Barely 10 months to the presidential election in 2019, some serious and others not too serious presidential aspirants have started jostling for the job of incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari. PATRICK ANDREW writes
Not a few were in suspense over the likelihood of President Muhammadu Buhari re-contesting for the exalted office he currently occupies. Severally, he has said that he will declare his ambition at the right time and for this reason, many Nigerians believe he will run for a second term. However, in spite of this certainty, there was anxiety in the polity. Last Monday, speculations about Buhari’s re-election bid vanished, when he formally informed the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja, of his desire to run again in 2019. With the formal declaration, the race for the 2019 presidential elections may have formally taken off the block.
Before then though, politicianswho have been eyeing the president’s job have been making wide consultations, overtly and covertly, forging and rebuilding alignments across the political parties and geo-political divides. Whereas some aspirants can be taken seriously based on their pedigree, clout and visibility, others are merely on an ego trip. Below are aspirants who have either declared their ambitions or are in serious contention for the big post.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar
The name of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the Waziri Adamawa, resonates in the political firmament. Though seen by foes as a serial presidential candidate, Atiku’s persistence in the quest to rule Nigeria is as obvious as one’s yearning to breathe. Expectedly, the former Vice President under the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency is again on queue to vie for the office of the president of Nigeria.
The politician, businessman and philanthropist, was born on November 25, 1946 in Adamawa State. He had a twenty-year career with the Nigeria Customs Service, where he rose to the position of the Deputy Director, the then second highest position in the Service. He retired in April 1989 and turned to a full-time businessman and politician.
His political odyssey
Alhaji Atiku’s first shot at the presidency dates back to 1992 when he contested the presidential primaries of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) alongside Late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola and Alhaji Babagana Kingibe. Though Atiku came third in the convention’s primaries, he clearly announced his presence in the Nigerian political space in a big way. With his support, which earned Abiola the presidential ticket of the then SDP, he had a kind of an unwritten agreement to be M.K.O’s running mate. Abiola, however, jettisoned Atiku and announced Babagana Kingibe, the first runner-up in the primaries, as his running mate.
Also, in1998 Atiku launched a bid for the governorship of Adamawa State on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Atiku won the December 1998 elections, but before he could be sworn in, the PDP’s presidential candidate, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, beckoned on him to be his Vice-Presidential candidate. The Obasanjo-Atiku ticket won the 27 February 1999 presidential election with 62.78 percent of the votes cast.
However, towards the end of their second tenure, Obasanjo and Atiku fell apart and subsequently, the latter defected to the Action Congress (AC), a party he and Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu jointly put together. As expected, Atiku emerged as the presidential candidate of the defunct Action Congress (AC) but came third in the general election, behind the PDP candidate, Umaru Yar’Adua and the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.
Consequently, Atiku returned to PDP and in October 2010, he announced his intention to contest for the Presidency. On 22 November 2010, a Committee of Northern Elders selected him as the Northern Consensus Candidate, over the former Military President, Ibrahim Babangida, former National Security Adviser, Aliyu Gusau, and Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State. In January 2011, Atiku contested for the Presidential ticket of his party alongside President Jonathan and Sarah Jubril, and lost the primaries, garnering only 805 votes from the delegates as against the 2,736 votes secured by President Jonathan.
On 2 February 2014, Atiku left the PDP along with five serving governors and some others that formed the nPDP. Subsequently, they joined the newly formed APC, where he contested for the party’s presidential ticket alongside Buhari, Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso, Owelle Rochas Okorocha and Mr Sam Nda- Isaiah. However, he came a distant third, behind Buhari and Kwankwaso.
After much speculation, Atiku finally last November dumped the APC adducing lack of internal democracy, deliberate policy of disconnect with those that had fought for the APC government to emerge and growing discontent with in the polity over neglect of youths and loss of jobs. Subsequently, he rejoined the PDP claiming that situations that had necessitated his exit have been corrected. Recently, he has announced his intention to re-contest the presidency but whether the electorate will give him their mandate is yet to be seen.
Former Governor Donald Etim Duke of Cross River State, who held sway between 1999 and 2007 on the platform of PDP is one politician to watch in the current jockeying for the presidency. In 2007, he was one of the candidates that the powers-that-be had penciled down to succeed Obasanjo, along side Dr Peter Odili, his River state counterpart and Governor Umaru Musa Yar’adua of Katsina state. Somehow, the Mattawallen Katsina eventually emerged as the anointed candidate and President Obasanjo mobilized state apparatus to ensure Yar’adua’s victory.
Born in September 1961, Mr. Duke graduated in law from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1982 and took his LL.M in Business Law and Admiralty in 1984 from University of Pennsylvania. Last May, Duke had hinted on the possibility of joining the presidential race. According to him, “I am entitled to run for presidency of this country. Only on right circumstances I will aspire for it. I don’t shy away from responsibility; I will aspire for presidency of this country. I have what it takes to be president of this country.”
Although, Duke belongs to the PDP, it is not clear if he would run on the party’s platform as he recently identified with Obasanjo’s Coalition for Nigeria Movement, which was launched on January 31. Specifically, he has joined forces with former Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) Governor, Professor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, Professor Pat Utomi, Barrister Olisa Agbakoba and Ms Oby Ezekwesili to float Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM) which said it would rescue Nigeria from PDP and APC.
Though Duke presumably may have the support of Obasanjo to run on whatever platform, but political watchers are quick to dismiss this since it seems Obasanjo’s CNM may team up with the SDP. At SDP, the likes of Prof. Jerry Gana, who recently joined the party, ‘natural’ candidate Chief Olu Falae, have not hidden their individual desires to fly the flag of the party in the presidential race. Significantly, Duke may not stand a chance of clinching the party’s flag, if these ‘’ political juggernauts’’ are in the race.
Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso
The Chief Apostle of the Kwankwasiyya Movement is no pushover in the political equation of Nigeria as evident by his performance in the 2014 APC primaries, where he finished second ahead of the battle-tested Atiku. Right now, Kwankwaso is a serving senator representing Kano Central at the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly. A former governor of Kano state, who served the state from 1999-2003 and 2011-2015 respectively, he is said to have turned around Kano through laudable physical infrastructural development, especially during his second tenure.
Kwankwaso has never hidden his presidential ambition and he has been building up and re-oiling his political arsenal across the nation. His political trademark, the Kwankwasiyya Amana Movement, which he established before the 2011 general elections, has reached out to North Central, North East, and the South East and South West states, aimed at cutting down on Buhari’s support base.
However, Kwankwaso’s greatest hurdle is President Buhari. He had been patiently waiting for Buhari to decline the pressure being piled on him to contest for a second tenure. That however was put paid to last Monday when the president formally declared his quest for second term. Should Kwankwaso chooses to remain in the APC and slug it out with Buhari for the party’s ticket, he will lose the primaries, notwithstanding his large followership in Kano, Kaduna and other states in the North. However, he stands a fighting chance at the general election if emerges as the flagbearer of Obasanjo’s Third Force.
Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi
In 2007, Senator Ahmed Makarfi was considered for the presidency, when President Obasanjo was desperately looking for a successor, before settling for Yar’adua. Significantly, although Makarfi missed out in the power permutations then, his profile in the PDP had risen in recent times, when he successfully managed the crisis that engulfed the party. Specifically, the former governor of Kaduna state was appointed PDP’s National Caretaker Committee Chairman and to his credit, Makarfi was able to midwife a new National Working Committee (NWC). As governor, he had managed the ethnic and religious turbulence in Kaduna in the eight years that he was in office .
Significantly, his leadership as Caretaker Committee Chairman gave him a national visibility, especially the dogged and deft way he that he managed the crisis. In addition, Makarfi’s level-headedness, tact, vast political clout will be an added advantage if he throws his hat into the ring. Right now, his aspiration is within the realms of conjectures. But like Atiku, he has been meeting the party’s power brokers, including Gen.
Babangida, Governor Nyesom Wike of River state, Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, the Gombe state governor, Governors Udom Emmanuel and Ayodele Fayose of Akwa Ibom and Ekiti states respectively.
Governor Ayo Fayose
Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti state, the thorn in the flesh of APC government, was among the first sets of aspirants whose posters were all over the country, announcing his presidential ambition. His fearless attack of the APC-led federal government and swift responses to APC’s recurrent accusations on the PDP has made him a force to be reckoned with the polity.
Though some see him as a joker, but since his declaration and overt activities in that regard, many see him as the real balance of force needed to check APC’s rule. Consequently, some analysts are already calling him the ‘Donald Trump of Nigeria’, given his penchant for reckless allegations. Fayose, 56, who is the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, had boasted during a live television interview that, he will become president. According to him, “it is not by power. It is destiny. I did not believe it when I became Ekiti governor. After eight years, I will be the vice president of Nigeria, even the president very soon.”
However, since the last convention, the intensity of his campaigns and utterances in regard to the ambition seem to have taken a back seat. Understandably, he would have to grapple with various forces within the PDP, especially the fact that the party has given the North the presidential slot and anything to contrary could hurt the fragile unity of the PDP.
Alhaji Sule Lamido
A dyed-in-the-wool apostle of the late Aminu Kano, Alhaji Sule Lamido has not jettisoned the Talakawas in spite of the fact that he now belongs to the right of the ideological spectrum. Significantly, he was a member of the G 34 that confronted Gen Sani Abacha. Lamido has intensified his campaign and wide-ranging consultations, insisting that no amount of intimidation and cooked up lies by the APC-led federal government would determine him from working assiduously to rescue the country from the vicious grip of the present administration.
Repeatedly, he has said that the APC government as failed and that the nation is in want of the political maturity to pilot its affairs. Lamido’s presidential declaration sometime last year didn’t come to many as a surprise. Lamido, who is among the founding fathers of the PDP, has promised that if offered the party’s ticket in 2019, he will ultimately defeat Buhari in the general election.
Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal
Since 2015, former Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal has allegedly been eyeing the presidency. However, he perished the idea and went to contest for the governorship of Sokoto state and won the election. However, in recent times, Tambuwal seems to have resurrected his presidential ambition and in this regard, he is said to be exploring his nationwide contacts which he built as speaker.
Smart, likeable and without political baggage, Tambuwal’s major hurdle will be how to get the APC ticket, assuming he doesn’t defect to another party. Afterwards, he will have the south west to contend with, having abandoned Femi Gbajabiamilia in favour of Yakubu Dogara as for speakership. Significantly, Gbajabiamila and Asiwaju played a major role in Tambuwal’s emergence as speaker in 2011, so the Tinubu camp see the governor of Sokoto state as someone who betrayed them.
However, whether Buhari’s declaration will make Tambuwal to shelve his ambition until 2023, is still debatable. Right now, he has not declared one way or the other.
Significantly, there are several others who are angling for Buhari’s job, apart from the list above and they include Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwanbo of Gombe state, former Accountant General of the Federation, ex Senate President Ken Nnammani, Professor Olufunmilayo Adesanya Davies form Kwara state and Mr Charles Udeogaranya, Lagos state chairman of the defunct African Renaissance Party(ARP) as well as several others. No doubt, the race will comprise the frontrunners, the jokers and the ‘also-rans’ but the contest promises to be exciting.