19 March 2018

Nigeria: 2019 Presidency - Nigerians to Wait Till After May 29 for Buhari's Decision

Photo: The Guardian
President Muhammadu Buhari.

Nigerians who are eager to know President Muhammadu Buhari's mind on the 2019 presidency may have to wait for another three to four months.

Indications emerged yesterday that the president may eventually decide whether or not to seek reelection in the 2019 presidential poll after the Democracy Day celebration billed for May 29 this year.

A reliable presidency source who disclosed this to LEADERSHIP in confidence yesterday said President Buhari is just waiting for the tensions in the country to subside before declaring his intention to run for the 2019 presidency.

The source listed the growing tension in the country caused by the spate of killings as one of the reasons why the president has not made up his mind yet.

The source who did not want his name in print because he is not in the position to speak on this said, "You know there is a lot of tension in the country due to killings by herdsmen and the president wants to bring insecurity and killings under control before declaring his intention.

"There has been a lot of pressure on the president to seek reelection and it is likely that the president will declare his intention to contest after May 29 but not before then".

Corroborating this, the presidency yesterday explained why President Buhari is yet to declare his intention to seek reelection in next year's presidential election despite pressure being mounted on him to do so.

Special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, told State House correspondents that if the president speaks too early about his ambition, it might give ammunition to unnamed opponents to throw everything at him and sabotage the country.

According to him, the president cannot speak with the election still about one year away because he knows the consequences.

The presidential spokesman said, "You know the peculiarity of Nigeria, particularly now. If the president speaks too early, it's a problem. There is a lot of sabotage in the country. You have also heard so many have said 'don't run', because they know that if the president runs, other people should just run a way because they don't have the foggiest chance in hell to beat him.

"So, they want to discourage him from running. Now, if he tells you, 'I'm going to run', and elections are still one year away, it gives them one year to sabotage the entire country from all fronts - politically, socially, economically. They would throw everything at him just to dissuade him from running.

"So, when you know that, why then do you speak early? I think it makes a lot of sense for you then to keep things close to your chest till it is time for you to then say, 'ok, I'm running', by which time they can do less damage."

The presidency also explained why the president is visiting Rivers State after claims by the state governor, Nyesom Wike that he is not aware that Buhari will visit his state.

Adesina said, "If he (Wike) doesn't understand, the rest of the country understands. We understand, other Nigerians understand. Even people in Rivers State understand because on New Year Day, a minimum of 24 people were killed in Omoku.

"So, is that not crisis? And can you count the number of people that have been beheaded in Rivers State in recent times? People will be killed and heads will be cut off and the assailants will go away with the heads, can anybody say that there is no security issue in that kind of place? It's left to the governor. He's the chief security officer. If he says there's no security crisis in his state, good luck to him."

On what will become of the trip if the governor does not welcome it, he added: "I'm sure he will be formally informed of a date. So, if he now says he doesn't want the visit, it's left to him and the federal government to decide the next step.

"But the president is visiting so that he can condole with people who lost their loved ones. 24 people, minimum, were killed in Omoku. So, these people are the reasons. Those people and the many beheaded, relations of those beheaded and their heads taken away, are the reason why the president is visiting the state."

Although he has not formally announced his interest in the 2019 presidency, the president had at different occasions made remarks that covertly suggested that he may contest.

In November last year while speaking with some members of the Nigerian community in Cote d'Ivoire, Buhari noted that he came to the meeting with two governors so that their people may vote for him in future.

While apologising for turning up late at the meeting, he said, "First, I want to apologise for keeping you for too long seating. This is because I insisted on the governors attending this meeting.

"This is why I came along with them so that when we are going to meet you, when you are going to meet the rest of Nigerians, if you tell them that their governors were in the company of the president, I think that will be another vote for me in the future. I'm very pleased that they were able to turn up."

During his recent visit to Benue State, Buhari had also said at a stakeholders meeting that he could only make promises to them when he returns there for campaign if indeed he would be coming for campaign.

Also, governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have endorsed Buhari for a second term.

Last month, Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, said that APC governors are insisting that President Buhari should seek reelection in 2019 because of his performance.

Addressing State House Correspondents at the presidential villa, Abuja, Bello said, "There are three things. One, he has done excellently well on fighting corruption. Even we among the governors are competing among ourselves to ensure that the little resources available, we utilize for the people. So, corruption is reduced to the barest minimum.

"Next is the revival of the economy, job creation and making sure that average Nigerians are comfortable. Based on these performances, we are urging Mr President to please run and fly in 2019. So, there is nothing more to that.

"And if you look at it critically, we the governors who naturally have immunity are very careful because you know that Mr. President is incorruptible. If you do, you are going to face the consequences. So, we are careful about that.

"Among ourselves, we are competing among the states to see who does more unlike the previous regime. So, we want Mr President to continue to lead the way so that we can follow and Nigerians will have the dividends of democracy."

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