The silent crisis rocking the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), may not have been abated despite incessant denials, as the recent endorsement of the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari for another term in office by seven governors, notably of Northern extraction seems to have been generating rancours among the rank and file of the party and Nigerians.
It would be recalled, that the leadership of the party, led by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in the late 2017 has declared all elective position of the party opened to all candidates.
Bola Tinubu, in a swift encounter with the media on the salient issue, insisted there would be no automatic ticket for anyone, including the presidential seat in the upcoming 2019 general elections; an indication that, even the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari will have to fight for shirt at the party’s primary as applicable in the football arena, before he can contest the Presidential slot in 2019.
Alas! in what many described as a show of affluence and disloyalty to the party’s hierarchy, not few Nigerians were shocked at the recent counter declaration by seven governors, mainly of the Northern extraction, led by the Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, declaring their automatic endorsement for President Buhari to ‘carry go’ as their sole candidate for the 2019 presidential slot. Others involved in the endorsement were Abubakar Bello (Niger); Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe); Yahaya Bello (Kogi); Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano); Jibrilla Bindow (Adamawa) and Simon Lalong (Plateau).
The Endorsement, the El-Rufai’s Gate
Expectedly, some party stalwarts have expressed disappointments over what they described as overbearing attitudes of some of the ruling APC governors, particularly on significant issues meant for collective bargain among file and rank of the party. Such views declared the endorsement of the President against the party’s position, as a mere macabre dance by the Nasir El-Rufai led seven governors.
Governor El-Rufai who spoke to journalists as they emerged from the session with Buhari, said they remained committed to the President’s re-election bid and that they owed no one no apologies for endorsing Buhari, even whether Buhari’s immediate family like it or not, some Nigerians quarried.
“We are politicians and those of us you see here want the President to contest the 2019 election. We have no apologies for that.
“We believe in Mr. President, we want him to continue running the country in the right direction. People can speculate about 2019, we have no apologies. Whether they are right or wrong is beside the point.
“Everybody is entitled to his own opinion, but as governors, and most of us here with the exception of Yobe Governor, are first time governors. We are interested in continuity and stability and we want the President to continue with that.” El-Rufai declared.
How genuine is Governors’ Endorsement?
Not few analysts have queried the performances of the seven governors in their various states, who many believed hide under the undisputable moral standi of President Muhammadu Buhari to have won the positions as governor in 2015. Such school of taught believes, the President actually provided some of the APC governors in question, soft landings to power in the 2015 polls, hence the umbrella endorsement.
Also, an insider at the Aso Villa described the endorsement by the governors as one of the game plan synonymous with the Kaduna state governor, Mallam El-Rufai. The source admitted that the make-believe endorsement was the sole agenda of the Kaduna state governor, and a well-marshalled scheme in galvanizing the unsuspecting six others, to join in marketing himself (El-Rufai) to the warm embrace of the President for endorsement as possible successor, in case the indifferent President Buhari rescind his yet declared 2019 ambition on health ground.
Corroborating the source, it would be recalled that, at the declaration, the Kano state governor, Ganduje, in his comment, told the press men, that the coming together of the seven governors was a mere coincidence.
He said: “We are seven in number here but we came separately not for any purpose but after the Friday prayers, we decided to say hello to Mr. President. It’s just a coincidence that we met in the Mosque and some joined us later and we decided to go and greet him.”
The comment by Ganduje though a clear indication that Mallam El-Rufai might be playing the ostrich, but the rancours generated by the declaration has left the APC in disarray as a party. Though more Nigerians have criticized the move as insensitive, describing it as a banana peel that befell the opposition PDP ahead of the 2015 presidential election, which the APC as a party is toiling.
Notable Nigerians faults endorsement, says timing is wrong
Ayodele Fayose, Governor of Ekiti State, and Shehu Sani, Senator representing Kaduna Central, have described the endorsement of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term in office by seven northern governors as the height of contempt and lack of empathy.
Sani has flayed seven governors from his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, for asking President Muhammadu Buhari to contest for the President in 2019 despite the killings in several parts of the country.
This came barely 24 hours after 73 persons killed by suspected herdsmen in Benue were buried. The senator took to his official Twitter handle to condemn the governors’ endorsement, describing it as unfortunate.
“Seven governors in the Villa asking President Buhari to run at this material time when all hands should be on deck to advise or support him to end the mindless bloodletting and carnage in the country is most unfortunate. Human reasoning and human conscience where art thou?” he said.
Senator Sani, also berated the President for not to have visited Benue state, he posited that elders from the state shouldn’t have visited President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Villa over the recent killings of their indigenes by Fulani herdsmen. He said instead, it is the president that ought to have visited them in their state to sympathise with them.
According to him, it has always been an African tradition that when a man is bereaved, it is people that come visiting to condole with him and not the other way round.
“I believe in our African tradition, when you are bereaved, it is people that visit you, you don’t go visiting people. The Benue elders need to stay at home and the villa should go to Benue and not Benue coming to the villa”.
“When we have a crisis is some parts of the country, it is symbolic to see the leadership of the country moving to that very spotlight, giving the people hope, confidence and assurance. Sani opined.
Fayose, however, described comments by the northern governors in time of fuel scarcity and herdsmen killing as unfair to the plights of Nigerians.
Fayose via his official twitter handle wrote:
“No fuel, killings in Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Rivers, etc. But some people’s response to all these is to endorse President Buhari for second term. What a way to treat Nigerians with contempt.”
In his weekly article, The Pendulum, Dele Momodu, veteran journalist and publisher of Ovation Magazine, have condemned Buhari for not attending, or sending a representative to the mass burial of almost 80 Benue State residents murdered by herdsmen. He said Buhari’s absence at that funeral was a missed opportunity, not the infamous endorsement by seven governors.
“What should have been a special occasion for national rebirth and reformation was frittered away by the sheer arrogance of the ruling class,” he wrote. “What should have been a day of national mourning was treated with such recalcitrance, and possible disdain.”
Professor Ango Abdullahi a spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum, in a recent interview with journalists, described the recent endorsement of President Muhammadu Buhari by APC governors as an act of corruption because other interested aspirants are deprived the right to contest.
“On the issue of endorsement of President Buhari by APC governors, I see this as corruption and it’s sad that we are fighting against corruption and we render ourselves to it. In fact, this the first place to fight against corruption.”
“With this endorsement people are afraid of contesting elections in their states. Some governors are promoting this. A governor pays some people money to endorse him as governor and Buhari as president.”
“Other members of the party should be given chance to participate in open or direct primary to cast their votes for candidates of their choice. This is democracy in the real sense.
Like him or hate him, one Nigerian who many have admitted cannot be whisked aside in the political trending in Nigeria is the former President Olusegun Obasanjo. It is recalled, it took almost the entire leadership of the APC before the 2015 presidential poll to convince Chief Obasanjo to back Buhari candidacy. Once that endorsement was secured, the APC chiefs felt more confident in rallying the votes for Buhari, the rest was history. In fact, it was the ex-president Goodluck Jonathan described Chief Obasanjo as ‘boss of bosses’ “Any politician who ignores Obasanjo,” moaned Dr. Jonathan, “does so at his own peril.
Obasanjo has in the week, issued a special press statement on the state of the Nigerian nation. While reiterating his desire not to return to partisan politics, the former military head of state who later became a civilian president in 1999 used his lengthy press release to ask President Muhammad Buhari not to seek a second term in 2019:
“I knew President Buhari before he became President and said that he is weak in the knowledge and understanding of the economy but I thought that he could make use of good Nigerians in that area that could help.
Although, I know that you cannot give what you don’t have and that economy does not obey military order. You have to give it what it takes in the short-, medium- and long-term.”
“Then, it would move. I know his weakness in understanding and playing in the foreign affairs sector and again, there are many Nigerians that could be used in that area as well. They have knowledge and experience that could be deployed for the good of Nigeria.”
“There were serious allegations of round-tripping against some inner caucus of the Presidency which would seem to have been condoned. I wonder if such actions do not amount to corruption and financial crime, then what is it? Culture of condonation and turning blind eye will cover up rather than clean up. And going to justice must be with clean hands.”
“I only appeal to brother Buhari to consider a deserved rest at this point in time and at this age. I continue to wish him robust health to enjoy his retirement from active public service. President Buhari does not necessarily need to heed my advice. But whether or not he heeds it, Nigeria needs to move on and move forward.”
“The herdsmen/crop farmers issue is being wittingly or unwittingly allowed to turn sour and messy. It is no credit to the Federal Government that the herdsmen rampage continues with careless abandon and without finding an effective solution to it. And it is a sad symptom of insensitivity and callousness that some Governors, a day after 73 victims were being buried in a mass grave in Benue State without condolence, were jubilantly endorsing President Buhari for a second term! The timing was most unfortunate.” Obasanjo stressed.
Asked, whether he would endorse President Buhari for a second term, while fielding question from journalists recently in London, the chief endorsement merchant, Obasanjo, replied tersely, that it was not time to respond to such a question.
Though, it is not hard to tell when Chief Obasanjo is seething, but was right to dodge the question, on account that Buhari has himself not indicated whether he will be seeking re-election. But both the question and the answer are indications all is not well with President Buhari’s second term ambition.
How Real is the Crack in APC over Endorsement?
It recalled that, Tinubu had stated severally that none of the serving governors will receive automatic ticket during the 2019 general election, including the presdient.
Tinubu who was in Akure on a private visit recently to the leader of the Pan Yoruba Socio- Political Group, Afenifere Pa Reuben Fasoranti was reacting to endorsement of President Buhari by some governors in the ruling APC. His visit to the leader of Afenifere was seen by many as a realignment with the mainstream Yoruba Group ahead of the 2019 general election. Tinubu declared that “no governor can appropriate the power of endorsement to themselves adding that an individual opinions “ does not matter at this stage”
The leader of the APC, was visiting Fasoranti almost after 14 years when he parted ways with the mainstream Afenifere to form a splinter group called Afenifere Renewal Group ARG.
Also, indications emerged that the absence of the National leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu at a dinner held last Thursday at the official residence of President Muhammadu Buhari was another evidence of notable cracks in the party. Also absent at the dinner were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Chief Bisi Akande. Though, the absent of Osinbajo was said to have been based on national assignment which took him out of the country, but that of the two prominent leaders of the party from the South-west has been widely speculated to be the presumed follow up to the Cold War among leaders of the APC on restructuring and speculations over plans the Buhari’s endorsement against the party’s hierarchy ratification.
At a meeting of the Northern states governors recently, Governor of Borno State Ibrahim Shettima said any restructuring that may be done should be writhing acceptable criteria and must be fair to all component parts of the country.
APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, led others that include Former Governor of Sokoto, Wamako, APC National Secretary, Mai Mala Buni, Former Abia State Governor Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, SGF Mr Boss Mustapha, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, Abubakar Kawu Baraje, Senator Adamu Abdullahi, Senator Aliyu Wamakko, APC Deputy National Chairman SouthWest and former Governor of Ekiti State Engr Segun Oni and National Secretary of the Party, Alhaji Mai Mala Buni
However, DAILY ASSET gathered that, President Buhari is not comfortable with the position of Tinubu on the issue of no automatic ticket for Buhari and all APC Governors. This, he said informed fresh realignment that will help to gather votes needed from the South West to support mass vote expected from the North West, North East and part of North Central.
But on the contrary against such insinuation there is crack in APC, particularly among the party hierarchy, the Governor of Imo State and Chairman of the All Progressives Congress Governors’ Forum, Rochas Okorocha, has said that the governors elected on the platform of the party, have unanimously agreed that President Muhammadu Buhari deserves a second term in office and have therefore asked him to declare to run in the next election.
Okorocha gave the hint while fielding questions from journalists at the Sam Mbakwe International Cargo Airport, Owerri, on his arrival from Abuja recently.
He stated that the President had justified his first term mandate and should have his mandate renewed.
He also revealed that the APC governors had unanimously endorsed the reappointment of the former Governor of Rivers State, who is currently the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, as the Director-General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation.
He said that Amaechi did well as the Director-General of the campaign outfit in 2015 and therefore should be allowed to repeat such a good work.
Okorocha said, “We were in Abuja for three days, holding meetings of the Progressive Governors with the APC leadership. We deliberated on so many issues. First among the very important issues that we discussed, was the issue of Mr. President’s second term bid and it has the endorsement of all the governors of the APC.
“There is the need for him to complete his second term as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and he should go ahead to declare (to run for reelection).”
“We also deliberated and a unanimous decision was reached that we liaise with the campaign team, to be headed by the Minister of Transportation, Amaechi, as the Director-General.
“The governors also endorsed his (Amaechi’s) reappointment as the Director-General of the campaign team due to his track record ahead of the last election.
“Four years are not enough to show what the President can offer. We believe that another four years will bring out the best in him. The first four years are a very difficult period, and we believe that as things are stabilising, he will take Nigeria to the next level.
“The governors have serious responsibilities. All the governors were asked to put up a team as the campaign council.”
Will Buhari Dare Electorate in 2019?
Though the President Buhari is yet to declared his bid for another term, but there were clear indications that the President will seek re-election, following comments by some of his close allies.
Until some two weeks ago, before the herdsmen rage exploded again upon Benue State, it was taken for granted that President Muhammadu Buhari would be seeking a second term, regardless of his age and controversial record in office for the past two years and more. Not only was he seemingly persuaded in his own mind to contest, seeing that he actively gave the impression and spoke in tones that suggested he was not averse to that ambition, many of his supporters and even enemies had also concluded he would take that fateful step.
A front-line northern group, the Arewa Youth Forum (AYF) has described the intention of President Muhammadu Buhari to seek a second term in office as inhuman and an insult to the collective sensibilities of Nigerians.
The elite northern group said the president had shown lack of care and sympathy for Nigerians, at a time of fuel scarcity, rising cost of living and wanton destruction of lives and property, as currently being witnessed in Benue, Kaduna, Rivers and Adamawa States.
In a statement, the forum’s Leader, Alhaji Gambo Gujungu said Nigerians had expected a more purposeful leadership from the champion of change Buhari claimed he was, but his actions in the face of the wanton killings in several states across Nigeria had proved otherwise.
“We are appalled to hear that in the midst of all these the president and his men have already put in place measures to kick start his re–election bid for 2019.
“As the apex body of youth in the 19 Northern states and Abuja with affiliates across the country, we see the re-election bid of Mr. President at this point in time as inhuman, uncalled for and an insult to the sensibilities of the suffering Nigerian masses.
“On the magnitude of the killings, we expect the president to visit some of the states and when he came to Kaduna, he should have condoled with the people or even visited the affected area,” Gujungu said.
Though yet ratified as sole candidate, his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) had gleefully assumed they had an unbeatable candidate; and the dispirited leading opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is yet to find its rhythm and soul, knew they had a tough battle on their hands to find an agile and indomitable candidate who could take the battle to the presumed APC standard-bearer. Indeed, they were already despairing, as the APC was exulting, until after the paroxysms of anger and grief in Benue in recent time, no one is sure anymore whether President Buhari is that invincible champion they swore an oath to back to the hilt, or whether in fact he himself still sees his candidacy, if not victory, as a foregone conclusion.
Though, one month in politics can be one year as the saying goes, but the doubts being sown in President Buhari’s heart and the hearts of his backers will not only linger until the party picks its ticket and adopt a platform later in the year.
It would be recalled in the week that, the presidency denials of insinuations that President Muhammadu Buhari has thrown in the towel on 2019 ambition. But the presidency has openly denied such, insists that such decision has never been taken by the President.
But with such boost coming from the governors, pundits believes such move can never be whisked aside. Sycophancy endorsement is what typical Nigerian politicians uses as alibi while seeking re-election into the political space.
However, Buhari’s political zone, the North-west is the most populous zone in terms of the APC membership and in terms of electoral victory for President Buhari in 2015. All the seven governors from the zone were produced by the party in 2015 while 20 out of the 21 senators in the zone are from the APC.
For instance, the top three votes Buhari got in 2015 were from states in the zone. He got the highest vote in Kano State 1, 903,999, he got the second highest from his home state, Katsina, 1,345,441 votes while he got 1,127,760 votes from Kaduna State. The three states combined gave him four million, three hundred and seventy-seven thousand, two hundred votes which is far more than the whole votes of the six Southwestern states where he had 2,433,193votes.
APC also won all the governorship seats in North-East except Gombe and Taraba States but the President still won the presidential election with three hundred and sixty one thousand, two hundred and five. In Atiku’s Adamawa State, the President got 374,701 votes.
The total number of votes the party recorded in four North East states of Taraba, Gombe, Yobe and Adamawa was 1,443,497 votes which were not up to that of Kano state and just little more than his home state of Katsina.
However, a close aide of Buhari who does not want his name in print because the President has not authorized anyone to speak on the matter said if the result of the 2015 presidential election is anything to go by, it will be a great error for Northern leaders not to endorse Buhari from North West part of the country which has the highest number of voters in the country.
However, for President Buhari, the choices before him are stark and uncomplicated: whether to seek another term or leave office in a blaze of hurrays. His aides and supporters, including some governors, will still egg him on. No one among them, at least no one of substance around the president, will have the courage to advise him against a second term. But in the end, the choice will be his to make; and that choice will make or mar him. It is no longer certain on account of the toll his health challenges have taken on his presidency, neither whether his family still needs his family love outside what his office pressure portends.
- Sola Omosola Akingboye graduated from Lagos State University, Ojo and also an alumni of International Institute of Journalism, Abuja. The Abuja based Media Consult is a member of NUJ, FCT Chapel; Member, Nig Energy Correspondents and affiliate of other proffesional bodies such as Believe in Nigeria Initiative (BINI); Change Agent for Positive Transformation (CAPT); OSHA Association for Industrial Safety in Nigeria. He is currently an Associate Editor and Chairman Editorial Board Informavores.com.ng.