By Rafiu Ajakaye
A former Nigerian leader on Tuesday threw a curveball into the 2019 presidential race by asking incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari to honorably bow out, citing “poor performance.”
Olusegun Obasanjo, who ruled Nigeria between 1999 and 2007, accused the Buhari administration of nepotism, poor handling of the economy, and failure to manage the country's ethno-religious complexities. Like Buhari, Obasanjo is also a former military ruler.
“The lice of poor performance in government – poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condonation of misdeed – if not outright encouragement of it, lack of progress and hope for the future, lack of national cohesion and poor management of internal political dynamics and widening inequality – are very much with us today,” Obasanjo said in a press statement.
Obasanjo commended Buhari for the fight against Boko Haram and his anti-corruption drive but insisted the president is better off staying away from the next presidential poll due in February 2019.
“President Buhari needs a dignified and honorable dismount from the horse. He needs to have time to reflect, refurbish physically and recoup and after appropriate rest, once again, join the stock of Nigerian leaders whose experience, influence, wisdom, and outreach can be deployed on the sideline for the good of the country. His place in history is already assured,” Obasanjo said.
“I only appeal to brother Buhari to consider a deserved rest at this point in time and at this age,” he added, apparently alluding to the president's poor health, which twice took him out of the country on long holidays.
“I continue to wish him robust health to enjoy his retirement from active public service. President Buhari does not necessarily need to heed my advice. But whether or not he heeds it, Nigeria needs to move on and move forward.”
Buhari has yet to declare his intentions but several of his All Progressives Congress members, including powerful governors, have called on him to seek a second term.
Obasanjo called the endorsement by the governors “very insensitive”, coming a few days after at least 73 people were killed in an alleged herders’ attack on villages in central Nigeria’s Benue state.
Obasanjo’s rejection of another run for the president is significant, as he backed Buhari in 2015 against then-President Goodluck Jonathan.