By Dirisu Yakubu
The recent declaration of interest to vie for the highest elective office in the land by President Muhammadu Buhari is generating heat in the polity.
With the President away in the United Kingdom, Nigerians back home are locked in an endless debate on whether the President has done well enough to warrant another shot at the Holy Grail.
No issue in the past couple of weeks has dominated discourse as much as this week’s declaration of intent to contest the 2019 election by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The declaration as it were, elicited excitement in the camp of the President, with its argument that a second term in office would culminate in the manifestation of a glorious harvest from the seeds being sowed today by the current administration.
In the past few days, not a few supporters of the President have, in the traditional media (print and electronic) and online tabloids, attempted to justify the rationale for a continuity, with the argument rife that the mismanagement of the economy in years past, informed the failure of the nation to rise proportionally to her rich endowments in human and material resources. However, this narrative has not gone down well with the largest opposition party in the land, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Speaking a few days after Buhari made known his intention to give the plum seat another shot, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan appeared on a live Channels television programme (Sunrise Daily) to advance reasons Nigerians should ditch Buhari and by extension, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2019 for a ‘rebranded’ PDP.
According to the publicity scribe, last week’s mega rally of the PDP in President Buhari’s home state of Katsina was what prompted the Commander-in-Chief to declare for a second term in office.
His words: “It was the PDP outing in Katsina that drove President Buhari to declare to run in 2019. This is the first time in the political history of Nigeria that an incumbent President would declare his intentions one clear year to the polls.
We are not against his declaration but normally, one would have expected him to consult widely before taking that decision.”
Pressed on to elaborate on his claim that the first citizen may not have concluded a nationwide consultation before making his 2019 intentions public, Ologbondiyan faulted the manner of the announcement, which in his words, left participants at the APC National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting lost for words for a few minutes.
“The President and Commander-in-Chief just walked into the NEC meeting of his party and declared his interest to run again in 2019. That is desperation,” Ologbondiyan stressed. Highlighting reasons Nigerians should not contemplate another four years for Buhari as President, the PDP through its image maker said “There’s absolutely nothing to show for his three years in office. He came to power on the significant plank of change but have you seen any change since he assumed power?”
Ologbondiyan would thereafter liken Buhari’s declaration to Alele Yoruba mythology, following his decision to jet out of the nation’s shores for the United Kingdom (UK), leaving the nation and her people to feed on the conundrum his re-election bid is generating.
Ologbondiyan, a Yoruba from Okun axis in Kogi State elucidated further this way: “Alele mythology is akin to a farmer who left a talisman in his farm as a form of protection for his crops. Anyone unfortunate to go therein to steal is trapped and would be assigned chores to deal with until the return of the farmer, who would now be at liberty to set the thief free or arrest him as it were.
The President has dropped a hint of his intention to run and Nigerians are left to chew it pending his return from the UK,” he explained.
These are not the only reasons the PDP thinks Buhari is a misfit for the office of the President beyond 2019. The fight against corruption, in the reckoning of the once dominant party has been everything but holistic. Accusing the Presidency of shielding some of its members alleged to have corruptly enriched themselves with public funds, Ologbondiyan said members of the PDP accused of graft were handed over to anti-corruption agencies while the party was in power.
“While we were in power, members of our party accused of one malfeasance or the other had their days in courts. This is unlike the APC which provides Presidential cover for its members accused of corruption,” he added.
Speaking on the same subject matter on Thursday, Wahab Olatoye, a chieftain of the PDP attributed some of the ills plaguing the Nigerian state today to the truncation of the nation’s democracy in 1983 by the then General Muhammadu Buhari.
For him, the three years of the APC presidency have not in any way translated to good fortunes for Nigerians saying, “After spending almost three years in office, the country is pauperized, there is a high sense of insecurity. All we have seen is blame game but when Obasanjo inherited power from General Abdulsalami Abubakar, he didn’t blame anybody. He concentrated on the job at hand.”
While describing the President as a nice man, Olatoye lamented the fact that those he chose to surround himself with have succeeded in alienating him from millions of Nigerians who trooped out to elect him in 2015.
“When he came into power in 1983, he was not in control. He was shackled by people who turned him into a parochial leader,” he stated even as he counselled incumbent administration to learn from the PDP which gave jobs to technocrats who had no affiliations to it prior to their engagements by the party while it was in power.
“When we came into power, Charles Soludo (ex-governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (erstwhile Minister of Finance) were not members of the PDP. We didn’t make our appointments parochially like the APC is doing today.
We looked for Nigerians who could man the post.” Olatoye stated, urging Nigerians not to forget that under the stewardship of President Buhari, “Court orders and judgments are not being obeyed,” a veiled reference to the continued detention of former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (retd), and leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Sheik Ibrahim El-ZakZaky.
That said, Olatoye fired what appeared a warning salvo in the direction of the ruling party and the Commander-in-Chief when he argued that “anybody who wants to lead this nation should be knowledgeable in the management of the economy. If your policies cannot put food on the table, nobody will support you.”
As the two sides of the opposing camps continue to trade tackles in a bid to convince Nigerians to pitch tent with them, it is left to be seen which side carries the day. But regardless of the rationality or otherwise of the electorate’s choice, Nigeria has yet another opportunity to make or break history in 2019.
Dateline is less than a year away, if the timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is anything to go by.