…We won’t loose sleep over President’s declaration
…Lawyers express divergent views, CSOs react
The event of Monday is one day that has been long anticipated in Nigeria’s recent political history. Before then it was a question of will he run, will he not run.
While many including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and former Military President, Ibrahim Babangida among others have cautioned him against re-contesting the presidential election in 2019, citing varied reasons, many have also come out to urge him to re-contest, citing what they described as his brilliant performance in office.
Even the Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, had warned that President Muhammadu Buhari might be sued if he refused to re-contest for presidency in 2019.
Some others from the South East had also urged him to re-contest to complete his two term so that the Presidency can come to their region.
So, the clamour for or against President Buhari re-contesting the 2019 election can clearly be described as different strokes for different folks.
But whatever the intention, all that is now in the past as the President has decided to take the bull by the horn and throw his hat in the ring by openly declaring on Monday that indeed he will run again for the office of the president come 2019.
In making that declaration at the National Executive Council meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the President said he was responding to the clamour by Nigerians for him to re-contest in 2019, adding that he wanted to accord APC NEC the honour of being the first to know.
Buhari said, “With the present state 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 note, appreciate and accommodate our differences as far as the law permits.
“Upon my review of the Report, my position is to ensure that the party tows the path of unity, legality and cohesion and not that of division.”
Though Buhari’s specific statement concerning the declaration was not made known to the public, statements from top quarters of the party confirmed the President’s position.
The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Bolaji Abdullahi and the Chief Whip, House of Representatives, Hon Alhassan Ado Doguwa, confirmed this while addressing journalists in Abuja after the NEC meeting.
The APC NEC meeting was attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara and other APC governors.
Special Adviser to the President on New Media and Engagement, Bashir Ahmad in a tweet on his official handle, @BashirAhmaad also confirmed the President’s declaration.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has just officially announced his intention to seek re-election in 2019. Details soon…” his tweet read.
Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai also in a tweet on his verified handle, @elrufai made the announcement, excitedly. el-Rufai is one of the state governors who have continuously asked President Buhari to seek re-election.
But the declaration of Buhari may have put paid to the presidential ambition of many top APC members including eI-Rufai who many believe has been working underground to give effect to their ambition.
Though none of those being speculated has come out openly to confirm their interest in the seat, it is public knowledge that the likes of Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal, former Kano State governor, Sen. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, and el-Rufai among others are eyeing the presidential ticket of the APC which was zoned exclusively to the North.
Though Saraki through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuf Olaniyonu, has described as false, his rumoured presidential ambition, many believe the denial was just political.
Olaniyonu had told journalists that “the report is false. If it is true that he is contesting, you would have seen the report in major dailies since last week Saturday when the news broke out on social media. But as you can see, there is nothing like that.”
Despite his denial, there are reports that posters of Saraki for President flood the streets of Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, his home state among some other major towns in the North.
Last week, a Lagos-based cleric, Prophet Elijah Ayodele, appealed to Saraki to join the presidential race for the 2019 elections, saying that “God wants to use Saraki for something big in this country.”
Nigerians may have to wait for Saraki on his next political move.
The ambition of Kwankwaso is however not a secret as he has been everywhere holding talks across the country about his ambition.
The Daily Times recalls that Kwankwaso was one of the aspirants who contested the 2015 presidential primary with the president and he came second.
While the ambition of others may not be as pronounced as some, it is clear that many of them were only waiting for Buhari to state his next line of action before declaring openly their ambition, but with the present development, anyone who wants to seek the presidential seat may have to pitch his tent elsewhere, outside the APC, as the party though will still hold its presidential primary, it will only be an endorsement primary as Buhjari is sure to get the party’s ticket for 2019.
This perhaps is what was envisaged by former Vice President Atiku Abubukar who had earlier decided to defect from the APC, which he helped midwife prior to the 2015 election to return to his original political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), probably because as an experienced politician he, had already seen the body language of the President and concluded that there was no hope for him in the party.
Now, it has become obvious that anyone who desires the office of the President on the platform of the APC should either bite the bullet or be ready to face the wrath of presidential hawks who will stop at nothing to bring any opposition to the President’ ambition at least within the APC down.
However, all hopes is not lost for any ambitious member of the party, as they can choose to take the Atiku option and join any of the over 60 political parties to seek to realise their ambition, even though that of the PDP may be out of their options as Atiku has already taken position along with other aspirants within the party and the party executive has already said that there will be no automatic ticket for any aspirant and in the same vein while there may be no waivers either.
Though President Buhari has declared his ambition to contest the 2019 election, that does not close the door against any other aspirant, even in the APC, as now is the time for any serious minded aspirant to prove to Nigerians that they are indeed ready for the challenges facing the nation.
Meanwhile, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said that the party will not loose sleep over declaration by President Buhari for a second term.
The party in a reaction by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbodiyan said PDP is not bothered as Buhari’s declaration of intention to run in the 2019 poll is an internal affairs of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He said: “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”.
But reacting to the development, Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima, said that Nigerians should heave a sigh of relief that President Buhari has finally declared his intention to seek reelection in 2019.
Fielding questions from State House Correspondents on Monday, Shettima noted that the President’s declaration coming early will douse tension in the country.
Governor Shettima insisted that “Buhari is the candidate to beat in the 2019 presidential election.”
He explained that the governors of the APC are solidly behind President Buhari’s re-election bid.
Also, Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, on Monday, said the decision by President Buhari to seek for re-election in 2019 has rekindled hope and reassured Nigerians that the restoration agenda, the war against corruption and enthronement of good governance for the country will sail safely to coast.
The governor made the commendation shortly after President Buhari told the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ruling APC of his intention to contest the presidential election next year in a statement signed by his Coordinator, Media and Publicity, Mr. Jide Orintunsin.
Governor Bello noted that the President’s pronouncement has rekindled the hope of average Nigerians for a better tomorrow.
He said, “It was so heart warming when Mr. President today told members of the national executive committee (NEC) of our great party of his intention to seek for re-election.
This is the brightest moment for our country. A moment that has rekindled the hope of our people. A moment that has reaffirmed that all the good works, the good initiatives of Mr. President that saw us out of economic recession the country was plunged into by mismanagement of past administration will now be sustained to take us to the desired enviable position among the commity of nations.
“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 had turned down this call to serve.
“The onus is now on all good and well meaning Nigerians to rally round our President and ensure that the reactionary forces of the opposition and agents of doom are not allowed to dash the much cherished hope we all have in the new emerging Nigeria by doing the needful during the next general election.
“We cannot afford to go back to the dark days of extravagance and impunity. President Muhammadu Buhari has changed the game, he has brought sanity to governance, the war against insurgency is nearing logical conclusion and our economy is improving.
Posterity will not forgive us as a people if we allow this golden opportunity to slip off our hands. Mr. President has declared, we have to do the needful as a people by supporting him.”
Meanwhile, some senior lawyers including Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN) and Hammed Ajibola have expressed divergent views over concerns on Buhari’s health and age status, saying that his age and health have nothing to do with him going in for second term.
Ahmed Raji (SAN) said, “God owns our lives. Life span has nothing to do with age and health. May God save and prolong his life”.
Hammed Ajibola said: “In my view, Pursuant to sections 131, 137 generally & 137(1) (b) specifically, of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the issues of health and age do not disqualify him to run for second term.
“Secondly, objections to his second term might just be regarded as personal views and opinions of some individuals who might be the President’s critics or oppositions, the views which do not have legal back up.
“Thirdly, however, the voters have their voting powers to change an unwanted elected public officer if they wish and fourthly, in conclusion, I am of the firm view that where elections are conducted fairly and freely, this issue can be resolved by the voting powers of the Nigerian voters.
Following the declaration of intent by President Buhari to run for a second term in the 2019 poll, some Nigerians have expressed divergent views to the development.
A leading pro-democracy and non-governmental organisation, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, on Monday, declared as a nullity the mode of public communication chosen by the President to inform Nigerians.
HURIWA therefore asked President Buhari to speak directly in a town hall consultative session or through a direct media interactive session, to Nigerians to inform the citizens of his intention to seek their renewal of mandate during the forthcoming presidential election in 2019.
The Rights group said the social contract binding Nigerians and the President as the elected head of government is valid only between the electorate and the person wielding the constitutional powers of the President of Nigeria for a given term usually donated through free, fair and transparent electoral process in a General election that is democratically conducted and supervision by members of the international community and the organised Civil society community within Nigeria.
HURIWA said: “Since it has become a tradition with President Buhari to always deny knowledge of most of the official infractions by his subordinates, it will amount to hear-say for Nigerians to accept hook, line and sinker,
the public relations gambit of the presidential assistant on new media who out of the abundance of disrespect for Nigerians, chose to communicate such a weighty message on the new media to tell Nigerians that their current President will rerun in 2019 to ask for their mandate.
‘’The Presidency should show the citizens some respect since the authority and legitimacy of his office for four years flows from the people of Nigeria who are the owners of the Sovereignty of Nigeria’’.
The Rights group also reminded President Buhari that 90 percent of the active electorate in Nigeria have no tweeter account, and thereby the Rights group is of the considered thinking that the mode of communication chosen by President Buhari may signpost his lack of respect for the good people of Nigeria most of whom have no functional social media accounts.
Besides, HURIWA said it was incumbent on the President to declare in person since it is him as a person who would seek the votes of Nigerian electorate and not through fronts nor is the election going to take place through the social media platforms.
“We are disappointed with the mode of public communication chosen by our President to inform Nigerians of such a very strategic decision.
The president should apologize to us for this collective insult and should stage zonal consultative town hall meetings to be attended voluntarily and freely by Nigerian electorate whereby he will in person directly tell Nigerians that he has on his own volition, not by threats, coercion or blackmails, chosen to run for a second term. As far as the current mode of announcement is concerned, we think it is a nullity.
They further called on President Buhari to officially announce his intention to seek re-election in 2019.
Meanwhile, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) has said that President Buhari has nothing to show Nigerians to make him think of seeking re-election.
While reacting to the president’s declaration, the CNPP in a statement signed by its Secretary General, Willy Ezugwu, said Nigerians should be thinking of electing a patriotic politician who understands economic dynamics and inclusive governance.
The CNPP said, “It is disappointing that the President will choose to declare for a second term at a time when the security of lives and property of Nigerians cannot be guaranteed.
“The President’s declaration of intention to run at this time is the height of insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians who are suffering under his administration as he has nothing concrete in terms of achievement to show Nigerians.
“Today, we can count businesses that have either collapsed or are operating under the worst economic condition in history of our dear country, with no single high profile conviction in his so-called anti-corruption war in three years.
“His anti-corruption campaign has obviously been turned into a blackmailing tool aimed at painting one political party black, while anyone accused of corruption that joins the APC automatically becomes a saint and must be protected to enjoy his loot. That is not war against corruption.
It added that Nigerians at this time should be moving with the global tide by thinking of electing a successful patriotic man or woman as president.
“Re-electing the incumbent is to vote for continuity of failure as the first term in the office is usually the time to win the confidence of the electorate but Mr. President has performed so woefully in security, nation building, provision of infrastructure, employment generation, name it to seek re-election. His government has failed all-round.
“We, as Nigerians, have experimented enough in the last three years. The hungry and jobless citizens can no longer endure, and cannot afford to see another four years of this failed administration after 2019,” the CNPP added.
Also, the South-East chapter of the APC has described President Buhari’s decision to seek re-election in 2019 as a starting point towards the realisation of Igbo presidency.
The group stated this in a statement jointly signed on Monday by Hon. Emma Eneukwu, its National Vice Chairman South East and Hon. Hyacinth Ngwu, the South East Zonal Publicity Secretary.
The South-East APC, in its reaction said: “This decision was in all respects, made for the best interest of the people of South East Nigeria and we happily thank God and President Buhari for this kind gesture. We believe that the actualisation of the Igbo’s Presidency in 2023 has just begun with this declaration.
“We urge the good people of South East (Ndi Igbo) to avail themselves of this golden opportunity of playing into the Nigerian political mainstream by voting massively for and ensuring the re-election of President Buhari come 2019. We must not let go this opportunity.
“We equally urge the Igbos to be conscious in electing quality members into the National Assembly under the platform of APC in order to benefit maximally from the APC’s zoning arrangement at that level.
The era of negative and self-centered propaganda should be and is over. This time demands that our best brains should be employed to our overall advantages.
“We believe the Igbos know the consequences of being in opposition to the Federal Government in Nigeria, and doubtless to say this knowledge informed our people’s deliberate action in 2015. Granted that President Buhari was magnanimous in victory, but our voting pattern limited our robust participation.
“This certainly is the right time for us to redress and make the right move and be bold enough to always demand and ask for more. It is well with Ndi Igbo in particular and Nigerians in general.”
Also reacting, a chieftain of the ruling APC and gubernatorial aspirant seeking the ticket of the party in Ekiti State, Senator Ayo Arise, has said that Monday’s declaration by President Buhari for second term was in best interest of Nigeria.
The former senator, who threw his weight behind the decision of President Buhari to seek re-election next year, said the country will not regret the decision.
Sen. Arise, who spoke shortly after the president’s declaration, was at the party National Secretariat to pick his nomination and expression of interest form for the forthcoming election in the state.
Arise said, “There have been challenges along the line but I don’t believe these can be achieved in just three years in government.
My question is, if this man is saying we should stop stealing in this country, people should use the money to develop the country, are we not going to support him for as long as possible, as long as he’s physically fit.
“We can see that since the president recovered from his ailment, he’s being up to the task, very agile, he looks healthier by the day, so, personally, for the programmes that he has set in place, they should be able to give him the opportunity provided by the constitution to complete the projects that he has started and the policies.
“I have always supported this president. When he came in, he ran on the premises of change, fighting corruption, providing security and revamping the economy. There have been challenges along the line but he could not have done it all in three years.
If this man is saying people should stop stealing in this country and that people who have stolen should return what they have stolen, I think I want to support him for as long as he is physically fit and we have seen that he is fit”.
On the governorship election, he said the party leadership has assured aspirants there will be no imposition of anyone.
“I don’t think the party will make a mistake of being the one deciding who will govern Ekiti State apart from the delegates that will vote, it would be a very serious error because Ekiti people are very unique, very tough-minded people. You have seen several of us, so, they are very highly educated and highly cerebral.
“Today, I have the unique advantage of bringing people in the general elections, hitting Fayose when he talks because he knows that if I win this ticket, he knows he is a ‘goner’.
He is waiting for us to make a mistake and that mistake can come from maybe the party by trying to impose candidate, God forbid!
I am sure that will not happen because we know what we want and this president as a man of law and order, a man of integrity and we know, for instance, from all examples, from all elections we have had, from Anambra and all those states, there is no allegation of imposition in the party”.