In this piece, CHIBUZO UKAIBE and EMAMEH GABRIEL dissect some of the battles President Muhammadu Buhari has had to confront as he sets to regain and retain the confidence and goodwill of Nigerians ahead of 2019.

It’s been a tough and rough political season for President Muhammadu Buhari. What’s more, evolving political developments forecast the intensity of battles he would have to confront as the country gears up for the much anticipated 2019 general election, amid speculations that he would seek re-election.

So far, he has been dealing with, perhaps, some of the fiercest battles of his political career yet. Besides retaining or consolidating his political stronghold in the North, the president is expected to firm up his base in the South-west and make inroads in the South-east and South-south regions. The dilemma for Buhari is that he will also be fighting to fulfill his campaign promises including the anti-corruption war, economy and security.

While the war against corruption has seen to arrests, shuddering disclosures, loot recoveries and ongoing trials of alleged looters, there is yet to be convictions. While the APC blames it on corruption fighting back, the former ruling party, who alleged that only their members are arrested for corruption, says the anticorruption war is a witch hunt. So far both parties have been locked in a war of words over the looting of state funds.

While the economy is on the path to a bounce back, a major sore point for Buhari’s administration is the state of security in the country. The spate of recent attacks by herdsmen and Boko Haram attacks and the Dapchi schoolgirls Kidnap saga, have continued to raise questions over his proficiency to manage the nation’s security challenges.

Although his swift response in rescuing the Dapchi schoolgirls was commendable in some quarters, the manner at which the over 100 school girls were kidnapped and returned a month later was widely criticised, particularly by the PDP who described the incident as being stage managed to score political points ahead of the 2019 general election.

The APC and the federal government have since refuted the claim and recommended a deregistration of the PDP for not meeting up with the standards of opposition politics.

Nonetheless, the major battle for Buhari is with his former military colleagues.

Battle of the generals

In the last few months President Buhari has not had respite from constant attacks from prominent Nigerians. His former colleagues in the military have pitched their tents against him with some even cautioning him not to seek a second term.

Although the potency of his message was watered down by the controversy that trailed the statements issued by former Head of States, Ibrahim Babangida on the state of the nation under Buhari, an earlier statement by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, which gave a damning verdict against this administration, jolted the polity.

Obasanjo further declared the formation of a coalition which is shaping up to become the third force to oust APC from power in 2019.

While Obasanjo’s threat to write another letter is already stirring some concern in certain quarters, the outburst by former Defence Minister, General TY Danjuma, against the Armed Forces over the state of insecurity was instructive.

The elder statesman had taken a swipe at the Nigerian Army under Buhari’s watch, accusing it of being biased and providing protection for killers and kidnappers.

The former defence minister who was speaking at the maiden convocation ceremony of Taraba State University, Jalingo, had alleged that, “The armed forces are not neutral, they are conniving with the armed bandits that are killing people,” cried Danjuma.

Last week, Obasanjo launched a fresh attack against Buhari’s administration, likening it to reinforcing the failure of the previous administration.

With the three prominent military generals speaking against one of their own, analysts aver that it leaves a lot to be desired going into 2019.

The leading opposition party, the PDP has been latching unto the statement made by these former generals to deride the APC and Buhari. PDP believes that the statements are a reflection of how the nation sees this administration, in that what the former generals have said is the current reality.

But the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Gbadebo, differed with Obasanjo over his statements against President Buhari’s performance and suitability for a second term. He said Buhari deserves to be re elected to enable him consolidate on the policies and programmes he has initiated to transform the country.

Gbadebo spoke when a former governor of Abia, Orji Uzor Kalu, led members of the National Movement for the Re-election of President Buhari on a courtesy visit to his palace in Abeokuta.

Also, the Katsina Senior Citizens Forum, led by Alhaji Aliyu Sani, descended verbally on Obasanjo, warning him against pushing his luck too far in his selfish quest to plunge the nation’s political system into confusion ahead of the 2019 general election.

Sani, further called on Buhari to probe the alleged massive looting of the nation’s commonwealth and reckless mortgaging of her economic assets by Obasanjo and his cronies between 1999 and 2007.

Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo (SAN) implored Nigerians to be wary of Obasanjo’s comments, saying only those who do not remember history would take Obsanjo’s antics serious. Convener of the Niger Delta Self-Determination Movement (NDSDM), Ann-Kio Briggs, told Obasanjo to take responsibility for the failure he is accusing the Buhari administration of.

A legal practitioner and public analyst, Ismaila Olukun (Esq) said ‘‘That statement should act as wake up call for Nigerians to the residual power or force which they possess in large number, the quality and quantity of their strength in changing any system that doesn’t work for them from the current inertia which has paralysed us whether in intellect, conviction or in the inherent ability to effect a course correction whilst utilising every legitimate constitutional means at their disposal.

‘‘It serves to unbundle if not unravel the notion of military apologists that the days of baiting, instigating and waiting for military interventions in our body polity are gone forever! It is a backhanded slap to those politicians in our midst who when faced with the difficulties of explaining their misgovernance rush at first instance to that constituency,” said Olukun who also called for serious reforms to the Nigerian system.

He however lambasted the opposition for being ineffective adding that it is unfortunate that it is in disarray. “In that circumstance, they will split their votes by leaving Nigerians very confused as to what direction they are offering.

“Most Nigerians are naturally very lazy and congregate only to those who can guarantee them polling day stomach infrastructure. The atmosphere now is very charged with all kinds of contradictions. There is a unanimity as to the problem but non as to the solution. What is the alternative?”, he asked.

Another analyst, Retson Tedekhe, noted that the unfolding scenario indicates that the country’s commonwealth is no longer accessible to those who feel they own Nigeria, but can no longer make that claim.

He added, “It is also clear that those who bastardised Nigeria by using the military for personal gains are no longer allowed that access to impunity. This makes me more proud of Mr President. When the rich also cry, the poor have a partner in power.”

He continued, ‘‘He is the movement and we can see progress despite the difficult times the county is into today. The President is getting more love from those who believe in Nigeria and his chances to be re-elected are better.

‘‘He is making progress for the interest of all. He is not stealing from us. He is building for all Nigerians, not some but all and looting elites hate this. We all want better options or alternatives to where we are in. But when you feel a process or an outline is not good enough, take the time to make it better and educate the people on what may work.

“How can you be experienced and criticise without proffering solutions? If you think what has been outlined by those leading is not working and requires remodelling, do what is right. Don’t Just Say, “It is not ok,” but try to make it ok,” advised Tedekhe.

On his part, Joseph Tade Oshaloto, a public affair analyst and media consultant, said the weight of the statements made by the generals should serve as a wakeup call for the Buhari administration.

He said, ‘‘The interventions by the duo of former military president Ibrahim Babaginda and former president Olusegun Obasanjo will among other things draw attention of voters to areas where President Muhammadu Buhari has performed poorly. The effect of these letters would go a long way in making voters rethink their choices in the coming elections.

‘‘While personal interests may not be outrightly ruled out as motivation for these letters and public outbursts by these former military generals, the issues raised, when subjected to careful looks, are such that many voters may find disturbing.

‘‘For example, issues of insecurity, cronyism, lop-sidedness of Buhari’s appointments and more generally poor handling of the economy are realities that voters will naturally feel quite emotional about. Interestingly these are the major imports of the generals’ intervention.

‘‘Equally scathing to president Buhari’s ambition (if he eventually runs) is General TY Danjuma’s outcry in which he called out the army as highly compromised. As a former defence chief, his words will go a long way in making some people believe that the current administration could have done better in the area of security.

‘‘Nigeria voting population is becoming increasingly enlightened. This means that many would be swayed more by facts and figures.

‘‘The Buhari’s administration would indeed need a miracle to reclaim the political grounds that he has lost as a result of these letters,” argued Mr Joseph.

However on the contrary, Olajide Abiola, a public speaker and blogger holds on to the conspiracy theory against President Buhari.

‘‘OBJ’s letter was an attempt at influencing the literate community. Who are more or less apathetic to political processes and lack the zeal to go to the grassroots and galvanise them into any form of action?

He said ‘‘Aside social media engagement, radio and television communiqués, where else do you see the literate community invest their energies in discussing or debating governance and politics in Nigeria? Do you see most of the literate community sacrifice their valuable time and energy to pursue such a course to a logical conclusion?”

As for Gen Babangida, he said Nigerians are very familiar with his antics and that he should not be taken serious. ‘‘All Nigerians know IBB’s antecedents. His outburst is non sequitur, said Olajide who pointed out that ‘‘TY Danjuma’s allegations require proper inquiry by the Nigerian Army as long as he provides concrete evidence’’.

To Olajide, Buhari has a better chance to retain his seat so long as he plays his cards very well.

‘‘Nigeria’s political foundation is grassroots-based and physical engagement is the only method of reaching out to them at their points of interest. The efforts of the administration are targeted at improving the economic exposure of the grassroots, which is yielding massive results already.

‘‘So, the grassroots know who has brought productivity and progress to their way of life and thinking.

‘‘Mr President is someone that believes in his works speaking for him. Unfortunately, our generation lack the requisite discipline and patience to watch a process and follow through.

‘‘He needs a very energetic media engagement team to daily churn out the efforts and ongoing works. With the information blitz in our faces, the administration needs to be heavily combative and proactive in determining narratives,” he advised.

While the debate continues, the president still has an uphill task of fulfilling his campaign promises and meeting the expectations of Nigerians.