Buharists and the 2019 silhouette
Although, President Muhammadu Buhari has not openly declared his position whether to continue beyond 2019 or retire to his country home Daura for a possible retirement, emerging signals from principal actors in the political arena especially the President’s men indicate that Buhari is under pressure to take another shot at the presidency.
Whether the President accedes to the pressure and re-contest, as the 2019 silhouette draws nearer still remains an issue for discussion in the political arena.
Notwithstanding his silence over the matter however, a group of lawmakers under the aegis of the Buhari Support Group believe that President Buhari possess what it takes to lead the country beyond 2019. This may explain why the Leader of the group, Senator Abu Ibrahim has already declared support for Buhari’s candidature.
Senator Ibrahim told reporters at the presidential villa after a meeting with President Buhari that his members had started strategising and were presently holding series of meetings to mobilise massive support for the President’s victory in 2019.
According to the lawmaker, the group, an umbrella platform of about 180 different support organisations, which worked for the party’s victory in 2015, believes in President Buhari’s philosophy as well as his capacity to solve the myriad of the nation’s challenges as well as facilitate stability, prosperity and progress of the country.
Hear him out, “I believe in his philosophy and I believe he can solve the problems of this nation. He can ensure the progress, stability and prosperity of this nation.”
For the Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan who is also a member of the group, the All Progressives Congress (APC) under the leadership of President Buhari should be given another opportunity beyond 2019 to complete all that have been started, particularly in the areas of tackling insecurity, anti-corruption fight and the strive to revitalize the country’s economy.
These set of politicians are not the only ones urging President Buhari to represent himself for election. The Kaduna State governor Mallam Nasir El-Rufai who is a close ally of the President had also in September this year, declared that he along with other of his colleague governors and ministers were already working behind the scene to rally massive support for Buhari if he chooses to re-contest for the Presidency in 2019.
El-Rufai said these party stalwarts operating under the name ‘Buharists’ strongly believed in his ideologies and will rest at nothing in throwing their weight behind him anytime he declares interest for another four-year term.
The former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) spoke to State House Correspondents after he met behind closed doors with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He noted that the group will ensure President Buhari runs again in 2019, unless he (Buhari) tells them otherwise.
“We are Buharists. Our political ideology is to support whatever President Buhari wants to support, and that has not changed.
“We have a Buharist amongst governors, 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.
Prior to now, there had been insinuations that some agrieved members of the ruling APC who feel sidelined in the scheme of things by the administration have planned to lead a protest against his re-election bid.
Indeed the insinuations were rife that the elements had planned to use the just concluded National Executive Council, NEC, meeting to prove a point to those who claim that the party has been willed to them and most especially to use the NEC as a launch pad to boot out the National Chairman of APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun who they believe is in the fore front for Buhari’s return in 2019 and also architect of their problem.
But the plot, if it existed at all, was completely defeated as the National Chairman was given accolades by party members.
For political watchers, President Buhari deflated the plot with a combined deployment of military tactics and rising grasp of politics to handle the bourgeoning wrangling within the party.
Before the NEC, there were other meetings at the Presidential Villa where party Chieftains had held closed-door meetings with the President.
President Buhari had before the caucus, held a meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly led by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara as well as the APC National Chairman and the Chairman, Nigeria Governors Forum, Abdullaziz Yari perhaps to soothe the frayed nerves.
Immediately after that, there was yet another meeting which held between the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the President at the same Presidential Villa.
All this peace mission according to some political analysts was as a result of threats from some members of the party who see Oyegun as a stumbling block that should be done away with.
Aside aggrieved party members that want to kick the Chairman out, some members of the opposition parties were also expecting to see crisis in the party at least to brighten their chances in the 2019 elections.
But in the midst of negative expectations, Oyegun weathered the storm through the instrumentality of the President. The predicted war of Armageddon could not come to pass, instead it was all encomium from party leaders and the President for the National Chairman for doing great works with his team to steer the ship of the party aright.
In his remarks at the Caucus meeting, President Buhari enumerated the progress that the government has made in the implementation of the programs of the administration and the Party Manifesto.
He said, “We can be proud of our achievements in the last two years, Boko Haram, Niger Delta, Regular Fuel, Improved Power, TSA, Agriculture and Fertilizer, above all, the knowledge that corruption will not be tolerated in this Government. We all know there is change.
Nigeria’s prestige has gone up, Nigeria is now credit–worthy, a clear testimony of which was the over-subscription of the Euro-Bond by four times.”
One had expected some members of the party to wear gloomy faces after the caucus meeting, but majority of the members were full of smiles at the end of the meeting.
Speaking to journalists, Chief Oyegun said, “The APC is alive, the APC is strong, the APC is going to go places.”
For the former Governor of Yobe State, Senator Buka Abba Ibrahim, “some people thought that we had planned to kick out our National Chairman and that we will be having problems, but none of these things happened. It is a big party re-union and we are all happy. This party is going to conquer Nigeria politics space for a very long time to come. I don’t want to predict any number of years, but anything above 20, there is no need to have any fear at all.”
On his own, chairman of the NGF and Governor of Zamfara State said that the meeting showed unity in the party. He also said that it showed the strength and commitment to the party and to Nigerians.
“Some other people are now waiting to hear a bombshell that we will have some sort of crisis because it has taken time without having this kind of meeting. The second one, since the assumption of this administration, but one thing they should understand is that, when we came in to this administration, we came with huge hope from the people and we met a serious problem in place which we are trying to galvanize and work for the people of Nigeria. So our meeting shows that we are ready to serve the country.”
For the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, the unity displayed at the meeting was a testimony that the party was still firmly united and focused.
Mustapha said, “We want Nigerians to know that the party is united, the party is focused, we are prepared to serve the people of Nigeria. This is about mid term and I can assure you that we have achieved so much. In the very near future we will begin to unfold a lot of other programmes that will be for the benefit of the people of Nigeria.
“President Buhari sought the mandate of the people of Nigeria and he is going to give them the desires of their lives and meet the basic expectations of our people. We know that within the time frame, there is a lot to be done. I can assure you that we are going to succeed and deliver on our mandate for which the Nigerian people elected us. We will do everything within the meagre resources available to government to be able to fulfill the mandate for which we sought the people of Nigeria to vote for us. I can assure you that we will come out very strong, very resolute very determined.”
On the contributions he was expected to make in the APC-led government, the SGF said, “My responsibility is quite spelt out, mine is to coordinate the implementation of government policies and to serve as the think tank to the government. Basically, I know the role that I am supposed to play, it is not too much of a busy role, it is a role of coordination of government policies.
“Nigeria is huge, there are too many things to be done so that we can be able to meet the expectations of the people of this country.”
The Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello who spoke after the caucus meeting said the take away from the caucus meeting was unity of the party, strength of the party and leadership of the party under the wisdom and fatherly role of President Muhammadu Buhari and under the able leadership of Chief Odigie-Oyegun, adding that “APC is strong, APC is the party today and APC is delivering on her mandate.”
In his address at the NEC, Buhari thanked the Oyegun-led party leadership for their great work in the last two and a half years
He said, “I would like to start by commending our Party Leadership chaired by His Excellency, Chief John Oyegun. The Chairman and I worked harmoniously during 1984-85 in a previous government. Happily, circumstances have brought us again to positions of leadership in the country.
“I want to thank Chief Oyegun and his staff for steering the party in the last two and a half years. Sometimes it is easier to manage failure than to manage success – and a big success such as that we have achieved.”
He also showed his appreciation to state governors, for maintaining unity and tolerance in the face of stiff challenges. The President further commend the leadership of the National Assembly led by Senate President Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki and the Speaker. Yakubu Dogara, stressing, “I must place on record the cooperation and understanding of the National Assembly including some non-APC members who rose above petty party interests and acted in the national interest.”
In what critics called as subtle commencement of the 2019 campaign, President Buhari said that the administration was not resting on its achievements.
He said, “I am quite aware of the challenges before us. Last year I said we would re-constitute the Boards of Parastatals. I must regret the fact that we have not done so, for many reasons. Some of us in this meeting may know I had given instructions since October 2015 for this exercise to start.
“But there have been inordinate delays through several Committees in an attempt to get the balance right and to make sure all parts of the country are equitably represented.
On the other hand I am keenly aware that our supporters are very eager for these appointments to be announced. By the Grace of God these appointments will be announced soon. Especially now that the economy is improving, we will have the resources to cater for the appointees.
“By the same token the compressed Federal Executive Council will be expanded to bring in more supporters at Federal Level, with fresh ideas to be injected into the government. Let me thank you all again for the commitment and dedicated service to our Party and to remind you that much more will be required of you in the coming months. I hope we can continue to depend on you.
“If we keep united and rise above petty or personal quarrels we will surely achieve the desired change in the country.”
The APC NEC is the second highest decision -making body of the party after the national convention.
Signs of what was in the offing became apparent early in the day as some governors known to be close allies of the President extended a campaign they began at an event organised by the Buhari Support Organisation in Abuja.
During the meeting NEC meeting, one of the party members moved a motion asking that a vote of confidence be passed in the President and that he should be endorsed as the party’ s candidate for the forthcoming presidential election.
But some party members felt that considering the fact that aggrieved members had yet to be pacified, doing so would escalate tension in the party and adversely affect its chances.
Speaking to journalists after the NEC, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, explained that the Tuesday’ s NEC meeting was not about the 2019 elections but that there was a motion asking that first, a vote of confidence be passed in the President and then he should be endorsed as the party’ s candidate for the 2019 election.
Dogara said, “Today ’s 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.
We are not talking about elections. “Even though there was a motion on the floor that called for a vote of confidence in the President, some of us felt it was not necessary because there is nowhere that his confidence is shaking. But the motion was taken and passed.”
From the way the APC NEC went, it appears there is a level of unity as was displayed but what was not visible was the level of grievances among some members.
Buhari has the constitutional right as a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to contest. But will he win the APC primary? Even if he wins the primary, will Nigerians come out to vote for him massively the way they did the last time? Nigerians will watch as events leading to the election unfold.
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