By Omoniyi Saludeen
as the debate on whether or not President Muhammadu Buhari should be automatically given the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2019 continues, some chieftains of the party have predicted that he would shock Nigerians if he chooses to seek a second term in office.
In an exclusive interview with Sunday Sun, Senator Ayo Arise said should Buhari decide to contest in 2019, those who would want to capitalise on his challenges to campaign against him would be shocked.
Arise said the president had survived the worst ailment of his life, adding that he does not see anything wrong if he wants to run for a second term.
He said: “For me, I think it is given that any time a party has a president on seat, people should give him an opportunity to run for a second term. For the little I know of this president and the little Nigerians know about him, if he feels that he is not fit to come back in terms of age and other challenges, he won’t insist on running for another term. But having gone through the worst ailment of his life, according to him, and survived, I don’t see anything wrong if he wants to run for a second term.
“Every day you see him on television, you see him waxing stronger and healthier even better than any other time in the last two years. So, if the man says he wants to run, I can assure you that I will be one of his greatest supporters. And at the end of the day, those who will want to capitalise on the issue of his challenges to campaign against him would be shocked to see a renewed determination to build a new Nigeria of our collective dream. I am one of his supporters who want him to continue.”
Arise said the country had an unfinished business, which could be addressed through the goodwill enjoyed by the president.
“There is an unfinished business in this country. We have not been able to tame corruption. We have only been chasing those who stole us blind. We have not been able to put in place what will deter people from engaging in corrupt acts. President Buhari has all the goodwill to put in place the structure that will reduce and minimise corruption. The way we are going, if we do not have a sustainable policy on corruption, we won’t get anywhere,” he noted.
Also speaking in the same vein, former minister of information and culture and a founding member of the APC, Prince Tony Momoh, said Buhari “cannot lose any election in Nigeria” if he decides to go for a second term.
“He (Buhari) is entitled to two terms. We should be thankful to God Almighty that we have a Buhari now who understands Nigeria more than any other Nigerian leader apart from the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe. His presence in government is not an accident. We give the impression that someone who has been sick cannot work. I believe his sickness was exacerbated by what he discovered was on the ground. I was at the caucus meeting some couple of days ago; I was surprised to see him looking healthier than most of us. He is back fully at work,” Momoh said.
He added: “One thing I can assure you is that if Buhari is strong enough and he knows he can do the job, he will contest and win. In fact, he cannot lose any election in Nigeria. One thing is when he secures a terrain you can’t take it from him. Those who are going to vote are not the people on the social media; it is the ordinary people. His support base is the ordinary man. And he won’t take up a job he cannot do. Nigeria has to be re-grounded.”
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who is widely regarded as the national leader of the APC, had also reiterated his confidence in the president recently.
Tinubu, who met with Buhari behind closed doors last Monday in Aso Villa, also denied any rift between him and the president as speculated.
The former Lagos State governor had told State House correspondents after the meeting that the purported rift between him and the President was “fake news.”
He said: “I just met with the president. Our discussion was fruitful, productive and it was about the country and leadership. And that got him excited and happy.”
On the alleged crack in his relationship with the president and being sidelined by “a cabal”, Tinubu said: “Fake news. I have confidence in this president. There is no doubt about that. We worked hard to bring about the government. There are certain things that are unpredictable and those are things that can lend themselves to gossips, insinuations and all of that. But once you create leadership and it is functioning, you don’t have to baby-sit that leadership, unless there is a loss of confidence and I don’t have that.”
The president also met with some other top leaders of the party at the State House the same day. Those he met with included the Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) and Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari and the National Chairman of the APC, John Odigie-Oyegun.
Although the issues discussed at the meeting were not made public, it is widely believed that it was called for the purpose of building synergy ahead of 2019.
Also last Tuesday, some governors currently serving on the platform of the APC urged Buhari to seek re-election in 2019.
According to them, there was no candidate better than Buhari to fly the party’s flag in the 2019 presidential election.
Speaking in separate interviews with reporters before the commencement of the National Executive Committee meeting of the party in Abuja, the governors said that Buhari’s integrity coupled with his performance since 2015 remain unbeatable.
The governors who spoke included Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong; Nasarawa State governor, Tanko Al-Makura; and Kebbi State governor, Atiku Bagudu, among others.
Meanwhile, in spite of protests by some APC members before the NEC meeting to press for the removal of Odigie-Oyegun, who is known to be a Buhari apologist, as national chairman, the NEC rather passed a confidence vote on him at the meeting, which is a plus for the president if he is running.
Although some chieftains of the party say there would not be automatic ticket for Buhari in 2019, insisting that all candidates on the party’s platform must emerge through transparent democratic process, there is every indication that the presidential primary of the party would be a walk over for the president if he eventually decides to run.