Contrary to the bold face being put up by supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term campaign, there is a widening division among the president’s inner men in the northern part of the country.
Investigation by The Guardian discovered that similar to what transpired at the build up to All Progressives Congress’s (APC) national convention, when the Buhari camp was divided between those against and those in support of tenure elongation for Chief John Odigie-Oyegun’s National Working Committee (NWC), some prominent members of the party, especially from the Northwest geopolitical zone, are becoming averse to the president’s second term.
It was learnt that during a meeting at the Abuja residence of a retired military officer, who is in the present administration, the president’s performance at the televised townhall media programme, The Candidates, became a major talking point, with majority of those in attendance expressing fears that the president was on the verge of losing the election.
A source at the meeting, who is also a high ranking former military top brass, confided in The Guardian that although the meeting was not preplanned, “it happened that most of us were disturbed in equal measure about His Excellency’s capacity and comportment.”He said: “From the frank discussions, it dawned on most of us that the television programme exposed certain things that should not be in the public domain. One of that is the issue of hearing aid for the president, which some people stood against after his second medical trip to London in the belief that it would open baba to attacks from the opposition.
“There are other things, which many people did not know before the television show. The president no longer exercises independent thought and judgment in decision-making. So some of us believe the best we can do for now is to settle for a presidential candidate to support in the election, because even though the president may not get maximum votes at the first ballot, a runoff would seal it against him.”He said using money to lure masses to campaign rallies to create the impression that the president is popular might not be enough cover to justify whatever outcome that might be produced from the polls.
The source disclosed that when the candidate of Peoples Trust (PT), Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, was suggested the near unanimity among those present showed dissension, stressing that while “those of us from Northwest were in support of Hashim, our brothers from Northeast did not want to have anything like that.”
Explaining the rationale for Northwest search for alternative candidate, the source said it is common knowledge that a Southwest politician was pushing the President’s candidature for personal and possible zonal advantage, “but those of us from northeast believe that that would not pose a problem after the election is won.”
He added: “I am from the Northwest and we don’t want a repeat of previous experience. We have the highest number of registered voters but whoever tells you President Muhammadu Buhari would return maximum number of votes cast in the forthcoming election is not at home with our people.“I don’t know if those of us from Northeast are secretly working for Atiku or for their own selfish political interest, but it is the Northwest that have the upper hand in terms of number of registered voters that should be listened to.”
However, when another prominent member of the president’s kitchen cabinet who was at the meeting was confronted with the question whether there were plans to adopt Plan B in the event of certain developments in the polity, he shot back: “who told you? Is it every time you see two or three politicians together you start speculating?”
But regarding the issue of division in the north over President Buhari’s electoral fortunes, he paraphrased an Hausa proverb that says, “if you mess yourself in the presence of a loud mouth, the wise thing to do is to sit on your mess rather than have your misfortune become public ridicule.”
As if acting on a possible intelligence of what transpired at the private meeting in Abuja, former President Olusegun Obasanjo released a public statement in which he noted his concerns about the likelihood of rigging next month’s election and the declining mental alertness of the president. Obasanjo had stated: “While Nigeria must appreciate Buhari for the little he has done and allow him to depart for home in peace if he allows free, fair, peaceful and credible elections, we must also tell ourselves that Nigeria deserves better at this point in time than what Buhari is capable of offering. “History will note that he has been there. Nigeria now needs a man with better physical and mental soundness, with an active mind and intellect.”
Also a former buxom friend of President Buhari, Buba Galadima, has in media interactions referred to the shenanigans of the President’s handlers, stressing that the cabal knows the truth they are bent on force-feeding him to Nigerians for their selfish interest.But National Publicity Secretary of APC, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, told The Guardian that I cannot respond to such a mischievous imputation, pointing out that as far as he was concerned, “President Buhari is sound in mind and body.”
He debunked as rumours making the rounds that the party was already considering the option of adopting any of the presidential candidates from opposition political parties from the Northwest over fears that President Buhari is unfit to administer the country.
The APC spokesperson expressed surprise over the notion in certain quarters that President Buhari will not be able to survive a second term if elected, arguing that President Buhari’s resolve to lead the nationwide campaigns of the party was enough pointer that nothing untoward has happened to him.He said: “The president has demonstrated not only that he is ready but is also agile, healthy, focused to run the race. The naysayers have said he would not be able to campaign and that he has passed such responsibility to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. But they are same people now crying that they are overburdening the president over the campaign.
“The president is facing this election squarely because he is a man with a mission and he has taken upon himself the responsibility to achieve the goal. And it has pleased God to actually support him to succeed in the interest of Nigerians. The president has a place in history in delivering good governance to Nigerians. I found the question as to whether the party is scouting for his replacement in the North-West not only very funny but irresponsible, I am sorry to say.”
On his part, the PT Presidential candidate said initially the president’s men, commonly referred to as the cabal, did not want him on the ballot, citing the crisis in Alliance of New Nigeria (ANN), “But that disposition has suddenly changed and it is Atiku people that are all out after me.”Hashim rejected suggestions that the recent endorsement of his candidature by the North Central geopolitical (Middle Belt) was precipitated by some members of ‘the cabal’ or as a result of the secret post Jumat prayer meeting in Abuja last week.