Leaders of Nigeria’s ruling party and those of the opposition parties reacted differently to President Muhammadu Buhari’s announcement on re-election on Monday.
Mr Buhari told a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the APC that in response “to the clamour by Nigerians to re-contest in 2019,” he has decided to accept the offer.
He said at the closed door meeting that he wanted to give NEC the honour of notifying them first.
Membership of the NEC comprises the president, his vice, leadership of the National Assembly, elected governors as well as chairpersons of the party across the states among others.
For many APC governors, the president’s declaration was great news.
The first governor to react to the declaration was Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai.
Mr El-Rufai who often refers to himself as a “Buharist”, took to his verified Twitter page to post a “Breaking News” announcing the president’s decision immediately.
“BREAKING NEWS: PMB has just announced to APC NEC his intention to run for a second term of office. Alhamdulillah. – Nasir El-Rufai,” the governor wrote.
Also, chairman of Progressives Governors Forum (PGF), Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, described Mr Buhari’s declaration as a response to a clarion call from Nigerians of goodwill.
In a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Sam Onwuemeodo, in Owerri on Monday, Mr Okorocha said the president had performed very well in his first tenure.He said Mr Buhari’s second term bid was a “right choice in the right direction”.
He said the president’s declaration would end the “cheap blackmail” from the opposition over his silence towards his ambition in 2019.
The Imo governor expressed optimism that APC would win the presidential election in 2019.
On his part, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno said the president’s decision to seek re-election in 2019 ”is the right thing that happened to the nation’s political system in recent times.”
Mr. Shettima stated this when he fielded questions from State House correspondents in Abuja on Monday.
The governor said members of the APC, including the 24 governors elected on the platform of the party, had expressed their support.
“We are fully in support of his decision and it is part of democratic culture: traditionally, the president has the right of first refusal of the candidature of the party.
“So, it’s not something that is unusual or unwarranted or unconstitutional, he has done the right thing, he is going to contest and we are solidly behind him.” Mr Shettima said.
On whether the president consulted with APC leaders before announcing his decision to seek re-election, Mr Shettima said Mr Buhari was not under any obligation to ”consult governors or anybody.”
According to him, the president has been under tremendous pressure to make that pronouncement.
“So, we should heave a sigh of relief since he has finally announced his intention to contest.
“We will give him the kind of support we gave in 2015,’’ he said.
The Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello also pledged the support of the people of his state.
The governor gave the assurance in a statement signed by his Director General of Media and Publicity, Kingsley Fanwo.
“I am a staunch supporter of Mr President and I am proud to be associated with such a great leader and personality,” Mr Bello said.
The governor said the people of Kogi State were the first to call on the president to seek re-election in next year’s presidential poll at rallies organised in “Anyigba, Kabba, Isanlu, Olamaboro and Okene which attracted hundreds of thousands of attendants.”
“We thank Mr President for listening to the voices of Nigerians who are satisfied with his performance. Kogi people were the first to organise rallies in different towns and cities to call on Mr President to seek re-election.
“As the leader of the state, I wish to assure Mr President that my people are solidly behind his policies of economic recovery, security and the fight against corruption. Kogi will deliver to Mr President, more votes than the state gave in 2015,” the governor said.
Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State, said it was “heartwarming that Mr. President today told members of the NEC of his intention to seek re-election.”
He said the declaration was “the brightest moment for our country. A moment that has rekindled the hope of our people.”
“A moment that has reaffirmed that all the good works, the good initiatives of the president that saw us out of economic recession the country was plunged into by mismanagement of past administration will now be sustained to take us to the desired enviable position among the comity of nations.
“The president has exhibited high sense of good leadership. He has shown that he listens to the yearnings of millions of Nigerians who called on him to continue the good work he started since 2015.
“The onus is now on all good and well-meaning Nigerians to rally round our president and ensure that the reactionary forces of the opposition and agents of doom are not allowed to dash the much cherish hope we all have in the new emerging Nigeria by doing the needful during the next general election.
“We cannot afford to go back to the dark days of extravagance and impunity. President Buhari has changed the game. He has brought sanity to governance. The war against insurgency is nearing logical conclusion and our economy is improving,” he said.
An aspirant in the July 14 governorship election in Ekiti State, Ayo Arise, said it was in the interest of Nigerians for Mr Buhari to re-contest in 2019.
Mr Arise stated this while speaking with journalists after picking his Expression of Interest and Nomination forms for the election, at the APC National Secretariat, Abuja.
The former lawmaker said that Nigerians would not regret the decision if they decided to re-elect Mr Buhari in 2019.
He noted that though the Buhari government had been faced with some challenges, it needed more than one term in office to truly develop the country.
“Apart from governance being a continuum, I believe that if I want to tar a road between here and Lagos, then the life of a regime might not be able to finish it,” he said.
He, however, said that the administration had achieved a lot in fighting corruption, ensuring security of lives and properties and infrastructural development.
Mr Arise maintained that Nigerians should continue to support Mr Buhari for as long as possible “and as long as he is physically fit.”
The main opposition party, PDP, described Mr Buhari’s announcement as an internal affair of the APC.
The party in a statement on Monday by Kola Ologbondiyan, its publicity secretary, said his declaration only makes him an aspirant not a candidate of the party till primaries are conducted.
“The declaration has placed President Buhari among the ranks of aspirants seeking to be the President of the Federal Republic, effective May 29, 2019.
“Until he becomes the candidate of the APC, we will not spend precious time on his mere show of interest,” the party said.
For a former PDP chairman, Ahmed Makarfi, “It’s no news that he is contesting, it would have been news if he had announced the opposite.”
For Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, Nigeria does not need Mr Buhari in 2019.
Mr Fayose told journalists in his state that Mr Buhari would “kill Nigeria” if re-elected.
He said Mr Buhari was too old to lead the country well and has “bungled the opportunity given him by his woeful performance.”
Balarabe Musa, a former Governor of Kaduna State and head of an opposition party, PRP, “welcomed the declaration” by Mr Buhari to seek re-election.
Also, the National Chairman of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Victor Oye, said President Muhammadu Buhari was qualified to present himself for re-election.
Mr Oye, in a statement in Awka on Monday said as a Nigerian, Mr Buhari had the constitutional right to seek another term in office.
“He is qualified, so we have no problem with his declaration to run for second term.”
Similarly, Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in Anambra, Bartho Igwedibia, said it was inalienable right of Buhari to seek re-election if he wished.
Mr Igwedibia said only the Nigerian masses had the final say on who would preside over their affair.
He called for free and credible elections that would yield outcome reflecting the wishes of the people.
“The Constitution of Nigeria guarantees two terms for all elected political office holders; so Buhari is qualified to enjoy that right.
“There is nothing wrong with his declaration and there is nothing special about it, too.
“Nigerians are the people that have the ultimate say on who will lead them; every person, including myself, can declare but the people will speak with their votes.
“Nobody should stop anybody; my take is that voter awareness should be intensified and people should get their Permanent Voter Cards in order to speak with their votes.
“All we want is free and fair election where people can vote and their votes should count,” he said. (Premium Times)