By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Hours before he left the country for an official visit to the United Kingdom, President Muhammadu Buhari shocked the nation with his declaration for a second term. The declaration will inevitably stir issues that he is bound to confront as he goes about soliciting the votes of Nigerians for a second term.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration for a second term in office during the National Executive Committee, NEC meeting of the All Progressives Congress, APC last Monday came as a shock to many.
The shock was not in the declaration, given the general inclination of the president towards re-election, but in the time and opportunity that the president used to make his declaration.
Ahead of last Monday’s NEC meeting, the APC had been thrown into a crisis upon strong disagreements by party elders over the future of the John Odigie-Oyegun led leadership of the party.
Strategic stakeholders led by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu had led a battle quietly supported by Buhari to upend permutations for an extension of tenure of the National Working Committee, NWC and other executive office holders in the party.
That was the scenario as at last Monday when the NEC convened to deliberate on the report of the Governor Simon Lalong led committee which deliberated on the future of the Odigie-Oyegun leadership.
However, expectations of something unusual came with the storming of the APC national secretariat by State House correspondents who normally do not cover the APC NEC meeting. However, ahead of the NEC meeting the president’s media team had sent out text messages to State House correspondents to cover the meeting with the idea of giving the president’s declaration a special coverage.
It was as such with shock that instead of focusing on the issue at hand that the president threw a spanner into the calculations of the different interest groups with his open declaration for a second term.
Speaking at the brief session of the NEC that Monday, the president said: “People have been asking me to declare for re-election, and some have been asking me when I am going to declare. I want to give the NEC the honour to be the first to hear it. I have decided to contest the 2019 elections,” the president declared in a tone that shocked many members of the NEC,” the president declared last Monday.
Though shocked, nearly all of the NEC members stood up to cheer the president on his declaration. But whether the cheer was from the heart is another thing.
Eyes would have been on some prominent members of NEC who had been critical of the president or seen as the rivals of the president. Among them was the president of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki, and Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
Vanguard gathered that as a matter of courtesy that the Senate President was informed of the president’s declaration and was as such not totally taken aback and would have joined the chorus of those who gave their approval, at the NEC meeting when the president made his declaration.
President Buhari who had in the past shown disapproval to party politics and seemed to put himself above the fray, however, showed himself as a politician last Monday with his appeal to the diverse interests in the party to join hands towards the party’s success in the forthcoming elections.
With his declaration for a second term, the president and his handlers are, however, bound to face some issues that are bound to erupt ahead of the pursuit of first of all the party’s ticket and then if he succeeds, a showdown in the general election.
His Words of the past
Hours after the president made his declaration, an interview he had in 2011 in which he said that because of his age at that time that he would if successful in the 2011 election serve only one term in office.
In the interview with Sunday Trust Buhari as the presidential candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC had been asked why he had promised to serve one term in office and replied thus:
“I’m not getting younger. If I succeed and do one term, I will be 73 years old.” Asked further what would be his priority in that one term he envisaged to serve, he had said:
Age and Health
A month after his inauguration, the president had during a visit to South Africa acknowledged the effect of age on his capacity telling the Nigerian community at that time: “I wish I became Head of State when I was a governor, just a few years as a young man. Now at 72, there is a limit to what I can do,” the president had said.
Since his inauguration, the president has undertaken three medical vacations; the last ended eight months ago during which he spent 104 days taking treatment in the United Kingdom.
However, since that vacation, the president has apparently been sprightly, increasingly looking more energetic.
In the campaign ahead of 2015, the president had centered his bid for power on three main sectors, security, anti-corruption and the economy.
On all three sectors, his achievements are apparently mixed; especially when measured by his supporters and his critics.
However, a major blow for the president is the latest rating by the global anti-corruption body, Transparency International. In 2016, the first year after the president assumed office, the country had the 136th position in the world while last year, two full years after, the country dipped to 148th position in the global ranking.
The administration’s performance on the economy has, however, been relatively successful, especially in the agricultural sector. However, a strong issue the administration would have to confront is the measurable dip in the value of the naira which dipped from 190 to the dollar to the current 360 naira to the dollar.
The administration would, however, counter criticisms of its handling of the economy with its alluring social intervention scheme which is arguably one of the most successful schemes in the empowerment of the masses in recent times.
Many aficionados of the president would also take the president up on the fulfilment of his promise on assets declaration by himself and his appointees. Though the president made open his assets after some dithering procrastination, the election promise to cause his appointees to do same has been in the breach.
Another failed campaign promise was the promise by the APC to inaugurate the National Procurement Nigerians would also be looking up to
In a covenant with Nigerians declared on 16 March, 2015 by Buhari declared by his campaign, the president had been quoted as promising to “Inaugurate the National Council on Procurement as stipulated in the Procurement Act so that the Federal Executive Council, which has been turned to a weekly session of contract bazaar, will concentrate on its principal function of policy making.”
However, nearly three years into the Buhari APC administration, the National Council on Procurement has yet to be established despite the intense campaign by civil society organisations, as such sustaining the same bazaar that the APC frowned against.
As the president declared in his declaration speech last Monday, unity in the ruling party is still an issue. After four years of its formation, the different tendencies that merged to form the party continue to show different proclivities.
The notable irritation among members of the nPDP bloc continues with those from that tendency continuing to lament their fate in the party. With the notable exception of Rotimi Amaechi, the former governor of Rivers State, virtually every other major stakeholder from the nPDP bloc is said to be waiting in the wings to fly back to the PDP or somewhere else.
The president had during his campaign and in his inauguration speech promised to be fair to all. However, there have been issues about the adoption of the principle of federal character in the distribution of choice appointments especially in the security services.
Following the declaration, the president proceeded to the United Kingdom where he is expected to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, CHOGM next week. Whenever he returns he is bound to confront the issues, he may have quietly stirred on his departure eve.