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Published On: Fri, Nov 10th, 2017

2019: Will Buhari run?

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By Lawrence Olaoye

With the recovery of President Muhammadu Buhari from his ailment and return to power after his medical trip abroad, the nation’s political terrain has come alive again. In the last few weeks, there have been flurry of activities indicating that the lukewarm political milieu had been rejuvenated.
Doubters who thought that the President may not be able come around and carry on with the rigour of governance have been forced to eat the humble pie. Considering the energy and intellectual capacity the President has been deploying to the handling of state matters, no one needed to be told that he had gotten his vibes back.
The physical strength demonstrated by the President recently at the National Assembly when he stood for over an hour presenting the 2018 Appropriation Bill to the lawmakers convinced cynics that he had fully come around. Some of those in the opposition looking forward to using his medical condition as campaign topic ahead of 2019 must have to re-strategize.
Flurry of activities in the last few weeks have shown that Buhari’s seeming reticence in taking action on some important issues may after all be a strategy to ensure that right decisions were taken.
The President has been brutally criticized for not taking immediate action on receipt of the report of the probe panel chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo which looked into the corruption allegations leveled against the then suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayodele Oke.
The sack of the suspended SGF and DG NIA and the announcement of Boss Mustapha as the new SGF has shown that the President may have been taking his time to study the reports of the Osinbajo panel on the duo so as to ensure that justice was done.
Mustapha’s appointment has however attracted a fresh line of criticism from the opposition elements who took their time to trace his ancestry and linked him to his sacked kinsman from Adamawa state. Regardless, Lawal’s sack and immediate appointment of his successor from the same zone helped put to rest insinuations that Buhari was protecting a prominent member of his party who was found to have helped himself with public funds.
The political exactitude of the choice of Mustapha could only be gauged from reactions from party faithfuls who hailed the decision by insisting that the APC has been consolidated in the entire North East region ahead of the political battle of 2019.
Following the break-out of the reinstatement scandal of the former pension reform boss, Abdulrasheed Maina, the President was quick to order his immediate sack. Tongues are however wangling that the exp-pension chief ought to have been arrested and arraigned immediately.
Critics are also calling on the President to address the issue of rivalry and lack of cooperation between the Directorate of State Service (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in order to ensure that Maina is prosecuted for alleged financial malfeasance.
In line with his administration’s resolve to reset the nation’s budget cycle to January-December, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which he chaired, approved the 2018 Appropriation proposal which he presented this week to the joint session of the National Assembly.
Ahead of the budget presentation, the President engaged the leadership of both chambers by hosting them to a dinner where issues constantly causing disharmonies between the executive and the legislature were extensively discussed.
The new rapprochement between the two organs of government may have started yielding fruits as lawmakers from both chambers have resolved to cooperate with the President to ensure smooth running of the government. The lawmakers promised to work assiduously to ensure that the target of budget passage by the National Assembly by the end of December was met.
Buhari also reinvigorated the polity by moving to inject life into the ruling party which hitherto was perceived as lethargic. A party which has become amorphous with party stalwarts singing discordant tunes suddenly became united when the President called a caucus meeting.
At the caucus meeting preceding the party’s National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, intriguing issues concerning the party leadership were discussed. The President’s meeting with the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, also put to rest insinuations in certain quarters that the duo may have fallen out ahead of 2019 general election.
The APC NEC, which the party’s leadership has been prevaricating over for sometime, finally held and this is perceived in the political circle as a signal for the commencement of political activities ahead of 2019.
Events at the party where the APC NEC passed a vote of confidence in Buhari’s leadership also reinforced the government as such served as the required tonic for continuous performance.
Contentious issues relating to grumbling from members of the APC against perceived exclusion into juicy positions by the President were resolved when the Buhari told NEC that with the improvement in the nation’s economic fortunes, he would expand his cabinet and appoint them into agencies and parastatals.
In the area of governance, there have been upsurge in the nation’s economic activities so much so that it won accolades from the World Bank.
Owing to series of economic policies put in place by the Buhari’s administration on ease of doing business in the country, Nigeria moved 24 places up in global rankings and was also reported by the World Bank to be among the Top Ten Reformers globally.
In his reaction to the development, the President congratulated all Nigerians on this very significant step forward which symbolizes the real success achieved by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council, (PEBEC), the National Assembly and State Governments in making it easy for people to register their businesses speedily, obtain licenses and approvals from government agencies without unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks.
This, coming shortly after the nation exited recess, according to analysts, only shows that the nation’s economy was about to rebound.
On what this means to the ordinary man on the street, Tony Elumelu, Chairman, Heirs Holdng and a foremost investor in the country, said the rating implied that more investments would flow into the country and more jobs would be created.
Analysts are of the opinion that the resurgence of activities in the Presidency and the strength demonstrated by the President indicate that Buhari may have begun to warm himself into the hearts of the electorates ahead of 2019. This notwithstanding the fact that he has yet to openly declare his intention to run for second term.
To this extent, a group Buhari Support Organization (BSO) chaired by incumbent Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali, has begun mobilization for the President’s unannounced second term ambition.
This is coming as some governors, who refer to themselves ‘Buharists’ have vowed to pressure the President to take another shot at the Presidency, assuring him of their readiness to rally support for him in their states.
Observers believe that even though Buhari may not have formally declared his intention to continue in office beyond 2019, his body language suggests that he may eventually throw in his hat. There are also indications that opposition to the President’s second term in the ruling APC may just be for the asking as critical stakeholders in the party may have fallen in line ahead of the poll.
Those other party stalwarts who may have indicated interest in the number one slot in the country will have to face the Herculean task of defeating the President at the party primary or head to another platform to realize their ambition.

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