President Buhari has survived through great health travails since inception in office and he has arguably spent more time attending to himself than the nation. However, since he returned from his long trip to the UK which many thought he would not survive, he appears to be bouncing back daily and this might be in readiness to contest in the next presidential poll.
Despite the loud voices of interest groups who want him back in 2019, till now, President Buhari has neither made any clear statement on his ambition to return to office, nor has he discredited any assumption. Buhari’s demeanour, if anything to go by, shows that he is subtly waiting for events to play out or acting out a script which is only available to his trusted cohorts.
Although 2019 might seem a long time from now, the opposition is strengthening, and many Nigerians are becoming largely impatient with Buhari’s administration. The ‘change’ mantra which heralded the APC government has not translated into much progress for the common man or the nation at large. It also appears that the possibility of any major improvement in the next two years is not in sight.
However, in the glare of failed promises, the president’s body language suggests that he may be nursing the ambition to return as Nigeria’s president in 2019.
Nigerians’ interest in Buhari’s stance on re-election was heightened over the weekend following a closed-door meeting with some major APC chieftains, including Bola Tinubu, national leader of the party. Seeing that keeping the seat of power will be greatly threatened by Buhari’s decision to run or not to run, leaders in the party are perceived to be rallying round Buhari to strategize for the forthcoming election. Nevertheless, when asked by the media, Bola Tinubu, who was rumoured to have fallen out cordial relationship with Buhari at a point, failed to give a word on the possibility of Buhari’s return in 2019.
Tinubu explained his well-kept distance from Buhari, saying “Once you create leadership and it is functioning, you don’t have to babysit that leadership unless there is a loss of confidence and I don’t have that.”
With this recent engagement and the vote of confidence given to Buhari’s leadership during the meeting, it is clear that the APC caucus is positioning Buhari for a rerun, as his failure to run might completely divide the party.
In the aftermath of the closed-door meeting and the National Executive Committee meeting of APC, Buhari who has been silent on party politics for a while has taken to his twitter page to celebrate APC and recount the achievements of his administration so far, calling on supporters to keep their hope in the party. Doesn’t this further prove that Buhari has 2019 presidency on his mind?
He says: “Our Change, the Change that the APC represents, is here to stay. We will stay united as a Party & continue to work for the good of Nigeria”.
“I have a long list of people I would like to thank: our Party leadership, the leadership of the National Assembly, our State Governors”.
“The APC is proud of our achievements in the last 2 years: the fight against Boko Haram, Agric Revolution, Improved Power, Peace in the Delta.”
Another factor that signals Buhari’s interest in 2019 is the cancellation of Intels Logistic Services’ contract by Nigeria Ports Authority. Atiku Abubakar, who owns Intels appears to be the strongest contender Buhari has within his party. Therefore, cancelling his company’s contract has been described as a means to cripple Atiku’s business and weaken Atiku’s confidence to challenge him.
In a similar petty move, Buhari got on Fayose’s tail, shortly after he declared his intention to run for President in 2019, through the arrest of the Ekiti commissioner of finance, Toyin Ojo, and the accountant general, Yemisi Owolabi, by the EFCC.
While there might still be a lot of uncertainty as regards Buhari’s interest in 2019, PDP has not failed to express its plans to displace the government on or before the coming election. The party is gathering strong momentum and in a recent development, calling for Buhari’s impeachment.
There are many factors that might work against Buhari’s chances in 2019.
First, Buhari has failed to be forthright on the state of his health. His frequent trips to see his doctors in the United Kingdom show that all is not completely well. Buhari leaves a lot of room for doubt, considering Nigeria’s experience with the Yar’Adua-led administration. His Special Assistant, Garbu Shehu who once certified him fit to continue after 2019 also confessed that he cannot categorically state the nature of Buhari’s ailment. It is left for Nigerians to determine if they want to continue with a president who needs adequate medical attention outside the shores of his country, or make way for a contender.
Secondly, Buhari’s anti-corruption crusade seems to have taken a different turn with several allegations of prejudice, especially from PDP. Buhari is currently unsettled by controversies surrounding his role in the recall of Abdulrasheed Maina into the civil service, despite being aware of his antecedence of looting pension funds and fleeing Nigeria to the United Arab Emirates since 2013 to resist EFCC’s arrest.
Similarly, President Muhammadu Buhari’s sack of the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal; and the Director General, National Intelligence Agency, Ayodele Oke has also caused an uproar nationally. The PDP has described the act as totally unacceptable, especially because Buhari did not refer the matter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for prosecution, even when the duo was indicted by the Committee chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Shehu Sani-led ad-hoc committee.
Although Nigerians earnestly await Buhari’s official declaration, it is not too early to draw conclusions from the president’s move that he is preparing for a rerun. Anticipating this, the PDP has declared that the only way the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC can retain power in 2019 is by rigging.