The die is cast. The thinly-veiled secret of President Muhammadu Buhari’s intention to seek a second term in office in the 2019 general elections is now official public knowledge. The president himself bared his chest on the matter at the National Executive Committee meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja on Monday. Even though his decision to seek re-election has been an open secret to most discerning Nigerians for a long while now, his declaration still reportedly took the top hierarchy of the party’s NEC by surprise, but they quickly recovered and welcomed the decision with clapping.
How far the clapping reflects the true feelings of the party leaders, including the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the state governors, remains to be seen in the months ahead. But, for many Nigerians, the time has come for a more open and direct assessment of Buhari’s performance in office so far, and Nigeria’s chances under four more years of his leadership.
Buhari, at the occasion, attributed his decision to the clamour from Nigerians for him to seek a second term in office. That is neither here nor there, as there will always be clamours for leaders to remain in office for as long as they can, for one reason or the other. What the electorate has to determine at any point in time is whether an incumbent president’s continued stay in office is in the best interest of the generality of the people and the future that they desire for themselves.
In the present instance, the big question before Nigerians is whether President Buhari’s continued stay in office will bring the people closer to the type of the country they desire or whether they will be better off going back to the type of nation they had struggled so hard to change just three years ago. Getting down to brass tacks: Will the country be better off returning to the former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which appears to have made an open feast of the national treasury, but somehow made the money go round and trickle down to ordinary Nigerians, or remain with the ruling APC, under which the economy appears to be in a tailspin and many people are groaning under what is widely perceived as its lacklustre management?
Should the nation, indeed, throw the Buhari baby away with its bath water, continue the romance with the APC with a new presidential candidate, or go back to the old PDP days? All these are questions that the people must grapple with in the weeks and months ahead to arrive at an answer that can move the nation forward.
Some PDP chieftains appear excited at the prospect of a Buhari candidacy in 2019. Although a statement from the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, seems to make light of Buhari’s announcement, declaring it as a “mere show interest” on which the PDP would not “waste precious time”, until he becomes the actual candidate of the APC, many members of the opposition party, including its Scribe, have heartily welcomed the declaration as an answer to their prayer which would facilitate their defeat of the APC in the 2019 poll.
One thing that is clear, however, is that the coming presidential election will not be an easy one for any of the parties in the country. For President Buhari in particular, it is going a be a very difficult poll because the dynamics of the nation have since changed and the seeming hero-worshipping of his candidacy has largely given place to the bare-faced realization that the country’s problems cannot be merely wished away with a broom and a magic wand, as appears to have been believed by many in the past.
The country is facing many serious challenges which the current government, in spite of its seeming good intentions, has not been able to solve to the full satisfaction of the people. For instance, the Boko Haram challenge and the general insecurity in the country are problems which the people had expected the Buhari government to solve. Unemployment is another serious issue that has demystified the APC and the Buhari government.
Certainly, the government has tried in the area of agriculture, especially on its intervention in rice production which birthed a rice revolution, but this has only been a scratch on the kernel of the county’s gargantuan employment problem. Thousands of graduates are passing out of our educational institutions every year without any hope of getting jobs. While the government has introduced some entrepreneurial schemes and the N-Power Empowerment Scheme, they are clearly not enough to stop the ticking of the country’s unemployment time bomb. Nigeria clearly needs more creative and impactful ways to get the youths productively engaged.
Beyond the government’s efforts on infrastructural development which have largely been limited by a paucity of funds, there has been insufficient attention to human capital development. Our educational institutions are so poorly funded, they have been depreciating in value over the years, and so have their products. In many areas of the labour sector, there are complaints on the “unemployability” of many graduates of the nation’s tertiary institutions. Some of them can hardly communicate intelligently in English Language and their sense of responsibility is shocking. Even the primary and secondary schools are so poorly funded and managed that it appears that Nigerian youths are largely on their own. They are clearly not a priority for our politicians, whether those of the ruling or opposition parties. It does, indeed, appear that for our politicians, all that matters is power for the sake of self-enrichment and empowerment.
While there is no cause to doubt the sincerity of the president and his interest in doing what he feels is best for the country, the commitment of most of his team members to this aspiration is widely regarded as suspect by many Nigerians. Many citizens also doubt the president’s ability to reign in the cabal that seems to be dictating the steps and pace of his administration.
There is really no need going on and on, on Buhari’s presidency. He is doing well in the area of instituting fiscal discipline in public finances (even though there are some claims of corruption in high places); the Foreign Reserve is growing; agriculture is getting a new lease of life; etc. But vast improvements are needed in the areas of security, human capital development, health and the anti-corruption war for him to get a chance of a re-election in 2019. At age 75, the issue of his health and his ability to stay the course for four years, post-2019, are also critical concerns.
If he is to have a chance to have an inroad into the hearts of Nigerians once again, he will also need a more robust and less adversarial communication of his efforts, achievements and ability to deliver more on his current mandate and the one he is aspiring to obtain in the 2019 poll.