President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration of his intention to run for a second term has received criticisms from several quarters including the power brokers in the Nigerian project. YUSUF MOHAMMED reports.
Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari, declared his intention to run for a second term in office. That has since been the subject of discussion among many Nigerians even at social gatherings.
Before now, there have been speculations about his second term ambition. While some of his admirers and All Progressives Congress (APC) members were of the view that he should re-contest, other Nigerians have expressed the view that he should step down on account of his age and failure to meet expectations.
But in the wake of the fresh controversy trailing his declaration, President Buhari has explained why he declared his intention to run for another term in office. He spoke while receiving the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Justin Welby in London on Wednesday. “I declared before leaving home because Nigerians were talking too much about whether I would run or not. So, I felt I should break the ice.
“We have many things to focus on, like security, agriculture, economy, anti-corruption, and many others. We needed to concentrate on them, and politics should not be a distraction. The majority of Nigerians appreciate what we are doing, and that is why I am re-contesting,” Buhari said. This is coming barely two months after a former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, admonished him and urged him not to run for a second term.
In 2015, his journey to Aso Rock was not a smooth ride. Now, political analysts are predicting even a more difficult contest in 2019. The reasons are not farfetched. Most of the promises he made during his campaign for the 2015 election have not been fulfilled. As a result, he has lost some of the goodwill he enjoyed from ordinary Nigerians and even party supporters.
Among his staunch supporters who seem to have lost confidence in him are three generals – former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former military Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Gen. Theophilus Danjuma. They are believed to be power brokers who in 2015, dumped the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan and threw their weight behind Buhari. The three musketeers as some commentators would call them, have fallen out with Buhari and are bent on ensuring that he does not return to power in 2019.
Although there are many failings on the part of the Buhari presidency, like Obasanjo pointed out in his letter, their main grouse with him is the manner in which he has handled the rise of killer-Fulani herdsmen across the country.
Obasanjo who was one of the most vocal cheer leaders of the Buhari administration has turned out to be the most vocal critic of almost every action of his administration. The former president has said that it would be “foolhardy for Nigerians to reinforce failure by re-electing ineffective and incompetent government in 2019.”
Speaking on the invasion of herdsmen on communities in the Middle Belt, Obasanjo said, “It is no credit to the Federal Government that the herdsmen rampage continues with careless abandon and without finding an effective solution to it.” He urged Buhari to honourably dismount from the horse, emphasising that “He needs to have time to reflect, refurbish physically and recoup and after appropriate rest, once again, join the stock of Nigerian leaders whose experience, influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the side line for the good of the country.”
Barely two weeks after Obasnajo’s statement, Babangida, in a statement issued by his media aide, Kassim Afegbua, also lamented the flow of blood in the country. He urged Buhari to give way for a younger president in 2019.
Babangida said: “In 2019 and beyond, we should come to a national consensus that we need new breed leadership with requisite capacity to manage our diversities and jump-start a process of launching the country on the super highway of technology-driven leadership in line with the dynamics of modern governance.”
To complete the tripod, Gen. Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, in bitter words expressed concern over growing insecurity in the country, arising from herdsmen bloody attacks. He then proffered a solution, which did not go down well with the Buhari government. Danjuma advised Nigerians to protect themselves against the killer herdsmen.
“You must rise to protect yourselves from these people, if you depend on the Armed Forces to protect you, you will all die.
“This ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba, and it must stop in Nigeria. These killers have been protected by the military, they cover them and you must be watchful to guide and protect yourselves because you have no any other place to go.
“The ethnic cleansing must stop now otherwise Somalia will be a child play. I ask all of you to be on your alert and defend your country, defend your state,” Danjuma declared.
For many Nigerians, given that Obasanjo and Babangida have ruled the country, their opinions matter a lot. So also is that of Danjuma who served as Defence Minister under Obasanjo.
Another prominent supporter of Buhari who has given up on him is Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, Spiritual Director of Adoration Ministry, Enugu, South-East Nigeria. His criticism of the Jonathan administration ahead of the 2015 elections contributed in paving the way for Buhari’s emergence as he declared his support for a Buhari presidency. Three years after, in his New Year Message, (2018) Mbaka had warned Buhari not to seek a second term in 2019. Mbaka in his usual manner, said Buhari would be totally disgraced if he takes a shot at the presidency after his current tenure.
How Buhari would wriggle out of this has become a major source of concern to many of his supporters. A former Chairman of the PDP in Kogi State, Mr. Hassan Salau in a chat with The Next Edition was of the view that opinions of these elder statesmen should not be taken lightly. He said, aside from Danjuma, Obasanjo and Babangida have ruled this country. They have been determining who becomes president for a very long time. 2019 may not be different.”
But a political analyst, Okunade Sijuade Adekunle, does not quite agree. According to him, Buhari has the constitutional right to contest and the former generals may not have an influence on the 2019 elections. He said, “If you look at the situation of the country, you can understand why many Nigerians don’t want Buhari to contest again. Sadly for them, he has the constitutional right to do so. It now depends on the electorate to vote him or not.
“As for the generals, I don’t think their stance will have any effect on the youth. Nigerian youths are wiser now. They are more sophisticated when it comes to voting. If Buhari loses in 2019, it won’t be because of these men. It would be because of the people.”
Although Buhari’s electoral victory or otherwise in 2019 may not be entirely determined by the disgusted generals, there are also clear indications that a large number of the youths are totally unimpressed by Buhari’s failure to change their living conditions. His unfulfilled promises will count. The country has more than ever, been divided along ethnic lines, under his administration. As a result of his poor management of the economy, the people have witnessed the worst crunch ever. Whether Buhari can redeem his image before the next election remains to be seen.