President Muhammadu Buhari should worry about his performance record and not assume he is being sabotaged, writes Olawale Olaleye

Presidential spokesperson, Mr. Femi Adesina, last week, treated an already wearied voting population to some comic relief, when he said the reason President Muhammadu Buhari had not made known his intention for a re-election was because some people might sabotage him.

Adesina, who spoke to State House correspondents, however, said the president would continue to keep his intentions close to his chest, because those opposed to his re-election could exploit his declaration to sabotage the country. He also went on to say by declaring his ambition about a year to the next election, the president could only give such saboteurs a lot of time to undo the country economically and politically, among others.

Read him again: “You know the peculiarity of Nigeria, particularly now. If the president speaks too early, it’s a problem. There is a lot of sabotage in the country. You have also heard so many have said, ‘don’t run,’ because they know that if the president runs, other people would just run away because they don’t have the foggiest chance in hell of beating him. So, they want to discourage him from running.

“Now, if he tells you, ‘I’m going to run,’ and elections are still one year away, it gives them one year to sabotage the entire country from all fronts – politically, socially, economically – they would throw everything at him just to dissuade him from running. So, when you know that, why then speak early? I think it makes a lot of sense for you to keep things close to your chest till it is time for you to then say, ‘ok, I’m running’ by which time they can do less damage.”

Perhaps, it is most ideal to describe Adesina’s principal as a ‘reluctant candidate,’ because knowing that the forces against his re-election are a lot more than those in support, especially with his already vanishing mystique, an early gamble might be counterproductive, not because there are saboteurs really but because the facts would play out well enough to actually place him where he truly belongs in the equation.

The truth is that the president in his heart of hearts badly desires another term, but the problem is that he is not oblivious of the reality as it were. He has practically lost it all in less than three years. A few instances would easily give him away as wanting another term as much as he did the last time even after publicly renouncing his intention to be Nigeria’s president again.

He hinted at his interest to seek another term in 2019 during a recent visit to Kano State last year, when he said, “Kano is in my pocket,” apparently counting on the fact that Kano massively voted for him in the 2015 elections, where he posted 1.903 million of the 2.13 million valid votes cast.

But before the Kano visit, he had also visited Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire for a summit on terrorism, where he hinted at a possible presidential run in 2019. On that occasion, he claimed to have arrived late to a meeting with the Nigerian community, because he wanted to come with two governors, because doing so could be a vote for him in the future. What other future are there for Buhari if not 2019?

And then, the icing is that without declaring his intention to run yet, Buhari has already appointed the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, his campaign Director-General, the same man who delivered him in 2015 as his campaign chief.

To, therefore, think that some of these developments had elicited serious discontent within his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), compounded by the growing call by senior citizens that he should forget the idea of re-election, it is expected that he would exercise a lot of caution, if not restraint before throwing his hats in the ring, knowing full well that these were some of the people on whose strength he struggled to defeat former President Goodluck Jonathan with some paltry votes.

These aside, there are other reasons believed to have combined to stall the early declaration of the president in another term as against the theory of sabotage currently being sold.

For example, the president is unable to jump the ship of re-election if the issue of the 2018 budget is not resolved. He and his team are of the belief that taking up a re-election campaign now could make the passage of the 2018 budget more difficult than it is already. They are of the opinion that it might stoke needles politics, which invariably would stall the process of the budget passage. This, they reckon, owes largely to an inter-play of interests, which is ever present.

There is yet another factor of who the opposition is likely to field. The truth is that the APC and the presidency are not naïve to have dismissed the opposition wholesale, regardless of their challenges. They are mindful of their inadequacies, exacerbated by the growing discontents in the country about the government’s failure to deliver change as promised, therefore, the Buhari team is seriously interested in who is to be fielded by the opposition parties to enable them come up with a better strategy.

Thus, when this whole gamut is strung together, it is not difficult for the discerning to identify that the theory of sabotage is misplaced. Buhari can only run on his record of performance, which no one can undo. Therefore, rather than worry about imaginary saboteurs and continue to keep what he badly desires to his chest, it is smart to allude to the factor of timing as the reason he is yet to make his plans known since there is still an active mandate he is struggling to deliver.

Importantly, the presidency should refocus its communication strategy: play less on propaganda; desist from being hostile and start to market its product on the strength of his record (if any). But playing the victim is cheap and defeatist. Rather, let them prove they earned their current mandate. Period!

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