â€¢ Kano residents jubilant, stocks drop to three-month low
â€¢ APC reverses tenure extension, grants waivers to Exco members to re-contest
â€¢ He has not secured partyâ€™s ticket yet, says PDP
Omololu Ogunmade, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Victor Ogunje in Ado-Ekiti and Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano
After months of speculation about his real intention, President Muhammadu Buhari surprised the leadership and stakeholders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the partyâ€™s secretariat in Abuja Monday when he informed them of his intention to seek re-election in the 2019 polls.
Buhari, who made the declaration at the resumed meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the APC, took party members completely unawares as they were not expecting him to speak on his 2019 presidential bid.
He informed them that his decision to make another bid for the presidency was in response to the clamour by Nigerians for him to re-contest in 2019.
A brief statement by his Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, said using the platform of the NEC meeting to make the declaration was predicated on the presidentâ€™s decision to give the committee the honour of first notification.
Following the presidentâ€™s announcement, residents in Kano celebrated, with many youths in the state expressing confidence that Buhari would now be able to complete the projects he had started.
However, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said it would refrain from commenting on the presidentâ€™s declaration, saying he had not yet secured the ticket of the APC.
Nigerian stocks also dropped to a three-month low after the president said he would seek re-election in 2019, ending months of speculation about his future after bouts of ill health.
According to Reuters, the stock market, which opened on a losing streak after Lafarge Africa announced a surprise 2017 loss, worsened its decline. The equity market fell near 40,000 points.
Mondayâ€™s NEC meeting, however, saw the ruling party reversing its earlier decision to extend the tenure of its executives by one year, and directing that the processes for the conduct of congresses and a convention should commence.
But it wasnâ€™t a winner takes all for those opposed to the tenure elongation, as the NEC approved a waiver that would enable the current party leadership to seek re-election while retaining their various positions.
The party also approved the aspect of the recommendations of the Governor Simon Lalong-led technical committee, which advised that in the event that there is a problem and the congress becomes inconclusive, the party will ask the current leadership of the APC to remain in office, but in an acting capacity.
Before his presidential declaration, Buhari had thanked the committee for a job well done within the limited timeframe given it for the assignment.
He also encouraged party members to accept the report of the committee and prepare for congresses and a convention to elect new national executive committee members for the APC.
According to him, the work of the technical committee had shown a great sense of commitment to the ideals of the APC, â€œwith a view to consolidating and positioning the party to continue delivering good governance in the overall interest of Nigeriansâ€.
â€œWith 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.
â€œConsidering 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.
â€œUpon 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.
â€œTherefore, I am stressing that we should strengthen our internal democracy by organising the partyâ€™s congresses and convention where the election of National Executive Committee members would be held.
â€œThis will automatically end the cases filed by members seeking orders of the court compelling the party to hold its congresses.
â€œI also believe that the current executives should be free to vie for elective positions in the party if they so wish as permitted by our party constitution,â€ he said.
Buhari, however, drew the attention of party members at the NEC meeting to Article 31(1)(iii) of the APC constitution, which requires any serving officer desirous of seeking re-election to resign from office 30 days before the election, saying he was uncertain of the practicality of serving officers meeting this condition.
On this basis, the president asked the APC to consider granting waivers to party executives at all levels so that they are not disenfranchised from participating in the elections.
â€œConsidering the provision of Article 31(1)(iii) of the APC Constitution which requires any serving officer desirous of seeking re-election to resign from office 30 days before election, I am not sure of the practicality of present serving officersâ€™ ability to meet this condition.
â€œAccordingly, the party may consider granting waivers to party executives at all levels so that they are not disenfranchised from participating in the elections should they wish to do so, provided this does not violate our rules.
â€œNecessary waiver(s) should also be extended to executives at the ward level whose tenures may have elapsed, and indeed to anyone knocking at our doors from other political parties. This is in the spirit of the Right to Freedom of Association guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
â€œIn this circumstance, the party should officially issue a statement on the above waivers so that our house may be full. We all must not be ignorant of the times, and the journey that is ahead of us.
â€œJust like our party symbol, â€˜the Broom,â€™ which typifies strength in unity, let us strive to remain united in our purpose. Victory is sure by the Grace of God, and together we must continue to sanitise Nigeriaâ€™s political environment,â€ Buhari said.
Speaking on the outcome of the meeting, Lalong said Buhari formally informed the party of his intention to seek re-election in 2019.
Lalong, who was joined during the briefing by the APC spokesman, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, also made reference to Article 31(1) of the APC constitution, which states: â€œSubject to the approval of the National Executive Committee, the National Working Committee may in special circumstances grant a waiver to a person not otherwise qualified under if, in its opinion, such a waiver is in the best interest of the party.â€
He said on this basis, the NEC approved the waivers that would enable executives of the APC to re-contest at the congresses and convention without having to resign 30 days before the elections.
Collaborating what the Plateau governor said, Abdullahi added that the report of the committee clarified the issue of having a caretaker party executive as opposed to the tenure elongation that had caused misgivings among members.
According to him, the NEC also approved the timetable and modalities for the national convention of the APC, adding that the NWC will at the appropriate time release the details.
He said contrary to predictions by naysayers that the NEC meeting will end in turbulence, party stakeholders were happy at the decisions reached at the meeting, describing them as a â€œwin-win situationâ€.
Earlier, in his welcome speech, the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, expressed displeasure at the events of the past few weeks, saying that some persons had taken advantage of the unfortunate situation to malign him.
He said all the leadership of the party was looking for was for ways to minimise rancour in the party ahead of the next general election.
Oyegun, however, commended the president for showing respect for democratic ideals by not trying to impose his preferences on the party.
â€œWe were 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.
â€œOn a personal note, I have had to endure virulent media attacks, malicious insinuations and outright character assassination.
â€œHowever, the responsibility imposed on me by my position as the national chairman of the party, demands 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.
â€œHowever, 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,â€ he said.
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, and all the governors elected on the platform of the APC with the exception of Edo, Katsina, Yobe, Niger States, which were represented by their deputies, attended the meeting.
Jubilation in Kano
Upon getting the news that Buhari had formally declared his intention to seek a second term in office in 2019, many youths were jubilant in Nigeriaâ€™s largest northern state by population, Kano.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), some of the youths expressed optimism that Buhari would be able to complete the development projects that he had started.
Usman Baba, a resident, told NAN that the past three years of the Buhari administration had been spent restoring security in the country and fighting corruption.
â€œWe are happy and hoping that President Buhari should return to embark on infrastructure development since he has already retrieved a lot from looters,â€ he was quoted to have said.
â€œWe donâ€™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.â€
Abduljalal Muâ€™azu, another resident, also expressed optimism that if Buhari wins a second term, the countryâ€™s situation might improve.
A female respondent Malama Musa said the world had accepted the president as trustworthy and transparent.
Kano is pivotal to Buhariâ€™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.
Also reacting to the development, the Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, who bizarrely threatened to sue Buhari if he failed to re-contest the election, described the presidentâ€™s declaration as a patriotic response to the clarion call of Nigerians for him to put himself forward for re-election.
Speaking through his information commissioner, Malam Muhammad Garba, Ganduje said Buhariâ€™s declaration to seek a second term in office would silence the opposition parties.
According to him, â€œI have been in the forefront campaigning and even asking the president to make his decision open to Nigerians on the second term bid.
â€œWe thank God that today the president answered the call of Nigerians.â€
Ganduje also assured the public that the state government would put all the necessary machinery in place to ensure Buhariâ€™s success in the 2019 elections.
According to him, the citizens of Kano welcomed the declaration of the president with wild jubilations, signifying their support for the president.
Similarly, Katsina State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari, commended the president for his decision to seek re-election in 2019, saying this had reaffirmed the presidentâ€™s love for Nigeria.
Masari, who spoke through his media aid, Abdu Labaran Malumfashi, said it was now up to patriotic Nigerians to make sure that the presidentâ€™s re-election comes to pass.
He said: â€œWe owe ourselves a duty to ensure that President Buhari continues beyond 2019, so that he could consolidate on the achievements so far recorded under his watch.
â€œWe 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.
â€œI congratulate ourselves (Nigerians) for this wonderful news of the presidentâ€™s declaration to go for re-election in 2019, because there is no one better than him for the office, for now.â€
Masari noted that the declaration would rekindle investorsâ€™ confidence in the Nigerian economy, and appealed to Nigerians to continue supporting the APC-led administration for its purposeful commitment to providing meaningful development in the country.
Not Yet Presidential Candidate
The PDP, however, acted out of character Monday when it decided not to comment on the declaration by the president until he secures the ticket of APC to contest 2019 presidential election.
PDP spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan said in a statement that it was an internal affair of the APC.
PDP said the declaration had merely placed Buhari among the ranks of aspirants seeking to be president of Nigeria, effective May 29, 2019.
â€œUntil he becomes the candidate of the APC, we will not spend precious time on his mere show of interest,â€ the main opposition party said.
Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose, on the other hand, elected not to toe the path of his party, when he warned Nigerians not to embrace the re-election bid of the president in 2019. According to him, the declaration was dead on arrival.
The Ekiti governor also warned that if Buhari was re-elected, he would kill the country.
Fayose, through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Idowu Adelusi, said if Buhari is unable to read the handwriting on the wall and does not know when to call it quits, Nigerians would show him the exit in 2019 by voting him out of office.
Fayose opined that Buhari was not only too old to lead the country, he had bungled the opportunity given him by his woeful performance.
â€œThat ambition is dead on arrival. We donâ€™t want grandpa as president anymore. Nigeria does not deserve a Buhari as president in 2019. Buhari is old and tired.
â€œWhen people donâ€™t know when to take their leave and say bye, Nigerians will show them the exit.
â€œHe 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 boot him out of office. He is an easy candidate to defeat at the polls for he has failed woefully.
â€œHe has failed on all fronts. He has failed in his so-called fight against corruption, he has failed on the economic front. He has not done well in terms of security.
â€œPeople are being killed in large numbers daily and Nigerians have no confidence in him.
â€œHis declaration today is a slap on Nigerians in the face of what Nigerians are passing through. His government is not only clueless, but in a shambles. He should go home and rest,â€ Fayose, a harsh critic of the president, said.