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Taking it by force, fire and fury

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Ballot papers for the Presidential election are seen during the eletorial preparation at a local office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Port Harcourt, southern Nigeria, on February 22, 2019, a day before postponed voting day. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

Everything about the 2019 presidential election was very hard and troublesome. It includes the monitoring and reportage, especially the challenge of multiple information sources.

It all started from March 31, 2015 after President Muhammadu Buhari received concessionary call from the outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan.

Buhari had continued to expression surprise that Jonathan, as Nigeria’s president, with all the enormous powers at his disposal, should just relinquish the highest political staff of office without gripe.

Now, four years after that exchange, Nigerians can, with the benefit of hindsight, interpret Buhari’s constant reference to Jonathan’s gesture of surrender, not just as commendation, but also more of a taunting reproof.

Not long after he was sworn into office as civilian president, Buhari recalled his brief stint as military head of state. He swore that never again could such a painful truncation of mandate befall him.

In response, President Buhari decided that he was not going to let the service chiefs go, perhaps to achieve forced collective responsibility on them. Although decisions as to how to ensure a second term did not come easy, it formed part of the briefs of many small committees that were put together at the inception of the administration.

Even during the six absentee months of presidential inertia, during which time the president dithered in constituting his cabinet, the contemplation of a second term in office seemed to have occupied his thoughts.

Not minding his public lamentation that he could have made a difference if the opportunity to be civilian president had come when he was younger, President Buhari carried on with certain aloofness as if time was at his mercy and that tomorrow does not matter.

Before Nigerians could settle down to see how far the president could drive his change agenda, illness came his way. He was out of the country for more than three months, raising concerns as to what could befall the country in the light of a similar past experience in 2010.

Chasing a repeat mandate
WHILE his battle with undisclosed ailment lasted, Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Femi Adesina, told journalists that two things that would determined whether he would seek a second term were his health and his family.

However, speculations over the president’s second aspiration gained momentum after the issue of midterm convention of All Progressives Congress (APC) riled the ruling party.

As that was happening, the president dropped the bombshell, announcing his interest in a second term contest.

But faced with challenges of conducting an overdue midterm convention against the background of a rebounding Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), APC leaders settled for a full-blown national convention.

The reality of the president’s second term ambition threw up the challenge of tenure elongation for the members of APC National Working Committee, particularly the national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.

The president showed his preference for the immediate past governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

As the debate over control of the NWC raged, state governors, including those in search for a second term and desirous of imposing their preferred candidates as successors, plotted for the preservation of their political interest.

Having settled for an elective convention, the ruling party became further troubled by parallel congresses leading up to a rancorous meeting in Abuja.

However, despite the recriminations during the congresses and the convention, Buhari’s second term received consensus support, thus uniting the party on the premise.

Exit of naysayers
NOTMINDING that the convention has held some elements in the ruling party, including those belonging to the erstwhile New Peoples Democratic party (nPDP) announced the creation of a faction, Reformed APC (rAPC) in protest over the uncertainty in the party.

As it turned out, the rAPC happened to be on their way to join former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, who had returned to PDP preparatory to contesting the presidential ticket of the party.

The move from APC caused reverberations in the National Assembly, where the rAPC sought to replicate similar mass defection engineered by nPDP against the ruling PDP in the build up to the 2015 election.

Stung by that affront, the presidency adopted the strong-arm tactics, unleashing the police, anti-graft agencies and the Department of State Services on the naysayers. Having turned the psychological heat on the opposition, the planned defections could not run its full course.

The show of force was later extended to the judiciary, where the national president of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Usoro Usoro, which was also followed by a charge at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) against the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Walter Nkanu Onnoghen.

Joined to the sudden postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly election midway into the process, it could be seen with the benefit of hindsight that the legal affront on the CJN was a bold effort to ambush the judiciary and foist helplessness on possible election petition.

Now it has come to the open also that the 4+4 sign and the declaration that “no one can unseat me” were based on certitude of victory of force over choice. Buhari certainly isn’t Nigeria’s choice of president in 2019.


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