By Ismail Omipidan
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire where he is attending the fifth European Union-African Union (EU-AU) Summit, for the first time since some of his party faithful and supporters began the move towards drafting him to run for a second term, gave an hint that he would be seeking re-election in 2019.
Interestingly, he was accompanied on the trip by the national leader of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a man who was central to his emergence, first as the party’s presidential candidate in 2014, and later as the president in 2105. Governors Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, who is of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State, who is of the APC were the only two governors on the entourage.
On the sideline of the visit, Buhari was bid to address a Nigerian delegation in the country. But he was said to have arrived late for the engagement. But on arrival, these were his opening remarks: “First, I want to apologise for keeping you for too long sitting, this is because I insisted on the governors attending this meeting.
“This is why I came along with them so that when we are going to meet you, when you are going to meet the rest of Nigerians, if you tell them that their governors were in the company of the president, I think that will be another vote for me in the future. I’m very pleased that they were able to turn up.”
And that is the closest Buhari has ever come, albeit publicly, as far his reelection bid is concerned.
But even before Tuesday’s “revelation” by the president himself, some of those very close to him had confided in Daily Sun that there was nothing around him to suggest that he wanted a reelection. These set of people are quick to point at his nonchalant attitude towards the party, lack funding strategies for the party and his dismissal of the issue of second term each time it was raised with him, by refusing to make comment on it, as reasons for their position.
However, Buhari’s teeming supporters across the country, especially in the north, want him to take a shot at the presidency again, so as to deepen some of the reforms his administration has been able to put in place. In fact, the party’s national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun has since informed Nigerians that he would lead the team to persuade Buhari to run for a second term.
Buhari’s interest in 2019, barely five days after former Vice President Atiku Abubakar formally resigned from the party, and barely two weeks after Tinubu traced his root back to the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Daily Sun gathered, is very instructive.
Before now, both Tinubu and Atiku felt sidelined from the core activities of the party. But while Tinubu most times attend very important and critical gatherings of the party, both within and outside the villa, Atiku is hardly seen near such functions. Instead, Atiku never fail to seize any opportunity to lampoon the party, its leadership and government whenever opportunities present themselves.
Political watchers see the new rapprochement towards Tinubu by Buhari as truly indicative of the new evolving political strategies from Buhari, ahead of the 2019 battle.
In 2015, the battle was won and lost in the South-West and the North-West. Although, these two zones will still play prominent role in influencing 2019 decision, another zone that is likely to introduce a new mix into the whole game plan is the South-East. But while the South West still looks good for the APC, the story in the North West, Buhari’s zone, appears dicey.
North-West before and after 2105
At the onset of the current democratic dispensation, which began in 1999, the leading opposition party, which was then known as the All Peoples Party (APP) was in control of the North-West zone. Of the seven states in the zone, the defunct APP had four (Kebbi, Zamfara, Sokoto and Jigawa), leaving the PDP with Kano, Katsina and Kaduna.
By 2003, however, the tally increased in favour of the opposition, which had then metamorphosed into the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), as it added Kano to its kitty.
At the beginning of 2007, the equation changed, as PDP became the leading party in the zone, as Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa, Katsina and Kaduna were won by the party. Later that year, Zamfara, which had earlier been won by the opposition, fell through the defection of the then governor, to the PDP, thus, leaving Kano as the only state in the zone in the hands of the opposition.
After the 2011 election, while Kano was returned to the PDP, Zamfara was equally returned to the opposition. In the end, of the seven states in the zone, PDP had six, and the opposition, which later metamorphosed into the All Progressives Congress (APC) had just one. This was the situation until crisis broke out in the PDP in the run up to the 2015 general elections, which saw Kano and Sokoto states returning to the opposition, through the defection of their governors.
Going into the 2015 elections, while PDP controlled Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina and Kebbi, the APC was in charge of Zamfara, Kano and Sokoto. By the end of the 2015 elections, APC won all the seven states.
Interestingly, Kano alone accounted for about two million votes in favour of Buhari against the PDP’s candidate, Goodluck Jonathan. Ironically, the difference between Buhari and Jonathan’s votes was 2.5 million. Whereas in 2011, when Jonathan defeated Buhari at the time the PDP was very intact, with Buhari running on the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), the margin was about 10 million votes.
Although, today APC controls all the seven states in the zone, there is no guarantee that all would be delivered to the party, if the party fails to do the needful, by reconciling all aggrieved members of the party, ahead of the next general election.
Apart from Sokoto, APC has crisis and factions in all the six other states in the zone, with Kaduna and Jigawa for now showing signs of vulnerability to the opposition.
To compete favourable with Buhari in this zone, Daily Sun investigations reveal that the opposition must apart from remaining united, produce a presidential candidate that has capacity to divide the votes, especially those of Kano, Kaduna and Jigawa states.
The 2007 Contest
In 2003, It was North/South contest. But in 2007, which was Buhari’s second attempt, it was an all North affair. The late president, Umar Yar’Adua, contested on the platform of the PDP while the trio of former vice president Atiku Abubakar, former Sokoto governor, Attahiru Bafarawa and Nigeria’s former military Head of State and incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, all ran on different political platforms. While Atiku ran on the platform of the now defunct Action Congress (AC), Bafarawa and Buhari, ran on the platform of Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) and the ANPP respectively. In the end they all lost.
Opposition parties fail to agree
Daily Sun recalls that in 2007, when it became clear that to defeat the PDP, there must be some form of alliances between the AC and ANPP, attempt was made to reach out to Atiku, with the sole aim of talking him into burying his presidential ambition, especially considering that he was only cleared at the eleventh hour to run.
But the AC and ANPP men mismanaged the whole process, thus allowing it to degenerate into verbal attacks between Atiku and Buhari, with the duo using unprintable adjectives to describe each other in the media.
Daily Sun’s investigations further revealed that Atiku’s last minute decision then to dump Tinubu for Senator Ben Obi as running mate, did not also go down well with Tinubu, a factor that may have contributed largely to whatever cold relationship that may have existed between Atiku and Tinubu till date. At the end of the day, a northerner emerged as president after Obasanjo’s two terms of eight years.
But mid way into Yar’Adua’s tenure, Daily Sun recalls, he died. As such, the 2011 race became a fierce contest, following the insistence by some northerners that the then president, Goodluck Jonathan must run, in spite of the fact that the slot was supposed to be for the North. It was this sentiment, Daily Sun further recalls, that the opposition parties cashed in on to field northerners, following the defeat of former Atiku at the PDP’s primary by Jonathan, after initially emerging as the North’s consensus candidate within the party. He defeated the likes of IBB, Gusau and Saraki to pick the ticket.
However, the opposition did not behave as if it learnt any lesson from the 2007 experience. Like it happened preparatory to the 2007 polls, the trio of Atiku, Buhari and Tinubu again began their meetings early enough for the 2011 contest. But they again went their separate ways shortly before the polls. Atiku returned to the PDP, Buhari and others formed the CPC, while Tinubu stuck to his ACN.
Like in 2007, again in 2011, when it became obvious that to dislodge Jonathan and the PDP from the centre, CPC and ACN must work together, Buhari’s CPC and Tinubu’s ACN, tried a last minute merger, but they again blew the opportunity. Rather than work together, Daily Sun recalls that both parties worked at cross purposes to the extent that PDP’s presidential candidate, Jonathan, floored ACN’s presidential candidate, Nuhu Ribadu, in most South-West states, including Lagos, with the exception of Osun state, where the governor, who had just been sworn in then, needed to prove a point. And like in 2007, CPC leaders and ACN leaders called each other unprintable names, pointing fingers at each other over the turn of event.
Opposition made it in 2015
Less than a year after Jonathan’s emergence, politicians began re-aligning ahead of the 2015 polls. The major opposition parties in the country then all came together, two clear years before the polls to form the APC, with a view to forming a formidable front to do battle with the PDP. With the emergence of the APC then, cumulatively, the opposition party’s states rose to 11; one each in the South-East and South-South respectively; five in the South-West, one each in the North-West and North-Central respectively, and two in the North-East. But shortly before the elections, the tally increased to 16, as five other PDP governors joined the opposition.
APC went into the polls with South West and North West as its strongholds, thus making the presidency a done deal for it, even before the contest. And in the end, it ended PDP’s 16 years hold on Nigeria. It also became the first win for the opposition in the country’s entire political history. To make it possible, Tinubu ensured all the South-West states, but one, were delivered to the APC. The party also won in all the seven states in the North-West, with Kano posting the highest figure of about two million. APC also made a surprise inroad into the Christian dominated states of Benue and Plateau in the North-Central.
Will Buhari make it the second time?
For now, apart from what looked like his interest in 2019, which he subtly revealed by himself on Tuesday, there is no strong indication to suggest that Buhari is interested in second term. He has refused to show any strong interest in rebuilding the party. The party is in crisis in most parts of the north. But interest groups and individuals are already falling over each other, concerning his reelection bid.
However, whether Buhari runs or not, the APC, investigations so far reveal, would have to double its efforts, if it wants to retain the presidency, just as those angling to dislodge it would require more than a rebranded PDP to sack Buhari and his party.