It is now settled. For over a year, from the time he was ill and hospitalized to the time former president Olusegun Obasanjo wrote him a letter urging him not to run for a second term, the question whether or not President Muhammadu Buhari would seek reelection had been on Nigeria’s political menu.
On Monday, April 9, 2018, during the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of his governing All Progressives Congress (APC), President Buhari put to rest the issue by declaring that he had decided to seek reelection in 2019. Unlike other former presidents who preferred to make such declarations at a rally in front of mammoth crowds, President Buhari did it in a small hall before a small group of party stakeholders. Announcing that he was responding to the clamour by Nigerians to re-contest in 2019, Buhari said he wanted to give NEC members the honour of notifying them first.
Two days later, on a state visit to the United Kingdom ahead of Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting scheduled for 18th-20th of this month, President Muhammadu Buhari told the Bishop of Canterbury, His Grace Justin Welby, in London that he declared his intention to re-contest the Presidential election in 2019 because he felt that politics should not be allowed to distract his administration. “I declared before leaving home because Nigerians were talking too much about whether I would run or not. So, I felt I should break the ice. We have many things to focus on, like security, agriculture, economy, anti-corruption, and many others. We needed to concentrate on them; and politics should not be a distraction. The majority of Nigerians appreciate what we are doing; and that is why I am re-contesting.”
Expectedly, Buhari’s decision to seek reelection has generated a lot of reactions. It instantly became the dominant topic of discussion in the media and political circles. While some expressed happiness, others criticized the president for making such decision despite the challenges still facing the country. Many others, especially members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) argue that it is morally wrong for President Buhari to seek reelection because he promised to be a one-term president when he was campaigning.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina debunked the claim that his principal pledged only one-term presidency. Adesina said it was when Buhari was running in 2011 that he said he would be a president for one term; and since “the victory came in 2015, that being quoted in 2011 is not applicable again, because he did not win that year.”
Those who are happy that he declared to re-contest cited what he had achieved so far in the fight against corruption, getting the economy out of recession and the foundation he’s laying in several sectors that need more time to consolidate; and that the continuity of the administration will fast-track the nation’s development. They argue that the declaration would rekindle investor’s confidence in the economy of the nation because investors want continuety and stability. It had already, they say, rekindled hope and reassured Nigerians that the restoration agenda, the war against corruption and enthronement of good governance for the country will sail safely to coast.
Buhari is not the first Nigerian president to seek for second term reelection. Presidents Shagari and Obasanjo seek and got second terms mandates. Obasanjo even attempted to get the Nigerian Constitution reviewed to allow him a third term. President Jonathan, after finishing Yar’adu’a’s term and his own term, seek for another term.
President Buhari might have assumed office with the intention of serving for only one term, but the rot he met was beyond his wildest imagination. Even his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan was widely reported to have said that “No one can fix Nigeria in four years”.
For 229 years, from the time George Washington took office as Presidents of the United States of America in 1789, the country recorded only 10 one-term presidents. While some choose not to seek reelection, others were denied nomination by their parties of lost to opponents.
A decision to run for reelection by a sitting president can be an intensely personal one as well as constitutional matter. Not all presidents can rise to the challenge and continue to serve their country in the face of mounting challenges. There are many factors to consider. The current political climate, the challenges facing the country, age, health and family issues. Equally important are how well the president likes the job and how effectively he is running the country.
We believe that even if President Buhari ever said he would only serve for one term, he still has a right to change his mind, as the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria allows him to seek re-election. It should not be forgotten that he once declared, after the 2011 presidential election, that he will not vie for the presidency again; but new circumstances made him changed his mind.
It is his constitutional right to seek a second term and only the voters would decide who will be the next president of the country come 2019. Even at party level the President has the right of first refusal of the candidature of the party. The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria allows for two-term tenure for the president, if elected; same for governors and open-ended for legislators. The same constitution allows all eligible citizens to exercise their rights to vote and be voted for.
The debate over whether or not the president can seek reelection is unnecessary, a waste of time and a distraction.