Governors from northern states of the country who are members of All Progressives Congress on Saturday said nothing would stop President Muhammadu Buhari from contesting the 2019 election.
Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, a close ally of the President, also backed Buhari for a second term.
They spoke just as Special Adviser to the President on Social Media, Mrs Lauretta Onochie, said on Twitter on Saturday that, “We’re working on Buhari’s return to power in 2019.”
The development came barely 48 hours after Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Aisha Alhassan, vowed to ensure the realisation of the presidential ambition of a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, instead of Buhari in 2019.
She had said, “If am to choose between Atiku and Buhari if both contest the forthcoming 2019 presidential election, I will support Atiku.”
Her declaration made Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, to declare in an interview with State House correspondents that APC governors and ministers would support Buhari’s re-election in 2019.
El-Rufai said Alhassan did not believe in President Buhari’s political ideology and that she voted against the President during APC presidential primary.
Northern Governors Forum made its position known through Deputy Chairman of the group, Mr Abdullahi Ganduje.
Ganduje, who is Governor of Kano State, said the support for Buhari was total and unconditional and that in case the President decided to seek re-election in 2019, Nigerians across the six geo-political zones would troop out to re-elect him.
The governor spoke through his Commissioner for Information and Culture, Mr. Muhammed Garba.
He explained that Buhari’s support base had increased over the last two years because of the transparent manner he has been handling the nation’s economy and his administration’s war against corruption and insecurity.
He said the foundation laid by the current administration would be consolidated and improved upon should the President decide to offer his services to the nation again in 2019.
Mohammed said, “The Buhari brand is a unifying factor because Nigerians across ethno-religious divides have come to see him as a man who walks the talk.
“For us in Kano for example, our support for him is 100 per cent. We know him as an honest Nigerian who thinks Nigeria first before anything else.
“His performance over the last two years — especially in the war against corruption, insecurity and terrorism — has been exemplary.
“Should he decide to hear our cry to seek re-election, we will not only support him but also do everything humanly and legally possible to ensure his victory.
“For those who have the privilege of travelling outside Nigeria, it is common knowledge that we are now respected because of the value the Buhari administration has brought to governance.”
In the same vein, Amosun, who spoke to journalists on Saturday in Abeokuta, Ogun State, at a book launch, said the President has the right to a second term.
He said, “The only thing that can prevent President Buhari from contesting is if his health cannot take it.
“If not for this present administration, only God knows where Nigeria would have been. When the government came on board, it was like jumping into the pool at the deep end.”
He scored the Federal Government high in its fight against insurgency, insecurity, corruption as well as efforts geared at economic recovery through serious diversification drive.
Similarly, Arewa Consultative Forum has said it will support Buhari in the 2019 presidential poll.
The socio-cultural group, however, gave a condition.
“If President Muhammadu Buhari is able to deliver on his campaign promises substantially and be as fit as a fiddle to undertake presidential responsibilities and tasks by the end of his tenure, there will be no reason not to support him,” ACF Secretary General, Mr Anthony Sani, said.
A former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, said that Buhari’s overall performance would determine his support for him in 2019.
Obasanjo, who spoke in an interview he granted BBC Hausa Service on Saturday, explained that Buhari had not disappointed him because he had solved the problems he was expected to find solutions to.
He said the Nigerian leader started dealing with the problem of bribery, corruption and the war against insurgency.
Obasanjo said, “It is not everybody that will be satisfied with the way he is fighting bribery but the important thing is that he has started waging war against the problem.
“The same way we know that with his status as a retired soldier, he will try his best to find a solution to the problem of insurgency.”
Asked whether he would still support Buhari if he re-contests the next election, Obasanjo said, “If he (Buhari) says he will re-contest, I will look at his overall performance before I take a decision. I voted for him two years ago because I could vote for anyone besides Goodluck Jonathan.”
But Peoples Democratic Party has said Buhari will have nothing to show to Nigerians as his achievement in 2019.
It, however, welcomed his reported decision to re-contest, saying the President and his party would be defeated at the poll.
National Publicity Secretary of National Caretaker Committee of the party, Mr Dayo Adeyeye, stated this on Saturday.
He said, “We will defeat him because he has nothing to show. PDP will challenge him and his party in the election and PDP will win on the account that he has not performed.
“The records are there for all to see. What would they use to campaign to Nigerians? Where are the projects? Nothing.”
PDP also said the comment by Alhassan that she would abandon Buhari for Atiku in 2019 was an indication that the President had been adjudged to be incompetent.
He said if the minister who has been working with the President for the past two years could make such a pronouncement, then Nigerians should know that they have a president that doesn’t deserve a second term.
Lawmaker representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Mr Shehu Sani, urged Buhari to reach out to the National Leader of ruling APC, Mr Bola Tinubu, who the lawmaker said is aggrieved.
Sani, in a Facebook post on Saturday, made a veiled reference to Buhari and Tinubu, warning that the latter had a damaging political capacity.
The post read, “The Lion Monarch should reach out to the aggrieved but silent Lagoon Lion so that he doesn’t explode like the hippo. The Lagoon Lion controls waters that can drown.”
When contacted on the telephone on Saturday, Sani confirmed that “The Lagoon” represented Lagos, while “The Lagoon King” was in reference to Tinubu, who is a former governor of the state.
Efforts to get spokesperson of Tinubu, Mr. Tunde Rahman, were unsuccessful as calls to mobile telephone number indicated that it was switched off.
Meanwhile, Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators said on Sunday that it would not support President Buhari if he declared for a second term in office.
Leader of the coalition, John Duku, said rather than support Buhari, it would back any candidate that would address issues affecting the development of the Niger Delta region.
The militant leader recalled that some of the agitators expressed their support for Buhari during the 2015 election, but added that the challenges of the oil-rich region had not been addressed.
He said, “We will not give him support (for a second term). Even if we have given a group the mandate to discuss on our behalf, we will not support his second term bid and that is the truth.
“We will support a candidate that will promote Niger Delta issues, a candidate that has the same understanding and feeling like the late Umaru Yar’Adua had for the Niger Delta region. He (Yar’adua) worked with us.
“But we don’t think the President is interested in a second term because there are a lot of lapses in his first term. We cannot score him (President Buhari) up to 40 per cent in terms of performance.
“There are a lot of issues that his government has not addressed. He is not strong enough to run for a second term; that is how we see it. I don’t think he will declare for a second term,” Duku said.
Yoruba Council of Elders said President Mohammadu Buhari has the right to begin presidential campaign for 2019 but stressed that the nation’s governing architecture must be restructured before the elections.
Speaking through its Secretary-General, Mr Kunle Olajide, YCE said it suspected that those who were benefitting from the Buhari government and those close to him, were spearheading the campaign.
He said, “As far as we are concerned, Buhari has absolute right to start campaign ahead of 2019 just like any other Nigerian. I don’t think that he has personally begun the campaign. We suspect that his fanatical supporters are the ones pushing him and behind the campaign.
“He is still spending one term so he has the constitutional right to contest for one more term in office. However, Nigerians will decide if they still want him in the seat. His fate is in the hands of the electorate.
“YCE insists that we cannot go into 2019 election without restructuring the country. We want a restructuring of the architectural outlook of government before 2019 election.”
But the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, said it would decide on the candidate to support for the 2019 presidency at the appropriate time.
Speaking with one of our correspondents, the group’s spokesperson, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said it would not speak specifically on Buhari’s ambition for now.
When prodded on whether Buhari deserves a second term, Odumakin said, “Afenifere is not a political party. When the time comes, we will look at all the candidates and weigh them.”
President of Ijaw National Congress, Mr Boma Obuoforibo, said if APC presents Buhari and Nigerians want him, then he would be president again.
He said, “This is a political question. Frankly speaking, INC is concerned about its own affairs and whoever takes care of the issues concerning Ijaw nation.
“INC has APC, PDP and other political party members. INC cannot single handedly make or break his ambition.”
Also, President of the Ijaw Youth Council, Mr Eric Omare, said Buhari’s right to seek a second tenure was in line with the constitution.
Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra said Buhari does not deserve a second term.
MASSOB National Director of Information, Mr Samuel Edeson, said Buhari’s administration brought hardship to the people.
Edeson said, “We Biafra agitators don’t believe in Nigerian politics, we want our own country, but nevertheless, President, Buhari, does not deserve a second term.
“His government has made life difficult for the people — the masses are suffering, people are complaining of hardship and nothing has been done to make things better for the common man.
“During the administration of Goodluck Jonathan, a bag of rice sold for N8,000 but today a bag of foreign rice is N28,000, the pump price of fuel has risen to N145, and it is like that in any other sectors of the economy.
“Things are hard for the people and we believe the policies of the Federal Government contributed to the hardship.
“No reasonable person will support Buhari for a second term; anybody that supports his second term bid is an enemy of the people.”
An Islamic group, Muslim Rights Concern, however, said it would support President Buhari’s re-election bid in 2019.
Speaking on Saturday night, President of MURIC, Mr Ishaq Akintola, stated that the Buhari administration was a winning team and it would be unnecessary to change it.
He stated that the President had proved to be a leader with good intention and integrity and that he would make the needed sacrifice to move Nigeria forward.
“There is no reason to change a winning team. President Muhammadu Buhari is winning the war against terrorism, corruption and economic crisis.
Meanwhile, National Chairman of APC, Mr John Odigie-Oyegun, is on a visit to Taraba, the home state of Alhassan.
The chairman, who is said to be visiting the state to address a conference of Catholic bishops, on Saturday, used the occassion to “meet with party stakeholders to assess the general administration of the party in the state.”
The visit, which is coming just days after the minister made comments some considered unbecoming of a serving minister, is raising suspicions among party observers.