2015: Tambuwal may go for it
Under pressure from prominent northern leaders to contest the 2015 presidential election, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, has begun moves to actualise his ambition on the platform of the newly formed opposition mega party, All Progressives Congress (APC) should President Goodluck Jonathan press on with plans to seek re-election on the platform of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Though the Speaker has consistently played down on his ambition when confronted by the media, one of his close associates and member of the House of Representatives, who is involved in the “project,” told Saturday Sun emphatically that “Honourable Tambuwal will not only contest the 2015 election but will also do so, to the shock of many, on the platform of the opposition party, APC since the democratic space in PDP has been closed already because of the ambition of the president (Jonathan) to contest in 2015.”
The source added that Tambuwal’s ambition developed a life of its own after an influential group of northern leaders led by former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, endorsed the Speaker “as a presidential candidate the North can present as the region’s consensus candidate that will be acceptable to other parts of the country, especially the South West, which is the stronghold of the opposition.”
It was gathered that the Babangida group, which includes former National Security Adviser, Mohammed Aliyu Gusau, had, in fact, met with the National Leader of Action Congress of Nigeria, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a number of times in Lagos and Abuja between February and March to inform him about their desire to rally the North behind a Tambuwal candidature and seek his support.
A source close to the former Lagos State governor confirmed this, saying: “Though Asiwaju (Tinubu) assured them of his commitment to all efforts to use the emerging APC platform for a democratic change of government in 2015, he stressed that the platform will be made open to accommodate all, including Tambuwal.” It was further learnt that this agreement informed the decision of Babangida, to let the cat out of the bag about a fortnight ago by publicly calling on the Speaker, Tambuwal, to consider running for higher office based on his sterling performance as leader of the lower chamber of the National Assembly.
Babangida, who made the call at the investiture of ‘Vanguard Man of the Year Award,’ in Lagos, said that owing to Tambuwal’s performance and conduct in office, he had the belief that he has the capacity “to sustain the labour of our heroes past, adding: “When leaders like Tambuwal delivered on their electoral promise, we advise them to try something higher. For Tambuwal, your guess is as good as mine.” Still fighting hard to keep the arrangement shrouded in secrecy, Tambuwal, in a response through his spokesman, Imam Imam, said the higher office referred to by Babangida does not necessarily mean the presidency.
According to him: “Higher office does not mean the presidency. Speaker is number four. Higher office can be number three, two or one. And mind you, as a respected Nigerian, IBB has the right to say what he wants to say and advise whoever he feels needs his advice. I think you should ask IBB to give you the proper definition of what he means by higher office. “The Speaker always maintains one fact; when it is time for politics, there should be politics, but when it is time for governance, there should be governance.
We have a four-year mandate and this time that we are now is time to govern; right now, we are busy with governance issues; when it is time for politics, politics can be done.” Responding through a text message to Saturday Sun’s inquiry on Wednesday, the Speaker’s spokesman would, however, not confirm or deny Tambuwal’s preference for APC presidential ticket, stressing instead that the number four citizen “has not even spent two years in office and you are talking about 2015. Allow him to execute this mandate first.”
A presidential aide, who preferred not to be named, however, said: “We are aware of all the behind-the-scene moves of the Speaker, but he knows his alliance with the opposition cannot stop Mr. President in 2015 if he decides to run. The leadership of the PDP has also been properly briefed about this unholy alliance, as a result of which we see him now as a traitor.” The Speaker enjoys tremendous support from opposition members of the House of Representatives, in addition to his cordial relationship with his party’s members in the House.
His romance with opposition political parties, especially the ACN has been more visible through his presence in virtually all events and programmes organised by their leaders across the country. He has equally tended towards opposition’s views in his comments on several national issues. Tambuwal emerged the Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011 after attempts by the leadership of the ruling PDP and the Presidency to impose Hon. Mulikat Adeola Akande on the green chamber were popularly resisted by members who wanted to assert legislative independence and prove that the emergence of President Jonathan, in spite of a zoning arrangement in PDP, signified the death of that understanding.
He had earlier, in 2007, been elected into the House to represent the Kebbe/Tambuwal Federal Constituency of Sokoto State before his re-election in 2011. His ability to integrate the growing number of members from opposition parties into the mainstream of House leadership, his frequent checks on executive excesses as well as revelations coming from House panels probing certain expenditure by the executive arm of government have largely endeared him to many beyond the precincts of the legislative chambers.