President Buhari is about to complete his first 2 years in office as an elected civilian president of Nigeria and the 2 major issues in the polity presently in Nigeria are; his current state of health begging the question on whether he is fit to continue in office and perhaps more importantly if he will run for reelection in 2019.

This article takes a look at the major contenders for his position should he not run for reelection in 2019. It is safe to say that in any election cycle in Nigeria; about 50 individuals have at least a remotely objective chance of being president. However, some contenders have more clout than others. The following 10 are the ones with the most clout in my opinion in no particular order.

1. Alhaji Sule Lamido

Alhaji Sule Lamido is a former 2-term governor of Jigawa state with considerable influence in his home state and neighbouring Kano. He as a northern aristocrat who has connections far and wide, he has also safely kept away from the current storm ravaging his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which could make him a favourite for party nomination as presidential candidate in 2019 if the Ali Modu Sheriff and Makarfi factions of the PDP can close ranks and resolve their bitter dispute. His current trial for allegedly inciting his followers to violence during the forthcoming local government elections in Jigawa state is an immediate challenge he has to surmount though.

2. Senator Ali Modu Sheriff

A former 2-term governor of Borno state and Senator, Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff is currently the chairman of the PDP and reportedly a billionaire with deep pockets to finance a possible presidential bid. In fact, his opponents in the ongoing PDP crisis have suggested that the source of conflict is Senator Ali Modu Sheriff’s presidential ambition in 2019. If he can get his party to nominate him as its presidential candidate, he could be a formidable opponent especially when his money starts ‘talking’.

3. Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives and Current Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal is a relatively young smart and articulate leader with connections all over Nigeria. He is a member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) who could be sold to the country as a vibrant fearless leader that can lead Nigeria to a great future. His obstacles to power would be mainly the other heavyweights in the APC who might run in the event that President Buhari does not. However, if a stalemate is reached, an individual like Tambuwal may become attractive as a compromise candidate. The fact that he is governor of the Sokoto, the ‘Seat of the Caliphate’ might help in no small measure as well.

4. Governor Nasir El Rufai

Former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and current Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El Rufai tends to be controversial but he is also well-respected as a reformer during his time as the Director General of Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) and Minister of the FCT under former President Obasanjo. Currently in Kaduna, he is also embarking on sweeping reforms in the governance of a leading state in the North. However, his handling of political opponents even within his party and pronouncements on the recent inter-communal conflict in Kaduna have made some observers question his leadership credentials. It might be a case of being misrepresented but the governor has to explain why he is very susceptible to misrepresentation. It is also unclear what his relationship with President Buhari currently is like –whether good or strained, this might be a critical factor in his presidential ambition for 2019.

5. Senator Bukola Saraki

Former 2-term governor of Kwara state and President of Nigeria’s Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki has defied Political gravity so far and will fancy his chances of becoming president if the incumbent does not run. Allegations of corruption trail him though and despite his best efforts to avoid it, his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal continues. He has a loyal base in the Senate and in Kwara state, his friend and ally Senator Dino Melaye will be assuring him that he has Kogi state as well. However, there are many power brokers in the APC who are against Senator Saraki and they will do all in their power to prevent him from being the party’s candidate in the event President Buhari refuses to run for 2019. However, as a former member of the PDP, he still has friends who might decide to combine forces with him in a new party, such is the nature of Nigerian politicians, it would not be difficult to defect to a new party and run on such a platform. His popularity within Nigeria would then be tested as a presidential candidate.

6. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN)

If a president cannot run for a second term, who better to replace him as his party’s candidate than his vice president? This simple logic is what makes Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) a strong contender in 2019 based on our initial assumption. He showed in just over a month of President Buhari’s extended medical leave that he can be a pragmatic leader that connects with the people. However, his performance so far has largely been with the support of the president. There is a strong possibility that it is only with the support of President Buhari that Professor Osinbajo will have a strong footing to run for the highest office in 2019. He would also be looking towards Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for support in such a scenario. While not a guaranteed deal, Vice President Osinbajo is certainly in the mix for 2019 without a doubt.

7. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar

Former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is a political heavyweight in Nigeria with considerable political machinery especially in Northern Nigeria. The challenge he seems to have is salability to Nigerians as the man to lead us. Since 2007, he has been trying to no avail. Could 2019 be his year? He definitely seems to believe so, as he has been going round the country delivering lectures on ‘restructuring Nigeria’ and explaining to us how things are not going well. He has also been pictured drinking sachet water a.k.a. ‘pure water’ in local parlance. Whether all these are enough is to be seen, he has a penchant for changing parties to pursue his ambition and might have to do so again to have a chance to run for president in 2019. Time will tell what the Turakin Adamawa has in store for us politically.

8. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu

Former 2-term governor of Lagos state, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the biggest power broker in Nigeria at the moment, President Muhammadu Buhari admitted this much in his acceptance speech after being declared winner of the 2015 election. No doubt, both men have high regard for each other. Now, if President Buhari does not run, what strategy will Asiwaju Tinubu deploy? Will he run for president or support another person and remain the power-broker he has been for about a decade.

He has already told us that if President Buhari does not run, he will consider running himself. As events in the Senate, House of Representatives and even the Executive have shown since President Buhari was sworn-in, Asiwaju Tinubu cannot expect to get his way all the time. He is usually the first to recognize and admit this which is what makes him such a difficult politician to come-up against, political master-strategist with growing influence in the North which is critical for any presidential bid in Nigeria. Just how big is the Jagaban Borgu in the North and what will be the outcome if President Buhari and Asiwaju Tinubu have a meeting behind closed doors might be 2 critical factors that determine the success or failure of a Tinubu presidential bid in 2019.

9. Alhaji Muazu Babangida Aliyu

A 2-term former governor of Niger state, Alhaji Babangida Aliyu is a good orator and respected politician in the North regardless of his current trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged corruption. If can survive his current travails and play his politics well, he might be a good compromise candidate for the 2 factions of the PDP. His oratory skills and connections with the Southwest where he had is tertiary education at the University of Ibadan may also prove helpful for a presidential bid. If the APC presents a candidate that his unpopular, Alhaji Babangida Aliyu might have a chance. It also helps his cause that 2 powerful former Heads of State, Gen. (Rtd.) Ibrahim Babangida and Gen. (Rtd.) Abdulsalam Abubakar come from his state. A few hilltop mansion meetings may do wonders for his candidacy.

10. Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari

Let us look at this scenario, President Buhari is not running for a second term, members of the APC are agitated about this and the quest for power by different blocks threatens to tear the party apart. A compromise needs to be reached quickly and it is decided that the governor of Kastina state where the President comes from should replace him as candidate while the party changes its constitution to formally codify zoning of the presidency to the south in 2023. Under this scenario, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari, current governor of Katsina state would emerge APC candidate and would in all likelihood win such an election. He shares the advantage of having connections all over the country as former speaker of the House of Representatives with Governor Tambuwal of Sokoto state. This and the fact that he is the current president’s governor cannot be overlooked in the equation of 2019 where a President Buhari does not run.

Conclusion

These permutations might be rendered useless if President Buhari does decide to run, we definitely wish him good health and a speedy recovery from illness. However, it might be asking too much to expect him to campaign in most states of the country in a bid for reelection going by his old age and state of health.

So, what do you think about these potential candidates for president in 2019. Do you think there are people that should have made my top 10 list? Let me know by dropping a comment.

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