The newly formed All Progressives Congress, APC , is faced with the difficult predicament of containing the determination of General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) to contest the next presidential election.
His last military posting before he was proclaimed military head of state in December 1983 was as General Officer Commanding the 3rd Armoured Brigade, Jos. Giving that military backdrop, it is not surprising that he is being accused of confusing the newly registered APC with the Armoured Personnel Carrier, APC, one of the military vehicles used to position him in power 30 years ago.
Though General Buhari has renounced the utilization of force in the realization of political goals, many of his new political allies are still apprehensive about him. Their fear is his determination to contest the next presidential elections due in 2015. Receiving visitors from the Democratic Emancipation Movement, who paid him a courtesy call in his Kaduna home last Tuesday, the former military ruler vowed that he would present himself for nomination to the APC for the 2015 presidential election.
He, nevertheless, pledged that he would abide by the result of the primary contest if he loses out. “My decision will be tied to the constitution of the APC. If the party chooses me as its candidate. I will contest. If the members do not consider me, I will not contest, but I will still support the party,” he said.
Refusal to rule himself out After contesting and failing in the last three presidential elections, 2011, 2007 and 2003, many of his allies in the APC are bothered by the refusal of the retired general to rule himself out of the next contest. Their fear is essentially based on their suspicion that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP see him as the easiest candidate of the APC to defeat. It is not for nothing. Apparently filed somewhere in the national headquarters of the PDP, is the election manual: Easy steps to defeat Muhammadu Buhari in an election.
Buhari His refusal to rule himself out of the contest was just too irritating for some. Indeed, once his assertion emerged on Wednesday, a senior member of the new party close to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and also close to Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal came out to chastise the former military ruler for attempting to use his personal ambition to derail the collective goal of the new party to oust the ruling party.
“By our calculations, a younger and vibrant politician should run as our candidate so as to give the Peoples Democratic Party a good fight; but from the way things are, we are stocked in between telling Buhari outrightly not to run and allowing him to continue with some ripple effects coming our way later,” the ranking member of the National Assembly told newsmen.
The response of the lawmaker which was on the basis of anonymity because he apparently did not want to further stir crisis in the party that has just been registered. It was nevertheless reflective of the increasing difficulties of party officials in handling the Buhari question.
The Buhari question is, remarkably, not suggestive of any moral or integrity deficit in the former military ruler. While most Nigerians readily would not fault Buhari on the crucial issues of corruption facing the country, most would readily agree that he has been so much painted in the negative by the PDP in the last three elections as an Islamist and one who would put the majority of corrupt elite to jail should he get his hands on the levers of power again.
The National Assembly member told journalists in the off the record session, that Buhari and Tinubu had reached an agreement in the preliminary talks leading to the merger of the three parties that formed the APC for the duo to abstain in the 2015 presidential primary of the party.
He said it was the opinion of party stakeholders for the APC to look for fresh blood to confront the PDP. Such suggestions, however, do not go down well with many in the Buhari fan club, especially in the North who see him as the only one with the moral fiber in the ruling class able to deliver the country from its demons.
Internal democracy Senator Sulieman Nazif, a one time fervent supporter of Atiku Abubakar but now a vibrant fan of Buhari said as much during a press interaction with newsmen in Zaria, last month. “What I am trying to point out is that when we talk of internal democracy, General Buhari is a member of APC, he is a Nigerian, he was one of those that fought for the unity of this country, so he has the mandate to contest.
“He is one individual alive today in the history of Nigeria that has more than 12 million votes uninfluenced by money or anything, so if he contests again he will win.” Claimingthat Buhari’s past failures were because of rigging, he said: “Today in Nigeria, there is nobody that can beat him in a fair and free election.
I am a young man, I know what the man can do, I know the kind of overwhelming support he has, and we are talking about democracy, government of the people by the people and for the people. Another Buhari enthusiast, Osita Okechukwu, who is a chieftain of the APC, responded to what he claimed to be the negative mud being deliberately poured on his man. He said yesterday: “They rigged him out in 2003. They rigged him out in 2007, the outcome was Doctrine of Necessity.
They rigged him out in 2011, the outcome was rudderless leadership.” Buhari who is presently 71, would be 73 at the time of the next presidential election. Though he has not been reported to have suffered any major health challenge, many are of the opinion that at his age he should better give his moral support to any of the younger elements in the party.
Speaker Tambuwal, who is a member of the PDP and has been the focus of many eyes as the most likely candidate of the APC, was endorsed by the National Assembly member. One possible response of those aiming to resolve the Buhari question is to conduct a presidential primary which they claim Buhari would lose.
In the last three elections he conducted he almost always emerged on the basis of consensus. In 2007 he was nominated as the candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP only after Ahmed Yerima was forced to step down on the convention ground. In 2011, he was easily adopted as the candidate of the Congress for Progressive, CPC without a contest. In the APC, the former military head of state is, however, bound to meet strong opposition especially from those desperate to stop the PDP.
How the new party responds to the issues concerning Buhari would be a major factor in determining its prospects in the 2015 election which is now less than two years away.