Barely one year to the next general elections and about 19 months to the end of the current government, it is obvious that the race for the 2019 Presidency has started. Already, three people have indicated their interests to contest the presidential election in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP): Alhaji Sule Lamido, former Jigawa State governor; Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State and Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, ex-governor of Kano State. In the All Progressives Congress (APC), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, has also declared his intention to contest for the country’s top political position. And it is expected that more people, the serious and the pretenders, would still join the presidential race in the days ahead.
At present, the biggest issue is the reelection or otherwise of President Muhammadu Buhari. Although the president has not publicly declared his intention to seek reelection or leave the stage, many people are already wishing and working for his stay in office beyond 2019. In the last couple of weeks, Buhari’s reelection gambut has dominated discussion. In the APC, a motion was actually moved for an automatic presidential ticket for Buhari at the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, which was, eventually, stepped down. Some governors of APC have expressed their desire for Buhari to seek reelection and be reelected president. Some of them said the president has choice of first refusal, for the APC presidential ticket. Others say he should just be handed an automatic ticket of the APC. One of those in this category, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, in making a case for an automatic ticket, claimed that “all governors,” from the APC and PDP, are rooting for the president. APC National Chairman, Chief John Oyegun, has also alluded to an automatic ticket for Buhari. Also, interest and pressure groups have been canvassing Buhari’s reelection and an automatic ticket dor him.
Interestingly, on the other hand, there are also people in the APC, who, though, have not said Buahri should not contest in 2019, but insist he should not get an automatic ticket of the party. Such people, like APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, are of the opinion that President Buhari should follow due process in getting APC ticket and not get it on a platter of gold, without any contest. Also, there are others who have said President Buhari should not seek reelection, but should simply bow out after serving out the current tenure in 2019.
Well, despite my reservations about President Buhari’s performance, I am not among those who are vehemently opposed to his seeking reelection. I am persuaded he should contest. It is the president’s fundamental human rights to contest for election whenever he wants. In contesting for election, it is either he wins of loses. After all, he contested for the presidency three times, in 2003, 2007 and 2011, but lost. In 2015, he contested again, and won. Therefore, President Buhari seeking reelection in 2019 is not an issue. The issue here is for Buhari and the APC Federal Government to organise credible elections, where all the political parties and candidates have a level playing field, where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) serves as an unbiased umpire, where security agents – the police, army, Department of State Services (DSS) and others – play neutral roles, not working for the government in power but hold their allegiance to Nigeria only, where Nigerians are free to vote and their votes determine the winner. As long as there is a fair contest, there is no need persuading Buhari not to contest. Who cares if he contests? Nigerians will determine his fate with their voters based on what he has done in office or failed to do.
To be sure, in a credible election, Buhari should not stand a chance. Nigerians will look at their lives before Buhari came to power and compare their situation now or by 2019. They would make a choice between dashed hopes and empty promises of a “better tomorrow.” They would look at reality and not rhetoric. They would look at honesty and not deception. They would look at the things President Buhari and the APC promised them before 2015 and juxtapose them with what the government has done today.
Yes, let Buhari contest in 2019 and let his good and bad works count. In 2019, Buhari would be judged by what he has done and not what he promises to do. Nigerian voters will remember that after campaigning against hike in price of fuel price, Buhari and APC turned round to increase the cost higher that what the previous government proposed. They will remember that Naira was exchanging for less than N200 to a dollar before the advent of the Buhari government and now at N360 to a dollar. They will remember that the fight against corruption has not been holistic, as only those who belong or have affiliation with the PDP are being dragged around. They will remember that Abdulrasheed Maina, who went on self-exile to avoid answering questions, was sacked from the civil service over allegation of corruption by the previous government and actually declared wanted by the Economic and Financial Crime commission (EFCC), only to be brought back to Nigeria this year, reinstated in office and promoted. They will remember that Maina was only ordered sacked when people started raising hell and that the government has not cleared the belief that President Buhari was told about his return, that top-shots of his government orchestrated and worked for his return, and that high-level security was provided for him officially.
Nigerian voters will remember that appointments have been skewed in favour of the North, in terms of quality and quantity of positions. They will remember that Apapa commuters in Lagos cannot access that important business district because government has not given the problem its deserved attention. They will remember that herdsmen are on the loose, wreaking havoc across the country, while the Buhari government has failed to take decisive action nor declared them terrorists. They would remember that the cost of living has hit the roof, beyond the reach of the common man. They will remember that South-East as a geopolitical zone and Igbo, as a people, have not benefited much from the Buhari government. They will remember that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), through which Igbo expressed their misgivings over neglect and which kept talks about restructuring in the front burner, was proscribed and branded a terrorist group. They will remember that Buhari sent soldiers to the South East, and youths, who were not armed, were molested and killed over mere agitation. They would remember that Buhari uses every opportunity he has to vilify the Igbo and their leaders. They would remember that roads in the South East are still in bad condition, to the extent that the government admitted that they are the worst in the country, and that the best President Buhari could say was that money for repairs has been budget for 2018.
Let Buhari contest in 2019. Let him organise credible election. Let Nigerians vote. Let Nigerians’ votes count and vote him out. Interesting, the 2019 election will not be a contest of North versus South or Muslim versus Christians, as was the case in 2015. The main opposition party, the PDP, has said it would field a presidential candidate from the North. When APC fields Buhari, it will be a North-North contest. In a North-North contest, the advantage Buhari had over former President Goodluck Jonathan, with the connivance of South West, would be non-existent. With these in mind, why then should anybody worry if Buhari contests in 2019 or not?