President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, put paid to speculations about his political future with a declaration to the National Executive Committee, NEC of the All Progressives Congress, APC, that he would seek a second term to enable him consolidate on his achievements.
The resolution of the President's aspiration, however, came with a fresh uncertainty on the future of the party, following a recommendation by a committee of the party that could open the way for the extension of the tenure of the Chief John Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee, NWC.
The committee led by Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State had been constituted upon President Buhari's observations that an extension of tenure of the party executives was illegal.
In its recommendations adopted by NEC, yesterday, it was recommended that the party goes ahead and conducts congresses and a national convention but that where it was impossible to do so, that the party should fall back on the extension of tenure for all party officers across board as originally conceived at the NEC meeting in February.
President Buhari's declaration was received with rapturous approval at the NEC meeting. However, outside, critics and political rivals expressed dismay upon claims of a mixed performance in his first term. Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, in a reaction, charged every other contender to run away.
At the crowded, closed-door NEC meeting, the President said that having made wide consultations and conscious of the need to consolidate on his achievements in office, he had decided to stand for re-election. His declaration was greeted with a standing ovation.
The president, who came under "Any Other Business, AOB," said he had been under tremendous pressure to make the declaration, adding that he felt it was courteous to first inform the NEC before going to town with it.
Apart from hordes of presidential aides, others at the meeting which was also attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, were the caucuses of the National Assembly, led by Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Speaker Yakubu Dogara, governors of Zamfara, Imo, Oyo, Ogun, Benue, Plateau, Bauchi, Kebbi and Jigawa states. Others were those of Kaduna, Kogi, Borno, Sokoto, Adamawa, Lagos, Ondo, Nasarawa, Kano, Osun and the deputy governors of Katsina, Edo, Yobe and Niger states as well as other NEC members.
Addressing journalists at a post-NEC briefing, both the Plateau State governor, Simon Bako Lalong, and the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, confirmed the president's declaration.
Lalong, who also spoke on the report of the technical committee which he headed, said: "Everybody's interest was considered in the report and it was a unanimous vote and adoption of the recommendations that were made.
"The President felt so happy and excited because of this unity in the party; he will now consider and also accept the appeal by several members of the society, party and everybody that he will contest the 2019 election.
"He has accepted that he is going to contest again the position of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria," the governor confirmed.
Oyegun's NWC might have tenure extended if... .
However, the last may not have been heard of the issue of tenure elongation for party executives as the Lalong committee in its recommendations sighted by Vanguard, stated that the party might have to fall back on its earlier resolution extending the tenure of the executives. It premised its decision on the inability of the party to fulfill all legal conditions necessary for a convention and congresses.
"If for reasons of inability to fulfil 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 27, 2018, which in our view is lawful in the circumstances. Finally, the committee recommended that a NEC meeting be convened to consider the report."
According to the committee, "although the decision taken by NEC on February 27 is legal and constitutional; and violated neither the party constitution nor that of the federation, it is still in the best interest of the party to conduct congresses and convention. However, in doing so, all reasonable measures should be taken to minimise opportunity for acrimony or rancour while ensuring that all prescribed constitutional and legal conditions are met."
Earlier at the commencement of the meeting, the president gave a hint of what was to come as he engaged members in a conciliatory manner, urging them to close ranks and deliver the party to Nigerians in 2019.
In a deft political move to placate contending forces in the party regarding the leadership of the party, President Buhari asked the NEC to grant waivers to members of the Odigie-Oyegun-led National Working Committee, NWC, who wish to seek re-election.
President Buhari urges unity
The President said: "I want to specifically thank members of the technical committee for a job well done within a limited time frame. It shows the essence of commitment and the ideals of our party, with a view to consolidating the party to continue to provide good governance in the overall interest of Nigerians.
"The general interest of the party and based on the report submitted by the technical committee, it is important to focus on how to move the party forward by avoiding actions detrimental to the interest of the party.
"Considering that politics is a game of numbers, we must not be a house divided against itself and must try to appreciate and accommodate our differences as far as the law permits.
"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 compelling the party to hold its congresses.
"I also believe that the current executives should be free to run for elective positions 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 of seeking re-election, to resign from office 30 days before the election, I'm not sure of the practicality of the present serving officers' ability to meet this condition.
"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.
"Just like our party symbol is the broom, we stand by strength in unity. Let us try to be united in party, victory is sure by the grace of God. And together, we must continue to sanitise Nigeria's political environment. I welcome you to this meeting with the hope that in our deliberations, we will conduct ourselves without rancour, and promote the highest interest of our party and the nation."
Why I endured media attacks by my opponents --Oyegun
Earlier, Odigie-Oyegun, while opening the meeting had lamented at the extent to which some party members went to discredit him.
"In the past days, I have read news reports and all manner of comments and opinions that have tried to frame the majority decision of NEC as an attempt to primarily secure "tenure elongation" for Oyegun and the NWC. This is quite unfortunate because nothing could be farther from the truth.
"We are looking for ways to minimize rancour in the party ahead of the next general elections, and we are looking for ways to save the party from potential legal booby traps. These are both valid considerations. The challenge that we have faced has been how to reconcile the two in the best interest of the party.
"On a personal note, I have had to endure virulent media attacks, malicious insinuations, and outright character assassination. However, the responsibility imposed on me by my position as the National Chairman of the party, demand that I rise above my personal pains and refuse to yield to the temptation to react in a manner that potentially complicates the situation for our party. However, I will like to urge everyone else to remember that regardless of our ambitions and personal interests, the party is greater than all of us.
Vanguard recalls that at the NEC meeting of February 27, members requested the NEC to approve a timetable for congresses and the convention ahead of the expiration of the tenure of the current executive.
However, rather than approve the timetable, "members expressed concern that if we embarked on the congresses as planned, the process could precipitate a series of rancour, which might be difficult for the party to manage ahead of the coming general elections. It was, therefore, resolved by a majority of 104 to 4 votes that the current executives of the party at all levels be allowed to continue in acting capacity for a period not exceeding 12 months starting from June 2018.
NEC retains Zoning Formula
In line with the recommendation of the Lalong Committee, the NEC also retained the zoning formula for the party.
The Lalong committee had in its report which was sighted by Vanguard recommended what it said was "a roadmap to the Congress and the convention respectively."
The recommendations are; "21 days statutory notice for the holding of elective congresses and convention be given to INEC immediately; 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."
Wild jubilation in Kano
Meanwhile, there was wild jubilation in Kano, yesterday after the declaration, as youths in their hundreds took to the streets to celebrate.
Usman Baba, a resident, said the past three years of the Buhari administration had been spent restoring security in the country and fighting corruption.
"We are happy and hoping that President Buhari should return to embark on infrastructural development since he has already retrieved a lot from looters," he was quoted to have said.
"We don't want someone to come and embezzle the retrieved loot or divert it to some looters again. That is why we want him to serve another term."
Abduljalal Mu'azu, another resident, also expressed optimism that if Buhari wins a second term, the country's situation might improve.
A female respondent Malama Musa, said the world had accepted the president as trustworthy and transparent.
Reactions to Buhari's declaration
It is an internal APC affair - PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said Buhari's declaration is an internal affair of the APC for which it would not interfere.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan told Vanguard that the declaration had placed President Buhari among the ranks of aspirants seeking to be the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, effective May 29, 2019.
"Until he becomes the candidate of the APC, we will not spend precious time on his mere show of interest," he noted.
He has the right to contest; we have the right to vote - Labour
Comrade Issa Aremu, General Secretary of the National Union of Textile, Garments and Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, NUTGTWN said while it is the president's constitutional right to contest, workers would exercise their right to vote for who they feel is best for Nigeria.
"For us in the labour movement, 1999 Constitution of Nigeria allows for two-term tenure for the President if elected. Same for governors and open-ended for legislators.
"The controversy over why the President is contesting or not is therefore unnecessary. He has that right for reelection. 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.
Buhari should not seek reelection - Onyia
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Dubem Onyia, in his reaction said: "Buhari scored low in all sectors. He came to power with the promise that he would fight corruption. In four years, nobody has been brought to book for corruption, and there is pervasive corruption everywhere. Look at the issue of Maina. He even recalled somebody who was sacked for alleged corruption.
"The job of the government is to provide security for its citizens; he has failed to provide security for Nigerians. Nigerians are being slaughtered on a daily basis across the country, and nobody is doing anything.
"Take the issue of the Naira. He came in when the exchange rate was N190 for a dollar, but it is now over N366 for one dollar."
It is a big relief - Gov Shettima
Speaking to Vanguard after visiting the Chief of Staff to the president, Mallam Abba Kyari, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State said: "We are fully in support of his decision, and it's part of democratic culture. Traditionally, the president has the right of first refusal of the candidature of their 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."
APC has no apology to make-- Okorocha
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State in his response said it was a patriotic response to the clarion call of Nigerians of goodwill for him to lead the country for another 4 years.
The governor noted too that, the declaration of the President 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 had done well to deserve second term 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 President Buhari would largely garner more votes in 2019 than he had done in 2015 because most Nigerians, including people of the South-East, have seen that he meant well for the nation and her Citizenry.
The governor said the APC has no apology to make because it has done well considering the magnitude of the rot it met on ground in 2015.
We thank Buhari - Governor Bello
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State on his part, declared his staunch support for the president's re-election.
"I am a staunch supporter of Mr. President, and I am proud to be associated with such a great leader and personality," saying the people of Kogi State were among the first to call on the president to seek re-election.
"We thank Mr. President for listening to the voices of Nigerians who are satisfied with his performance."
He has failed on all fronts - Fayose
Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State on his part said: "That ambition is dead on arrival. We don't want grandpa as president anymore. Nigeria does not deserve a Buhari as president in 2019. Buhari is old and tired. When people don't know when to take their leave and say bye, Nigerians will show them the exit door.
"He has done more harm to this country. His ambition is a means by which Nigerians will tell him good riddance to bad rubbish when they booth him out of office. He is an easy candidate to defeat in the poll for he has failed woefully."
Contenders should have a rethink -- Adesina
Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina advised prospective contenders to have a rethink, following Buhari's declared interest to run for the forthcoming 2019 election.
Adesina noted that Buhari is the only candidate that can take Nigerians to the Promised Land. He disclosed this barely hours after the President made a public declaration to contest for 2019.
In his article, titled "2019: Let the others simply run away", Adesina reeled out Buhari's achievements noting that he will support him as long as he knows that the president will perform more than anyone else.
"There are two options for those in contention for the presidency in 2019: run, or run away. Now that President Muhammadu Buhari has indicated his intention to run, dwarfs trying to wear a giant's shoes should simply run away."
Nnamani, Okechukwu, BSO react
Former Senate President Ken Nnamani, the Director-General of Voice of Nigeria and the Buhari Support Organisation, BSO, in Enugu State, were among respondents to President Buhari's declaration to seek for a second term in office.
Nnamani, who was Senate President under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, but now a member of the APC said: "He has taken the bull by the horn. There were hitches in his first term; maybe it will be a good opportunity to address them.
On his part, the DG-VON, Mr. Osita Okechukwu said: "Now that he has agreed to our persuasions we believe he is the only one who can consolidate. The credibility of the loan that he is seeking for is because they know he can deliver with the money.
"We expect he will deliver on roads, railway, power sector and self-sufficiency in agriculture. So we need him to consolidate on the achievements he has already made, it's a welcome development."
The Enugu state chapter of Buhari Support Organisation on its part celebrated the President's open declaration for second term bid.
Chairman of BSO in Enugu, Chief Anike Nwoga in a statement, yesterday, said "it was is a launching pad for the progress and prosperity of our dear fatherland. A country whose growth has been stunted by infrastructure deficit.
"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."
He will meet us in the field - Adeniran, SDP chieftain
Former Ambassador of Nigeria to the Republic of Germany and chieftain of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Professor Tunde Adeniran has welcomed Buhari's decision saying the SDP would meet him on the field.
"We are happy that he has come out to confirm what we have always suspected. He will meet us in the field. He has to convince Nigerians why they should support him for another four more years of nepotism, insensitivity, insecurity, subjugation, and uncertainty."
His friends are deceiving him -- Ezeife
Former governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife said the president's friends did not advise him well even as he affirmed that the president would win the election.
"Good luck to him if he has chosen to run again. If it is the will of God that he returns, there is nothing anybody can do about it. But if you ask me, I think his close friends should have advised him differently. That is my honest opinion," Ezeife stressed.
He is Nigeria's saviour -- Etiebet
In his reaction, former Minister of Petroleum, Chief Don Etiebet, said: "We have been waiting anxiously for this declaration because some of us have been consistent and audacious in supporting him since May 2015 when he became President of Nigeria. His presidency has shown he is the saviour of Nigeria, what is needed right now is for him to consolidate and entrench his programmes and policies as a foundation for Nigeria to take off as a nation for development."
Nigerians will live to regret it -- Junaid Mohammed
Reacting, Second Republic Lawmaker, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said it is left for Nigerians whether President Buhari will get another term or not.
"I believe nobody should be surprised about Buhari's declaration. Why? Because Buhari is a kind of man that cares less about Nigerians and wants to hold on to power as long as he can. It is now left for Nigerians to decide whether he stays on or not. What I can boldly say is that if Buhari wins another term in office, there will not be end to corruption, insurgency, and insecurity. His loyalists and cronies will continue to milk the country."
All he wants is power -- Okurounmun
The Afenifere chieftain said by the declaration, President Buhari has shown that he does not have regards for Nigerians.
"I think he cares about nobody, all he cares about is power. His quest for power does not make him think of anything like insecurity which is presently ravaging the country. I believe strongly he is doomed for failure, he is designed for disaster and I am sure he will meet his waterloo."
It's left for Nigerians to decide --Afenifere
In its reaction, the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said though the president has a constitutional right to seek a second term in office, it is left for Nigerians to decide whether they want to support him or not.
Afenifere's National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin said: "He has constitutional rights to declare, and we also have constitutional rights to say whether we want to support him for a second term or not. So, now that he has thrown his hat in the ring, we want to see other hats in the ring. If Nigerians do not want what they have experienced in the last four years, they will decide. It is clear today that for Nigeria to move forward, Nigeria must be a productive country.
He had no option - Senator Lawan
"Last year, I said it that the President has no option than to run for the second term. He has been working very hard to set infrastructure foundation for Nigeria, and he needs to consolidate on that. With very scarce and limited resources due to the declining price of crude oil in the world market, this administration has been able to do a lot with the little it has got."
It is good for PDP - Senator Olujimi
Deputy Minority Whip of the Senate, Senator Biodun Olujimi, PDP, who welcomed the development said it would make it better for the PDP to win.
"We welcome him into the race because it will be easy to beat them."
Ball in Nigerians' court - Ikokwu
Second Republic politician, Chief Guy Ikokwu, said the ball is now in the court of Nigerians to decide based on their assessment of President Buhari's performance.
He said: "Buhari has the constitutional right to declare for second term. It is also the absolute right of Nigerians to assess his performance in office in the last three years and judge whether Nigeria has been better, whether there are real changes and improvement in their socio-economic and political welfare. If they felt he has done well, it is their privilege to endorse him.