2019 Presidency: Strong Signs Buhari’ll Run Again
How endorsement motion was shut down How Buhari succumbed to pressure on appointments APC governors’ gamble on Buhari ‘Why Atiku was absent’ APC’s NEC meeting produced nothing- Bode George
President Muhammadu Buhari for second term! This is the objective of some elements who have continued to call on the president to take another shot at the presidency. Although Buhari has not declared intention to remain in power beyond 2019, the possibility that he may do so cannot yet be totally ruled out as calls for a Buhari second term appear to have received the nod of the presidency.
“If they believe that the president is best positioned for another term, you cannot stop them for expressing their feelings and beliefs just like you cannot stop those who say the president must not run again,” The Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu told Daily Trust on Sunday. “The president is working. The vice president is working. So, there is nothing like distraction from governance.”
On September 6, barely three weeks after the president’s arrival from his London medical trip, the governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir el-rufai, visited Aso Rock and spilled the beans: a “Buharist group”, comprising state governors and ministers, has been constituted to push for the president’s second term.
El-Rufai, after meeting with the president, revealed to State House correspondents: “Everything that our group is doing, and we have a group, we have a Buharist [group] amongst governors and ministers,our group wants to ensure that President Buhari runs in 2019. If he chooses not to run, he will tell us which direction to go. We are Buharists, we don’t have any personal ambition, we don’t have any personal aspiration and we are waiting for him to decide.”
Already, Buhari’s political machinery are back at work, apparently reinvigorated. Penultimate Friday, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in Abuja, commissioned the secretariat of the Buhari Support Organisation (BSO) led by Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service Col. Hameed Ali, who, at the event, urged members to rekindle the journey they began in 2015 that resulted in entrenching the Buhari Administration.
The vice president, represented by the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Musa Bello, also relaunched the Buhari Support Group, an amalgamation of 189 different groups that worked for the president’s election in 2015. The leader of the Buhari Support Group, Senator Abu Ibrahim, later led the group’s national committee to a meeting with Buhari at the Presidential Villa. The senator urged Buhari to run for the 2019 presidency “because l believe in his philosophy. I believe he can solve the problems of this nation. He can ensure the progress, stability and prosperity of this nation.”
The leader of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, who is a member of the committee, encapsulated the group’s position in few sentences, saying by 2019, President Buhari will have achieved so much that he “will have no option but to continue the good work he has started. Mr. President and Nigerians have a future beyond 2019. What he has started, by the grace of God, he should be able to complete up to 2023.”
The group’s thinking may have gone down well with the president. In his remarks, Buhari termed the activities of the group as “sacrifices for the peace, progress and prosperity of the nation.”
‘’I am grateful for your sacrifices. Your work requires a lot of sacrifices both physical and material. I do not think anybody will join this organisation for material reasons. What you are doing is for the nation and not for me as an individual. Therefore, there is no way you can lose because what you are doing is for posterity,’’ he said.
At the National Executive Committee meeting of the All Progressives Congress in Abuja on Tuesday, President Buhari publicly regretted his failure to reconstitute boards of parastatals as pledged last year. He also announced a plan to appoint more ministers. Analysts are of the view that for the president to have announced this barely one-and-a-half years to the end of his four-year tenure could be a stratagem to pacify aggrieved elements within the party and strike a new power deal.
Earlier on Monday, a national leader of the ruling party, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu had put paid to the insinuations that his relationship with President Buhari had turned sour. He met privately with Buhari at the State House in Abuja and passed a vote of confidence on him. Tinubu equally dispelled media reports that an Aso Rock cabal had side-lined him. The former governor of Lagos State, however, declined comment on the calls for President Buhari’s second term.
“I have confidence in this president, there is no doubt about that,” Tinubu said. “We worked hard to bring about the government, there are certain things that are unpredictable and those are things that can lend themselves to gossips, insinuations and all of that. But 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.
“You know me. I am not known to shy away from speaking my mind and rebelling if necessary and taking charge of things that I believe are necessary.
Buhari on Monday reunited the APC. He presided over a nocturnal meeting of the party’s national caucus which reinforced support for the party leadership. The session was attended by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki, House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara, APC national chairman John Odigie-Oyegun, Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande as well as the governors of Sokoto, Niger, Kogi, Adamawa, Bauchi, Plateau, Katsina, Zamfara, Jigawa, Ondo, Kano, Benue, Oyo, Kebbi, Kaduna, Borno, Imo and Nasarawa States.
Former governors at the “family reunion” meeting included Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Ahmad Yarima (Zamfara), Martins Elechi (Ebonyi), Olusegun Osoba (Ogun), Olagunsoye Oyinlola (Osun), Bukar Abba Ibrahim (Yobe) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa) as well as a former military administrator of Lagos State Buba Marwa as well as an ex-speaker of the House of Representatives.
While addressing the National Executive Committee of the APC at its Tuesday’s meeting in Abuja, President Buhari rolled out a plan to appoint more ministers and members of boards of parastatals. Analysts say this is beyond the president’s anticipation of the resources required to cater for the appointees. They believe that for such a crucial plan to have been unveiled one-and-a-half years to the end of his four-year tenure, Buhari was out to pacify and woo aggrieved party elements for a new power deal.
The chairman of the All Progressives Governors’ Forum, Rochas Owelle Okorocha of Imo State, who visited Buhari on Thursday, acknowledged that the president has the right and the qualification to seek a re-election. However, it is doubtful whether Okorocha spoke for himself when he declared that there would be no automatic ticket for Buhari should he desire a second term.
“We don’t allow imposition of candidates. It must be democratically done. If President Buhari will lead the ship in 2019, it must be democratically done, and I said, democratically done, transparently to the amazement of the whole world, the way we do our things in APC and people will be happy,” he said.
Just yesterday, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, faulted newspaper reports that APC governors’ bid to secure automatic 2019 ticket for the president failed at Tuesday’s NEC meeting.
The presidential spokesman, in a column titled “PMB: Just Like the Mills of the gods”, said, “I was there. The atmosphere was friendly, almost convivial. At a point, someone moved a motion of confidence in the Buhari administration. The seconder, a former state governor, added to the motion, seeking an endorsement of the President as candidate for second term in 2019. As he raised the motion, I saw the President gesturing, with his two palms downwards. The gesture meant, please, cool down, not now. This is premature. And the National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, weighed in, accepting the motion of confidence, and deferring the one on automatic candidacy. Everyone was satisfied.
“You can imagine my consternation the next day, when I saw the newspaper headlines. It was as if some of them were reporting a meeting held in outer space. They said a bid by governors to get automatic ticket for the President had failed.”
Intrigues behind failed moves to endorse Buhari for 2019
Two governors were said to have spearheaded the move to stampede the NEC into making a proclamation that Buhari should be the lone presidential candidate of the party in 2019, one of them was from the North West while the other was from the North East.
A source very close to them said the governors, who are very close to Buhari, believed that if the trick succeeds, their relationship to the president would be cemented, despite the fact that they were urged to tarry a while considering the varied repercussions the
endorsement might elicit.
“The issue of endorsing Buhari for a second term was not even listed in the order of the NEC meeting but the two governors tactically directed their point-man, I don’t want to mention names, go and sort it out yourself, they told him to raise the issue at the meeting and they would support it vigorously,” he said.
Another source said leaders of the APC, despite not being averse to the endorsement, resisted the proposal.
“Members of the Chief John Oyegun-led National Working Committee (NWC) know the implication of endorsing Buhari at this time; they know many members of the party have not been happy in the last two years and would therefore not accept it. The meetings Buhari held before the NEC had succeeded in dousing tension but did not heal grievous wounds.
“And most importantly, there are many people who want to slug it out at the presidential primaries next year; you cannot brush aside the ambition of ex- Vice President Atiku Abubakar or ex- Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso. In fact, some serving APC governors would not mind getting the presidential ticket.
“Therefore, ruling out every other person in favour of Buhari would be suicidal, some of these people may revolt and move out of the APC en-masse and you know what that means. Forget about claims that they are a liability to the APC, the party is just dust without them. So, handlers of the party are being extremely careful but Buhari would ultimately get the ticket unless he says he is not interested, which is very unlikely,” he said.
The motion for the adoption was raised in the presence of Buhari himself as well as ex-officio members of the party’s NEC.
Others at the event were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Deputy Speaker Suleiman Lasun, 20 APC governors and one deputy governor, as well as the pioneer interim APC National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande. Others were Minister of Agriculture Audu Ogbeh, FCT Minister Mohammed Bello, Special Adviser to the Vice President on Political Matters Babafemi Ojudu, senators and members of the House of Representatives, among others.
During the party’s primaries in 2015, Buhari won with 3430 votes; Kwankwaso came second with 974 votes while Atiku scored 954 votes. Rochas Okorocha trailed behind with 624 votes Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah got 10 votes.
How the endorsement motion was shut down
Speaker Dogara was the one who actually confirmed that the APC deferred the endorsement of President Buhari when he briefed journalists on the outcome of the NEC meeting.
Dogara, who was flanked by the APC National Publicity Secretary, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, and the National Legal Adviser, Dr. Muiz Banire, spoke on the issue when asked to give the NEC position on the possibility of giving an automatic ticket to President Buhari in 2019.
“Today’s (Tuesday) meeting was not about 2019 elections. When we talk about 2019 in the context of the agenda you saw, we are talking about membership registration, the drive for membership and others,” he began, “We are not talking about elections. Even though there was a motion on the floor that called for a vote of confidence on the President. Some of us felt it was not necessary because there is nowhere that his confidence was shaking. But the motion was taken and passed.
“But there was a second leg to that motion which called for the adoption of the candidature of the president, but it was deferred for now and no decision was taken because that was not the major reason why we are here.”
But the APC National Publicity Secretary quickly played down the significance of the motion.
“Somebody in the crowd shouted that we should move a motion and we don’t even know that member. But the motion that was formally moved was that NEC should pass a vote of confidence on Mr President and that was after the brief given by the Minister of Agriculture, especially when he said that by 2018, Nigeria will have no need to import a single grain of rice. That is the context and I need you to understand that very well.
“The only discussion or conversation on 2019 was the activity of the party in 2018, especially the issue of convention. It was agreed that since we have all these activities lined up, including the mini convention, congresses and elective convention, a small team be set up to put dates to these party activities up to 2018. There was no discussion about election of 2019 or who will be the party flag bearer. The committee will decide when all these activities will take place. The NEC also passed absolute vote of confidence on [Chief John Odigie] Oyegun and the NEC,” he said.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the motion was postponed to enable the president address the grievances of party members who felt “used and dumped” after his 2015 electoral victory.
Soon after the meeting, key players in the APC kept the issue of the endorsement in front burner.
It was gathered that this Thursday’s meeting with Buhari was meant to strategize on how the president will make inroads into the South East to show more concern for them ahead of 2019.
How Buhari succumbed to pressure on appointments
Sources said President Buhari had to accept the reality of expanding his cabinet and appointing board members from APC following the series of complaints from various stakeholders, including governors, and the fears of revolt in 2019.
Both ex- presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, late Umaru Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan had large cabinets during their days by creating elaborate space to accommodate their supporters, if not for anything, to reduce agitation and have upper hand during election.
So strong were PDP governors in 2003 that Obasanjo attempted to make members of boards and parastatals as delegates for the party’s conventions, all in an effort to checkmate the powers of the governors who had control over delegates from their states.
Though Obasanjo could not succeed in that regards, he was able to have a field day while his second tenure lasted.
There was revolt in the last couple of months, with authorities in the APC saying they were either side-lined, or those that matter have allowed PDP members to have a field day, hence, making the vehicle heavily overloaded to move to anywhere.
The APC members, including governors and members of the National Assembly, were said to have raised this issue at the Caucus meeting on Monday, Oct 30, few days after the Comptroller General (CG) of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), retired Colonel Hameed Ali said the ruling APCled federal government seemed to find it difficult to move forward and achieve its targets because it has been infiltrated by so many PDP members.
The president, however, responded to this call at the NEC meeting.
Buhari said that he would expand the Federal Executive Council (FEC) which currently comprises 36 ministers, one from each of the states of the federation; a clear shift of ground from the promise he made in 2015 that he would maintain a trimmed cabinet in order to save cost of governance.
Buhari, who described the current cabinet as compressed, said the expansion would enable him bring in more supporters at the federal level, with fresh ideas to be injected into the government.
The president also said he regretted that for many reasons, he had not reconstituted boards of parastatals as promised last year.
He said that the appointments would soon be announced since the economy was now improving with the resources to cater for the appointees.
Unlike in the past, Buhari was soft spoken and more democratic during the NEC meeting, a development which many pundits say shows that is has dawned on Buhari that it takes more than personal integrity to maintain a political empire.
The president had literally kept the APC in bay since 2015, making the party seriously weak to work as a ruling party due to lack of funds and a listening ear in the corridors of power.
But Buhari had this time around changed his tune. “If we keep united and rise above petty or personal quarrels, we will surely achieve the desired change in the country,” he said.
APC governors’ gamble on Buhari
The APC governors, in separate interviews at the venue of the NEC meeting, expressed support for President Buhari’s candidacy.
Sources said those of them going for a second term would definitely count on Buhari’s towering influence at the grassroots to move on while those rounding up their tenures would also need him for future endeavours.
Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State said the future of the country would be good with President Buhari while Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State said he and many APC members would support President Buhari if he contests again in 2019 because of his performance in the last two and a half years.
Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong said they had resolved to work for Mr President if he continued to perform well and carry everybody along.
“Do we have any other person that will challenge the President? Whatever you call it, as far as we are concerned, we have one President and that is the ticket we will fly,” Lalong said.
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State said the president had been showing the right leadership and taking the right steps through the ongoing reconciliation moves. Atiku’s absent at NEC meeting One prominent chieftain of the APC whose absence was noticed at the NEC was Atiku.
Though those close to him said he did not turn up for the important meeting because he was on a business trip abroad, sources said the mere fact that he returned to Nigeria a day or two after the meeting attest to the fact that his spirit is far from the APC.
“You must understand the body language of our politicians; Atiku is seriously nursing presidential ambition and his chances in APC are very slim. Come on, what do you think would be his takeaway if he attended the meeting,” an insider said.
But when asked of the possibility of mass defection from the APC, considering Atiku’s absence, Speaker Dogara said the party would do everything possible to reach out to all the aggrieved members and ensure reconciliation.
“I don’t think that you can find any family that is as large as the APC family without some squabbles. No such family exists in the whole world and if there are disagreements, they are okay because without disagreements, you cannot even move forward,” he said.
Nothing came out of APC’s meeting- Bode George
In an interview on Friday, a chieftain of the opposition PDP, Chief Olabode George said the meetings held by the APC did not produce anything positive as expected of a ruling party.
“We told those who left the PDP for the APC that they are going from frying pan to fire, you are landlords here and would be tenants there; they have seen it. The APC is a congregation of strange bed fellows; they came together for one thing-to get the power but are they united as a political party?
“I kept challenging them that where are the members of your Board of Trustees (BoT) and where are the members of the caucus? Suddenly last week they had a NEC meeting after being in power for two and half years and yet they didn’t show us.
“They came up and said they are going to increase number of ministers! Does that bring food to the table of the common people? Does that massage the hunger in the lives of Nigerians? I don’t want to go into the merits and details of their programmes, we would meet with them next year…The APC is in hot soup, can the centre hold?” he asked.
“They are still struggling for positions; they are yet to melt into one body. The PDP from the beginning planted a seed; not a seed of discord but a seed of unity in this country
“They are just saying they want to have a national party but they have not left behind the sense of CPC, ACN, APGA, ANPP and the few from PDP,” he said.
President Muhammadu Buhari
Chief John Oyegun