If Buhari runs in 2019
Okorie was quoted as saying: “Mr. Adesina is not reading the mood of the nation correctly. What he said is a disservice to President Buhari and his administration. The mood of most Nigerians is that of despondency and disappointment. Half way into President Buhari’s four-year term, there is nothing to show that the change they voted for will happen before 2019.
Therefore, Okorie has warned Buhari not to try 2019, or else, he would be humiliated. Harsh words? Well, not exactly. Buhari is used to electoral humiliation. He tried it three times and was humiliated. Fourth time he was lucky and there might be no harm in trying a fifth time. Okorie’s position is based on the fact that outside health issues, there is no performance record to hinge Adesina’s assertion.
My task here is to moderate this debate on behalf of all of us. It might appear meddlesome, but I feel strongly that this is not the time to shy from matters like this. Besides, there are no sacred matters for the arts to interrogate. To begin my job as moderator, permit me to introduce the two sides.
Femi Adesina is Special Adviser on media and publicity to President Buhari. Before he took up this assignment, he was managing director and editor-in-chief of The Sun Newspaper. He also headed the influential Guild of Editors’ body, which he got through election. That is to say that, across the media landscape, he hasn’t been a pushover. Beyond all that, anyone who is conversant with Adesina’s political convictions will attest to the fact that he has been an ardent Buhari loyalist way back to 2003, at least.
In those days and years, when no one could put a political bet on Buhari, Adesina did. In those years, when even the northern political establishment did not consider Buhari worthy of their time, Adesina invested high hopes in Buhari. He was a loner in his deep faith in Buhari, far different from all the latter day converts we now see.
Therefore, if he continues to see hope for his principal in 2019, where others see closed door, it is a demonstration of his faith and we must not begrudge him. If he thinks Buhari can still pull a surprise in 2019, let’s commend his faith.
On the other hand, Chekwas Okorie is a political champion of the Southeast. He was the founder and rallying point for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) way back in 2003. APGA and Gani Fawehinmi’s National Conscience Party (NCP) were the foremost that unlocked the floodgate to admit more parties after the creation of three parties in 1998/99. The gate had been shut against new parties, but by their doggedness, Fawehinmi, Okorie and others forced it open, via the courts. Okorie was to abandon APGA, when the highly litigious Victor Umeh, who was a member of the party’s national exco took Okorie’s leadership through a labyrinth of self-cancelling court cases. But in all that, Okorie’s faith in democracy and party politics was not extinguished. His determination to galvanise the Southeast for political and economic fulfilment within the federation led him to form UPP.
Going back to Adesina’s assertion, we may ask what are the facts and figures that give fillip to his solid faith. Is it based on work done or the expectation that more work will be done before 2019?
As moderator, let me say that people in government have a tendency to see and feel government differently. They always have a different measurement and assessment of actions and inactions of government. Oftentimes, they are quarantined not to feel what ordinary citizens go through everyday. Some have said being in government could be likened to being caged. In fact, former President Jonathan confessed after leaving office in 2015 that he had been caged.
Okorie said the last thing Nigerians would expect of Buhari is for him to present himself for another election, knowing his health challenge and the tedious nature of his duties, which appear daunting. He recommends that the best option for him is to bow out after his first tenure, just like Nelson Mandela did in South Africa.
I want to attempt to take this debate round the geo-political zones. In Okorie’s Southeast, nothing has changed under this government. Buhari first set the template, when he promised to reward Nigerians according to their votes for him. Apart from being shut out of vital appointments, Southeasterners have also been largely shut out of the downstream of the economy. First, the forex regime denied them adequate participation in the field of import/export, where they do very well. The ban on vehicles coming from land border has also shut them out largely. If things continue like this, I don’t see Okorie’s people changing their minds come 2019. Forget about a few political investors, who are running from pillar to post.
In the Southwest, it is siddon look. People who invested in Buhari’s election are employing tact and struggling hard not to spill beans. The champions and apostles of change are hard put to explain why the general atmosphere is dreary and lacking economic excitement. The political leadership here might find it difficult convincing the people of another election with Buhari.
Southsouth is waiting with bated breath. Vice President Osinbajo has promised hope and the people are waiting. If after four years there is no hope, 2019 will provide another opportunity to sign fresh MoUs.
As for the North, where Buhari has always posted large following, many are still excited about the man. His return from London gave opportunity for thousands to vent their love. And that has nothing to do with performance. Voters here did not see anything good in the Almajiri schools the previous government built in the north. They were not impressed with agriculture policies that made fertilizer available, timely at reduced prices; the local rice initiative that brought anchor borrowing and value chain advantages did not impress the rural people. They prefer Buhari and could vote for him again and again.
The major trouble for Buhari in the north could be with a close-knit intelligentsia, as represented by the impatient Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido and equally restless, Governor el Rufai of Kaduna State. These two once believed in Buhari, but are now frustrated by his clay feet. They are frustrated that Buhari is not aggressively addressing social issues that have plagued the north for ages. They could mobilise for his retirement after one term.
The political class in the north is also watching and calculating, whether this Buhari is actually the messiah they were waiting for. As for the All Progressives Congress (APC), owners of the ticket, 2019 is in a fluid state, subject to many variables. The party’s number one concern will be Buhari’s capacity to do another term. It is not likely any one in the leadership would dare to suggest a replacement for a serving president. But it is that same inertia that will ignite dispersals in the party.
Already, there are cracks everywhere in the party, arising mainly from the president’s experiential deficit in managing large political holdings. He has shown provinciality in his choice of those to hang around with. At the end of the day, his influence in the party might shrink to his initial sphere, which was not big and strong enough to see him through in his first three bids for the presidency.
If Buhari is forced by his coterie of kitchen advisers to insist on 2019, without changing his antiquated style of leadership of party and lacklustre governance of country, and the APC remains arrested, he might become a liability and restless souls in the party might ply their fortunes elsewhere. That is close to Okorie’s prediction of a humiliating end.
End of moderation!