2019: North splits over Buhari’s candidacy
As the 2019 presidential election draws near, there are indications that it will not be a walk over for President Muhammadu Buhari, given his age and failing health which have marred his tenure so far. It might also not be a rosy affair for the All Progressives Congress (APC), a party that seems to have sacrificed much of its goodwill on the altar of failed promises.
Apart from the challenge from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party in the country, Buhari is likely going to contend with some “home battles” from some ambitious chieftains of his party who are already waiting in the wings to grab the coveted ticket.
Sunday Telegraph gathered that should Buhari decline to run for a second term on account of age or ill-health, some party stalwarts that might be interested in the presidential ticket include a former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; former Governor of Kano State, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso; former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; current President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki, Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el- Rufai, as well as Governor Ibrahim Shettima of Borno State.
Although, none of these presidential hopefuls have openly indicated their interests in the race, their body language as well as the utterances and activities of some proxy groups in support of their rumoured aspirations are indications that they might just be waiting for the blast of the whistle.
The Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, a group said to have sympathy for one of the younger presidential hopefuls, had reportedly asked aspirants above 60 years of age to perish the thought of becoming president in 2019. The group, led by Yerima Shettima, believes that age is no longer in favour of Atiku and Buhari, particularly when the latter was in London for over three months on medical vacation. Other groups such as the Northern Youth Forum for National Development have equally pitched their tents with one shadow candidate or the other.
In spite of the odds stacked against Buhari, Sunday Telegraph learnt that the APC appears favourably disposed to handing him the right of first refusal and will only consider these other aspirants if he declines to throw his hat in the ring.
This divergent views about the health of the President and who should lead the battle against the resurging opposition (PDP) have reportedly divided the political elite and elders from the North. This is particularly so, with the rumoured ambition of other northern opposition figures such as the former Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido and Alhaji Ibrahim Dankwambo, the current Governor of Gombe State.
National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi, had last Friday during a visit to the Aso Rock, told President Buhari, that the opposition party will provide a vibrant alternative and give him a run for his money.
However, a former Governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, told Sunday Telegraph that he was not aware of the permutations to replace Buhari in the next elections. He also denied knowledge of the so-called division among northern elders. According to Musa, Nigeria was at the crossroads and needed good and sincere leadership to survive even before it gets to 2019.
“When you talk about elders in the North in terms of political power, don’t reckon with me because I am not one of them. I am on my own. I know that I am patriotic but I am on my own. They don’t consult me when they make such plans and I don’t dabble into such things.
“First of all, who tells you that the power will still remain in the North if Buhari declines to run or is compelled by poor health to give up the ticket? Secondly, what does the Constitution say about the situation that the President is now? The Constitution is very clear about it. It is the National Assembly that has the right to probe to ascertain the true state if health of the President and know what to do. So let us leave the matter to the National Assembly.
“Thirdly, let us not be talking about 2019. Let us be talking about how we can survive between now and 2019. If you are thinking that I will be giving you names of possible presidential candidates who might take over the baton from Buhari, then you are talking to the wrong person. It is the responsibility of Buhari and his party, APC, to know what to do when 2019 comes. As always, my interest is about how Nigerians, whether they are from the North, South, East or West, can have a better country,” he said.
A political analyst and former member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Junaid Muhammed, acknowledged that he had heard some of the names being touted as possible presidential candidates but would rather advise Nigerians to focus on the challenges of the moment.
“I am aware that some of these people have tried to make contacts or whatever but I don’t want to run ahead of the situation we are confronted with as a country. When the time comes for us to cross the bridge, we shall cross it. But at the moment, the problem we are facing is either the President being here physically in charge or accepts that he is incapacitated and therefore submits his letter of resignation. We are hoping that from now until that time comes, the country will have some peace or reasonable understanding amongst ourselves.
“I don’t know the basis upon which you rate elders. We should be careful about what we wish for because I don’t want a situation whereby some people who are either senile or sick would just sit down somewhere and decide the fate of this country. If that is what the so-called northern elders are doing, they should be called to order. It is not in anybody’s interest and not healthy for democracy,” he said.