Buhari’s 2019 Huddles; how will he overcome

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President Muhammadu Buhari
President Mohammadu Buhari

Buhari’s 2019 Huddles; how will he overcome

 

The 2019 general elections is barely one year away and permutations on their possible outcome have been the subject of discussions among Nigerians, especially politicians.

For members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, the election has long been won and lost. Those in this school of thought argue that, unlike in 2015, when the APC played its role as a vibrant opposition party and eventually defeated an incumbent Peoples Democratic Party, the opposition today lacks the cohesion to replicate this feat. In contrast, supporters of the PDP insist that there is no time in the history of the ruling APC that it is more vulnerable than now.

In Nigeria, like most American-style system of government, winning the presidential election is considered the ultimate prize. Arguably, the decision of the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, a southern minority politician, to seek re-election in spite of an unwritten agreement not to do so, sparked off a chain of events which ultimately led to PDP’s ouster from power.

Times have, however, changed. President Muhammadu Buhari, who became the ultimate beneficiary of the chaos which followed the loss of cohesion within the then PDP, has a different set of challenges to contend with should he seek re-election come 2019.

Although Buhari is yet to make a formal announcement of his desire to return to power in 2019, there are strong indications that he is interested in a second term in Aso Rock.

The appointment of the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, as the Director-General of the 2019 Buhari Campaign –which has not been denied, has removed any iota of doubt that it is only a matter of time before a formal announcement is made.

Buhari’s historic victory in 2015 was made largely possible by a combination of factors. They include, but not limited to, his personality; public discontent with the massive looting of the public treasury in the Jonathan’s government; the near collapse of security in the country and infighting among key stakeholders of the ruling People’s Democratic Party.

The icing on the cake was the ability of major opposition parties to come together to form the APC.

There were early signs that the control of the APC machinery by contending power blocks will lead to a war of attrition, but very few seemed to have paid attention to this. When Senator Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara, who joined the APC from the PDP, outsmarted the APC leadership to emerge as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives respectively, only a few political pundits predicted correctly that recovery from this act of political rebellion would take a while.

Matters were made worse by Buhari’s strange aloofness from the party.

Second Republic member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, said, “As soon as he became President, Buhari abandoned the party. He surrounded himself with relatives and individuals who contributed next to nothing to the party’s electoral victory. Party members, some of whom hold positions of authority, were left to do as they pleased.”

Matters were further complicated by the President’s long absence due to health challenges and his inability to take action against close aides and associates accused of corruption.

Buhari, who is eligible to seek a re-election in 2019, has a new set of challenges to contend with should he decide to run.

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu

Infighting among major stakeholders has become the order of the day within the APC. It is, perhaps, in recognition of this fact that Buhari recently named Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to lead efforts to reconcile aggrieved party members. This, however, has its own set of challenges. A leading member of the party, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, stated, “Tinubu is the chief aggrieved person. Some of us feel he was used and dumped and his political capital among some of his loyalists has been depleted.

“Worse of all, some of his lieutenants, who rebelled against him were empowered to give him a bloody nose in local elections in a place like Ondo. How do you explain what also happened in Kogi?

“I don’t think it would be wrong to assert that Tinubu’s task can best be described as mission impossible considering the time frame.”

The source recalled that Tinubu had never hidden his disappointment and dislike for the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. “What President Buhari has done is simply to give Tinubu a blank cheque to do as he pleases as long as he puts the party back in shape to win in 2019,” the source added.

The former Lagos State governor’s mission which, according to party insiders, is without prejudice to ongoing efforts by the party’s National Working Committee, is without doubt herculean; likely to be his toughest challenge yet.

The crisis of confidence between elements within the Presidency, the party and the leadership of the National Assembly, especially the Senate, will be a test case of how politically savvy the Jagaban of Borgu can be. This is aside from the fact that Kano, which is Buhari’s political fortress, is in turmoil owing to the war of attrition between Governor Abdulllahi Ganduje and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso.

Several state chapters of the APC are also contending with internal squabble. Prominent among these states are Kogi, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna and Enugu, just to mention a few. A resolution of these disputes is required to reposition the party if it must retain power.

A public affairs analyst and Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, Mr. Auwal Musa, expressed the opinion that the President must also act to halt the drift caused by un-elected individuals around him.

“Some of these individuals have been linked to allegations of shady deals right under the President’s watch,” he said.

The growing security threats occasioned by the wanton killings and destruction of property by killer herdsmen in the North-Central states of Benue, Plateau, Taraba and Kaduna, are also some of the major challenges staring the President in the face. Aside from his promise to deal with corruption, the President promised to secure the lives and property of Nigerians and improve the economy.

On the issue of the economy, a one-time member of the Board of the Nigerian Railways, Mr. Abdullahi Jalo, said, “Despite the propaganda by paid agents of this administration, I know Nigerians are asking questions. Are we better off now than we were in 2015? Despite claims of job creation, how many jobs have been lost? Politics aside, something has to happen to improve the economy if the President wants to seek re-election.”

Making inroads into the South-East, where he has had a long history of electoral defeats, is another challenge Buhari must surmount. Apart from his perceived marginalization of the zone in terms of political appointments, a large number of easterners still hold an impression that the President’s thoughts towards them are “thoughts of evil and not of good.”

The Director-General of Voice of Nigeria, a stalwart of the APC from the zone, Osita Okechukwu, has a different opinion of the issue. According to him, while it is true that the South-East appears to have been marginalized, especially in terms of appointments, the President has made up for this oversight in the area of development projects.

He said, “Today, this administration, which has not appointed as many south-easterners as the previous regime, has more than any administration in Nigeria’s history, committed itself to key infrastructural development projects such as railway lines, roads and the construction of the second Niger Bridge which has been abandoned for years.”

Speaking about permutations about Buhari’s chances in 2019, Elder statesman, Tanko Yakassai, explained that the dynamics vary from one part of the country to the other. He said, “In the North for instance, we should understand that there are so many people that will not have won elections had Buhari not contested in 2015.

“I cannot estimate in terms of percentage of the people who voted for Buhari in 2015; but I can say at least 50 per cent in urban areas are disappointed with his performance.

“The Yoruba people in the South-West are result-oriented people. They are sentimental in a different way. The sentimentalism of the Yoruba is such that, they can support you to get to office but that support cannot be guaranteed when you disappoint them.

“Another factor which should be taken into consideration is the fact that there is no longer the urge for power shift like we had in 2015. At that time, most of the people in the North just wanted power to return to the North. It came back to the North but if anything, we are worse off. People who thought that by voting Buhari, their lives will automatically be better now know better.”

A notable northern elite, Junaid Mohammed, however expressed a slightly different opinion.

He said, “If the APC presents Buhari as its candidate, like I know it will, unless they (officials) rig, he will not win a re-election because he has performed woefully by all standards.

The South-South National Vice-Chairman of the APC, Hilliard Eta, on his part said, “As far as I am concerned, the 2019 election has been won and lost. With Buhari as our candidate, our victory is sure.”

Apart from what some people and opposition have described as the current administration’s woeful performance; the seeming reluctance of Aso Rock to tame the unending killings by Fulani cattle rearers and the controversial reinstatement into office of some of Buhari’s kinsmen accused of corrupt practices, the President will need to convince the international community and some of the nation’s power brokers that the support he enjoyed in 2015 has not been misplaced.

Overcoming his health challenges and winning back the hearts and minds of Nigerians are perhaps the greatest challenges Buhari must surmount should he decide to seek re-election.

culled from Punch Newspaper