Following President Muhammadu Buhari's formal declaration of his intention to run for the 2019 presidency, political fireworks commenced in earnest yesterday, with Nigerians, including governors and interest groups proclaiming their support for and against the president's re-election bid.
Buhari made the declaration at a closed-door meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The president said his decision to throw in his hat to run for a second term next year is borne out of the clamour by Nigerians for him to re-contest, adding that he chose the meeting in order to give NEC members the honour of notifying them first.
Shortly before making the declaration, Buhari presented a speech on the report submitted by the APC National Executive Technical Committee.
The formal declaration by the president has put to rest speculations about whether the president would seek re-election.
Buhari had in November last year while speaking with some members of the Nigerian community in Cote d'Ivoire disclosed 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 said meeting, he had said, "First, I want to apologize 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 the future. I'm very pleased that they were able to turn up."
During his recent visit to Benue State over herdsmen killings, he had also said at a stakeholders meeting that he could only make promises to them when he returns for campaign, if indeed he would be returning for campaign.
Buhari's decision to contest is however coming against the backdrop of calls by some Nigerians, including former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida uring him not to seek re-election.
The former Army Generals in their call on Buhari not to run for second term urged him to quit while the ovation was loud and pave way for new generation of Nigerians to take over reins of power.
Also, prior to his declaration yesterday, governors serving on the platform of the APC as well as cabinet members had all endorsed President Buhari for a second term in 2019.
But in the last caucus meeting of the party, Buhari had asked to be given more time to decide on whether he would run for another term or not.
It is trite to say that seeking for re-election for first term governors and president is the norm in all parts of the world.
Political observers contend that second term is usually used to consolidate on the policies and programmes, as a single term of four years is usually not enough to effect any meaningful change or make impact.
At the APC NEC meeting yesterday, President Buhari also sought for waivers for members of the party's NWC and other elected officials.
With the waiver, the John Oyegun-led NWC, party state chairmen and other elected leaders of the party at all levels are now free to contest for party positions without resigning their positions.
The president's position ended weeks of internal wrangling and intense negotiations over the tenure extension for the leadership of the party.
Buhari further insisted on the need for state congresses and convention, which he said were the surest way to avoid court related issues.
Making his position known while addressing NEC at the APC national secretariat, President Buhari said, "Having seen the report, my position is to ensure that the party tows the part of unity, legality, cohesion and not that of division. Therefore, I am stressing that we strengthen our internal democracy by organizing party congresses and convention where election of national executive committee members will be held.
"This will automatically end the cases filed by members seeking orders of court compiling the party to hold its congresses. I also believe that the current executives should be free to run for elective position in the party if they so wish and permitted by our party constitution.
"However, considering the provision of Article 30 Section 1 and Subsection 3 of our party constitution which requires any serving officer desirous seeking re-election to resign from office 30 days before the election, I'm not sure of the practicality of the present servings officers ability to meet this condition.
Buhari continued: "Accordingly, the party may consider granting waivers to party executives at all levels so that they are not disenfranchised in participating in the elections provided this does not violate our rights or our rules.
"Necessary waivers should also be extended to executives at the ward level whose tenures May have elapsed and indeed to anyone knocking on our doors from other parties.
"This gives credence to the right to freedom of association guaranteed by the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria as amended. In this circumstance, the party should issue a statement on the above waivers so that our house maybe full. We all must not be ignorant of the tomes and the journey that is ahead of us."
The recommendations of the report submitted to NEC for approval by the Governor Lalong committee include 21 days statutory notice for the holding of elective congresses and convention be given to INEC immediately.
Others are that the current zoning formula for party offices be retained; requirements of article 31(ii) be waived in line with the provisions of article 13.4(xv) to avoid disruption in the management of party affairs at all levels. All pending suits in respect of this matter be withdrawn.
"If for reasons of inability to fulfill constitutional and or legal conditions requisite for the conduct of a valid elective congress or convention, then the Party may as a last resort leverage on the NEC resolution of February 27th, 2018 which in our view is lawful in the circumstances".
Earlier, the APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun urged all members to put aside personal interests and accept other viewpoints in order to move the party forward.
"As we settle down for the business of today, we should bear in mind these principles and be ready to accept alternative viewpoints, just as Mr. President has done, even when these viewpoints do not immediately reflect our preferences", he stated.
Briefing journalists after the meeting, Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong said the committee´s report, which brought unity to the party, was accepted by all its leaders, including the president.
Governors Are Behind PMB For Second Term - Shettima
Meanwhile, Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima yesterday described President Buhari as the single kinetic president in Nigeria's political life till date.
Speaking with State House correspondents yesterday, Shettima said the governors are fully in support of the president's decision.
On the president's chances of winning, he said "Certainly, he is the single kinetic president in Nigeria's political life till date. We are fully in support of his decision and it is part of democratic culture. Traditionally, the president has the right of first refusal of the candidature of his party. So, it's not something that is unusual or unwarranted or unconstitutional; he has done the right thing. He is going to contest and we are solidly behind him.
"He is not under any obligation to consult governors or anybody. He has been under tremendous pressure to make that pronouncement. So, we should heave a sigh of relief since he has finally announced his intention to contest.
Kogi Will Support Mr President's Re-Election Bid - Gov Bello
Also, Kogi State governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, yesterday pledged the support of the people of the state to the re-election bid of President Buhari.
The governor who is viewed by many as a die-hard supporter of President Buhari gave the assurance in a statement signed by his director general of media and publicity, Mr Kingsley Fanwo.
"I am a staunch supporter of Mr President and I am proud to be associated with such a great leader and personality", Bello had said.
The governor reminded President Buhari that the people of Kogi State were the first to call on him to see re-election in next year's presidential poll at rallies organized in Anyigba, Kabba, Isanlu, Olamaboro and Okene which attracted hundreds of thousands of attendants.
He said, "We thank Mr President for listening to the voices of Nigerians who are satisfied with his performance. Kogi people were the first to organize rallies in different towns and cities to call on Mr President to seek re-election.
"As the leader of the state, I wish to assure Mr. President that my people are solidly behind his policies of economic recovery, security and the fight against corruption. Kogi will deliver to Mr President more votes than the state gave in 2015.
Katsina Will Give PMB Highest Votes - Gov Masari
On his part, Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State commended President Buhari for his decision to seek re-election in 2019, saying the state will give him the highest votes in the election.
In a statement by his senior special assistant on media, Abdul Labaran Malumfashi, Masari said Nigerians owe it a duty to ensure that the president continues beyond 2019 to consolidate on the achievements so far recorded under his watch.
The governor noted: "We will pull out all the stops, leaving nothing to chance in our efforts to ensure that Katsina state gives the President the highest votes in 2019. I congratulate ourselves (Nigerians) for this wonderful news of the President's declaration to go for re-election in 2019, because there is no one better than him for the office, for now".
PMB Has Rekindled Hope Of Average Nigerians - Niger Gov
For his part, Niger State governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, said the decision by President Buhari to seek reelection in 2019 has rekindled hope and reassured Nigerians that the war against corruption and enthronement of good governance in the country will sail safely to coast.
The governor noted that the president's pronouncement has rekindled the hope of average Nigerians for a better tomorrow.
"By this pronouncement, President Muhammadu Buhari has exhibited high sense of a good leadership. He has shown that he listens to the yearnings of millions of Nigerians who called on him to continue the good work he started since 2015. He would have dashed the hope of teeming Nigerians, especially the younger ones who are looking up to him, if he has turned down this call to serve".
PMB's Declaration, A Patriotic Response To Clarion Call - Gov Okorocha
Also, Imo State governor and chairman of the Progressive Governors' Forum, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, said President Buhari's declaration for second term is a patriotic response to the clarion call of Nigerians of goodwill for him to lead the country for another four years.
The governor noted that the president's decision to go for Second term would also go a long way to reduce the noise of the opposition and take care of the idiosyncrasies of certain elements in the system.
The governor said the president has done well to deserve a second tenure and remarked that those who had wanted to blackmail him out of going for another term can now find other meaningful things to keep themselves busy.
He expressed optimism that the president would largely garner more votes in 2019 than he had done in 2015 because most Nigerians, including people of the Southeast, have seen that he meant well for the nation and her citizenry.
Meanwhile, some Nigerians, including interest groups and political parties have reacted to President Buhari's declaration to seek reelection for a second term.
While some applauded the president for taking the decision, others expressed doubt about the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducting free and fair elections come 2019.
Former Liaison Officer to the national assembly during the President Shehu Shagari administration, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai told LEADERSHIP on telephone that he was not surprised by the president's declaration, saying "I would have been more surprise if he refuses to seek reelection.
"I am not surprised that the president declared interest to run for second term. I would have been surprise if he had declined to seek reelection. The whole body language of the president had shown he was going to contest election. It is however true that the kind of support he got in 2015 is no longer the same.
"My concern is that a lot of the people who worked with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are the same persons that worked with President Buhari while he was the head of Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). I am not sure they will work for free and fair elections come 2019. I see them working for the interest of their boss in order to protect their relationship with Buhari".
Second Republic lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, on his part, said, "Whether he declares or not is not the matter; the issue is whether Nigerians are ready to give him another change of suffering.
"Nigerians should assess him on the basis of the promises he had made when he was given power. Has he fulfilled those promises or not. He has not been able to address the issue of insurgency in the country even as a retired senior military officer.
"The fight against corruption has turned out to be a complete lie by the Buhari administration. The corruption war is skewed in favour of Buhari's cronies and friends. I see a sense of desperation in Buhari, I see a sense of disregard in the democratic process in the country".
Also, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, former governor of Kaduna State welcomed the declaration by President Buhari to seek re-election in 2019.
Musa, a chieftain of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), said in a telephone interview that his party would, however, come up with a strong candidate to challenge Buhari in the elections.
"President Muhammadu Buhari is welcome on board, but we want to assure Nigerians that the PRP has a presidential candidate to field in the 2019 general election," he said
Similarly, Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi, former national caretaker committee chairman of the People Democratic Party (PDP), noted: "It's no news that he is contesting, it would have been news if he had announced the opposite."
Meanwhile, many youths in Kano jubilated when the news broke of President Buhari's intention to run for second a term come 2019.
Some of the youths who spoke with our correspondent, expressed optimism that President Buhari would be able to complete the development projects that he has started by the time he completes his eight-year tenure in 2023.
Kano is pivotal to President Buhari's second term bid as the state gave him the highest number of votes in the 2015 election, just like in the elections of 2003, 2007 and 2011.
Out of the 2,172,447 votes cast in Kano in 2015, Buhari won 1,903,999 votes, leaving the rest of the field to scramble for the fewer than 250,000 left.
The United Progressive Party (UPP), in its reaction said President Buhari is merely exercising his right as an incumbent president to seek re-election as allowed by the constitution.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP yesterday, the national chairman of the UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie, said that what Buhari did yesterday is what people had already known that he would do.
"He has said what people expected from him", Okorie noted, observing however that it is not going to be a walk over for him, "as has not endeared himself to the electorate, due to his many failed promises".
The Conference of Nigeria Political Party (CNPP) said President Buhari has nothing to show Nigerians in terms of concrete achievement to make him think of seeking re-election beyond the fact that re-contesting is a legal right.
While reacting to the president's declaration of intention to seek re-election, the CNPP in a statement signed by its Secretary General, Chief Willy Ezugwu, maintained that Nigeria should be thinking of electing a patriotic politician who understands economic dynamics and inclusive governance.
But the opposition PDP said the declaration by president Buhari to seek a second term is an internal affairs of the APC.
A terse statement by the national publicity secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, noted that the party would not waste time on Buhari's mere declaration until he emerges the party's candidate.
"The declaration has placed President Buhari among the ranks of aspirants seeking to be the President of the Federal Republic, effective May 29, 2019. Until he becomes the candidate of the APC, we will not spend precious time on his mere show of interest," the statement said.
In the same vein, the apex Northern socio-cultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) stated that Buhari has "only exercised his right to contest as provided for in our constitution by declaring his interest in the 2019 presidential election".
ACF in a text message by its national publicity secretary, Muhammad Ibrahim Biu, further said, "It is also the right of his party, the APC to nominate him in accordance with their party's rules and regulations".
The chairman of Centre for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), Mr. Debo Adeniran, hailed the decision of President Buhari to re-contest in 2019, describing it as "good news for anti-graft war."
The anti-corruption group commended the president's decision in an interview with newsmen in Lagos.
Also, the pan Yoruba socio-cultural organization, Afenifere, said that Buhari has the right to seek re-election.
Speaking on behalf of pan Yoruba socio-cultural group, its spokesperson, Yinka Odumakin, said President Buhari has the right to decide to run again for another four years, but it is left to Nigerians to decide whether they wanted him in office for another four years.
The president-general of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, said the socio-cultural group will not react to President Muhammadu Buhari's declaration to seek a second term in office until all the political parties pick their candidates.