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Buhari’s decision to recontest

Victoria Ngozi Ikeano

Did President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration to seek for a second term come to us as a surprise?  In the current Nigerian environment where we hold conflicting views on virtually every issue, it may have come to some as a surprise if not a shock. First there are those who view the opinions of some influential Nigerians as the gospel truth or better said as an opinion that should not be toyed with or jettisoned believing that ‘calamity’ would befall  any person or people who ignores their advice.

Notable among these prominent set of Nigerians is Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who at the height of his political authority as president was regarded by his admirers and supporters as ‘architect of modern Nigeria’. No doubt Chief Obasanjo occupies an indelible position in Nigeria’s history books, having presided over affairs of Nigeria twice as a military head of state and civilian president for a total combined period of 12 years. And when you consider the circumstance under which he ‘escaped’ death on both occasions to then emerge as Nigeria’s number one citizen, you cannot but conclude that providence had a hand in it.

Also we are reminded that Nigeria’s political pendulum swings to where Chief Obasanjo throws his weight. We are told of how he made Shehu Shagari, Umar Musa Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan presidents; how their political flames withered off once he literally disavowed them politically. So, chief Obasanjo’s letter to President Buhari earlier this year urging him not to seek re-election caused some commotion in the land. Some said Mr. President can only afford to ignore Obasanjo’s advice to his detriment. Hence, this category of persons would be surprised that the President dared to ignore his former boss. Did the president have any option? Should he have chickened out?

To do so would have been to cast him as a lily-livered person that is not worthy of the appellation, ‘commander-in-chief’. Courage is the mark of a general, whether serving or retired, they dare where others fear to tread. Let us juxtapose. If Obasanjo were president and was asked by a former boss of his, say Yakubu Gowon, not to run for a second term would he comply? I doubt it.  He probably would have replied, ‘Damn it, I am a general. I would rather die fighting in the warfront than to run away from war’.  In the Nigerian political landscape, it is only ‘natural’ for a sitting president to seek re-election – to want to sit out his constitutionally mandated eight-year tenure, unless providence dictates otherwise.

Another set of people who will be greatly surprised, nay disappointed  that President Buhari is going for a second term are those that are having a running battle with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), corrupt politicians, corrupt public and civil servants, those of them that are known and those as yet unknown. We are told that corruption is already “fighting back” at Buhari’s administration.

Having now declared his intention to contest, ‘corruption’ is likely going to shift its fight to the election proper. A third category of people that are probably seething at  President Buhari’s re-election bid are economic saboteurs – those who engage in illegal importation of items through land borders such as rice, cars and other generally banned items.

These allege that they have been impoverished and their means of livelihood decimated. They also include their collaborators, neighbouring Benin Republic and Cameroon. We are told that these countries are importing rice in excess of their local demands in the hope of getting the extras smuggled to Nigeria. 

Yet another set of people who would be bitter at Buhari’s declaration are those who had been wishing and hoping that he would toe the Mandela path – be a one-term president and then hand over to them. Given the current cacophony and intrigues in the ruling All Progressive Congress (a party that is composed of birds of different feathers with little homogeneity), the process for choosing a successor would have been so rancorous that it could have torn it into factions. The aforementioned list of those that disapprove of the president recontesting is by no means exhaustive.  Buhari’s decision to run again would have an impact on the APC with regard to those within that were eyeing the position. It would also affect the main opposition parties as regards the calibre of person they would pick to contest against Buhari.  I suppose with his declaration the coast would be cleared for him one way or the other.

The president has not given us the full details of why he wants to re contest except to say that he is yielding to the pressures of supporters nationwide.

That may perhaps come at the formal declaration ceremony. But one of the reasons will be to ‘consolidate’ on his “good works.”

Clearly, this first term has been a learning curve for Mr. President as things have not worked out as smoothly as envisaged. He probably hopes to make amends for his mistakes with a second term.

Still, Mr. President should be aware that there are some rather powerful blocks that are not at all happy with his declaration for a second term. Like corruption, these category of persons would want to stop him. So, President Buhari should be ready with his own arsenal for a battle royal at the general election proper.

Ikeano writes from Lafia, via [email protected]

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