Afenifere, pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, on Wednesday described the statement by President Muhammadu Buhari promising to take 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years as a slip of tongue.
The organisation, while reacting to the suspicion among Nigerians that the President may be planning to elongate his tenure in office and the denial by the presidency, said it was a contradiction for Buhari to be talking about a 10-year programme when he has a four-year mandate.
The president, in his opening speech during the inaugural June 12 Democracy Day celebration in Abuja, had said: “In face of these challenges, our government, elected by the people in 2015 and re-elected in March, has been mapping out policies, measures, and laws to maintain our unity and at the same time lift the bulk of our people out of poverty and onto the road to prosperity.
“With leadership and a sense of purpose, we can lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.”
The statement has been interpreted by some Nigerians to imply that he was planning to extend his tenure in office, especially as some groups across the country have issued statements declaring support for the president to continue in office beyond 2023.
Also, attempts by some members of the cabal to whittle down the powers of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and statements made by some northern power brokers that the presidency will remain in the region beyond 2023 has further heightened the fears of Nigerians.
Last month, a political activist, Deji Adeyanju, took to his Twitter to allege that President Buhari was planning to extend his leadership for an extra term, contrary to what the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria allowed.
“Buhari is planning a 3rd term,” Adeyanju had alleged.
Addressing the concerns on Tuesday, the presidency said there were no plans to alter the country’s constitution to allow President Buhari rule for a third term.
While calling on those nursing the idea of a third term for the president to perish the thought, Yinka Odumakin, National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, said the error in speech made by the president is already generating suspicion in the country.
“It’s a contradiction in terms to have a four-year mandate and be talking of a 10-year programme. It was a Freudian slip, which has now generated so much suspicion in the land. The idea should be perished if it was ever contemplated,” he said.
Also sharing Afenifere’s point of view, Chief Mike Ozekhome, human rights lawyer, said the president could not be talking about himself taking the country out of poverty in the next 10 years when his constitutionally allowed term expires in 2023.
According to Ozekhome, the president could only speak on what he could do for Nigerians in three and half years’ time as there was no guarantee that even his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), could remain in power in the next 10 years.
“The president’s case is still being challenged at the court. Even if he is not removed by the Supreme Court, he can only do four years out of which he has already spent six months. So, constitutionally, President Buhari has just three and half years to go.
“So, if he is talking about taking Nigeria out of poverty in the next 10 years, from being the poverty capital of the world, having overtaken India, he may only be thinking in terms of statistics, maybe this is the time Nigeria will get out of poverty, but certainly not himself doing that as a person.
“He may also be referring to his political party, the APC, being in power in the next 10 years. But don’t forget that PDP had boasted that they will be in power for 60 years but it was terminated after 16 years in power. So, nobody knows tomorrow.
“President Buhari should be talking about what he can do for Nigerians in the next three and half years and what he has done for Nigeria in the last four and half years.
“He cannot be talking about what he will do for Nigerians in the future when he himself will not be there as president. So, I think it is just sheer daydreaming.”
On the rumoured third term, Ozekhome urged Nigerians not to lose sleep over it, saying the agenda cannot work in Nigeria.
The PDP also on Wednesday cautioned the APC and the cabal in the Buhari presidency against plot to push a third term agenda for him.
In a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party described it as a dangerous underhand politics capable of derailing the nation’s democracy and destabilising the nation.
The party berated the statements by the presidency and the APC as an unhealthy plot to introduce a repugnant issue into the official discourse in a bid to give it life and achieve its fruition in the political arena.
It lamented that it was preposterous for the presidency cabal and the APC to think that “Nigerians cannot see through their shenanigan to import and elevate what they labelled as rumour and internet-based gossip into official national discourse”.
According to the statement, “Our party notes that Nigerians will not be surprised when, after the statements by the presidency and APC, new groups surface to orchestrate more forceful agitations in the public space for the alteration of the 1999 constitution to achieve an ignoble aim.”
However, in his reaction, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) said it was worrisome that some Nigerians could accuse the president of plotting to stay in office beyond 2023 when all he was doing was planning a long-term vision for the country as obtained in developed countries of the world.
Sagay, who said government was a continuum, said many of the projects initiated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) such as railway projects, the second Niger Bridge and others were being completed by President Buhari in the interest of the nation.
“Nigerians are an impossible race. You can’t do anything for them. If you don’t do anything for them, they say you are useless. If you want to do something for them, they say he wants to impose his will on us and exercise powers that he doesn’t have.
“Let me tell you, no sane government in any progressive country that hopes to develop will fail to plan for years ahead of its own existence.
“You can even have a 50-year plan. Is Buhari not completing all the railways that Goodluck Jonathan started? So many things he is doing now, such as the second Niger Bridge, was he the one who started it?
“Nigerians should not be so narrow-minded. This hatred is making people look at negative things where so many good things are involved.
“If Buhari is planning for the next 15 years, we should hail him because one of our problem is short-sightedness, short plans which can’t take us anywhere. If we have a long term plan, it means we have a vision. Remember Vision 2020?”
“It doesn’t mean that the person who is at the helm of affairs is going to be in office for eternity. We should be a bit more broad-minded and more positive in our attitude to governance.
“So, I think those who are accusing the president of planning a third term are ignorant and irresponsible. In fact, I will say they are stupid,” he said.