With Chief Orji Uzor Kalu—whose corruption charges have been given one of those famous All Progressives Congress (APC) deodorant treatments—gallivanting all over the country on a presidential campaign of which he is not a candidate and the Kano State Governor, Umaru Ganduje threatening legal action should the incumbent decide not to run at about the same time that some so-called Arewa Pastors were genuflecting before President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Rock, it was no surprise that he reportedly announced at the APC meeting on Monday that he would seek re-election next year.
I say reportedly because I was not at the meeting and the only evidence we have that Buhari indeed declared his bid were the statements by his spokesmen; first by Mallam Garba Shehu that “the president said he was responding to the clamour by Nigerians to re-contest in 2019” and the second, by Mr Femi Adesina, that other contenders should simply ‘run away’ because his principal would be seeking re-election. Taken together, what we can infer is that President Buhari wants to continue in office, not necessarily because of any sense of mission but rather in response to the ‘clamour’ by some Nigerians. That should tell the Olusegun Obasanjos and the Ibrahim Babangidas of this world that where Aso Rock is concerned, they are not Nigerian enough for their own ‘clamour’ to count!
Borrowing from the script written by the late General Sani Abacha, those aspiring to lead Nigeria no longer do so as a result of any conviction; it always has to be in deference to some dubious ‘clamour’. But what makes Buhari’s case somewhat pathetic is that he has admitted several times in recent years that he would spend only one term in office because of his advanced age. In an interview published in Daily Trust on 6th February 2011, shortly before the presidential election of that year which he contested on the platform of the defunct Congress for all Progressives Change (CPC), Buhari not only promised that it would be his last attempt, he was emphatic that if elected, he would spend only one term because “I am not getting younger. If I succeed and do one term, I will be 73 years old (by 2015).”
Of course, we know he changed his mind in 2012 to declare that he would run again, with the commencement of the negotiation towards the merger of opposition parties to form the APC but a similar pledge of one term was made on his behalf. In October 2014, the National Publicity Secretary of his defunct CPC, Mr Rotimi Fashakin, disclosed that Buhari would serve only one term of four years if elected President in 2015. This was what Fashakin said at the time: “General Muhammadu Buhari would do a term of four years (and) then hand power over to somebody younger. You can take that to the bank. He is going to be the stabilizing factor in Nigeria. Nigeria needs a strong leader like Buhari, who is in the mould of Mandela, who stabilized South Africa. That is what Buhari is going to do and four years are enough for him to do that. After stabilizing the nation, he will hand over to somebody younger, whom he would have groomed. This is why we are asking Nigerians to give Buhari a chance. He has the capacity, temperament and courage to rescue and stabilize this country. Just four years of Buhari, Nigeria will not remain the same.”
In what was interpreted to be an affirmation of that pledge, three weeks after assuming office, on 16th June 2015 to be specific, President Buhari told a cross-section of Nigerians living in South Africa on the sideline of the African Union (AU) summit in Johannesburg: “How I wish I became the 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”.
While President Buhari may have changed his mind, to which he is entitled, his handlers must begin to look for reasons other than “the clamour” from Nigerians for his aspiration. Clamour will not sell, especially for an incumbent who, quite naturally, should run on his record. While some people are merely using the president to achieve their own political goals, there are others who want to retain their privileges, like the smart alecs now deploying professional colleagues to re-loot Abacha loot to the tune of billions of Naira!