By Ikechukwu Amaechi
Finally, President Muhammadu Buhari, to borrow a cliché, has decided to bite the bullet by declaring his intention to seek reelection in 2019.
Though no discerning political observer was flabbergasted by the pronouncement, its impact was, nevertheless, instant and consequential.
Reuters news agency reported that Nigerian stocks dropped to a three-month low after the announcement.
“The stock market, which opened on a losing streak after Lafarge Africa announced a surprise 2017 loss, worsened its decline. The equity market fell near 40,000 points,” Reuters reported.
Expected, Nigerians are divided.
While the president’s supporters are beside themselves with joy, his opponents are equally trenchant in their criticism.
Chairman of Northern Elders Council (NEC), Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, dismissed the declaration, literally, as sheer voyeurism.
“I wonder the type of magic that will make Buhari win re-election in 2019,” he said, adding that “at the height of his popularity, the difference between him and Goodluck Jonathan was 2.5 million votes.”
Dr. Junaid Muhammed, Second Republic lawmaker, and an unrepentant critic of Buhari was more trenchant and acerbic.
“This announcement is very unfortunate, it is done in very bad fate and I think it will not do the country or the people any good because I believe politicians being what they are and he is nothing now more than a politician should be assessed by what they say.
“He (Buhari) said severally during the campaign that he was not going to contest for a second term. He also said he was going to do a number of things. He has failed woefully in any of the things he said he was going to do.
“He put up a cabinet that was a national and international scandal; he brought his relations, friends and cronies to the cabinet, none of whom is performing or has performed during the last three years.
“On the whole, he is the least competent, the least prepared person for the office of the president of this country. But he decided in spite of his non-performance to go in and contest.
“It is now clear to me and I believe to any right thinking Nigerian that his politics is all about himself, his nepotism, his cronyism of friends and relations.
“It is not about national interest because what he did in the last three years had nothing to do with national interest. So I don’t believe that another four years of Buhari post-2019 will do him or the country any good. We are likely to have more of the same and I can’t see him performing.
“It is left for Nigerians to speak their mind and when the time comes, to speak with their vote.”
But the president insists that his declaration was a response to the clamour by Nigerians urging him to seek a second mandate as a reward for sterling performance in office in the last three years.
His supporters like the Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, concur.
Okorocha, who doubles as the chairman of the Progressive Governors Forum, said Buhari’s declaration was a patriotic response to the clarion call of Nigerians of goodwill to lead the country for another four years.
Some have even raised the issue of Buhari’s promise in an interview with the Sunday Trust newspaper on February 6, 2011 to serve only one term if elected president.
“I am not getting younger. If I succeed and do one term, I will be 73 years old,” he riposted when asked why he promised to serve only one term.
Of course, he didn’t succeed that year but four years later when he was already 73. So, first term of four years will bring him to 77 years and in another four years, he will be 81.
So, if he thought he would be too old to withstand the rigours of presidential office at 73, one wonders where the confidence that he would be just fine at 77 is coming from.
But the president owns his body and knows how strong physically, mentally and even psychologically he is.
Besides, as his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who once made the same promise and reneged said, “… You can make a political promise and change your mind, so long as it is within the law.”
Morally, it could be reprehensible but legally and constitutionally dead-on.
What is not true is the fulsome claim by supporters that Buhari’s second term gambit is about the country.
The biggest industry in Nigeria today is sycophancy and like every other business, it has its peak period. The silly season of politics is it when the din of fawning adulation of men of power for filthy lucre is loudest.
As we move towards 2019, activities in this industry will continue to gather momentum. Emergency groups will mushroom with all manner of exotic tags. Pilgrimages to the centres of power will become an art and politics will trump governance.
Nothing has changed. And nothing will change unless Nigerians decide to upend the status quo. For that to happen, there has to be a fight. Sadly, I can hardly see the appetite for that.
The simple reason why anyone would contemplate a second term for Buhari is because the jostling for power has nothing to do with the wellbeing, development and progress of the country and welfare of the people.
But Buhari’s second term aspiration is the beauty of democracy, even the pseudo Nigerian variant.
If the All Progressives Congress (APC) thinks that its surest route to Aso Rock come 2019 is through candidate Muhammadu Buhari, those who think otherwise can live with that since there are dozens of other political parties.
If at the end of the day and despite all they have seen and heard in the last three years, majority of Nigerians think their lot will be better under a Buhari presidency for another four years, so be it.
After all, isn’t it said that a people get the government they deserve?
But there must be a level-playing field. Nigerians are not confident that this government will play by the rules of the game. They are not assured that the security forces will be neutral.
Now that Buhari has declared his intention to run for a second term, arguing that it is a wrong decision is a no-brainer. Persuading him to reconsider his stance is the height of political naivety and tomfoolery. So, run, Buhari run.
But Nigerians owe themselves the obligation to be resolute in ensuring that the right things are done. After all, isn’t it said that eternal vigilance is the price for freedom?