Following the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission to release the timetable for the 2019 general elections, the stage is now set for those aspiring to contest the presidential election. JOHNCHUKS ONUANYIM tries to look at the contenders and pretenders for the election on their political part forms
With the announcement of the dates for the 2019 general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), the dice is cast for those interested and willing to contest the presidential and other elections. Before INEC fixed the dates, many politicians had indicated interest to contest the plumb position since May 2015 when the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in.
The Election Monitoring Body, (EMB) last Tuesday announced that the presidential election would hold on February 19, 2019, while the presidential campaign commences November 1. Also it announced the dates of other elections like the National Assembly, governorship and States House of Assemblies.
Before the INEC announcement, the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun had set the tone for the party for the 2019 general elections. Oyegun, while inaugurating the committee to review the performance of APC in the governorship election in Anambra State last year had said the party would start early.
The APC National Chairman addressing the committee said: “We want to start early; we want to strategise early; we want to plan early; we want to be confident that after we have done our field work and the reward from the field work is commensurate with the efforts that we have put in. With this, it means that the party was set to field candidates in the elections.”
However, under the APC, it is only President Buhari that has tacitly indicated interest to contest the APC presidential ticket. Buhari had declared his second term re-election in a far away country in Africa, while addressing Nigerian residents in that country.
Also members of the opposition political parties, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have indicated interest to contest the Presidential ticket of their party. Among such members are the governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose; former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar; former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido; former governor of Kaduna State and former Chairman PDP Caretaker Committee and Ahmed Makarfi.
Others are former governors of Kano and Sokoto states, Mallam Ibrahim Shakaru and Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa respectively. Also in the race is the governor of Gombe State Ibrahim Dankwambo and former Senate President, David Mark.
For now, Mark is said to be watching developments with cautious optimism. “He may take a shot at it because the odds appear to favour him. The PDP and scores of elder statesmen believe the nation needs a detribalized patriot like Mark to steer the ship of state at this time,” a source said.
The PDP has started profiling the aspirants on its platform. The PDP Board ofTrustee Chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, who stated this recently, said the region has commenced the process of identifying credible candidates from the North who will fly the party’s flag in the 2019 presidential election.
Also, the former governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Kwakwanso is among the Presidential hopefuls. Senator Kwakwanso, a member of APC is yet to declare under which to contest for the plumb job.
President Muhammadu Buhari would be gunning for the APC Presidential ticket to enable him seek re-election as President on the platform of the party. He is the only person that has declared his ambition on the platform of APC. Buhari, who contested the presidential election four times before he won in 2015, will have incumbency advantage over other aspirants. Also putting Buhari at advantage, according to Chief Odigie-Oyegun, is what the APC government has achieved in the last three years in office.
Oyegun said: “I can say to you with every confidence and emphasize that the polity is settling down. I can say to you emphatically that the economy is recovering strongly. We are out of recession clearly and the economy is beginning to grow. I can say to you emphatically that in the critical areas that promote development as distinct from growth, the policy of the party and the implementation are firmly grounded. But opponents of Buhari and critics of APC government believe that the President has not performed, therefore, he should not seek re-election either in the party or the main election. Also prophesies have been given that the president would fail in his second term ambition.”
Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, is one person whose name rings loudly in the PDP presidential equation. Atiku allegedly missed the opportunity to become President in 2003. Having served as Vice President for eight years and with so much war chest in terms of cash and followership, he believes that he should be president.
The former Vice President also believes that he has what it takes to revamp Nigeria’s economy and take out from the woods. He prides himself that the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration economic policies were made strong because of his office. However, the former Vice President will have a lot of battles to fight to win PDP Presidential ticket. Atiku was one of the people that made PDP to lose the Presidential election in 2015. Atiku, who is said to be an experience contestant of parties presidential ticket, contested the presidential election in 2007 on the platform of the defunct Action Congress, (AC).
In 2011, he contested for the PDP presidential ticket and lost to former President Goodluck Jonathan and in 2014 he contested for the same ticket in APChaving left the PDP. The former Vice President does not appear to have any political stronghold as he does not control any state politically. Although his political associates and supporters believe that he is the only person that can defeat the incumbent President, some PDP members may take back their pound of flesh from the former Vice President for making them to lose the 2015 elections.
Ayo Fayose, the governor of Ekiti State was the first person to declare his ambition to contest for the PDP Presidential Ticket for 2019 Presidential election. The Ekiti State two-time governor believes that he has what it takes to govern Nigeria. He is one of the critics of President Buhari and the APC government. Fayose, who has defeated incumbent governors twice, believes that he is the only person that can defeat Buhari easily. As the chairman of the PDP governors, he has played a prominent role in the activities of PDP. However, he at a disavantage in the race for the PDP Presidential ticket because the party has zoned the ticket to the North. But the governor believes that it is not over until its over. Like in any human endeavour there is human role and there is God’s role. He believes that God has destined him to be president, therefore the need for him to be in the race.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs has also governed Jigawa State for eight years. Lamido, a political confidant of the former President Obasanjo enjoys relative supports in the North. Also, he is a rich political associates in the South. Sule Lamido enjoys some acceptability with some party members having refused to decamp to APC in 2014 when five other governors did.
However, Lamido does not seem to have a deep pocket to picket PDP Presidential ticket if it has to do with money. Also as snag against him is his case with the EFCC. He has a lot of work to do if he must left PDP presidential ticket as he is seeing in some quarters as someone who can defeat President Buhari since he also believes in Talakawas.
Ibrahim Dankwambo, a former Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), is serving his second term as the governor of Gombe State. He is one of those that are being profiled by PDP for its Presidential ticket. Dankwambo, a seasoned administrator has a relative experience in politics. He cannot be said to have Presidential ambition on his own but being projected and propelled by some political associates. Clerics across religious lines and a coalition of Nigerian youths have called on him to run for the presidency and declared total support for him.
The national executive body of the coalition of Democratic Youths Alliance, (DYA), in a statement signed by Tersoo Yisa and Daniel Fajana, said their decision to zero in on Dankwambo in their search for young and brilliant candidates to support for the 2019 presidential election, was based on his age, track records and performance as Gombe governor.
“Governor Dankwambo was rated based on his outstanding achievements in road infrastructure and maintenance, which has drastically reduced the spate of accidents usually recorded on roads in the state due to their bad nature.”
Though he is yet to make an official statement on this, if interested, he has also a war chest to compete with the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar for PDP ticket to run for the presidency. He is from the North-East, however, Dankwambo undoing would be that he is relatively unknown in the South and might not have the votes of PDP delegates from the South.
Gombe State Commissioner for Information, Hon. Umar Nafada, in a recent interview said “Nigeria needs is someone that has a good financial and management background.
If we decide to elect someone without a solid financial background, it will be very difficult for the person to turn around the economy of this nation.. but if we want to have a leader that has vision; a leader that has financial and economic background; it is someone like Dakwambo that we need to be put in place, so that he can turn around the economy of the country.”
Senator Ahmed Makarfi, former governor of Kaduna State and past Chairman of the PDP Caretaker Committee, is one of those on the forefront of PDP presidential ticket until recently. He was also in the Senate for eight years, but his profile dropped after he presided over the PDP National Convention that held last year.
Makarfi may not also have deep pockets to do what is involved in winning PDP primaries. In case Makarfi decides to run for the PDP Presidential ticket, one vote he would not get is the South -West votes. The South-West PDP members believe that Makarfi presided over National Convention that short-changed them. However, he has political experience and administrative acumen that can place him above some aspirants.
The former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa has been politically disadvantaged to the extent that he does not even have a hold in Sokoto State. He was a member of APC and when the former Sokoto State governor, Aliyu Wammako joined APC in 2014, Bafarawa left APC and joined PDP but he could not deliver Sokoto State to PDP in the 2015 general elections. His interest for the PDP Presidential ticket is just nominal.
Senator Kwakwanso has a political experience which he believes qualifies him to govern Nigeria. He was a Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, a two-time governor, a minister, a Special Adviser to the President and now a serving Senator. The former governor of Kano State came second at the last APC National Convention that produced President Buhari as the party’s candidate.
Kwakwanso in that convention defeated former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha and the Publisher of Leadership Newspapers, Sam Nda Isaiah. The former Kano State governor has the Kano State and other states as his political base. One major problem Kwakwanso might have is on which political platform to actualize his ambition. He sincerely might not have space in APC for 2019 as the incumbent President has declared his intention for re-election and the party seems to support his ambition. But in politics, as they say everything is possible, Kwawanso might spring a surprise in 2019.
Mallam Nasir El- Rufai, the ‘Accidental Civil Servant’ and politician, who is the governor of Kaduna State, has his eyes on the presidency, but cannot express this because of President Buhari.
El-Rufai had believed that if Buhari was not seeking re-election he would have been more qualified to take the APC presidential ticket. The ambitious Kaduna State governor, who carved a niche for himself when he was Minister of the Federal Capital Territory politically was one of the governors positioning themselves as Vice President when the President was ill. To him, an opportunity to be Vice President under Prof. Yemi Osinbajo would have afforded him the opportunity to become President in 2019 but that was aborted as the President recovered fully from his sick bed. El-Rufai would live with his ambition since he has said with the president contesting nobody can challenge him in the party.
Other aspirants would, however, emerge as usual on the platform of other political parties but how far they would go is what the result of the Presidential election in February would reveal.
While the competences of the contenders in handling the economy, security and other myriads of problems facing the country will play a big role in who wins the election, the readiness of the electorate for change and ability to see it through is another factor.