BODE OLAGOKE, who has been following events within the All Progressives Congress (APC), writes on the possible presidential aspirants of the ruling party, their antecedents and chances ahead 2019.
Barely twenty months to another general elections, the usual political rumblings ahead of the general elections in 2019 have started tacitly in full swing not only in the ruling APC but all the other political parties. Their likely aspirants for positions at all levels are also warming up.
In the APC, one ticket that will naturally generate lots of heat and interest from all and sundry is that of presidential flag bearer, especially if the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, refuses to show interest for the reasons which are quite obvious: health challenges. But as it is today, the Buharists, as some have called themselves, are saying “even if the President is on wheelchair he will contest and win.”
Some persons from different camps within the party had since begun the political game of wit, aligning and realigning to perfect strategies to outsmart each other either to secure an elective ticket or positioned themselves for appointive positions. However, the ‘golden ticket’ being flying the Presidential ticket of the ruling APC when the time come in 2019, remains the most prominent.
Prominent among those likely to aspire for the ticket are the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, former Vice President (under PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Governor Nasir El-rufai and Governor Kassim Shetima of Borno state.
President Muhammadu Buhari
Though he has not declared his interest to seek second term in the office, however some leaders and even governors perceived or pretending to be loyal to the Kastina-born politician have piled up arguments on why the incumbent President Buhari should express interest to continue ruling Nigeria beyond 2019. They think his records of achievements so far in the current administration are enough to persuade him to continue ruling Nigeria.
In more than one occasion, National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Oyegun, has said that they will ask Buhari to re-contest in 2019. Though, whether Oyegun still holds such believe is a question for another day. For the Kaduna state governor, Malam El-rufai, who has branded himself as ‘a Buharist’, he had declared that “we (Buharists) have started mobilization for the re-election of Mr. President in 2019.”
But no thanks to President Buhari’s health status which could happen to anyone regardless of age or the office one is occupying. Based on this, some commentators are of the opinion that come 2019, the President will do the noblest thing: thank Nigerians for giving him a chance to serve, allow the transition process to run smoothly without his interference, and then walk away with his head high.
One of those asking Buhari not to seek re-election is Mrs. Abombola Adelakun, a social commentator who said: “If Buhari decides to contest in 2019, we will waste about half of the electioneering time on enervating debates about his health, arguing whether he has the physical and mental capability to continue the taxing job of leading Nigeria or not. His detractors and his followers will have a lot of materials to chew on for many such specious debates, none of which will improve our lot.
“This year, he has spent almost six months abroad treating an unknown ailment, and there is no guarantee he will not travel again before his tenure expires. His foreign trips have cost Nigeria tons of money, and knowing how prohibitive medical costs in Britain can be for a non – citizen, Buhari has probably cost Nigeria higher than the budgetary allocation to the entire health sector in Nigeria.”
Apart from his health condition, by 2019 the old man will get older, and as he himself attested to during his inaugural’s speech where he said “I wish I’m younger” by 2019 he won’t get younger but older.
Former VP Atiku Abubakar
For the Waziri Adamawa, he has never hidden his interest to become Nigeria’s president since 1992 when he emerged on the political scene and wanted to bear the flag of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). That was 23 years ago and it appears the dream is still very much alive.
Among the current contenders within the APC, the former Vice President could be considered to be the most experienced presidential aspirant having held the office of number two citizen for eight years under the President Olusegun Obansajo-led government, and Atiku was specifically in charge of economy.
Atiku contested the 2014 APC’s presidential primaries against the current President, Muhammadu Buhari, but lost. He came third, trailing behind Rabiu Kwankwaso, who came second. However, factors leading to the defeat are understandable, though.
Ahead of 2019 APC Presidential primaries, event watchers have tipped Atiku as one of the leading contenders with bright chances in the ruling party. This is because the Waziri Adamawa’s political influence has continued to grow within and outside the APC.
It would be recalled that when the leadership of the APC under Chief John Oyegun stood against the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively, the former Vice President stood by them, which is one of the major reasons Atiku’s influence at the National Assembly has remained indisputable.
Again, recent developments have shown that some serving state governors and ministers are obviously in favour of Atiku. These Atikuists are no longer hiding their support for the former Vice President. For this reason and others, Waziri Adamawa might be one of strongest aspirants and he could this time around come out with better performance than he had in 2014 APC presidential primaries.
One is not however, certain if Waziri Adamawa will remain in the ruling party till 2019 because several reports have linked him to probable return to the main opposition party, the People Democratic Party (PDP). Moving from party to party has been one of the points of Atiku Abubakar.
Senate President Bukola Saraki
The current number three citizen and the former governor of Kwara state, is also one person who will do everything possible to be the next President of Nigeria. Some call him a political titan, who has always had his way in politics despite oppositions. His current position was fiercely and vigorously opposed by the strong and ‘mighty’ within the APC who deployed entire party structure against him just to thwart his ambition. But the Son of the late strong man of Kwara politics and Senate Leader in the Second Republic, Olusola Saraki, successfully manoeuvred his way and today remains the indubitable Senate President, despite all odds.
Prior to APC Presidential Primaries in 2014, Bukola Saraki had shown interest to contest the party’s presidential ticket but later he was claimed to have stepped down for the incumbent President Buhari, a position Buhari and his spokesmen denied at different time.
Saraki is, therefore, seen as one of the young ambitious politicians, who is allegedly doing everything possible to rule Nigeria. However, whether the forces against him within and outside the APC will give room for such dream to become reality remains to be seen.
Again, Bukoka Saraki and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar are considered to be in the same political family, therefore, if the later will contest, the former must rest his presidential ambition come 2019 but in politics everything is possible.
Sen. Musa Kwankwaso
The former Kano State governor and current senator shocked all political analysts in 2014 when he came second ahead of Atiku and Rochas Okorocha at the APC Presidential primaries.
Having come second in the 2014 APC presidential primaries, he is a serious factor in the party and even now that he has yet to declare his declare his aspiration to fly the party’s ticket in 2019, many consider him a force that can’t be readily pushed away.
Kwankwaso’s supporters across the country have started mobilising for him. They have declared that it is “a must” for their principal to contest the 2019 presidential elections.
They are using the word “must’ because, as gathered by our correspondent from a close political strategist in Kwankwaso’s camp: “whether the APC gives us ticket or not our candidate will contest the coming presidential elections.”
It was also gathered that the former Kano governor, through his formidable Kwankwasiyya group, has been able to set up structures across the states, most especially in the South where he’s considered not too popular. For Kwankwaso, the race is on for the presidential elections.
What is not also certain regarding him is the latest rumours of him preparing to decamp to one of the newly registered political parties with his structures, particularly the group led by Engr. Buba Galadima, a one-time right hand man to the incumbent President Buhari. In fact, the group launched its Charter in Kaduna recently and regretted working hard to assist President Buhari secure victory in 2015. Could this be a pointer to likely turn of event ahead of 2019?
Apart from the above mentioned political gladiators, the likes of Sokoto state governor, Tambuwal, Kaduna state governor, El-rufai and Borno state governor, Shettima, have been mentioned as those who might have been nursing ambition of fly the APC ticket in 2019, but whoever will finally do the flying, time will tell.