Though President Muhammadu Buhari has not officially told Nigerians that he would be seeking a second term, current political activities strongly suggest he is warming up for a re-election.
So far, the closest hints President Buhari has given about his ambition were in Cote d’ivoire and Kano. Last November, in Cote d’Ivoire, Buhari told the Nigerian community that having some state governors in his entourage would surely amount to getting more votes in future because Nigerians would be glad that their state governors were in the company of the president. (It is not really clear how this could amount to votes, as the president insinuated).
In Kano, the president’s senior special assistant on media, Garba Shehu, reported that the president only smiled after party leaders adopted him as their candidate for the 2019 elections. Also, Buhari remarked, in his speech, that he understood the signs he was given by ordinary people in Kano who raised four fingers on each hand, meaning ‘’four plus four’’.
These hints, coupled with recent endorsements by a host of politicians, who refer to themselves as ardent supports of Buhari, show that machineries are being put in place for the 2019 elections. In fact, the minister of communication, Adebayo Shittu, says full-fledged campaign has commenced and the chairman of the APC, John Oyegun, says the party will immediately start deploying its achievements as selling points for the 2019 elections.
But things are not going to be easy for the President. In fact, with the planned payment of subsidies by introducing different exchange rates for marketers—who could ‘possibly’ go back to resell these subsidized forex in the black market – and the incessant killings by herdsmen, it is highly unlikely that the government would be able to boast about reducing corruption and insecurity in 2019.
And of course, when Buhari throws his hat into the ring, his age and medical fitness will be serious issues in the campaigns. All the arguments about perceived marginalization of the south in his government will not be left out, as well.
Some of the president’s ardent supporters are not really keen about his second term ambitions. Fr Ejike Mbaka, whose 2015 prophecy of APC’s victory endeared him to the party, has sent a different prophecy for 2019. Cardinal Olubunmi Okojie was reported to have remarked that Buhari should respect himself and just retire.
Even some of the president’s supporters in the north – which is regarded as his stronghold – are disgruntled. Last week, some youths in Sokoto strongly criticized Buhari for not considering any tangible project in Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara in his plans for the New Year. Also, the Arewa Youths Forum sent in their own criticism.
The president would have to perform some magic to meet the desires of some of these northern youths who have started asking questions. He has, effectively, just one more budget – 2018 budget to make the change. And despite the fact that oil prices are going up, the renewed subsidy payment and its management could reduce the revenue available for projects. (The government needs to retain the price of petrol. It might not be able to handle the consequences of increasing the pump price in 2018).
On the social media, the sentiments are the same. A recently conducted poll by the Punch Newspaper had 58 percent of the participants saying they would not vote for Buhari in 2019, 38 percent said they would and 4 percent were indifferent.
But the president’s strategists could be emboldened by the disarray in the major opposition party and argue that as long as the APC throws up Buhari as their candidate he would win. After all, they have the power of incumbency. This kind of thinking could be dangerous for the president and his party. A younger and urbane northern candidate might take advantage of the mood in the country.
President Buhari should not listen to folks who might be constantly telling him that he is the best thing to happen to Nigeria. He should gauge the mood of the country. He still has time to think of the legacies he wants to leave behind.