President Goodluck Jonathan and a former Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, have rejected the call by a renowned Islamic Cleric, Sheik Ahmed Gumi, that the duo should not contest the 2015 presidential election.
Speaking through their campaign teams, the two leaders said they will go ahead with the elections as Mr. Gumi was not in a position to decide who should run for president. That responsibility should be left for Nigerians, they advised.
While Mr. Jonathan is running for president on the platform of the People Democratic Party, PDP, Mr. Buhari plans to contest on that of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
In an open letter to Mr. Buhari, a former head of state, last week, the cleric, said a Buhari presidency would further polarised Nigeria and worsen the security challenges the country had been grappling with.
According to him, the current violence unleashed by the Boko Haram sect, would be worse and extend beyond the North if Mr. Buhari should contest the election and emerge the president and that he should allow a younger person to run for the position.
“Your supporters have the biggest proportion of the underprivileged of the society which is the petrol that can be easily ignited by the slightest spark. The spark will be when you are declared the loser.
And you know you can very well lose if the Christians follow their church and why not in this era of mediocrity,” Mr. Gumi told the former head of state in the letter posted on Facebook.
Three days later, the cleric also asked President Goodluck Jonathan to give up on his re-election bid, saying he had not only failed as a leader but also stands out as a divisive figure in the country.
The Director General of the Buhari Support Group, Umaru Dembo, told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview on Monday that the call by Mr. Gumi was unnecessary because it was Nigerians who should choose who leads them and not the cleric.
“Why should he not contest?” Mr. Dembo asked. He (Gumi) is one person out of 160 million Nigerians who should choose who to lead them. It is an individual opinion.”
The DG said since the cleric gave the advice, over 100 other Nigerians had spoken against it. He said though Mr. Gumi was not a politicians, the call on the APC presidential aspirant might have political
undertone. He, however, said he was free to air his opinion.
Mr. Dembo described Mr, Buhari as a credible and experienced Nigeria, who “we have confidence in.” According to him, the former head of state was the one who could right the wrongs currently witnessed in the country.
He assured that, if elected, Mr. Buhari would only serve for one term of four years like the late South African leader, Nelso Mandela.
The Goodluck Support Group also told this newspaper in a telephone interview on Monday that the only thing Mr. Gumi could do was to vote against Mr. Jonathan, but not to ask him to seek re-election.
“If Sheik calls on Jonathan not to run, it is news and if the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, calls on him to contest, it is also news, so, it depends on who is making the call,” Nick Ezeh, the
deputy national coordinator of GSG said.
Mr. Ezeh, a professor, said about 100 million Nigerians are asking the president to run and that though the vote of Mr. Gumi was important and valuable, he could not decide on who should lead Nigerians.
He said, “It is not for somebody to decide for others. Some states have three or five candidates and they have to choose. It is not the responsibility of one person to say somebody should not contest. What you will only do is not to vote for the person but it is not to ask him not to contest.”