- Tambuwal defects to APC
The governor of north Nigeria’s most populous state on Tuesday announced his bid to run for president on the main opposition ticket, as the speaker of the country’s lower house of parliament defected to the same party.
Kano State governor Rabiu Kwankwaso’s declaration, made at a rally in the capital Abuja, sets up a three-way battle for the presidential nomination within the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Nigeria’s former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari and the country’s ex-vice-president Atiku Abubakar have already said they want to contest for the February 14, 2015 poll.
Kwankwaso, who defected from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of President Goodluck Jonathan last year, is a former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and defence minister.
He also served as Nigeria’s envoy to the restive Darfur region of Sudan and war-torn Somalia under president Olusegun Obasanjo.
At the rally, he put tackling insecurity, endemic corruption, boosting economic growth and improving equality at the heart of his campaign.
“I’m offering myself and soliciting the support of Nigerians to join Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso on this difficult journey to reclaim our country from the clutches of incompetency and destruction and tie it to the pedestal of peace and progress,” he said.
“I have no doubt in my mind that this journey is difficult and arduous. I’m under no illusion about the enormity of the challenge.
“But to save our country we must walk the journey, no matter how difficult, and we must defeat all the challenges, however monstrous they are.”
Kwankwaso and a number of other influential state governors switched sides in protest at Jonathan’s apparent ambition for re-election after he allegedly pledged to serve only one term.
Jonathan’s office has said he will formally declare for re-election on November 11.
His 200-member presidential declaration committee meets in Abuja on Wednesday.
Kwankwaso, 58, faces an uphill battle to win the APC primary due in early December, with both Buhari and Abubakar enjoying huge political followings in the Muslim-majority north.
The defection of governors to the APC was seen as strengthening the opposition’s hand, giving the opposition a chance of winning power for the first time since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999.
A number of lawmakers followed suit, the latest of them House of Representatives speaker Aminu Tambuwal, who will contest for the governorship of northwestern Sokoto state.
Tambuwal told lawmakers that his decision to defect was “in continuation of the great sacrifice and also the need to ensure development of constitutional democracy”.