By KENNY ASHAKA
As the debate on whether or not President Muhammadu Buhari should seek re-election in 2019 continues, indications have emerged that some northern political heavyweights are plotting to stop him by all legitimate means. Although the All Progressives Congress, APC, led by Chief John Odigie Oyegun and the governors elected on the platform of the party appear disposed towards giving him the ticket of the party, feelers by Sunday Sun indicate that the president may not get it on a platter of gold as several groups and individuals from the North, easily the hot bed of the party are intensifying efforts to stop the bid. Indeed, it was learnt that the move had taken concrete shape with several meetings held where allegations ranging from poor performance, betrayal and nepotism were levelled against him. The twist in the saga is whether he should be given automatic ticket, the right of first refusal, or be dropped outright for another gladiator. But the man at the centre of it all has kept silent over his ambition as he faces one of the toughest moments of his almost 30-months presidency. Will Buhari be given the ticket on a platter of gold should he decide to contest? The months ahead will tell. What is sure, however, is that Buhari is sitting on thin ice. Nevertheless, the odds in the larger political setting appear to favour a second term for the president, but the enemies he has made in his northern base and what they see as his yet unimpressive performance may be his source of harm.
Two and a half years in the presidency is more than mid-term for President Buhari. In America, regarded as the liberal bastion of the presidential system, the various parties should by now be preparing to be hard hit against one another in a mid-term election. Even then, strong emotions are beginning to build up in the political landscape in Nigeria with plots and counter-plots. Within the APC, some top officials are angling for Buhari to be given the ticket in a way that will be done by prior arrangement. Indirectly and by implicit understanding, Odigie-Oyegun, the APC National Chairman, is saying there is no vacancy in Aso Rock. That disposition towards the election of the party’s applicants for the office of the president in the 2019 poll has left not a few APC faithful to believe that the party is not deserving of support.
The justification is simple. After about two and a half years in power, they say the Buhari administration has left the country prostrate. According to those who spoke with Sunday Sun, only two of the promises made have enjoyed a veneer implementation. Thus, many APC members are now saying that two and a half years in office, Buhari has not reached any milestone that would warrant his preparation to be the party’s candidate in 2019. The young elements are drawn against Buhari on account of age which has been made worse by his illness. To this class of young politicians, the North cannot afford a repeat of the Abacha and Yar’Adua experience.
But the plot against Buhari in the North cuts across party lines and is most characterized in a determined way among Northern elements in the APC who helped Buhari to come to power but who have been sidelined by the president. “A lot of our leaders have deviated from the foundations and essence of the APC and we are not happy with that. They are running exclusive governments, non-inclusive administrations; they are running administrations that alienates rather than create greater popular participation. They have abandoned the key issues that were supposed to inform why APC was voted for, so overwhelmingly by Nigerians,” a prominent member of the Akida group, a platform that exists to keep alive the basic essence of the APC notes. Thus, they say Buhari has left northerners and indeed Nigerians worse than he met them.
Now, many northerners see Buhari as a president who is inclined to stick together with his friends and relations as a group and exclude those he considers outsiders. He is accused of stocking his kitchen cabinet with people from Katsina and the North East only and that at a time of grave economic crisis, the man they relied on to turn the tide in favour of the masses is not providing firm and decisive leadership. Corruption, they say, is bursting with impunity in a government that professes to be fighting corruption. “Simply put, this government is our party’s government, but it is one that is promoting dishonest exploitation of power, extreme immorality and depravity,” another APC chieftain in Kaduna who prefers to be anonymous “for now” says. They compared his tenure with that of his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan and say nothing has changed. In fact, they noted that Nigeria is heading for the descent into the kind of hardship Nigerians never witnessed before. “All we have heard from Buhari up till now are prevarications and sickening recurrence of policy somersaults.”
All said, the race for 2019 promises to be interesting as contending forces against Buhari prepare their strategies. For them, it is like the 2019 poll will take place tomorrow even though it is still about a year and a half away. The political space is already booming underground in some parts of the North with Kaduna being the hot bed. Hustles have started over who succeeds Buhari. In many ways, it is like a civilian equivalent of a military coup. For weeks now, endless nocturnal meetings are being held in obscure locations around the North where various arrangements are being put in place and plots hatched. “Those holding the meetings now to stop Buhari are championing the cause by trying to show that at the time the North stood up to be corrected they were the people who were the coordinators. That is what is happening. It is not the usual political meeting to chart the way forward. No. It is to close the door to Buhari,” a reliable source disclosed.
The source hinted that Dr. Junaidu Mohammed and some of those opposed to a Buhari presidency in 2019 have been holding meetings. “It is better for the North not to have Buhari there. We are wasting our time. For Buhari to continue as president, many of the people across the region will die of hunger. The cabal has hijacked him and it is blackmail; that is why they have a hold on him.
“All the Buhari qualities have fallen from 90 percent to 10 percent, let’s be fair, to 20 percent. How can a Buhari value now that has fallen to 20 percent get the presidency with these meetings going on? Junaidu Mohammed is a medical doctor and politician. They were the strong forces that floated CPC. Hameed Ali, the present Customs chief, Sule Yahaya Haman, a former Chief of Security in NIA, Sam Nda-Isaiah, those were the people that lifted Buhari up and stayed by him. But when Buhari now saw the light of the day he surrounded himself with a cabal and left all the people who did the ground work for him. He dumped all of them completely.
“So now it has come to time for them to understand they have been dumped. So that is why Junaidu Mohammed Mahmoud does not want this issue to continue because for all he cares, he is a masquerade. The people operating him are different from him. And honest enough, Junaidu Mahmoud, Hameed Ibrahim Ali, Yahaya Sule Haman, Buba Galadinma they were the people who worked for Buhari. They fought for him, they brainstormed on issues of Nigeria and they gave the answers to him. They were his computer but now he has no computer, because Mamman Daura, Abba Kyari and Samaila Isa Funtua are not even calculators. They are all consumers. They cannot give added value to anything Buhari.
“That is why many northerners feel Buhari should not be president. You remember Mohammed Nuru Abubakar, he is a journalist. He has been in the trenches promoting Buhari. Buhari has not said thank you to anybody who has helped him. All the people who have added grace to Buhari coming out as APC…because when he came into APC he needed a new infrastructure that will back APC because it was now an alliance which he was not ready to go with the ACN. He was ready to carry the icing with the cake and leave them with the crumbs, but he needed people to float his own leverage as a presidential candidate. They had to do the groundwork. All the people who helped him, two people complained to me that he never remunerated them. He never said thank you to them,” the source explained
The plot is to neutralize the nest that some northerners want to create. “They are working to close the doors against Buhari. The meeting is to make all the poor people and the clerics who have been in the bandwagon of Buhari to realize the issue and back off Buhari. I am assuring you about that, because that is what the two people who told me about what is going on told me; that this is what is going to be achieved, and asked if I could give them my blessing.
“Some of the people involved are apolitical and you can never mention their names in politics, but they are the leaders of the North,” the source told Sunday Sun.
A long list of accusations are being drawn up and of course, several loyalists recruited in secrecy. Since late October, some influential members had been holding meetings. To many party stalwarts, especially those very selective in judgment, the timing of these meetings seems marked by good signs and therefore promises to be successful.
Although APC performed well in most states of the North, many party members are reluctant supporting the party if Buhari clinches the ticket of the party. They feel APC could have “captured” more states than it did in 2015 if not for what they see as the mis-application of power and authority by the president and his men.
The meeting of the aggrieved APC members apart, there is another meeting of select like minds, comprising northerners opposed to the Buhari agenda for a second term on account of the ACN/CPC alliance. This group is pushing for an Osinbajo presidency. They are deeply aggrieved that Buhari has scuttled the smooth arrangement that brought him to power. The group believes that a second term for Buhari would not have been under attack if he had played according to the rules of governance which dictates that in a multi-ethnic and religious country like Nigeria, not only the people of Katsina State origin and the few members of the cabal are fit enough for appointments and attention. This meeting, attended by about 21 members of the group in the house of a chieftain of the APC in Ungwar Rimi last week, concluded that this is the appropriate time to stop Buhari from seeking re-election. The meeting passed a vote of no confidence on Buhari and a programme of action was drawn up.
Their concern was what they perceived as the marginalization of the people of the South-west, South-east and South-south in the affairs of governance. They noted that if Buhari was given a second chance, he would do worse things to southerners. “We are concerned because forget about the fact that some of us did not get anything working for Buhari’s emergence, but what he is doing to the South, especially the South-west that worked for his emergence can rub off on our party in the next election if he becomes our candidate,” Idrissa Makama, who said he is the Publicity Secretary of the group told Sunday Sun.
The group, according to Idrissa, has agreed to push for a “western” president since they believed it has become obvious that the Yoruba have lost out in the Buhari administration on account of “Buhari’s nepotistic stance in government.” Some northern presidential aspirants, sources said, also felt threatened. One of them met with his prime supporters in Kaduna last week to deliberate on “what to do with the Buhari issue who they regarded as a cog in the wheel of their aspirations. At the meeting, the decision to stop Buhari was unanimous. Reliable sources informed Sunday Sun that almost all the party members who attended the meeting wanted Buhari to be stopped as the APC presidential candidate but that they did not agree on the procedure to be applied.
While the young members of the party at the meeting supported an all-out war against the national chairman, which could turn out to be a bitter long drawn battle, the elders counseled against it on grounds that this may break up the party. They proposed that a “smoother style” of stopping Buhari which would have little adverse effects on the party be adopted.
Bolaji Abdullahi, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, said he is unaware of the plot by the North against Buhari and directed Sunday Sun to the president’s spokesperson or the president’s political adviser “who will be in a position to answer such queries.” However, Abdullahi said “as far as the party is concerned, we are not aware.” “We held a NEC meeting last week and at the meeting the members passed a vote of confidence on the president and of course you should know the caliber of people that attended the NEC meeting which includes the governors of the party. Of course, majority of them are from the North. So we are not aware of any meeting by anybody or groups. In any case, the president has not said that he is going to contest. So whoever is doing anything now is just embarking on a fruitless exercise.”
He reiterated the party’s stand on the presidential ticket of the party, saying “we have said it; there is no automatic ticket for Mr. President. Even if he is going to be unopposed, which is most likely, there will still have to be an affirmation. So there is no provision for automatic ticket in the party’s constitution.”