Topics like this are going to feature prominently from now till 2019. And let it be clear from onset, that loyalists of President Muhammadu Buhari are the ones promoting this campaign. Before ordinary and innocent citizens are accused, pray they are not lynched, for being disrespectful and not allowing Buhari to enjoy his privacy regarding his fitness to continue in office now and after 2019, let it be clearly stated that it is Mr. President’s close associates that are peddling his capacity for more tasks. That only gives us, laymen something to ponder and talk about.
After he led some party members to visit Buhari in London, on Sunday July 23, party chairman, John Odigie Oyegun, again sounded bombastic of Buhari’s strength for 2019. Oyegun has never hidden his preference for Buhari on that subject. At every opportunity, the All Progressives Congress (APC) chief never wastes time to announce that the platform is all for Buhari, even without him asking.
Then, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu is also one of those who market Buhari’s fitness and acceptability. Upon his return from London last week, after he had a good and close-up view of his boss, who had been away for months, Garba could not help but announce that a rejuvenated Buhari was very fit for future elections. Garba told Arise News Network that Buhari is good enough to continue after this first term of four years. Garba also had cause to excoriate Buba Galadima, sometime last year, when the party chieftain dared to warn of the consequences of Buhari’s isolationist style of governance. Galadima was once a very close ally of the president since their days in the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), and now they are together in the APC. But it seems Buhari has found new political friends and is done with the likes of Galadima. The subtle threat by Galadima, that Buhari may not enjoy another resounding electoral support from the different groups in the APC should he seek another term angered Garba, and he swore that Buhari will win another election come what may. He told Galadima to find another job to do. He also said the goodwill Buhari has with the people is inexhaustible.
For Oyegun, Garba and others who are in the habit of foisting another term for the president, while we are just half way in a very tedious and laborious first term, it is their entitlement to be so positive and expansive. But they should not forget that the business of preparing a candidate to fly a party’s flag for an election is usually like a musical ensemble; requiring a multitude of efforts and participation. It is not done by decree.
Citizens are often stupefied whenever chief Oyegun canvasses ideas or attempt to intervene in policy matters. Despite his great wealth of experience in public administration, his run-of-the-mill political commentary is often a disservice to millions who look up to him for direction. At a time like this, when Nigeria requires urgency and tact to pull out of the road to anarchy and chaos, Oyegun and some others get very casual and cavalier.
The APC is a great party with great future, but it is in the hands of Oyegun and other leaders to enable it to fly or cause its fortune to flounder. For a party that has not convoked one leadership meeting since it was enthroned, it amounts to ridicule for a party chairman to gleefully announce 2019 without any recourse to the various power units and blocs in the party. The meaning of such actions is that one man has appropriated the powers of other members and organs of the party to decide which flag bearer would fly the flag come 2019.
In the tradition of parties, there is what is called primaries, which are congresses where members select or elect candidates to run for elections. It is usually a rigorous process of consultations, horse-trading and eventual election. It is also a costly exercise, because aspirants have to spend money to appease delegates who are coming from far-flung constituents. If the primary were to hold in Abuja, for instance, the party does not take responsibility for quartering delegates and attending to their housekeeping issues. They are usually exposed to antics of aspirants, who are allowed to persuade or buy their votes.
That was what we saw in the APC presidential primary of 2015, which held in Lagos. Oyegun could not have forgotten the tension-soaked horse-trading that gave the ticket to Buhari for the presidential election of 2015. He could not have forgotten the role played by stakeholders, the likes of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Rotimi Amaechi to ensure that the ticket is preserved for a Buhari, who had no resources and experience to prosecute a primary, where the likes of former vice president Atiku Abubakar was also in the race.
For the sake of the party, let APC consult widely on 2019, and in good speed, too. There is not much time left for that subject to be conclusively wrapped up, whether Buhari will run or not. There are other able bodied and well-experienced party members who are ready to run, should the president step aside. But for sake of sanity and good health of the party, it makes sense to allow an incumbent president to exercise right of first refusal. And that has to be done between now and December. But to continue to massage Mr. President’s fitness to run in 2019, when all factors seem not to be in his favour, is totally misleading.
On his part, Buhari should be a man of honour and integrity. He should free the party from his lordship and allow party organs to function. He does not need to listen to praise singers who will continue to shower him with borrowed accolades, characters that have never been in short supply, even during the military. Very soon, delegations will begin to visit Aso Villa to beg Buhari to run. That is not the way to go. We have seen all that in the 16 years of the PDP, and because the party was not led on the path of discipline and honour, it fell by the roadside.
Other party leaders and legacy partners who rallied the APC to victory in 2015 should not allow themselves to be intimidated. The way and manner congresses were conducted at the ward level recently pointed at the way the party has destined to go, just on the same ruinous path the PDP had gone. Some groups are being shut out in Kano, Rivers, Bayelsa, while in other states, the governors have deadened the capacity of opposition within to cry for help. The governors have cornered the delegates and that is the way it will go, from council, to state, to national.
Is that what Oyegun is relying on, to surrender the ticket of the party to Buhari in 2019? Are there no other good hands in the party who can do the things Buhari promised to do? They say, you may force a horse to the stream, but you cannot force it to drink. May God help Buhari to complete his remaining years in office in good health, but let him tell Oyegun and his tribesmen that it is failure on his (Buhari) part and gross failure on part of the party, if they cannot get one good man in the entire APC to carry on with their much-touted good intentions.
Let them bear in mind, that 2019 is delicate for Nigeria. It is delicate because Nigerians are tired of lies told by politicians and propaganda will not win that election. Not even hate speech. Only good men with high capacity can convince the hungry and angry crowd I see out there!