Despite the outright denial by the Presidency that President Muhammadu Buhari is not interested in running for a third term, facts have emerged that he is perfecting plans to continue in office at the expiration of his second tenure in 2023.
When this plan was first uncovered, the Presidency quickly debunked such insinuations, describing them as internet-based gossip and un-informed media commentary.
The Presidency had said Buhari would serve his full second elected term in office ending 2023 and then there shall be a general election in which he will not be a candidate.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu who denied the possibility of a third term agenda said: “The Presidency wishes to correct internet-based gossip and un-informed media commentary regarding presidential term limits, given credence by so-called support groups, staging street demonstrations asking President Muhammadu Buhari to do a third term.
“There are no circumstances or set of circumstances under which President Buhari may seek to amend the Constitution regarding the two -term limit on holding office as President.
“President Buhari intends to serve his full second elected term in office, ending 2023 and then there shall be a general election in which he will not be a candidate. There is not even the faintest possibility that this will change. It is important to note that there was a past attempt to change the constitution to allow for the then incumbent president to stand for a third term.”
According to Shehu, “That attempt was wrong, unconstitutional and rightly rebuffed. No such attempt will happen under this President. President Buhari is a democrat. He respects the constitution. Any activity aimed at altering the two-term limit will not succeed and shall never have his time nor support”.
But political observers are becoming more curious that Buhari through the ‘Cabal’ in the Presidency is leaving no stone unturned, including constitutional amendment, arm-twisting of the judiciary, pocketing the Electoral Umpire, rubber-stamping the legislature and castrating Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to realise the third term bid.
Only recently, an erstwhile political associate of Buhari, who is now the National Chairman of Reformed All Progressives Congress, rAPC, Buba Galadima, raised the alarm that the President may be contesting in the 2023 presidential election.
Galadima said the forces controlling Buhari are planning to lure him into running for third term, alleging that the present administration has pocketed the judiciary and is doing all it could to muzzle the opposition.
According to him, Buhari has already pocketed the judiciary, and he feels that nothing will happen, and that he will be victorious at the court. His government has destroyed the judiciary and this is very troubling for democracy, and our nation
“A lot of politicians will be disappointed. Only God knows what will happen between now and 2023. Buhari may even be drafted to join the 2023 fray by some of his aides and associates.
“Buhari may be drafted by those enjoying under his government. Buhari has always been drafted to contest elections, and I won’t be surprised if his supporters draft him into the 2023 race”.
Apart from Galadima, other political actors who however, lack the audacity to come out publicly are speaking in low tones that Buhari and his handlers are not ready to vacate the scene after 2023.
Some inside sources within the power cycle who would not want to be mentioned agreed that there are hidden plans for the incumbent President to continue in office beyond 2023.
They alluded to the fact that Buhari may not want policy somersault particularly the war against corruption, border closure, among others hence, the desire to have another tenure which would provide enough time for their consolidation.
Our sources noted that the continued retention of Service Chiefs even when some have attained 40 years against the mandatory 35 years of retirement is part of the plan not to inject new blood into the system to pave way for the unhindered tenure elongation.
The sources further disclosed that constitutional amendment is imminent and it would be targeted at creating a six-year single tenure so that after Buhari, no one would enjoy serving for a second tenure and in a way making him the last longest serving President.
“We are beginning to sense that the President and those around him don’t want to go after 2023. That is why they are doing everything, though covertly to water the ground for his third term.
“What do they want to do? They will ensure there is a constitutional amendment not just for Buhari to go for a third term but to introduce a six-year single tenure after his exit.
“So far, the Independent National Electoral Commission is in their palms, the National Assembly has been captured or do you think Gbajabiamila and Lawan would object anything the President and the Cabal want? No. In fact, they were handpicked for this purpose.
“The CSOs, where do you think they are? Can they try any rubbish? If anyone tries, he or she will have himself to be blamed as Sowore. The opposition has been annihilated. In fact, EFCC alone would finish them. Forget, 2023 is a done deal for Buhari,” a source that claimed to know the workings in the corridors of power said.
The indications to amend the constitution are becoming even palpable; hence so far, three Bills to amend the constitution have passed first reading in the National Assembly, especially in the House of Representatives which may not be unconnected with tenure elongation or six-year single term for President.
These bills are: Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Alteration) Bill, 2019 (HB.408) (Hon. Dachung Musa Bagos), Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Alteration) Bill, 2019 (HB.410) (Hon. Dachung Musa Bagos) and Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Alteration) Bill, 2019 (HB.418) (Hon. Awaji-Inombek Abiante).
Also, there is anxiety within the ranks and file of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) that the party would go down with President Buhari if he exits in 2023 as he is presently the uniting force of the strange bed fellows – the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), parts of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the New Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP).
As recently decried by former Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, APC might lose its current grip of power in 2023 as APC is a party that they hurriedly put together when they were governors, with Buhari as the fulcrum.
“President Muhammadu Buhari gave character to APC. He brought his integrity to bear on the party. He made the party what it is in the northern part of the country and the masses of the North, who saw him as a true leader, and we all rode on that to achieve that victory, but after the credibility of Buhari into this party, there seems to be no alternative in the same manner that will drive this party to 2023 victory.
“This is why I expressed my concern that if we are not very careful, APC might go with Buhari in 2023, and that will be a very unfortunate situation for the founding fathers of APC. The party needs to show purposeful leadership, show character,” Okorocha said.
Meanwhile, there is raging crisis in the ranks of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) over zoning of the presidential slot ahead of 2023.
The party, particularly the National Working Committee (NWC) is plotting to maintain the zoning of its presidential ticket to the North East and South East, respectively.
By this zoning arrangement, the NWC is bent on picking former presidential candidate of the party, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi as the candidates for 2023.
The NWC may have felt that since the party had a remarkable outing in the last presidential election, with Atiku and Obi, if the statuesque is maintained in 2023, PDP will oust the ruling APC roundly.
However, it was gathered that the PDP governors are not in any way ready to back the Atiku/Obi ticket anymore. The governors appear to be divided since all of them are angling for the position.
The governors seem to be resistant on the zoning to North East and South East because, they feel President Muhamadu Buhari’s body language tilts towards plot to elongate his tenure in 2023, and that if Atiku/Obi ticket is flown, the party may not coast to victory.
Sources said, already, some of the governors including Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto and Nyesom Wike of Rivers State are nursing political ambition to run on North West and South-South zoning. They have since started holding secret meetings to woo the other governors’ support to convince the party to zone the presidential slot in their favour.
Wike, it is said has been the chief strategist rooting for Tambuwal as he wants to be Vice President in 2023 but as it stands, there is no possibility that the NWC will agree to dance according to tunes of Wike and or bow to any North West and South-South zoning, just as it appears Wike is the major financier of the party, hence Rivers is rated the only PDP state with overall financial might.
Retrospectively, it was same Wike’s alleged shenanigans that saw the crisis that erupted, few months ago, between the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) and NWC, over suspension of the House of Representatives Minority leader, Ndidi Elumelu. The dust on the matter is yet to settle.
Wike had reportedly tipped Peter Chinda who is from Rivers State for the position and compelled the party to accept it, which the party refused.
Unfortunately, majority of party executive members did not buy into it and worked against it vehemently. Till now, the crisis on the matter is brewing and the party is not ready to entertain yet another internal chaos.
Although at the moment, the PDP appears unstable on how it intends to zone the presidential slot, it is determined to oust the APC and to resist every move by Buhari to elongate his tenure in 2023.
Of course, with alleged Buhari’s plan to retain 2023, pundits perceive that the consideration of Tambuwal and Wike for the 2023 slot may garner more acceptability, more so that they are younger politicians with vast experiences and sagacity.
But the PDP has said it is yet to decide on any zoning and that those trying to peddle the information are doing so to further their own selfish political ambitions.
The PDP, through the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan has stated in a statement that there is no plot to stop the ambition of any of the governors either.
“For the avoidance of doubt, our party is yet to discuss the 2023 presidential election, overtly or covertly, at any time whatsoever.
“If anything, the PDP is currently working with Nigerians on how to win its elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states and will not be distracted by
individuals who found themselves operating in the highest offices of the land but failing in governance.
“As a party, we are also working with our respective state governors and legislators across the country as they work hard, in line with the manifesto of our party, to improve on the welfare and development of Nigerians,” he said.
“Moreover, it is also imperative to counsel, without any equivocation, that enemies of our party, who feel threatened by the rising profile of
Governor Nyesom Wike, should have a rethink on their incessant attacks on the governor,” Ologbodiyan said.
Innocent Odoh, James Kwen & Solomon Ayado, Abuja