Indications have emerged that prominent Northern leaders and elders who had initially declared support for the candidacy of General Muhammadu Buhari in the February elections have started reconsidering their position, following alarms that the general might be suffering a serious health challenge.
Reports had it that Buhari collapsed during the presidential campaign rally of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Calabar, Cross River State.
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Though the party had denied the report, it was learnt that the development had immediately prompted meetings among top hierarchy of the Northern political establishment to review the Buhari situation.
Sources said the North is becoming wary of a possible repeat of the situation it found itself following the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua in office in May 2010, some three years into his tenure, following a debilitating sickness.
The illness had surfaced during the 2007 presidential campaign, leading to rumours of Yar’Adua’s death, but he bounced back on the campaign train and won the election.
“The North is beginning to rethink the promised support for Buhari in view of reports that he is suffering from a certain ailment which is believed to be wearing him down. There are also reports that the elders are pushing to cut a deal with Jonathan to complete his tenure in 2019 but extract a promise that power would be returned to the North via a younger and energetic Northerner,” a source said.
But APC spokesman in the South-East, Comrade Osita Okechukwu, had dismissed claims about Buhari’s health, saying that the alarm was designed to create doubts about the APC presidential candidate.
He said: “They are only trying to dig up what is non-existent; no record of their claim. The General has his doctor and anyone can contact him, rather than speculate.”
A Northern politician said at the weekend that the North was still suffering from the effect of Alhaji Yar’Adua’s death in office, adding that it would be unfair to the North to risk the situation once again.
“There were reports that Yar’Adua was ill before he was picked by former President Olusegun Obasanjo for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket. We saw the crisis coming but we believed that only God determines how long a human being will live. It would be bad for the North to have power return to the South-West barely ten years after Obasanjo spent eight unbroken years in Aso Rock,” the source said, adding that the option before the North was to cut a deal on 2019 when they could settle down to raise a strong candidate.
According him, the possibility of a truncated Northern presidency, in case Buhari mounts the saddle, will be too much for the North to bear again. He added that Yar’Adua’s death, in 2010, resulted in power returning prematurely to the South, which is in line with the constitutional provisions.
“If anything happens to Buhari, power will return to the South-West less than a decade after President Obasanjo left Aso Rock. The prospects are grim, both for the North and even the South-East that is queuing for their own turn,” another Northern top brass said at the weekend.
Besides, it was gathered that President Goodluck Jonathan had, during his recent visit to the Minna Hilltop home of former military leader; General Ibrahim Babangida, discussed details of Buhari’s health with the former military leader, a development that was said to have prompted the Minna General to turn his support to Jonathan.
It was also gathered that prominent Northern leaders have already got wind of the discussions between IBB and Jonathan, leading to red hot discussions on the way forward in 2015.