Political Heavyweights in the northern part of the country are powering up their political machines in preparation for the 2019 presidential elections.
They have, therefore, lined up some prominent political actors for the 2019 presidency.
Politics Nigeria discovered that while some (within the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC) are banking their preparations on the possibility that President Muhammadu Buhari may not run for a second term, others within the ruling party and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are hoping that with the performance of the APC-led Federal Government going into two years, the Buhari myth that shocked the whole country in the 2015 general elections might not count in 2019.
There is the belief that with the economic downturn, which has brought hunger, hardship and uncertainties across the country, the president would need a miracle in the last two years of his first term to earn a second term.
It was gathered that within the APC, three governors from the North- West are currently working underground to ensure that they get the ticket of the party.
They are currently banking on Buhari not running. One of the governors, who is believed to be very close to the president, is also said to be warming up for the battle.
Sources said that the governor has also busied himself with mobilisation of forces even outside the APC; mobilising even PDP members to cross over to the APC. A top member of the PDP in the South-West, who is a former minister, was among those contacted by the governor to move over to the APC.
That was before the former minister started having problems with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
A source close to the former minister confirmed that the governor contacted the former minister to join APC.
“The governor has been calling him to join the APC. I don’t know what the situation is now, but they have been talking for some time to join the APC. That was before the EFCC arrested the former minister and took him to court.
Another source close to a senator, who preferred anonymity, revealed to politics Nigeria that ”most of the APC governors in the North are open for the presidency”.
Those who are not working openly are working secretly. But as you know, they are watching developments at the Villa. They want to be sure the president is not running before they come out in the open.
Some of the governors are all working and waiting for the president to make up his mind.”
“The problem is that the president is not showing any sign on the direction he might go.”
But left with the governors, they would want him to take the Nelson Mandela option; do one term and leave in 2019.
Many of them are hoping that the option would be accepted by the president,” the source said. But while the APC governors and stalwarts like former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar are keeping their plans under wraps and waiting on Buhari, that is not the case with the PDP leaders in the North.
Currently, a former Governor of Jigawa State, Dr. Sule Lamido, has declared his intention to run for the presidency in 2019, declaring that only God can stop him in 2019.
Lamido is currently the chairman of the reconciliation committee of the PDP and has been touring the whole country to bring back the PDP to life.
He was recently in Bayelsa State with a former Governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau to visit Governor Seriake Dickson. Shekarau is also said to be interested in the race.
Lamido has also been to Ekiti, Osun and Gombe states, among others in his bid to talk sense into the party faithful.
Sources close to him said that the visits are not just reconciliatory. He is also selling the presidential agenda to them.
It was gathered that part of the reasons the crisis in the PDP has lingered so long with failed peace moves trailing it is the ambition of the two factional chairmen, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and Senator Ahmed Makarfi to run in 2019.
Politics Nigeria learnt from a top member of the PDP that while it is in the open that Sheriff wants to run, Makarfi’s ambition is latent and was discovered by some governors of the party, who are not comfortable with it. He said: ”We know that Sheriff wants to run in 2019.”
He has not hidden it, but we discovered along the way that Makarfi is also interested. That is what is behind the crisis in the party.
Both factions want to install a chairman at the convention that would be loyal to them. That is why we have not been able to make progress in the peace process.
A lot of factors, including the governors and of course, the influence of the APC led Federal Government, are at play here. But the ambitions of some of our leaders are a major factor.
Although Atiku has severally denied having any ambition for now, his name keeps popping up at both the APC and the PDP camps. Some people in the PDP believe that the former vice president has more than a passing interest in the PDP affair.
But his major obstacle to the presidency remains his former boss, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has ensured that Atiku neither emerged on either platform in the past.
It was further learnt that former governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, who has been having a running battle with his governor, Ibrahim Ganduje, who he installed, might also have an interest in the race.
Kwankwaso has kept a low profile, partly because of his battles in his native Kano. There have been speculations for a long time that he might return to the PDP, owing to his marginalisation in the APC.
But it was learnt that the North-East PDP are also up to the battle for the presidency. Since 1999, only the North-West has produced the presidents of Northern extraction – Buhari and the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
The argument is that North-East has more PDP presence than any other part of the North. “This is the only region in the North that has two PDP governors and some members of National Assembly members.
Except one member of House of Assembly in Kaduna State, there is no PDP presence in the whole of North-West. “So, for equity and justice, the next PDP presidential candidate should come from North-East.
You cannot pick a presidential candidate from North-West where the candidate of APC in the person of President Buhari comes from and expect to win,” a chieftain of the party from the North-East explained. Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State, who is in his second term in office is also said to be nursing presidential ambition.
The source said it is on the strength of this that Atiku wants to come back to the PDP. Sheriff had alleged that an APC chieftain was funding the Makarfi led National Caretaker Committee because the party’s presidential ticket for 2019 has been reserved for him. A minister in Buhari’s cabinet insisted that most people were underestimating the president by his lack of signs. ”Let’s wait and watch”.