North shops for replacement
Pressure on president to re-contest
Shettima, Tambuwal, Atiku, Kwankwaso on the cards
There are indications that President Muhammadu Buhari has foreclosed a second term bid despite pressure on him to contest the 2019 presidential election.
Buhari, according to a highly placed source in the presidency, took the decision on health and age grounds. The source told New Telegraph that the President’s disposition on recontesting in 2019 has thrown the doors open for those who have been angling to succeed him within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
“I can tell you authoritatively that President Buhari will not contest the 2019 election despite the pressure on him to run for a second term because of health and age factors. This is responsible for the rev in political activities in the APC, especially by those who want to take over from the President after his first term,” the source said.
The President recently returned from a medical vacation in the United Kingdom, where he had blood transfusion for an undisclosed ailment. He is 74 years and would be 76 by May 2019, when his first tenure elapses.
A second term would see him leaving office in 2023 at the age of 80.
A political associate of the President said that Buhari is not interested in playing politics with who succeeds him, which explains the scheming among several APC chieftains, particularly those from the North.
He listed those in the succession race to include former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; former Kano State governor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso; Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima and his Sokoto State counterpart, Aminu Tambuwal.
“If you know Mr. President very well, you will not dispute the fact that he is frank to a fault. He is not just bothered about a second term, but is not giving anyone his word of support. He will only throw his weight to whoever wins the party’s presidential primaries,” the source said.
Asked what happens to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo should Buhari stick with his decision not to contest again, the source said the slot will still remain in the South-West, but noted that he was not in a position to confirm whether Osinbajo would be considered for a second term.
Speaking to a cross section of northern elite and power brokers at the weekend, New Telegraph learnt that some northern politicians are already shopping for Buhari’s replacement in 2019. But a ranking member of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), who doesn’t want to be named, vowed that Buhari would re-contest in 2019, “in spite of everything.” The ACF stalwart told New Telegraph that “no one symbolizes the North’s political aspirations like Buhari.”
“In any case, forces that are beyond Buhari will force him to run again even if he doesn’t want to. Most people who became governors, ministers, senators and legislators at both state and federal levels in the North, were voted because of Buhari. The so-called cabal is nothing without Buhari.
They will make sure that he contests again in order to remain relevant,” he argued. Another northern elite who spoke to one of our correspondents yesterday, reasoned that it will not be a bad idea for the North to have a Plan B. “If this game plan sails, the North may have a combined 12-year term, if Buhari’s successor plays his card well.
That means four years of Buhari and eight years of post-Buhari,” he said. New Telegraph found out that the North’s Plan (A or B) is to choose a consensus candidate amongst Tambawal, Shettima and Malam Nasir el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State. However, another source said that el-Rufai may not be a good candidate of the North because “he may not serve northern interests.”
The source didn’t list what these interests are. According to the source, the Northern leaders are rooting for Shettima, who would be serving out his second term as governor in 2019, or Tambuwal, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Their argument, the source said, is that Buhari has already engraved his name in the sands of Nigerian history as one nationalist, who ensured that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was pushed out of power and, therefore, should support a younger person, who will continue from where he would stop in 2019.
The source equally informed New Telegraph that Tambuwal, who is on his first term as governor, is being considered because of the belief that his candidacy will not only enjoy the support of the North, but other sections of the country.
“The Sokoto State governor was able to build po litical bridges between the North and other parts of the country while he was Speaker of the House of Representatives. He is also in the good books of most powerful Northern emirs,” the source said.
For Atiku, it was learnt that Buhari’s body language on 2019, explains why the former vice president has stepped up consultation with major stakeholders across the country before he officially declares his ambition. Kwankwaso is also said to be reaching out. The former governor, who presently represents Kano Central Senatorial District, contested the APC presidential primaries in 2014 alongside Buhari, Atiku and others.
He came a shocking second with 974 votes ahead of the former vice president, who had 954 votes, while Buhari won the poll with 4,430 votes. An aide to el-Rufai confided in our correspondent that his principal is only interested in seeing President Buhari succeed and deliver dividends of democracy to the people of Kaduna State who have given him a four-year mandate.
“El-Rufai has said it several times that the president should re-contest in 2019. So, I don’t know where people got this rumour (his interest in 2019 presidency) from,” he stated. Atiku is going solo in his quest to become president in 2019.
Already, the Turakin Adamawa is going round the country and promising both the South- West and South-East the Vice Presidency.
“Turaki is all over the place and making all sorts of promises. He has been telling anyone that cares to listen in the south that he has the blessing of the northern political establishment,” the highly placed source added.
Speaking to New Telegraph on Tambuwal’s interest in the 2019 Presidency, the governor’s media aide, Malam Imam Imam, only said that “we have been hearing the speculation.”
He, however, said that he “won’t give a formal response to it because that will amount to giving credence to a rumour.”
On the other hand, Governor Shettima gave a detailed denial to the speculation, in response to New Telegraph’s enquiry by electronic mail.
According to him, “I am not aware of any such discussions, but what I know is that there is a sitting President Buhari that is very popular and is doing very well, particularly for those of us in North-East through his gallant victory over the Boko Haram and through his fiscal discipline that has enabled Nigeria to survive the economic recession caused by drop in the global price of oil and gross mismanagement of the nation’s resources.
“President Buhari returned in sound health and has been efficiently carrying out the demands of office since he returned.
And, like I have said in one interview published by a newspaper in April 2016, only a mad man blindly aspires to be Nigeria’s President if history is anything to go by.
“From 1979 to date, nobody on his own aspired for Nigeria’s Presidency and achieved it. Nigeria is a very complex nation that no one gets its Presidency by scheming or even by open aspiration. If we look at our political history from 1979 to date, the records are there.
“Those with ambition lost. President Shagari had no ambition, but was invited to contest in 1979 and won the elections; President Olusegun Obasanjo had no ambition in 1999, he was even in detention, but he was invited to contest without aspiration and won the 1999 election; President Umaru Yar’Adua had no ambition before he was invited to contest and won 2007 elections; President Goodluck Jonathan, who eventually succeeded Yar’Adua, was also invited to become Vice President without aspiration.
“When we look at President Buhari, despite his electrifying popularity across the country, he didn’t win the Presidency in his 2003, 2007 and 2011 aspirations until in 2015 when he was invited to contest the elections.
This is the complexity of Nigeria’s politics and any person with the slightest wisdom must learn from history and face his business of the day,” Shettima argued.
Speaking on the issue, former Second Republic member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, told New Telegraph that it is too early for politicking.
The Russian-trained Medical Doctor, however, said that the “cabal in the villa and the sheer incompetence and economic illiteracy of the Buhari administration have made people so desperate to see their exit.”
Junaid stated that although he has nothing against shopping for Buhari’s replacement, the “situation should not be regarded as a done deal because the APC is in disarray.”
National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie- Oyegun, had told New Telegraph that he would do everything possible, including “fasting and prayer”, to ensure that Buhari re-contests in 2019.
He said: “I will pray, fast to God that Buhari agrees to contest in 2019.
If he contests, Nigeria will be better for it. My prayer is that we can get Buhari to re-contest in 2019.
We don’t know his mind yet, but I will do anything in my power to ensure that he re-contests in 2019.
Why? “There is no other Buhari in this country. Buhari is the only man who can command 12 million votes even without any major campaign.”