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Prospects of a Buhari presidency in 2019

By Rotimi Fasan

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has  yet to declare his interest in seeking re-election as Nigeria’s president. There has so far not been any categorical statement from him on the matter. But since he is a man of ‘body language’ we may need to look more at his action than his utterances to know where he stands on this all-important matter.

President Buhari

All-important because so much about the fate of nearly 200 million people depends on it.  And if the manner he has gone about his duties so far is any indication there may be a lot to worry about.

But there are sufficient signs to conclude that Buhari is interested in staying on as president. He clearly wants to continue in office even if his apparently age-related health issues are matters he is yet to convince Nigerians he has effectively put to rest.

The increasingly tentative posture and response of the president to questions of insecurity, alleged nepotism and corruption as they concern his ‘people’, his subordinates and members of his ethnic constituency, are factors that may haunt and destroy his ambition with the rest of Nigerians.

They are equally pointers to the ambition of a man desirous of another term in office, but one who is being careful not to reveal that ambition for the moment.

The president cannot be unaware that he has pretty much little to boast of by way of performance. Not only has he not performed. He has been away from his duty post much too often than is decently acceptable.

For all these reasons, it would seem the president and his minders have chosen to be very subtle about how they go about his re-election plan even when that can’t be too far from their mind. More so as opponents within his party and the Peoples Democratic Party are fast declaring their interest.

But given the way things stand now, what should the possibility of a Buhari presidency post 2019 tell us? What would it look like? The prospects look grim. Two and a half years down the line, it looks like Nigerians have seen all there is to see about this administration. Except the government is able to do what would seem for it an extraordinary feat of self-transformation, Nigerians have every reason to worry about what their country would look like should this government headed by Buhari remain in office.

We only need to remind ourselves of how this government has failed Nigerians to realise the trouble ahead should it stay the course and go on to win another term by hook or crook.

The first thing to look at, as I pointed out here last week, is how this president has failed to live up to his inaugural promise to belong to everybody and nobody.

Buhari as events continue to reveal belongs to some people, not the least being those of his extended family members by whom he is surrounded. He is also much beholden to his people of the north who he considers best suited to hold the best offices in the land in addition to enjoying the best available resources and facilities.

He has not been doing much to disprove the evidence against him nor has the fire-fighting attempts of his subordinates in this regard been convincing. The man appears guilty as charged and apparently does not worry about what all of this implicates for his presidency.

Beyond the issue of nepotism, Buhari’s anti-insurgency activities are somewhat comatose. There is a sense in which both his government and the insurgents appear to have come to a truce of sorts. While the terrorists have been confined to more manageable spaces in the north-east, there is no doubt that they still pack enough firepower to give Nigerians in their theatre of operations much to worry about. They have remained where they want to be just as government troops have learned not to overstep their own bounds. Either way, it’s a balance of terror.

While ISIS has been defeated in war-ravaged Syria, our own government continues to gripe over the support Boko-haram has been enjoying from them. As for the so-called anti-corruption war, so many of the president’s associates have been caught with their hands in the jar so often as to render any claims of a fight hollow. The rhetoric of the war is nowhere matched by its actuality as the president continues to get weak in the knee taking up the fight among his associates. Nor has he regained the gravitas that would enable him take on corrupt elements in the judiciary and legislature.

The case of Babachir Lawal is an open sore that is fast getting gangrenous. Long after the Vice President submitted his report of his investigation of the corruption that engulfed both the former Secretary to the Federal Government and boss of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency, Buhari has not found it expedient to act.

He continues to behave like a man waiting for direction from God knows-where. Nigerians will not be surprised to see Babachir Lawal return to his former job or any other role in government.

After all, Abdulrasheed Maina of the Pension Reform Tax Team is reportedly now back at his former beat even when he is still on the ‘most wanted’ list of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for alleged fraud running into hundreds of billions of naira.

Restructuring of our twisted federation is yet another issue on which the Buhari government has been caught napping. Even when this was a campaign topic and is a cardinal part of the All Progressives Congress Party agenda, both the APC and the Buhari administration have in recent times been talking from both sides of the mouth as to whether the country should be restructured. Suddenly the government has discovered it has to consult Nigerians, collect and distill their views about what they mean by restructuring.

This is when its apologists are not adamant that only the National Assembly is best placed to handle the issue. This when it is well known that majority of members of the National Assembly are northerners who are opposed to any  talk of restructuring. The only northerners comfortable with talks of restructuring today are those angling to replace Buhari.

Most states of the federation could not be bothered about payment of workers’ salaries, Paris fund bailout or not. The president is helpless in the face of the roguish conduct of governors, many of whom are members of his party. He wonders how they are able to sleep. But Mr. President, that is a question you and your party can find an answer to. Nearly two years off, Buhari’s re-election looks very unlikely. The direct test of his incorruptibility lies ahead: it’s whether he would accept defeat at the polls.


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