Nigeria’s former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, on Tuesday called on the country’s current leader not to seek a second term of office.
Obasanjo, who headed a military government in the 1970s and was Nigeria’s first president when civilian rule was restored in 1999, said Muhammadu Buhari needed a “deserved rest”.
With a nation increasingly divided, insecure and in an economic slump, to ask Nigerians to vote for Buhari for another four years was “unrealistic,” Obasanjo argued.
It “will only sentence Nigeria to a prison term of four years, if not destroy it beyond the possibility of an early recovery and substantial growth”, he added.
Buhari’s wife, Aisha, has previously indicated she will not support him if he seeks re-election and in recent days has retweeted videos of opposition lawmakers criticising the government.
Buhari, 75, spent the most part of last year receiving treatment in London for an unspecified illness, leading many to wonder whether he is fit enough to serve another four-year term.
Elections are due to be held in February next year.
In 2015, he became the first opposition candidate in Nigerian history to unseat a sitting president, defeating Goodluck Jonathan at the polls.
Obasanjo, now 80 and still an influential political figure, ripped up his membership card of Jonathan’s ruling Peoples Democratic Party just before the last election.
He claimed Jonathan was trying to stay in power “by hook or by crook”, questioned his fitness to govern and said he was surrounded by corrupt cronies and “greedy hangers-on”.
But despite initially giving his backing to Buhari, he said there had since been a lack of progress in tackling poverty, insecurity and improving the economy.
He acknowledged some progress in fighting corruption but said there was nepotism “bordering on clannishness” in Buhari’s administration, in a clear reference to his inner circle.
Aisha Buhari has similarly criticised the so-called “cabal” around her husband, suggesting they held the real power in Africa’s most populous nation.
Obasanjo said his former army colleague had nothing to prove and “his place in history is already assured” because of his election victory.
“President Buhari needs a dignified and honourable dismount from the horse,” he said, suggesting he could still play a role from the sidelines with other former leaders.