© 2018 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Shittu, Okorocha, el-Rufai… five governors who’d have kicked had Buhari opted for one term
While a number of presidential hopefuls have recently hit the ground running to push the odds in their favour come 2019, Nigerians have for a long time been kept in the dark on whether the incumbent intends to also throw his hats in and have a shot at a second lap, as permitted by law. The doubts were extinguished on Monday as President Muhammadu Buhari finally declared his desire to be President for one more term.
Sizing up Nigerians’ reactions on the social media, it is evident that many are unhappy about this declaration. Nevertheless, there are some individuals who have always been staunch advocates of Buhari’s second term bid, and would have let all hell lose had he indicated otherwise.
In January, all APC governors endorsed President Buhari for a second term during a dinner at the Presidential Villa and backed Rotimi Amaechi as Director-General of his campaign team. After the dinner, Rochas Okorocha, Chairman of the APC Governors’ Forum, said: “Four years is not enough to show what the President can offer.”
Some governors have been more vocal about their endorsement than others. One of them is Yahaya Bello, Governor of Kogi state, who asserted in February that “President Buhari must contest second term because all the 24 APC governors are ready to support his reelection”.
He also said all the PDP members in his state had decamped to the APC “because they have seen the light”.
Rochas Okorocha, Chairman of the APC Governors’ Forum, endorsed President Buhari’s second term bid long before the Governors’ Forum. In November, Okorocha appealed to all Nigerians to support Buhari as Nigeria’s President in 2019, saying “he is the best man for the job”.
He, in fact, revealed that he put his own presidential ambition on hold so as to encourage Buhari to re-contest. “President Buhari is the best for the country at the moment and that there could not have been a better option now,” he declared.
He also said of Buhari: “God has chosen him to be the president of Nigeria.”
Nasir el-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, has also been outspoken about his support for a Buhari second term. In April 2017, he emphasised that he was supportive not only of the Buhari project but of having that presidency stretched to eight years.
“My prayer is that the President gets well…gets back to full health and run again because I still believe his being president…the stability that he brings to the office is in the best interest of Nigeria,” he had stated in an interview on Channels Television.
Addressing journalists in January, el-Rufai again reiterated his support for an eight-year presidency for Buhari. Representing a total of seven northern governors, he said he remained unapologetic for his stand.
“We are politicians and those of us you see here want the President to contest the 2019 election. We have no apologies for that,” he said.
One of the President’s most vocal allies, Adebayo Shittu, Minister of Communications and Chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Buhari/Osinbajo Dynamic Support Group, which he launched in the South West, has not only expressed his support in words but also through passionate action.
In January, Shittu wore a campaign cap to a Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting with the inscription, ‘Continuity 19: Muhammadu Buhari/Osinbajo’. He had a ‘Ghana-Must-Go’ bag full of other caps and proceeded to share with his colleagues before Boss Mustapha, Secretary General of the Federation, stopped him in his tracks.
He has said, at least on two occasions, that he does not regret this unusual show of support, despite doing so a time the country was mourning killings in Benue. Also, in justifying his support for the President, he said in January that a child who does well in primary and secondary school must be allowed to go to the university.
It has been suggested that the Minister is not genuinely interested in a second term for the President or even national growth and development. He is rather simply sowing seeds of support in Abuja that he may harvest the fruits of control in Oyo State in 2019, despite opposition from incumbent governor, Abiola Ajimobi.
In December, the Kano State APC endorsed both the President and Abdullahi Ganduje, Governor of the sstate, for second terms ― in the case of the former, citing progress in security, anti-corruption and economic restructuring.
Party leaders at the December stakeholders’ meeting promised to buy nomination forms for Buhari if he decides to run, and Ganduje added that Kano was prepared to drag the President to court to compel him to accept a second term ticket.
To show that he wasn’t messing around, on Friday, he reaffirmed his state’s commitment to taking legal action, though he still did not say what the charge would be. “Kano state government will take him to court any time he decides not to contest. So we are waiting for him,” he said.
He was also one of the governors to welcome the President’s pro-second term declaration on Monday, through a statement released by Muhammad Garba, his Commissioner for Information.