The onus is now on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that all parties are given a level-playing field during the electoral process, writes Davidson Iriekpen
After much pressure from stakeholders in the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari last week finally declared that he would seek another term in 2019. At the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the party in Abuja, the president said he was responding to the clamour by Nigerians to re-contest in 2019.
Giving elaborate reasons why he was seeking to re-contest in 2019 to Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, in London where he travelled to immediately he made the announcement in Nigeria, the president said he “declared 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. Majority of Nigerians appreciate what we are doing, and that is why I am re-contesting. We have cut the importation of rice by about 90 percent, saving billions of dollars in the process. People who rushed into petrol money have now gone back to agriculture; even professionals have gone back to the land. Nigeria should be able to feed itself comfortably soon. I am so pleased.”
A few hours after he indicated his intention, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, advised prospective contenders to have a rethink because the president, he said, was the only candidate that could take Nigerians to the Promised Land. Adesina in his article titled: ‘2019: Let the others simply run away,’ reeled out Buhari’s achievements, noting that he would support him as long as he knew that the president would 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 Buhari has indicated his intention to run, dwarfs trying to wear a giant’s shoes should simply run away. The cat has returned from a journey, let the rats scamper for safety. Show clean pairs of heels? But this is a democracy! Everybody is free to run in the direction he or she fancies. True. So, what I’ve said is mere advice, which they can take, or choose not to take. Nigerians will decide early next year. The greater the challenge, the sweeter the victory.
“I have always said it privately and in public. If President Buhari decides to run for a second term in 2019, I would support him. It doesn’t matter whether I am in government or not. For some of us, the man Buhari is a conviction, a resolution, a man to admire and adore since 1984, when he became military head of state. Is he perfect? Show me the man who is. Is he running a perfect government? Show me the government which is. Is he sincere? Very. Does he love the country? Dearly. Will he take Nigeria to the Promised Land? As the good Lord helps. And he is on the way there.
“Does he need more time? Sure, he does. The rot was too much, benumbing. Nigeria is doing a lot more with a lot less today. There was a time we were awash with money. Oil sold for as high as $120 dollars per barrel, and we produced up to two million barrels per day. But we had no roads, no electricity, no health care, no security, nothing. The money was simply looted. They sat round the table, as if gathered for lunch, and hundreds of billions of dollars were shared. Now, after oil prices crashed to as low as $30 dollars per barrel in 2015, and currently oscillates between $50 and $60, Nigeria is doing great things. Electricity has been taken to over 7,000 megawatts, from the inherited 3,000,” he wrote.
Even though the president has the constitutional right to seek re-election in 2019, many Nigerians are wondering what a man of 75 years old who had once governed the country and is now ailing, is still looking for.
Others have also challenged the integrity of the president who four years before his victory in 2015, in an interview he granted Theophilus Abbah of Sunday Trust newspaper and published on February 6, 2011, promised that he would contest for only one term due to his old age.
Also, 20 days after swearing-in, precisely June 17, 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 will be limited by old age, adding that he would have loved being a president when he was at a younger 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 had said.
Many analysts have argued that if president wins the presidential election in 2019, he would be sworn in at the age of 75 and is expected to serve till he is 79, and that the possibility of a smooth sail of another four-year administration is, however, under serious doubt due to his health condition.
Buhari has embarked on at least three medical vacations abroad. The first was between February 5, 2016 when he embarked 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.” When he embarked on another medical vacation on May 7 2017, many thought it would be for days like others but the president did not return until after 104 days.
Even after his return, he worked from home. Many believed that should Buhari win a re-election, Nigerians might again have to brace up for a president that would spend several months abroad for treatment.
Secondly, with the president’s declaration, many observers are wondering what he would tell Nigerians as his achievements in office in the last three years.
To them, not only have many Nigerians lost their jobs since the Buhari assumed office, due mainly to his economic policies. the economy is in an all time low. From an over $500 billion rebased economy which the president met, he took country into recession. Nigerians are hungrier today than they were three years ago. They have been rendered destitute and impecunious.
On the war against corruption, Nigerians have seen that it is business as usual as nothing has changed as seen in the Mainagate, Osbornegate, the 10 per cent of the NNPCgate, NHISgate and the many other scandals that trailed the government since 2015. Recently, Transparency International rated the country as one of the most corrupt countries in Africa, beaten to the second position in West African by only one country.
At campaign rallies across the country, the president convinced Nigerians that as a retired military General, he would lead from the front to crush Boko haram. He gleefully told a bemused country in December 2015 that Boko haram had been “technically defeated”, and repeated it in 2016, that it “has been beaten”.
But today, Nigerians know that Boko Haram is stronger today, more potent and more deadly than it ever was despite the billions of naira spent on combating the terrorists.
Above all, Fulani herdsmen and bandits are on a daily basis on rampage killing innocent Nigerians. So far, statistics have it that over 9,000 people have been killed in Benue, Adamawa, Plateau, Taraba, Kogi, Edo, Zamfara since 2015 when the president came to power without any clear cut resistance from the government and the military. More importantly, many Nigerians believe that the country is more divided under him than any other leader in the country’s history.
Now that Buhari has declared his intention to seek re-election in 2019, many Nigerians want the president to make the same declaration that former President Goodluck Jonathan made in 2014 and 2015 that his ambition was not worth the life of Nigerians. They also wondered if the processes leading to the elections would be free from encumbrances, manipulations and interference from agencies of the federal government such as the police, military and INEC. Already, members of the opposition are alleging that one of the reasons the president extended the tenure of service chiefs recently was to help the incumbent government rig elections next year. There is no proof to support such claim though.
If the statement credited to the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi at the weekend is anything to go by, there is a real cause of concern.
Fayemi reportedly boasted that APC would deploy all the governmental advantages it has to wrest power in Ekiti from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) come July 2018. He spoke at a rally in Ado Ekiti, where he declared his ambition to seek the APC ticket for the July 14 governorship election.
He said: “They said the June 21, 2014 governorship poll was free, fair and credible, so that of July 14, 2018 too will be free, fair and transparent. They will accuse us of so many things. They will accuse us of using federal might, but we will not care. We will use local, state and federal powers to take over Ekiti from a rapacious and government being run by a brigand in Ekiti.”
It is against this background that a constitutional lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) last week called on Nigerians to reject the president in 2019, urging Nigerians to use their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) to vote wisely, notwithstanding any acts of intimidation or coercion from both the APC and agencies of the federal government.
“Let me remind Buhari that he had set packing a sitting president, Goodluck Jonathan, in 2015. In Sierra Leone, a sitting president Samura Kamarathe, the All Peoples Congress that has been sent packing by the opposition contestant, Julius Bio. So, the rumours that the APC/PMB’s government is banking on massive rigging of the 2019 election to win is merely illusory. It cannot work. Nigerians are more enlightened today than ever before. They will use their PVCs to vote wisely, notwithstanding any acts of intimidation or coercion. 2019 is just 10 months away. I will keep my fingers crossed to see how it all plays out. The months ahead will be very interesting. And quite testing.”
If the statement credited to the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi at the weekend is anything to go by, there is a real cause for concern