• Friday, July 12, 2024
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BusinessDay

Buhari’s ‘count me out of 2023’ declaration ignites fresh permutations

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari had not too long ago made a solemn declaration not to contest for a third term in 2023, he however, insisted that his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), must not exit with him.

The President made the terse declaration at the last National Executive Committee (NEC) of the APC in Abuja, citing age, respect for the constitution and the Holy Book (Qur’an) with which he took the oath of office, as reasons.

“I am not going to make the mistake of attempting a third term. Beside the age, I swore by the Holy Book that I would go by the constitution and the constitution said two terms. I know that I’m in my last term and I can’t afford to be reckless because I’m not going to ask for anybody’s vote,” Buhari had stressed.

Prior to the open disclosure, there were reports that President Buhari or the ‘Cabal’ in the Presidency was rooting for his re-election for the third time in 2023.

Political pundits had alleged that the ‘Cabal’ in the Presidency was leaving no stone unturned, including constitutional amendment, arm-twisting of the judiciary, pocketing the Electoral Umpire,  making the legislature a rubber-stamp and by castrating Civil Society Organisations ( CSOs) to ensure tenure elongation for the President.

Particularly, an erstwhile political associate of Buhari who is now the National Chairman of Reformed All Progressives Congress, rAPC, Buba Galadima, had raised the alarm that the President may be contesting in the 2023 presidential election.

Galadima said the forces controlling Buhari were planning to lure him into running for third term, alleging that the present administration had pocketed the judiciary and was doing all it could to muzzle the opposition.

According to him, Buhari had already pocketed the judiciary, and he feels that nothing will happen, and that he will be victorious at the court. His government has destroyed the judiciary and this is very troubling for democracy, and our nation.”

Similarly, human rights activist and lawyer, Femi Falana had alleged that President Buhari was secretly working towards a third term agenda as all moves by the President and his men were pointing to tenure elongation ambition.
Falana cited some of the moves by the president such as trying to stifle free speech, a crackdown on the media, including the new media, disobedience of court orders as a pointer to tenure elongation agenda.
“You heard this group demanding a third term for him and the President trying to distance himself in a very unconvincing manner. I have no doubt there is a third term agenda…”, he said.

In the face of these political permutations, Buhari denied such insinuations at the gathering of all those who matter in his party and indeed to Nigerians.

While his declaration sounded statesmanly, his insistence that APC must retain power beyond 2023 sent loud signals to political actors, especially those at the other side of the divide such as the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which according to insiders is regrouping to recapture power at Buhari’s exit.

He reminded the APC top brass that “at the meeting of the caucus, I made some comments, which are still relevant here but to me, the most important is that every member of NEC should reposition himself or herself to make sure that you have dominated your constituency politically. The aim is that, history will not be fair to us outright if the APC collapses at the end of this term”.

The President’s decision not to seek third term and the resolution that his party must retain power after the present dispensation have opened up two prime arguments in the political discourse of the country. These are the party to control government especially at the centre and the zone to produce the next president.

Some political analysts who preferred anonymity said the statement by the President that APC must not go with him should not be taken for granted, especially by the main opposition PDP as it is indicative of the intention to make sure the party cling the Presidency either by hook or crook.

“The declaration by the President not to contest for third term and at the same time declaring that APC must retain power, casts a lot of doubts on the 2023 Presidential election. This should not be taken for granted considering what Obasanjo did in 2007 and of course what the APC just did to win second term for Buhari. It is a bad omen for the 2023 Presidential polls”, said an analyst, who asked not to be named.

Another rising concern following Buhari’s declaration is whether there would be power shift from the North, comprising North/East, North/West and North/Central to the South, made up of South/East, South/South and South/West in 2023.

Since the return to civil rule in 1999 the issue of power sharing has always been on the front burner of national political discourse. At the beginning, the Presidency was zoned to the South/West by the PDP which featured Obasanjo who ruled for eight years.

After the South/West or Obasanjo tenure in 2007, PDP zoned the Presidency to North/West and nominated the late President Umaru Yar’Adua who died before the end of his tenure and was by the provision of the constitution succeeded by his Vice, Goodluck Jonathan.

The death of Yar’Adua altered the power sharing formula by the PDP as the party nominated his successor, Jonathan from South-South for 2011 Presidential election when he was re-elected and in 2015 when he was defeated by the incumbent, Buhari from North-West.

The 2019 Presidential election was almost devoid for agitation for power shift as the ruling party nominated Buhari from the North-West for second term while the main opposition PDP featured former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from North-West for Presidency.

However, there are already serious agitations for power shift to the South with each of the geopolitical zones claiming right to the office of the Presidency while the North is also indicating the interest to retain power even as one of their own would finish eight years tenure in 2023.

As it is, in the South, only the South-East has not produced the Presidency in the 20 years of Nigeria’s civil rule.
But as the agitations have begun, all the other Southern geopolitical zones have indicated interest with former Lagos State governors, Ahmed Tinubu and Babatunde Fashola both of the APC from South-West are said to be eyeing the Presidency just as Rotimi Amaechi of the APC from South-South, while several names are being touted in South-East such as Rochas Okorocha (APC), Ike Ekweramadu (PDP), Peter Obi (PDP), Ogbonnaya Onu (APC), Ken Nnamani (APC), among others.

While the Buhari decision not to run in 2023 would have made an express way for the South not to contend with an incumbency from the North, there are serious permutations that the PDP, for instance, may feature Atiku Abubakar and Governor Aminu Tambuwal for Presidency and the APC may consider Governor Nasiru El-Rufai from the North.

The political rigmarole of retaining power in the North has been buttressed by groups and political commentators including Yerima Shettima, president of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, who insisted that the North would produce the next president when Buhari leaves office in 2023 as the current administration has not favoured the North and that it is purely a South-West government.

“I don’t know who is going to be the next president of Nigeria until we see those who will declare interest. However, talking about the zone, which should produce the President in 2023, I have said it on many occasions that the North will produce the next President and you could see that the issue is becoming very clear,” he said.

Shettima further said: “I don’t just make pronouncement on something I am not sure of. We are sure that this government has not favoured the North. This government is purely a South-West government. They have taken everything. Even in the National Assembly, somebody was working to ensure that his interest is protected to make it easy for him to become President come 2023, but unfortunately, the party itself will die before 2023.”

Meanwhile, APC Governors under the auspices of Progressives Governors’ Forum, chaired by Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi have begun moves to choose amongst them, President Buhari’s successor in 2023.

Their first strategy is the alleged plot to remove the party’s National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole so as to take full control of the party’s structures at all levels to make it easier for one of their own to clinch the party’s ticket for the 2023 Presidential election.

According to credible sources within the party’s hierarchy, the APC governors are afraid of Oshiomhole for two reasons – his high-handedness in handling party affairs as experienced in the 2018 primaries and his alliance with Bola Tinubu who is also eyeing the Presidency.

“You see, the APC governors want one of their colleagues to succeed Buhari and they know that in doing that they have to first remove Oshiomhole as national chairman to have express way. Their fear is that Oshiomhole is too hard to bend and they don’t want to give room for what happened to Okorocha and Amosun. You know that Oshiomhole single-handedly stopped the two former governors from choosing their successors.

“Also, the Tinubu factor is another serious reason the governors want Oshiomhole removed because if he is allowed to remain in control, he will ensure Tinubu gets the APC ticket for 2023. Mind you, it was for that reason that Tinubu brought Oshiomhole as APC National Chairman to help him secure Presidential ticket for 2023,” a source in the ruling party told our correspondent.

 

James Kwen, Abuja