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

Sunday Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Isi­aka Wak­ili, Hamza Idris & Muideen Olaniyi

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

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