Can a Nigerian politician ever be trusted? A difficult question that cannot be easily answered as what matters to them is all about their personal interest rather than the interest of the people or nation. Many voices insist this is the lesson the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration have taught most Nigerians that trusted him to deliver on his promises. In this report, AMOS DUNIA takes a look at the anti-Buhari build-up ahead of the 2019 elections, with additional reports from MUSA SIMON REEF.
The political haze ahead of the bumpy journey to 2019 appears so thick and is further worsened by one of the deadliest security situations ever witnessed in the country. There is confusion everywhere in the land and no sphere of life or sector is spared. It is strictly turning into a rat race and survival of the fittest.
The fanfare and joy of the people that welcomed and heralded the election of President Muhammadu Buhari and his subsequent swearing in on May 29, 2015 were overwhelming as Nigerians, with high hopes, presumed that the country would soon bounce back as one of the most respected countries in the world where their aspirations would be met. Unfortunately, such hopes after almost three years seem to have been built on a mirage that can only be imagined, but never experienced.
It is therefore not surprising that ahead of the 2019 general elections, there is a groundswell of stiff opposition against President Buhari’s decision to seek a second term. Apart from various groups opposed to the second term bid by the Daura-born General, numerous issues are militating against his comeback bid.
Former Leaders Kick
Just recently, two former presidents, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and General Ibrahim Babangida, came out smoking with similar messages to Nigerians. While Obasanjo pointedly asked Buhari not to contest in 2019 owing to what he described as a woeful performance, former military President Babangida, on his part, was more diplomatic in approach, insisting that the political leadership of the nation should be handed over to the younger generation since the older team had failed to deliver. As if that was not enough, former Chief of Army Staff and Minister of Defence, respected General TY Danjuma (retd) was forced to voice out his frustration over the unabated but targeted killings by Fulani herdsmen believed to be enjoying the support and protection of some people in government.
With the planned move by Obasanjo to galvanise support against the Daura General turned politician, the prospects for a comeback bid may suffer a setback.
Interestingly, either as a result of lack of tact or confusion within, the President and his team are engaged in avoidable monumental mistakes that further widen the gap between the government and the people. An example being his recent visit to the United Kingdom where the President, in response to a question, completely veered off the mark only to pour vituperation on Nigerian youths that gave him massive support in 2015, but who have not been given the opportunity to excel in their own land. No thanks to a generation that had everything done for it but has refused to allow same benefits get to others after them.
Shortly before Buhari jetted out of the country for the United Kingdom, he wittingly declared his intention to go for a second term in office come 2019 at the National Executive Committee (NEC), meeting of his party, the All Nigeria Progressives Congress (APC), in a move seen by political pundits as ‘self-serving’.
But in a contradictory remark during his meeting with the British Prime Minister, Mrs Theresa May, the President told his host that he was more pre-occupied with the economy and security of the nation than bothered about the 2019 elections. Unfortunately, his economic policies and team have rather forced the economy on its knees as the figures of prospering economy do not add up to the realities on ground.
The President, who in 2011 said he would not serve more than a term in office if elected owing to old age having clocked 69 years then, made a detour seven years after, without giving an explanation for his change of mind.
On security, the different security agencies seem to have lost the fight as the killings by Fulani herdsmen and armed bandits have continued unabated, with devastating effects more on the citizenry. The ugly trend recently forced the House of Representatives to pass a vote of no confidence on heads of the security agencies in the country. The move by the federal legislature, whose upper chamber suffered below-the-belt blow penultimate week, has called on President Buhari to change the leadership of the nation’s security architecture, criticized as the most skewed since independence. The question on the lips of many is: If a President that is desirous to go for a second term could bother less with regards to his deep rooted nepotism nature, what would happen in his second term to other Nigerians that are not of his tribal and religious extraction?
Former President Obasanjo alluded to this when he said that he had never witnessed a time in the country’s history that Nigerians have been this divided.
Speaking with Forefront in an exclusive interview, former Chief Judge of Adamawa State, Justice Bemare S. Bansi, said the expectations of Nigerians on President Buhari was high, but unfortunately, he took it for granted.
Justice Bansi said; “Nigerians believed that this regime is a corrective one and would be able to fix things and make life more abundant for Nigerians. But what happened? When President Buhari assumed office, he embraced the principles of nepotism, tribalism, religious dichotomy, etc. He became inaccessible, except to a few close family members and friends and sidelined even those that worked hard, sweated and brought him to office. Besides, he gave most sensitive or lucrative positions to his relations or friends.”
PDP Spits Fire
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which for now is the main opposition party, while taking a critical look at the situation of things in the country, said President Buhari is suffering from self-deception in thinking that he can win the 2019 Presidential election, given his abysmal performance and widespread rejection by Nigerians.
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, who stated the position of the party, noted that it is indeed unfortunate and characteristic of failed leaders that President Buhari cannot read the clear handwriting on the wall, even as demonstrated by the scanty attendance at his Bauchi rally last week Thursday, where he boasted about winning the 2019 elections.
The PDP said it is aware that the President, who came into office in a free and fair elections organized by former President Goodluck Jonathan, is hatching a plan with his handlers essentially to manipulate the electoral processes to foist themselves back to power by depending on their blood relations in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to assist in providing data of underage voters in Katsina, Kano states and some other porous areas of the nation.
According to Ologbondiyan; “What President Buhari has failed to come to terms with is the uncompromising resolve of Nigerians across the country, particularly the youths, to resist any form of rigging in 2019. It is shocking that on the face of colossal failure of governance leading to hunger and starvation, ethnic division, bloodletting and killings in our land, Mr. President is more concerned about a selfish agenda of foisting himself on a people who have become despondent of his leadership.
“By his remark in Bauchi on Thursday, when he boastfully claimed that he will take power again in 2019, Mr. President has demonstrated an unimaginable disdain for Nigerians, showing that he cares less about the carnage in our nation under his watch, and he is only concerned with winning election. That, to say the least, is not a mark of statesmanship.”
The PDP spokesman further said; “This is a leader who came into office on the plank of promises of fighting insurgency and corruption as well as guaranteeing economic prosperity. Shockingly, Mr. President has not only failed on all fronts, his body language is aiding and abetting corruption, harassment and intimidation of citizens as well as instilling of siege mentality in our land.
“We therefore advise Mr. President and his dysfunctional All Progressives Congress (APC) to stop misleading themselves about the possibility of staying a day beyond May 29, 2019, as they can no longer deceive or coerce Nigerians to submission,” PDP stressed.
Rising Spate of Insecurity
Despite the electoral promise by President Buhari to tackle the problem of insecurity that has led to loss of lives and massive destruction of farmlands and houses in once thriving communities, Nigerians remain still victims of murderous gangster of suspected herdsmen. From Southern Kaduna to Benue, Taraba to Zamfara; Kogi to Adamawa, Plateau to Enugu, among several other states, the citizens have come under serious threats of destruction and mass killings.
And concerned by the rising level of killings among defenceless civilians, former Minister of Defence, respected General TY Danjuma called on citizens to defend themselves against attacks from armed bandits.
The mass murders of harmless villagers by cattle rustlers in Zamfara and kidnappings of citizens for ransom are some of the issues yet to be tackled by the Buhari-led administration. The recent attacks on some banks in Offa in Kwara state and the death toll associated with the tragic event are equally reflective of a nation under terror.
Catholic Bishops’ Position
Taking a conscious assessment of the insecurity situation in the country into consideration after an exhaustive meeting that appraised the killings in Benue State, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria took on President Buhari frontally by asking him to resign from office having failed in safeguarding and guaranteeing lives and property of citizens.
The Catholic Bishops that supported the election of Buhari in 2015 were reacting to the killing of two of its priests and 18 parishioners that were gruesomely gunned down in a Church in Benue State. In their usual bold and fearless position, the bishops pointedly and in unmistaken terms told the president that since he could not guarantee the security of lives and property, it was a high time he resigned.
In a communiqué signed by the President of the Catholic Bishops, Most Rev. Augustine Akubeze, and Secretary, Most Rev. Camillus Umoh, the shepherds lamented that the increasing attacks by the suspected Fulani herdsmen had turned the country into a massive graveyard.
According to the Bishops; “We are sad. We are angry. We feel totally exposed and most vulnerable. Faced with these dark clouds of fear and anxiety, our people are daily being told by some to defend themselves.
“President Buhari should no longer continue to preside over the killing fields and mass graveyard that our country has become. Repeated calls from us and many other Nigerians on the President to take very drastic and urgent steps to reverse this ugly tragedy that threatens the foundation of our collective existence and unity as a nation have fallen on deaf ears.”
Commenting on the Fulani herdsmen killings of farmers in parts of the country, Justice Bansi said that as far back as 1861, herdsmen were here in Nigeria, adding that when the Colony and Protectorates of Lagos and Northern Nigeria were created, farmers and herdsmen cohabited peacefully.
He further said; “Why did the situation deteriorate markedly under Buhari? It is the highest peak of nepotism? The problem with African leaders is that the moment they are elected into office, they identify themselves with their tribesmen. What do we mean by herdsmen? Are they not the people that own and keep animals like cows, sheep, goats, pigs, donkeys, horses or camels? Are Fulani the only people with cattle or sheep in Nigeria?
“Since other tribes in Nigeria are also herders, why is it that only Fulani herdsmen are armed with AK47 rifles? Who supplies them with these sophisticated weapons? The President cannot escape accusations because other tribes that are herders too don’t have AK47 rifles while their Fulani colleagues have them. This is tribalism at its highest peak. Various tribes voted Buhari into power but he chose to identify with his ethnic group.”
Checks by Forefront indicate that this is not the first time President Buhari is coming under intense criticisms over what insiders described as failure of the Federal Government to rein in the murderous gang herdsmen that have killed thousands of people in several states of the country. In this wise, the two chambers of the National Assembly recently took the president to task as they summoned him to appear before a joint session of the federal legislature and address them on measures being taken to tackle the security challenges.
With the president throwing his hat into the ring for the 2019 presidential poll, the development has unconsciously brought about issues that are combining to make the decision a leap into the dark, with daring and grave consequences for the nation.
National Assembly Crisis
More than any administration in the country, the Buhari-led government has right from its inception been engaged in frosty relationship with the legislative arm. The trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki over false declaration of assets has taken too long to conclude even as the Attorney General of the Federation had to appeal a case that was successfully decided at the Code of Conduct Tribunal whereas, a similar case involving former governor of Lagos State and leader of the APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu was never appealed by the government. At present, no fewer than seven senators have been engaged in one trouble or the other with the executive arm. Apart from Saraki, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, Dino Melaye, there are others that have been guest of the courts just as former governors seen as belonging to the opposing groups in the APC are being carefully monitored with the aim of commencing trial.
For instance, former governors and now senators, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano State and Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of Sokoto State are now under the radar of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), for possible trial over alleged cases of corruption during their time as helmsmen of their respective states.
APC National Convention
The All Progressives Congress (APC) is set to conduct its national convention in June, with congresses expected to hold in all Wards, Local Government and states in May 2018. In spite of the scheduled Congresses and National Convention, some of the State chapters of the party are embroiled in crisis of leadership. Notable States with unresolved crises include Kaduna where the party is fragmented into three factions to Kano where the Governor Umar Ganduje and his former boss, Senator Kwankwaso have clearly drawn the battle line for the soul of the party in the state. Similarly, Rivers, Bauchi, Osun, Zamfara, Jigawa, Plateau, Taraba, Kogi and Imo states chapters are in serious war for the control of the party’s structures. The attempt by National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu to harness peace and the prospects for final peace may not yet be over. Tinubu is believed to be threading with caution as a result of what happened to him immediately after President Buhari assumed office and was left in the cold. His wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu voiced it out that much when her husband was assigned the responsibility of reconciling warring factions in the party threatening to tear and disunite the party. Even though the threat of uncertainty over the choice of a national chairman of the party seems over, following the open support of President Buhari for Adam Oshiomhole for the chairmanship position, there are still discordant tunes among the governors and other supporters of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. President Buhari, who many members of the Party accused of abandoning the party after his election has now assumed the commanding officer position by reversing NEC decisions of the APC and taken over the party.
Forming a Rainbow Coalition
There is no doubt that various parties are in talks to form a coalition against the APC in 2019. Though time may be running out for such a grand plan, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has however expressed optimism that its hope of a coalition with other parties is still intact. Apart from the Social Democratic Party’s meetings with old political war horses on the need for a strong coalition, the opposition seems to be presently in a limbo, hoping that luck may shine on them at the appropriate and opportune time.
2019 As Combustible Year
Many political observers are of the view that, considering the various issues trailing the conduct of 2019 polls; the widening gulf of uncertainties may throw up several possibilities. In recognition of the issues at stake, the United States recently declared that it was interested in ensuring a peaceful election in Nigeria. Be that as it may, the cloud of uncertainty hovers and like former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon prayed, may Nigeria not experience another civil war, thus the need for caution by stakeholders and passive participants alike.