From the presidency came yesterday a declaration that Muhammadu Buhari's statement in 2011 that he would only be president for one term was not applicable anymore.The renouncement came barely 24 hours after the president, at the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja, declared his intention to seek re-election on the platform of the party in 2019.
Specifically, Buhari had, in the lead story of a newspaper of February 6, 2011 captioned "2011: Why I'II Serve for Only One Term" given reasons he would not spend more than four years in office if elected president of the country.Below are Buhari's responses to whether or not he would seek re-election.
You have been quoted as saying if you don't win the election in 2011 you wouldn't go to court?
Yes, I said that!
Even if you have evidence that you are rigged out?
Having been in court for 50 months between 2003 and 2008, if I'm rigged out again, I will not go to court. I will leave the party to deal with the case. The CPC can, but I, as the presidential candidate, I've made up my mind never to go to court again on that issue.
Is it because of the expenses involved?
There are the expenses, but look at what happened in 2007. The decision of the case split the Supreme Court in the middle. But look at what they came up with.
Why did you say you will do just one term, if elected?
I'm not getting younger. If I succeed and do one term, I will be 73 years old.
If you're doing just one term, you may want to urgently do some things? What are they?
There are two issues and I have said them in one sentence. Security and power. This country has to be secured and managed. People in Nigeria must not go about fearing that they would be abducted. You must not be afraid to the point that you can't drive from Kaduna to Kano any time of the day. If you are in Lagos, you should have jobs to the point that you can afford to have three shifts in a day. That is eight hours each. But people are now very scared wherever they are. People have built houses worth over a billion naira, but they are afraid to live in them. What is the use? So, security is number one.
Number two is infrastructure. We have to revive the electricity sector so that people will have access to power to carry out their businesses. Others include the roads, the railways, the shipping lines. We used to have all these things. In spite of what we earned in the last eleven years, the whole infrastructure has already collapsed."
Twenty days after swearing-in, precisely 17 June 2015, Buhari told Nigerians resident in South Africa, after taking part in the 25th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Johannesburg, that his performance would be limited by old age.
"I wish I became Head of State when I was a governor, just a few years as a young man. Now at 72, there is a limit to what I can do," he said.But yesterday, Femi Adesina, the spokesman of President Buhari, said his principal's 2011 statement that he would only be president for one term was not applicable anymore.
Speaking on a national television programme, Adesina said Buhari entertained pleas for him to be president for the past one year before declaring his intention.
"The other one of running one term was in 2011. When he was running in 2011 he said yes he will be a president for only one term but did he win in that year? No. The victory came in 2015. So that being quoted from 2011 is not applicable again," Adesina said.
"There were a lot of convincing appeals. I have sat in different meetings with different groups and the president and all of them the reason they came was that they run for a second term in office."And do you know that whenever the president reacted to these groups, he will pick every other thing he raised and he said the issue of a second term he will not say a word and that has been the past one year. These calls have started coming and he didn't say a word. That reinforced my opinion that for him, it is not a do-or-die affair, it is just a matter of serving the country."
The president's spokesman said the declaration would not affect governance. "I think the president had just picked the right time to make his intention known, whether it will affect governance or not depends on the personality of who is the president.
"Don't forget that under Obasanjo when the process was affecting governance, he read a riot act and said let's concentrate on governance. President Buhari is just somebody like that, he will never allow politicking to affect governance."He said the president may be re-elected on his achievements in security, reviving the economy and fighting corruption.
"There are certain things that he set out to do. Normally they come up under three broad umbrellas. One is secure the country, two is fight corruption, three is revive the economy and I have said it in all three areas."There are successes in all three of these areas. Except anybody is willfully blind. The willfully blind will never see, even if you put the thing right in front of his eyes. We are not talking to the willfully blind or deaf," Adesina said.
But a founding member of the APC, Prince Tony Momoh told The Guardian that President Buhari never said he would run for only one term in 2011."What the president said under the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) platform before the merger was that he would not contest again. He made the statement during a press conference in Abuja and we said then that it was not possible for him to decide on his own.
"That was before the merger, but when the merger came up in 2013 and he happened to be a key factor in the arrangement, that alone nullified whatever he must have said earlier under the CPC."
According to Momoh, if at all President Buhari said he would only run for one term in 2011, he also has the right to change his mind, "after all he is not seeking a third term like erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo."To the National Chairman, African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralph Nwosu, going by the constitution, the president has the right to re-contest, but since he once promised to only do one term, his U-turn now to seek reelection shows he lacks integrity. "He should have considered what he said earlier."
A human rights lawyer, Dr. Femi Aborisade, said the 2011 declaration made by Buhari in 2011 was personal to him and has nothing to do with his constitutional right to seek reelection."One would have expected Mr. President to tread the part of honour by respecting what he said in 2011 but since he decided not to tread on that path, the responsibility is now left to the Nigerian electorate whether they want to reelect a failure or not."
A chieftain of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Dr. Amos Akingba, said he had no comment on an administration that lacks integrity.If Buhari wins the presidential election in 2019, he will be sworn in at the age of 75, and he is expected to serve till he is 79.
The possibility of a smooth sail of another four-year administration is, however, under serious doubt due to his health condition.The president has embarked on at least three medical vacations abroad. The first was on February 5, 2016 when he went on a six-day vacation to the United Kingdom. Four months after, on June 6, 2016, he embarked on another 10-day vacation to attend to what the presidency described as "persistent ear infection."
The third time was when Buhari left for medical treatment abroad and stayed away for months, during which Vice President Yemi Osinbajo became the acting president.