2019: Who will run if Buhari decides not to?
By Hamza Idris, Ismaila Mudashir & Muideen Olaniyi
Though President Muhammadu Buhari has not yet explicitly announced that he would go for a second term, many people close to him have said so and he has not publicly disowned them, a development seen by many as consent on the side of the president.
Some analysts say President Buhari is not the talking type, and that while he allows those calling on him to go for the second term, circumstances in the coming months will determine which direction he would take.
This is without prejudice to recent events that are pointing to the possibility of Buhari giving another fight for the presidency, including yesterday’s meeting with APC governors and transportation minister, Rotimi Amaechi.
Sources said his rejuvenated health, his approval rating by the African Union which declared him AU’s Anti-Corruption Champion, positive remarks about him by the international community, his marked overtures to perceived foes and renewed interest in his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) have made many people to conclude that the army general turned politician might probably contest again.
In November 2017, President Buhari had come close to proving that he would contest when he made a subtle pronouncement about re-election while addressing the Nigerian community in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
It was the first time he traveled abroad with the National Leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, who accompanied him to attend the 5th European Union-African Union (EU-AU) Summit.
Also in the entourage were the governors of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel and that of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar.
President Buhari specifically said the presence of the two governors during his interactive session with the Nigerian community in the country would be “another vote” for him when the time comes.
He repeated same indirect “confession” when he visited Kano in December last year, where he said if elections were to hold that day, he would win. This was in response to the tumultuous crowd he saw which trooped to the streets to welcome him.
However, many APC governors and ministers, with the likes of Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna and the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi in the lead, have endorsed Buhari and met him several times where they urged him to contest.
But he looks adamant on the surface even as those close to him have publicly said he would contest.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, had twice said Buhari is the man to beat.
On Thursday, he said Nigeria did not have an alternative to President Muhammadu Buhari and that the president would seek re-election.
The SGF who was represented by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Political matters, Rt. Hon. Gideon Sammani, was speaking at the Unity Fountain in Abuja during a rally organised by the Democratic Youth Congress (DYC), headed by a member of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly, Kassim Mohammed Kassim.
“I am glad you have named some of the aspirants who are interested in leading this nation. If you give them the ticket they will do nothing with it. They have nothing to offer to this nation. You and I are here because we believe in President Muhammadu Buhari and we know he has the capability to lead this nation,” Sammani said.
This came a few days after former president Olusegun Obasanjo and former military president Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida in separate statements, advised Buhari against seeking re-election.
In January this year, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Gali Umar Na’Abba, said he and other like-minds would not support the purported re-election bid of President Muhammadu Buhari next year on the grounds that Buhari had made a commitment.
Na’Abba, a member of the APC Board of Trustees, spoke in an interview with Osasu Igbinedion which was featured on the online medium, The Cable and culled by the Daily Trust.
He alleged in the interview that President Buhari had in November last year told APC BoT members that he would go for a second term. Buhari had a few days ago appointed Tinubu to reconcile aggrieved members of the party.
The Dicey card
Most people close to the Presidency and the ruling APC are not willing to speak on record on what would happen in the event Buhari declines the call for a second term.
“It would be suicidal to come out openly and say Buhari is not interested,” a source close to the Presidency, said.
“And he would never wish to leave the APC a divided house even if he would not go for a second term, he would like to leave an enduring legacy,” another source close to the APC, said.
He said in the event President Buhari decides to take the back seat, there are credible people that would take the driver’s seat. However, some names are being mentioned of recent as probable successors, not necessary because they would be anointed.
The argument is that circumstances might alter chances and certain odds would be in favour of others even though only one would be president at a time.
Trick of the ‘Cabal’ with Babagana Kingibe
Sources said while President Buhari has refused to give a commitment to APC governors that have been mounting pressure on him to contest,he equally keeps the so called Presidency cabal in the dark.
“Take it from me, even the much publicised cabal in the Presidency are oblivious of what exactly Buhari will do,” one of the sources said.
“But they are relentless and have already gone far with a plan B in the event Buhari said he would not contest. They would field Ambassador Babagana Kingibe for the position; he is from the Northeast and no one would complain of nepotism. He is eminently qualified and as you can see, he is part and parcel of the Villa at present,” he said.
Now 72, Kingibe who is from Borno State, had held many high profile political posts, having served from October 2002 to September 2006 as AU Special Envoy to Sudan and subsequently Special Representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission and head of the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) and Darfur.
Kingibe had at various times served as National Chairman of the defunct SDP, Vice Presidential candidate to late MKO Abiola, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister of Power and Steel, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Greece and Pakistan, and Secretary to the Government of Federal Government (SGF).
It was gathered that the “Cabal” has enormous resources at its disposal to prosecute the Kingibe aspiration even though he has not publicly aligned himself with the ruling APC.
Senate scheming for Saraki
The eyes of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, have been on the Presidency since 2011 when he joined the race towards the expiration of his second term as governor Kwara State.
His ambition was short-lived when the Northern Political Leaders Forum(NPLF) chaired by an elder statesman, Adamu Ciroma, endorsed a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, in November 2010.
After he was screened out of the presidential race, Saraki rushed and grabbed the Kwara Central Senatorial District. He won the seat and during inauguration, despite being a first term senator, he schemed to unseat David Mark as the Senate President, but was not lucky to grab it at the time.
In June 2015, the inheritor of the Saraki political dynasty dribbled his party and grabbed the Senate Presidency. The manner in which he maneuvered his way to get the number three seat in the country earned him the title, “Master Strategist” among his colleagues.
Born in 1962, Saraki at the moment possesses a firm control of the Upper Chamber. It is believed that should he throw his hat in the presidential race, most of the senators would be handy for him.
However, his case at the Code of Conduct Tribunal over false assets declaration is seen as a minus for the medical doctor turned politician cum lawmaker.
A senator close to Saraki said the ambition of President Buhari should not stop that of the Senate President. The Northern lawmaker who does not want to be named said, “He is a man of ambition and it is not a crime to be ambitious. He has strength in all the six geopolitical zones of the country.”
But another source said Saraki has pledged not to contest against Buhari.
“He has said that he would not contest against Buhari. He said if Buhari is contesting, he would not,” the source said.
The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Saraki, Yusuph Olaniyonu, said his principal would make his position known in the second quarter of this year.
“He has said it on record in an interview that by the second quarter of this year, may be around the third anniversary of the Senate, he would say whatever he wants,” he said.
Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso
If the body language of Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso is anything to go by, he will contest for the Presidency come 2019. What is not clear is the platform in which he will do so.
Feelers around him indicate that the two time governor of Kano State is all out to contest for the Presidency. He was defeated by President Buhari during the presidential primary of the APC in 2014. Kwankwaso came second while former vice president Atiku Abubakar came third.
His emergence as number two in the APC presidential primary, coupled with the infrastructural development recorded under his watch in Kano and the role he played in the formation of the APC, have ballooned his popularity.
His admirers believe that he is the right person for the plum job. Kwankwaso, 61, was governor of Kano state between 1999 and 2003 and from 2011 to 2015.
Our correspondent reports that of recent, his posters and stickers are seen on taxis, tricycles and other commercial vehicles in the northern states. Branches of his Kwankwasiyya Movement are now in many states.
Reports kept filtering around that there is the likelihood that the coalition of former president Olusegun Obasanjo may endorse him as their candidate for the Presidency. He is seen as one of the Obasanjo boys eyeing Buhari’s seat.
He had been reportedly advised not to dump the APC for now so that in the event Buhari does not contest, he would grab the opportunity.
However, the feud between him and his successor in Kano, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, is seen as a minus for the father of the red cap revolution. Also, some of his colleagues in the Senate said Kwankwaso has not related well with them as colleagues.
One of them from North said: “He is too arrogant. His arrogance is working against him even at the Senate. We expected him to use us to advance his ambition but unfortunately, he doesn’t relate well.
“Look at Jeremiah Useni, Abdullahi Adamu, Aliyu Wamakko, Danjuma Goje and all other governors, they move around freely, greet colleagues and interact but Kwankwaso doesn’t. He only relates with a few of his colleagues,” he said.
Another senator who also doesn’t want to be mentioned, said, “Since he does not relate well with us, we mock him by saying, Kwankwasiyya and he says, ‘Amana’, whenever we pass through his seat or come across him.”
Contacted, Kwankwaso’s spokesperson, Binta Spikin, said the pressure was being mounted on her principal to contest for the Presidency.
“There is pressure on him to contest for the Presidency, people are calling on him to contest. So far, he has not declared or launched any presidential campaign. If he had done so you would have known,” she said.
“Personally, I will ask him to contest. This is my opinion. I think he should contest because he has the capacity, wisdom, strength, followership and all that are required to pilot the affairs of our country,” she said.
Some analysts are of the opinion that the push by Governor Nasir El-Rufai and Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi for Buhari to go for second term is to endear themselves to him in the event he does not run.
However, sources close to them said that is not true, insisting that what they are doing is an altruistic endeavour to keep Nigeria one.
Tambuwal may get the support of ex-presidents
Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State is one of the APC governors being touted as a possible presidential candidate for the ruling party.Just like other presidential hopeful, Tambuwal is believed to have also commenced surreptitious campaigns ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Some pundits view his cautious role in the efforts being made by some APC governors to push the second term agenda of President Buhari as an indication of the suspected ambition which had once received the blessing of former military president, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.
The former Head of State had in April 2013, subtly endorsed Tambuwal for the 2015 presidential race by describing him as a beacon of hope and a representative of a generation that may yet ensure that the labours of the nation’s heroes past are not in vain.
The former president, who spoke in Lagos at the investiture of former Governor Rotimi Amaechi and Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuode as Vanguard Newspaper ‘Personalities of the Year 2013’, voiced confidence in the leadership qualities of Tambuwal when he was the speaker and thanked him “for giving us hope and assurances”.
“His conduct has shown that the upcoming generation has the capacity to sustain the labour of our heroes past. When leaders like Tambuwal have delivered on their electoral promises, we advise them to try something higher. For Tambuwal, your guess is as good as mine,” he said.
The current travail of the media aide to the former president Babangida has even been attributed to his purported secret strategic role for Tambuwal ahead of the 2019 presidential election.
Last year, former president Olusegun Obasanjo, who also said that Tambuwal won his heart with his performance as speaker, described him as an example of some of the identified successful youths in politics when he spoke on ‘Enhancing Youth Participation in Politics’ at the Youth Development Centre of the Olusegun Obasanjo Library (OOPL) which organized the Youth Governance Dialogue session in Abeokuta.
“Mr Governor, I would apologize that I am going to embarrass you small. When you emerged as the speaker, you knew I was not satisfied, because that was not the arrangement of the then PDP. It was the former administration and the then leadership that did that and I expressed my view.
“When you came to me, I told you that you were not the problem, but the party then. I told you that I was pleased by the reports I got of you as the speaker, and again I am still getting good reports of you in your state. You are one of the examples of the youth that have been doing well in politics,” Obasanjo said.
But the political credentials of the current governor of Sokoto State are considered inadequate enough for the 2015 presidential polls since he has continued to rely on the political structure of former governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wammako, who is popularly known as ‘Alu.’
Some pundits are still seeing this as a minus to the purported presidential aspiration of the former speaker in 2019.
There is no doubt that Tambuwal has contacts throughout the federation by virtue of his role as the number four citizen between 2011 and 2015.
However, Tambuwal must find a way to win the confidence of his traditional allies like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who backed his bid to become speaker in 2011, but felt betrayed in 2015 after he dumped their candidate, Femi Gbajabiamila, for the incumbent Speaker, Yakubu Dogara.
Governor Kashim Shettima
Eloquent Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State is not known to be politically aggressive. Shettima, whose second tenure will end in 2019, however, is said to be nursing the presidential election should President Buhari decide not to run again.
The thinking of some political analysts is that if he can still embark on laudable projects in spite of the Boko Haram insurgency, Shettima should go for the exalted office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The role played by Shettima, who is the chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum in the decision to review the controversial Kaduna declaration on the people of Southeast origin to vacate the north, is seen as the true responsibility of a person who is ready to govern a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation like Nigeria.
If he throws his cap into the ring, he would have to slug it out with the loyalists of former President Goodluck Jonathan who might not be happy with his decision to question the performance of the former president in tackling the Boko Haram insurgency.
However, in December 2017, the governor of Borno State said in an interview on the Osasu Show by Osasu Igbinedion that he would not contest for any position in the 2019 elections.
“What am I vying for? I will be doing a great disservice to humanity and to the God we worship if I start clamouring for any…even senatorial seat.
“Let me pick the wrath in the system, the educational system, the healthcare delivery… we have two million IDPs in Borno, let me make efforts for these IDPs to return to their homes.
“But personally, I have no desire to contest for any position, not even senatorial. I want to go back to school, earn a PhD, learn French,” Shettima said.
But in January this year, the Northeast Academics Support Group for Buhari/Osinbajo (NEASGBO) called on Shettima to rescind his decision not to contest for any elective office in the 2019 general elections in the overall political interest of the Northeast and his state in particular.
In a statement in Maiduguri, the chairman of the group, Dr. Mohammed Gujbawu, a lecturer at the Department of Mass Communication in the University of Maiduguri, said the call became necessary in view of Shettima’s outstanding performance as governor, including the exemplary way he stood by his people in their trying moments.
Sources said this is another subtle move to keep Shettima in the limelight so that Buhari might endorse him in the event he does not go for second term.