock asking Buhari to seek re-election earlier in the year. He said, "we are politicians and those of us that you see here want the president to contest for a second term of office. So, everything is about 2019; there is no hiding that. We have no apologies for that. We believe in the president; we want him to keep running the country in the right direction, he said.
But it was not a generic pass for President Buhari as he also received as much backlash from a section of Nigerians as he did from his supporters. Chief amongst those asking him to perish the thought of seeking another term in office is former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who on two different occasions, urged him to take the path of honour and bow out due to the failure of his government.
It would be recalled that in January, Obasanjo in a 13-page letter, chided President Buhari and advised him not to seek re-election. He to leave the office in a dignified way.
"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, loin the stock of Nigerian leaders whose experience, influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the sideline for the good of the country. His place in history is already assured," Obasanjo said.
Two weeks ago, Obasanjo referred to the Muhammadu Buhari government as a failed government, alleging that the current administration is running an ineffective economic policy that has crippled businesses and caused economic woes in the country which has brought hardship on Nigerians and advised Nigerians to not give him their votes in the 2019 general elections.
"The truth is when you have an ineffective and incompetent government, we are all victims, and don't let anybody deceive you. Those of you who are in business could have been better today if we have a competent, effective and performing government. As I said, stop giving excuses; we met challenges. If there are no challenges, then we wouldn't need you to come; you came in because you knew there are challenges and then giving excuses that you have many challenges, that is why you haven't achieved results;
"And then you still want to go. The first lesson I learnt in my military training is never to reinforce failure; what we have now is failure; never you reinforce failure; let failure be failure", Obasanjo asserted.
While Buhari's decision to re-contest which he attributed to clamor by Nigerians gladdens the hearts of his supporters who continue to count his achievements so far, those opposed to it also cite the failures of his administration in the past years especially in the areas he made promises was reasons why he should save face and not expose himself to further ridicule at the polls.
In his reaction, Constitutional Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), who in the past had said the president will contest given his body language, noted that the while it is the president's constitutional right to seek a second term, it is also the right of the electorates to reject him at the polls based on his performance in the areas of economy, insecurity and the fight against corruption. "For the avoidance of doubt, it is PMB's undoubted constitutional right to contest for the Nigerian presidency, having run only once. However, it is also the constitutional right of Nigerians to roundly reject him at the polls, having performed abysmally and disastrously below average. The evidence is all too glaring, admitting of ambiguity.
"The economy is in an all time low. From over $500 billion rebased economy (according to World Bank and IMF), which PMB met, he took Nigeria into recession and now claims to have taken it out. He says this calls for celebration. But the figures don't tally, nor does the story jell. Nigerians are hungrier today than they were 3 years ago. They have been rendered destitute and impecunious.
"Indeed, he gleefully told a bemused country in December, 2015 that Boko Haram had been "technically defeated" and repeated it in 2016, that it "has been beaten". But Nigerians knows that Boko Haram is stronger today, more potent and more deadly than it ever was. We are regaled with tales of Boko Haram's blood-letting exploits;
"Government does not even pretend to want to curb the insurgency. Not a single herdsman has been arrested or prosecuted by the government. Kidnappings, murders, suicides and rape cases, have since increased geometrically, rather than arithmetic; consequently, on the insecurity front, PMB has scored below average".
On the anti-graft war Ozekhome says, "PMB's greatest failings is perhaps in this anti-corruption context. He had promised to fight corruption; three years down the line, he has not secured a single conviction of any high profile, politically exposed person. Rather, Nigerians have been treated to ludicrous media trial. In desperation, the government has now released names of opposition members whom they have charged to court but cannot prove their cases against as "looters", without any court conviction or judicial pronouncement to that effect. This is in sync with the government's now infamous disrespect and disregard for due process, the rule of law, independence of the judiciary and disobedience to court orders. Impunity reigns supreme".
Also, the General secretary of Textile workers union and national executive council member of Nigerian Labor congress (NLC), Issa Aremu, said the president has the constitutional right to seek re-election.
In a statement, Aremu said, "the reported announcement by president Muhammadu Buhari of his intention to seek re-election in 2019 is largely a constitutional matter. For us in the Labour movement, the 1999 constitution of Nigeria allows for two-term tenure for the president, if elected, same as governors and open-ended legislators;
"President Buhari certainly has the right to seek re-election. Same constitution allows all eligible citizens to exercise their rights to vote and be voted for. The controversy over whether the president is contesting or not is therefore unnecessary; what is also clear is that Labour will also exercise its constitutional rights to vote based on critical assessment of all political office holders with respect to decent work, decent pay, employment, cost of living, security and building of a prosperous, fair, just and united Nigeria," Aremu stated.
President Buhari's announcement may have sent chills down the spines of non-supporters of his government but it is also preparing Nigerians for the polls where they have the opportunity to either let him steer the affairs of this country for the next four years or show him the way out as it is one thing for him to declare his intention to re-contest, it is another for him to be able to convince them beyond reasonable doubt to entrust him with their votes once again.
Unfortunately, he will be doing this by defending his records vis-a-vis achievements, style of leadership in the last three years as opposed to his promise of change in 2015. He has to be able to give Nigerians good enough reason why he should not be flogged with the same cane Goodluck Jonathan was flogged in the 2015 presidential election. But in the face of all these, Buhari and the APC must ensure that governance is not collateral damage.