Good morning Nigeria, the 2019 election season has officially begun
Obasanjo's scathing letter to the President is sweet music to his political opponents.
In the weeks that followed, Muhammadu Buhari became the first opposition candidate to win a presidential election in Nigeria’s fragmented history.
Fast forward by three years and Obasanjo has donned the umpire’s outfit, pulled out the whistle and sounded the beginning of another election cycle.
Just this week, the ex-military ruler and civilian president wrote an incisive, critical open letter to President Buhari. In the letter, he pointed out the incompetence and lack of political savvy that has plagued the government and Nigerians over the last three years.
The highlight of the letter was that he asked the President to step down and not consider re-election in 2019.
The letter reads, "President Buhari needs a dignified and honourable 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.
"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."
In making this very clear statement, the Abeokuta-born veteran basically pulled his support and backing from the President Buhari while drawing attention to what is perceived to be his biggest hiccup; his health.
Like his membership-card theatrics did in 2015, Obasanjo’s letter could signal to the President's opponents that he has now become far weaker than previously thought.
The South-West vote was instrumental in giving him the keys to Aso Villa in 2015.
Without the support of big-wigs and major stakeholders who were instrumental in the 2015 elections, it could imply that the throne is there for the taking for any candidate who believes they fit the bill.
You may not have seen posters yet, at least not anything or anyone remotely serious, but Obasanjo’s letter shows the time is here.
Good morning Nigeria, the 2019 elections are upon us.
We should have seen this coming.
For a government that was ushered in with heavy expectations and so much promise, the Buhari administration has failed to convince most Nigerians of its capability or intentions.
It is why as early as 2017, vultures had begun to circle what was left of the President’s goodwill
In the leadup to the final months of his presidency, a number of Buhari’s closest allies have jumped ship or at least taken shots at him, whether for altruistic purposes or in an attempt to score valuable points for themselves.
The most notable of these is the president’s first lady, Aisha Buhari.
After her comments on BBC Hausa regarding her husband’s government and the presence of a cabal were dismissed by the President, Aisha threw shade at the president’s government from the "oza room" with a series of tweets containing videos of lawmakers being critical of the president’s methods and performance.
Such invalidation would be sweet music to the president’s political opponents who will be looking for the right time to emerge.
Well, that time is now.
In the letter, Obasanjo suggested that Nigerians form a coalition to change the faces of those in power, adding that if the coalition could morph into a party, so be it.
Is OBJ pitching a new party?
From this vantage point, it almost appears he is teasing a political party to the general public while maintaining a hard-fought stance where he prefers to appear disinterested.
It brings to mind allies and proteges of Obasanjo's like Donald Duke who have been eerily quiet despite enjoying strong followership and a healthy reputation among voters.
Regardless, his letter will draw responses in the coming days, from those within his circle and those without. Do not be surprised if a fair number of these individuals end up running for the highest office in the land.
With Aisha and Obasanjo calling him out in less than a week, the President is at his most exposed and vulnerable.
In the coming weeks, you can expect more candidates to creep out of the crannies and make their intentions known.
Obasanjo may not be the most prominent political leader in the South-West anymore, that title is reserved for a certain Jagaban but he commands immense influence. His letter and the message it conveys will definitely have ripple effects.
To begin with, the 'Ghana-must-go' bags and turf battles that define grassroots politics will begin to rear their heads.
Potential candidates with a love of the camera will begin to speak of their calling and make the same promises as the same old batch.
On social media, voltrons hired by politicians and parties will turn on each other and begin, subtly at first, to speak for their candidates.
This was bound to happen either way but that eficacy of Obasanjo's argument and his stature have accelerated the process.
Let the games begin!
Obasanjo’s letter was a direct shot from a person who has already held the same role as President Buhari does at the moment.
Beyond validating his position, it gives the impression that Buhari’s most loyal and previously empathetic allies have thrown in the towel.
This only accentuates the pervading feeling that Nigerians would be wise to consider their options when the time to make decisions is here.
On the inverse, this will also have its adverse effects. There is a tendency that the presidency will focus more on playing politics and garnering support in anticipation of 2019, instead of the actual business of governance.
However, with millions of Nigerians desperate for regime change and an upturn in their fortunes, this is a conversation that too many Nigerians are ready to have.
We may still be at the beginning of 2018 but the 2019 elections have already begun, you just don’t know it yet.
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