•Serving female minister may emerge APC VP candidate
By Lanre Adewole
IN a couple of months from now, the presidential field of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is expected to further crystallise to know who is playing where, Nigerian Tribune’s survey has shown.
Similar scenario will also be playing out in the largest opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The two parties are expected to complete their elective congresses and national convention before the end of the year, but those angling for the ultimate prize, the presidency, are already working out strategies to place them in firm control and draw them closer to the nomination.
While President Muhammadu Buhari is seen as arguably the ultimate decider of where the pendulum will swing in the ruling APC, multiple power centres controlling the opposition party and the outcome of the October national convention of the former ruling party are expected to largely determine who would eventually fly its presidential flag.
Checks by Nigerian Tribune showed that search had begun in earnest for an acceptable southern presidential candidate for the ruling party, with associates of the president reportedly seeking ‘legacy candidate’.
The favoured southerner, who is likely to be a Christian, in the thinking of mainly northern political players conducting the search, should be able to protect not only the interest of the North, but, most importantly, what is considered the legacy of the incumbent Aso Rock top tenant.
Though the said legacy was not mentioned in clearest term, Nigerian Tribune learnt that whoever is eventually picked would be expected to protect various interests of the outgoing administration and complete projects said to be dear to the president’s heart. Apart from major investment in the agriculture sector, the administration of President Buhari has focussed on fighting corruption and tackling insurgency, with the latter yielding tangible result in recent weeks.
It was also learnt that despite his characteristic aloofness, President Buhari is deeply interested in and concerned about who takes over from him, expected to be from his party. Apart from completely imposing himself on the ruling party since the sack of the National Working Committee (NWC) headed by former Edo State governor, Mr Adams Oshiomhole, the Nigerian leader is also said to be on lookout for a successor from his party who shares his vision for the country, as a way of institutionalising the direction he believes he has taken the country, especially in the area of food sufficiency, probity and accountability.
His critics, however, largely differ with him on the direction the country has taken. It is widely believed Buhari has reversed some gains of the past administrations, especially in the areas of economic growth, election integrity and tackling inflation.
Even on war against corruption, he is scored below average by many Nigerians, with the verdicts from international agencies and global watchdogs regularly sinking the incorruptibility image of the administration. While providing strong leadership is seen by the supporters of Aso Rock as an integral part of the Buhari legacy, critics have continuously slammed the administration over perceived poor human rights record.
As if taking a cue from past presidents and kingmakers, who had it rough with handpicked successors, associates of the president are said to be intent on landing a southerner who completely shares Buhari’s vision and who believes in him as a leader.
Some of those being touted to be eyeing the presidential ticket of the ruling party are the party’s national leader, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi.
None of them has however, openly declared interest in securing the party’s ticket. While it is yet unknown if the search team would look beyond the politics turf for the legacy man, nothing is being ruled out in landing a fit-the-bill candidate.
A member of the House of Representatives who had been rooting all along for an assumed leading aspirant was jolted days back when he was pointedly told by a member of the search team who belongs to the national secretariat of the party that the lawmaker’s man had never been in the equation.
Apart from the SouthWest, presidential drumbeat is also loud in the South-East.
South-East, looking North?
Eye-catching defections to the ruling party have upped the ante in the zone, with the two leading political parties being encouraged by heavyweights from the zone to zone their presidential tickets to the area.
Analysts are of the opinion that the political class would be more comfortable with a non-political presidential material from the area than politicians, who allegedly can’t be trusted to preserve the unity of the country. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, a former governor of Anambra State, in a recent interview, said an Igbo presidency in 2023 would completely douse the secession agitation in the zone.
In late Alex Ekwueme, the South-East produced the first democratically-elected vice president of Nigeria. Certain high-profile defection to APC in recent time is fuelling the suspicion that the zone is likely angling for the vice president’s slot again if the party’s presidential ticket will remain in the North.
While South-South should ordinarily not be in consideration since Goodluck Jonathan just rounded five years before the Buhari takeover, the recent excitement around the former president, created by top APC stalwarts, ignited a return to Aso Rock speculation around him. Nigerian Tribune however learnt that the optics of being wooed for the presidency again had no substance.
The move, was said to be a gimmick to further sell APC in the South South. It was gathered that fawning over Jonathan was meant to soften hearts in the zone, which have been very rigid towards the ruling party, due to alleged perception as a northern party.
The story about APC bringing him back for the conclusion of his second and final term for power to return to the North in another four years is said to be a ruse, meant to further cement the kite being deliberately flown around him for his supporters to start viewing APC as home.
While his kinsmen voted majorly for APC candidate in the controversial Bayelsa State governorship election, eventually awarded PDP by the Supreme Court, party insiders claimed nothing currently points to Jonathan as Buhari’s preferred successor.
A female VP?
As permutations roll in different directions, a serving minister may emerge running mate to the eventual choice of the power brokers in APC. The female minister currently heads a crucial ministry. A reliable source disclosed that picking her is going to be strategic for post-Buhari presidency, especially in sustaining the nuances that currently define the outgoing administration.
The female minister is a northerner, suggesting that the president may have settled on APC’s candidate emerging from the South. The source says shockers should be expected from the kitchen cabinet working on preserving the president’s legacy.
The president has severally requested fair assessment from historians in documenting his second sojourn in power.
Recently in Katsina, he asked for kind consideration from posterity, considering what his administration, according to him, has been able to achieve in the face of serious challenges, of COVID-19, crash in global economy, Nigeria’s stuttering economy, large-scale insecurity, amid political instability.
The current minister is reportedly wanted in the next dispensation which the President’s men believe APC will still control, for the sake of continuity and robust defence of controversial policies of the current administration.
However, the president appears to be keeping his choice of successor tightly to his chest.
Will PDP come to play?
As APC continuously raids PDP, amid the confidence crisis rocking the opposition party, many political analysts have practically written it off.
In about two months from now, the party is expected to have a new National Working Committee (NWC) headed by a southerner and possibly a south-westerner, effectively returning its presidential ticket to the North. Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, has said he needs aut three months to decide whether to run or not.
Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar is widely expected to seek nomination again and possibly for his final presidential run, considering his age.
Atiku ran with former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi, in 2019 as PDP standard-bearers. Aminu Tambuwal, Sokoto State governor, unsuccessfully sought the party’s nomination in 2019 and is rumoured to be interested again. Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, was allegedly pencilled in as his running mate, had he won.
No dark horse?
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo hardly denies his involvement in political projects and excitement bubbled when it was rumoured he was cobbling a third force, for Dr Akinwunmi Adesina to run for president in 2023.
Adesina is the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and a former Minister of Agriculture under the Jonathan presidency. Obasanjo, who headhunted Adesina into public office in Nigeria, promptly denied the alleged plan, dampening the enthusiasm being built around the possibility.
In 2011 when President Buhari, as the candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), was seeking an alliance with South-West and wanted Obasanjo in his corner, it was reported that Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was propped by Obasanjo to pair Buhari, before his support could be earned.
Buhari ended up with Pastor Tunde Bakare as running mate. Okonjo is currently the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WHO), after serving Jonathan as his finance minister.
Obasanjo was also rumoured to be responsible for Atiku picking Obi as his running mate in 2019, in exchange for his much coveted support to the chagrin of other SouthEast political leaders, who alleged they were sidelined in arriving at the pick.