President Buhari hasn't formally announced that he'll seek re-election, but there's every reason to believe he will.
It was also a few days after Buhari returned from a medical vacation abroad where he spent over 100 days holed up in a UK apartment.
I wanted this aide to shed more light on the thinking inside Aso Rock concerning a Buhari re-election; given that the president was widely believed to be nursing an ailment that could mean he wouldn’t be able to endure the rigours of another electioneering campaign.
“He’s fit as a fiddle”, this aide announced unequivocally. “He hasn’t told us he’d run, but if he decides to, no one can stop him. The president is very healthy right now and his stay in London had nothing to do with a terminal ailment. He has fully recovered", the aide announced.
Not satisfied, I threw in a follow-up question.
“Does the president tell you guys he’s going to run again? Does he offer any clues? Anything at all to suggest he’d seek re-election?” I asked.
“Well, like every other politician, the president is eligible to contest again. And like I just told you, he is very fine and can endure the rigours of another electioneering campaign”, this aide stated emphatically.
In the months that have followed, Buhari and his team have remained tight-lipped on the subject of his 2018/2019 political plans, but you get the feeling they are playing it safe and that the president will run again. We are only an official announcement away, it appears.
There have been clues everywhere you look as well.
When Buhari made the trip to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire last week for the 5th European Union-African Union (EU-AU) summit, he made reference to his re-election plans and told the world he turned up late for an event because he was waiting for two Governors who possess some electoral clout, to join him.
“First, I want to apologise for keeping you sitting for too long, this is because I insisted on the Governors attending this meeting", Buhari said.
“This is why I came along with them so that when we are going to meet you, when you are going to meet the rest of Nigerians, if you tell them that their Governors were in the company of the president, I think that will be another vote for me in the future.
Let's take that line again: “Another vote for me in the future”.
The president cracks plenty of jokes and is famous for his wry sense of humour, so we could just say he was only making a light-hearted remark above; but his comment in Abidjan was the clearest hint of a re-election yet.
Did you also see how the presidency reacted hastily to Atiku’s claims that Buhari wasn’t able to gain entry into the US for 15 years on account of his religious disposition?
Buhari’s perceived reputation as a religious hardliner almost torpedoed his 2015 presidential ambition. No way are his minders going to allow that reputation gain some foothold in the minds of the voting public for the umpteenth time.
Have you heard Kaduna Governor El-Rufai openly back Buhari’s re-election bid? Have you heard Okorocha do the same? Most APC Governors are now firmly behind a Buhari for 2019 ticket. It’s no longer a carefully guarded secret for these guys. They’ve told you it’s Buhari or nothing come 2019.
It may also have become clear to Atiku that there’ll be no way he’ll become president on the APC platform with Buhari still looming large within the governing party.
The man had to leave.
According to Atiku; "I will definitely beat him (Buhari) this time. He has wasted a lot of his massive goodwill. A lot of people are disgruntled but they are keeping quiet and lying low. Our youths are suffering terribly. They are even now being sold into slavery.
"After Buhari won the election, he was no longer interested in the party that made him president. Every activity stopped and not even the party chairman, Chief John Oyegun, could take any decision.
“The party became a one-man property. Everyone grumbles behind the President but they are too timid to raise a voice against the illegalities being perpetuated. I should be bold enough to know what I want, and can do so at my age. So, I decided to leave."
Here was Atiku taking on the man he considers his major opponent in 2019.
If you wanted to know if the president will seek re-election, you just got your answer--served warm.