By Olawale Olaleye
President Muhammadu Buhari, Monday, tinkered with the mood in his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and, indeed, the nation, when he hinted at the possibility of a consensus in the choice of the party’s presidential candidate.
Buhari had at a meeting with the 22 governors of the party, in the presence of the National Chairman, Senator Abdulahi Adamu, cleverly stated that he wanted “reciprocity” in the process leading to the choice of his successor.
He simply asked to be allowed to determine who the fellow would be, as the governors, (so it was presumed), too, determined successors in their respective states.
The idea of seeking to be allowed to determine his successor did not come about by chance. The president was believed to have been mulling his options and, especially, how to go about it in the past few weeks.
Sources within the party had also hinted of a discreet committee long set up by the president to look at the options before him from the array of aspirants currently jostling to fly the flag of the ruling APC.
The committee, which sources claimed, had long submitted its report, did so with some of the options deemed suitable from the lot and also offered explanation on each, allegedly.
While the sources declined to divulge the options presented to the president and why, the Monday meeting during which the president hinted at a possible consensus, was a follow-up to the committee report and, by extension, a clue on what would happen next week, when APC holds its presidential convention.
Very importantly, too, Buhari’s meeting with the governors, which held on a day the screening of the presidential aspirants of the party came to a close, was considered strategic to send home the right message. This is more so, as one critical question asked the aspirants during screening was what their reaction would be if the party embraced the consensus option for its primary election.
Since Buhari dropped the bombshell, shortly before departing for Madrid, Spain, on an official visit, discussions have continued almost endlessly, as to who his choice might be, even though he would not pick outside of the 22 men and a woman screened by the committee led by a former national chairman of the party and erstwhile governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
But Buhari, typically, has managed to keep sealed lips, while keeping everyone guessing and the nation in suspense. Buhari’s choice is today the best kept secret, as no one can claim knowledge of the choice.
For a while, former President Goodluck Jonathan seemed like the beautiful bride. And with an eagle eye, the press kept vigil and made headlines of any scrap of information from that camp. But events that have played out thus far, have excluded him as a tantalising prospect. Could it still be him? Well, not that it’s just impossible, but it is now highly improbable.
Yet, if Jonathan was out of the race or was never in it in the first place, these men are not. The president is believed to have narrowed his choice to these 10 men from the 23 aspirants. They are Bola Tinubu, Yemi Osinbajo, Ibikunle Amosun, Kayode Fayemi, Chibuike Amaechi, Godswill Akpabio, Ken Nnamani, Ogbonnaya Onu, Ahmed Lawan, and Abubakar Badaru.
This, however, is notwithstanding the new thinking in the party, which seeks to broaden the space to allow for more options before the party journeys to its presidential convention next Monday, even though stakeholders are still sharply divided over zoning of the party’s ticket in order to face the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
But the question remains: who amongst these men will Buhari pick? Who is the president’s choice hiding in plain sight? In 72 hours or less, the nation shall know that which is hidden in the mind of the president.
Below are the possible contenders profiled in no particular order.
Their paths to a promising political partnership first crossed in the run-up to the 2011 general election, when an alliance was proposed between Buhari and Tinubu, including running on a joint ticket, although a Muslim-Muslim blend. But the intrigues of that era were a bit too much for their proposal to fly and so, the idea was rested.
It was, therefore, not difficult to pick up from where they stopped, when the lead up to the 2015 elections also demanded some kind of partnership, stronger than the alliance proposed in 2011. Tinubu provided the grounds for the merger and joined other forces to raise the team that sent an incumbent government packing.
Although Tinubu came to the merger with the mindset of the 2011 understanding of paring with Buhari, what was at stake in 2015 was bigger than the minced meat of 2011. So that understanding died a natural death. But Tinubu would not stop talking about it and if he ever falls in the consideration of Buhari, it would be a compensation for his lifelong ambition.
Their first ever meeting was the night he was introduced to him as his co-pilot for the Nigerian project. He could barely even remember his name in their first-ever outing together after that, when he erroneously referred to his running mate as “Osinbande” during an introduction. But seven years after, all that is history.
As dependable allies, Buhari and Osinbajo, have walked through the thick and thin of addressing many of Nigeria’s challenges. In his capacity as vice president, he has stepped forward to the demands of his office without reservation from any quarters. As acting president, Osinbajo made good the opportunities, which came a couple of times, to prove the stuff he is made of.
Therefore, after almost eight years together as a seemingly indivisible duo, Osinbajo ordinarily stands out as a good successor, who would easily sell the agenda of the ruling party. But there are much deeper considerations beyond being his current deputy and this would be part of the factors to juggle, when his name eventually comes up.
His relationship with Buhari comes in two parts. One, as family and, two, as political ally. But he is closer as an adopted member of the Buhari family, who has been with him for many years. No doubt, he is the closest to Buhari in the South-west. Little wonder, he is the only “stranger” allowed to see Buhari’s surviving sister. The two also flaunt their relationship without minding whose ox is gored.
Amosun has often taken it upon himself to do some political clean-up for the president, evidently, without prodding. It is personal for him. Even more, as a two-term governor of Ogun State, a state he rescued from the throes of economic and social maladies, Amosun’s management of security in the state at a time banks could not open for business for fear of robbers and how he marked up the state’s IGR are clear indications of capacity, competence, and ability to think outside the box.
Whichever angle his consideration comes from as Buhari’s likely choice, Amosun stands firm and able to take up the challenge, of course, with the support of the party and other stakeholders.
Telling the story of the formation of the APC and the young men, who burnt their energies to make it happen, without acknowledging the role Fayemi played would be history in poor revision. From how the name, APC, came about to the first announcement that introduced the “baby party” to the people of Nigeria, whoever is writing the story of the APC would not be seen as having done justice to it without properly documenting how Fayemi fared.
From his appointment as Minister of Steel, to his current office as not just the governor of Ekiti State, but also the governor of governors, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Fayemi has helped both Buhari and the party to manage his colleagues, to the admiration of the president, without crossing the lines on either side.
A progressive, young and promising mind, Fayemi’s development focus puts him in good stead. That’s in addition to sound academic background and choice of war studies for his PhD study, which are indications of palpable competence and capacity to cause change to happen. Thinking Fayemi, clearly, puts these and more into account.
The former Rivers State governor wormed his way to the heart of the president long before the election of 2015. Based on personal conviction, even though he had no clue what the future held for him, Amaechi had told everyone, who cared to listen that the only person, who could win the election for APC was Buhari. His conviction was further given fillip by two things: the need to fight corruption and insecurity.
Thus, Amaechi, working with like-minds, went all out and gave everything, even at personal expense, to make sure Buhari emerged, not just as the candidate of APC at its 2014 presidential convention in Lagos, but also emerged victorious at the general election.
Aside boasting enviable record, both as governor and Minister of Transportation, Amaechi, also has to his credit, the experience of having managed his colleagues at the level of speaker and as governor of governors for eight years. This puts him, too, in a vantage position. And as one of those who have done the administration proud with his railway revolution, he is standing pretty strong in the current equation.
Wearing the badge of uncommon transformation as governor of Akwa Ibom State for eight years, the immediate past Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, is the second person, aside Amaechi, from the South-south, who is being penciled in for the job of the president as a result of the current confusion in APC.
Although a second-class APC member by reason of the time he joined the party, Akpabio is also a latecomer to the “conference of presidential aspirants” owing to the time he enlisted in the race. But, as a lawyer with potential for political novelties, he has claimed a slot in the race, as the party and president struggle to pick a consensus candidate acceptable to all.
With these in view, Akpabio is another South-south possibility, should Buhari resolve to go to the oil producing part of the country, as part of the balancing act to even out the power equation.
Very few people from the South-east enjoy the kind of admiration that the former senate president gets from the president. Buhari is said to have a thing for him, especially, his maturity and capacity to manage people and relationships, irrespective of their contrasting dispositions.
Curiously, his tenure as senate president has remained one abiding testimonial that he takes about. He stood against the alleged third term agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and followed it up till the federal legislature killed it and paved the way for the 2007 elections.
Therefore, the debate about his knowledge of the country does not arise, if the ability to manage his colleagues, is a factor to reckon. And coming from the South-east, which is desperately seeking to produce the president in the interest of equity, justice and fairness, Nnamani is not standing badly in the consideration, if the dice rolls up South-east.
Talk about an Igbo man, who commands genuine respect from the president, the former Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, has no rival. He has maintained a good relationship with Buhari since the early years of the country’s return to civil rule, when their paths crossed in the All Progressives Party (APP) – a camaraderie they enjoyed till the APC merger in 2015.
Although Onu’s placement in the cabinet is largely attributable to what he brought to the merger table, that he has kept his job has also been because Buhari has a personal relationship with him, which he considers more important than whatever new thing their political romance mighty have birthed.
A respectable southeasterner and elder statesman, Onu’s presence in the race for presidency is another pointer to the clamour for a president of the Igbo extraction. And with a resume that speaks to experience and capacity, although acceptability is debatable, Onu is equally strong in consideration, should the president decide to go to the east.
What was first thought to be a child’s play has turned around to pose one of the biggest threats to southern presidency in the APC. At least, so it is believed. Lawan’s presidential bid was said to be an idea conceived out of the many extrapolations that envisaged what direction the opposition PDP might go. Same thinking has given rise to new ideas.
But cashing in on the confusion on the turf and the rigidity of the multiple southern aspirants, Lawan’s choreographed idea has come to reality, standing conspicuously in the way of the southern agenda, which seeks power shift after Buhari’s eight years in office by May 2023.
Lawan might not have particularly impressed a majority of Nigerians with his performance as President of the Senate. That’s almost a consensus. His tenure pandered too much to virtually everything Buhari wanted, whether or not it sat well with the people. Particularly, his leadership made a mess of the amendment to the 2022 Electoral Act, which has continued to count against him. But all these have not reduced his place as a major contender to the nation’s top job.
Here comes the dark horse in the true sense of it. The only thing many people can recall about the Jigawa State governor, Abubakar Badaru, is that he bought the presidential expression of interest and nomination forms and submitted them as others did. Not that he had been seen anywhere or caught on camera consulting with delegates or leaders in different parts of the country.
Although a colleague of his from a neighbouring state was said to be preferred after some of the party’s analyses were contextualised. However, because the fellow was said to have some issues with the United States government, then, the idea of encouraging Badaru became inevitable for reasons of realpolitik, when the threat posed by the opposition was all thrown on the table.
Thus, if the decision of the president is to go to the north, then, Badaru is said to come first before even before Lawan. That he has maintained a radio silence is not unintentional but part of the script meant to evolve and materialise at the nick of time.
Culled from Thisdaylive