Cabinet minister vows to resign if president seeks re-election
Buhari’s medical care raises doubts over second-term bid
By Dulue Mbachu*
With doubts growing that Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will seek a second term because of lingering health issues, cracks are emerging in the ruling All Progressives Congress as key politicians jostle to succeed him.
“It’s an open rebellion; it’s an indication that many do not believe he will run in 2019,” said Cheta Nwanze, an analyst at Lagos-based advisory company SBM Intelligence. “It’s also an indication that even if he does run they don’t think he has the political machinery to pull off a return.”
Nigeria began to tighten currency controls soon after prices crashed in 2014. Analysts blamed the move, which Buhari backed when he came to power, for creating a severe shortage of foreign exchange that hammered importers and deterred investors. The central bank has eased some restrictions this year, but still maintains a tight grip on the naira’s value.
Buhari made two visits to London this year to receive treatment for an undisclosed ailment, spending 103 days during the last trip, raising questions about his ability to complete his four-year tenure.
“At the proper time, he will decide, and at the proper time, the APC will decide and the public will know,” Oyegun told reporters Sept. 7 in the southern city of Benin.
Abubakar, the 70-year-old former vice president, and Senate President Bukola Saraki, led a faction of the former ruling party into the coalition. Also part was Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos, the commercial capital, who brought the vital block vote of the Yoruba people, one of the country’s biggest ethnic groups, to the APC.
“The APC has not been able to transform from a coalition of interest groups that formed a merger to a party,” said Idayat Hassan, executive director of the Abuja-based Centre for Democracy and Development. “This doesn’t bode well for the party ahead of the 2019 elections.”
The party has failed to hold regular executive council meetings and a national convention this year as required by its constitution because of factional disputes, according to Hassan.
Femi Adesina, a presidency spokesman, declined to comment when contacted for a response. Alhassan didn’t answer two calls to her mobile phone nor respond to a message requesting comment. Abubakar’s spokesman, Paul Obi, declined to comment when contacted by phone.
Eurasia Group downgraded Nigeria’s long-term outlook in July to negative “on the expectation that intense political jockeying will impede policy making and encourage new militant attacks on oil infrastructure as the 2019 presidential election approaches,” analyst Amaka Anku said in a note to clients.
So far, no politician in the party has publicly indicated their intention to run, although several, including Abubakar and Saraki, have tried in the past. Other politicians in the party including state governors Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto, Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna and Kashim Shettima of Borno are said to be gearing up, according to Clement Nwankwo, executive director of Abuja-based Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre.
“With less than 18 months to the next elections you would expect contenders to begin to emerge,” he said. “It won’t be surprising if they begin to emerge now.”
While Alhassan has declared her position openly, she’s probably not the only member of Buhari’s government seeking political realignment, according to Nwanze.
“There are people making overtures to the Saraki camp and there are people trying to pitch their tent back in the Tinubu camp,” he said. “The APC has fractured into many groups.”