Succession race: Buhari’s list of okay aspirants grows as he keeps trump card close to his chest

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By Sylvanus Isa

President Muhammadu Buhari has so far given his “blessing” to a number of aspirants seeking to become the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in next year’s presidential election.

No fewer than five aspirants had already visited him in the Presidential Villa to inform him of their interest in the 2023 succession race.

Those who had been able to consult with President Buhari include Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo, National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Transportation Minister, Hon Rotimi Amaechi, Ebonyi Governor, Engineer Dave Umahi and Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi.

Others who had already declared on the APC platform but did not have the opportunity of prior consultation with the President are former President of the Senate, Senator Ken Nnamani; former Imo Governor and incumbent senator, Rochas Okorocha; former Abia State Governor and current Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu; Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio.

Fringe presidential aspirants who could not have succeeded in consulting with the President, even if they had wanted to, include Mr Tein Jack-Rich, Dr Ibrahim Bello Dauda, Reverend Moses Ayom, Ibinabo Joy Dokubo, and Ihechukwu Dallas-Chima, among others.

All those who consulted with the President, according to available information, received his “blessing” to the extent that he did not ask any of them not to proceed with their presidential project.

THE CONCLAVE reports that the President, however, has his trump card, his most preferred successor-in-waiting, close to his chest.

He will require the buy-in of sate governors who are critical stakeholders in the party to provide significant support for whoever his preferred candidate is. 7,800 delegates will vote at the party’s presidential primary election for whoever the President is supporting to succeed him. The governors control the delegates in their respective states.

Analysts contend that the president must necessarily be interested in who succeeds him. He will very likely settle for someone who shares the same vision with him about Nigeria, someone who will step in the saddle to sustain the tempo of his nationalism and development agenda.

THE CONCLAVE had on April 11, 2022 reported that Buhari’s presidency had shortlisted three candidates, one per each geo-political zone in the south of Nigeria for likely presidential support to be the APC’s standard bearer and, if he wins the presidential election, succeeds President Buhari whose tenure expires on May 29, 2023.

Those reportedly listed were Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo from the Southwest zone; former Rivers State governor and Minister of Transportation, Hon Rotimi Amaechi from the South-south zone; and, Minister of State for Education, Mr Emeka Nwajiuba from the Southeast zone.

THE CONCLAVE had indicated in the report that a national leader of the APC and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu fell short of Buhari’s consideration as his successor. Why Buhari is not backing Tinubu’s presidential bid to succeed him remains a subject of varied conjectures.

Although, Buhari has maintained a studied silence and straight face on the issue of aspirant to conclusively back at this intersection, Tinubu had already concluded that the president was not supporting his presidential aspiration.

Tinubu had reportedly told a compact group of Yoruba leaders-including Pa Rueben Fasoranti, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Minister of Finance, Chief Olu Falae and Afenifere General Secretary, Basorun Seinde Arogbofa at a secluded meeting in Akure that President Buhari was not backing his aspiration but that he would pursue his presidential project to the end in any case.

THE CONCLAVE learnt that President Buhari has quite a number of aspirants to pick from for his significant endorsement. For instance, very strong speculation has been doing the rounds in recent times about Buhari’s consideration of a former President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, as his successor.

Before the speculation became very strong, there had been some developments in 2021, including the visit of some APC governors to Jonathan on the occasion of his birthday, during which the proposal was discussed with him.

This will require former President Jonathan to dump the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the APC. The APC, THE CONCLAVE learnt, will on its part be required to waive all provisions in the party’s constitution that can cumber Jonathan’s ingress to the APC and qualification to contest for the party’s presidential ticket.

The sale of forms in the APC begins on April 23 and ends on May 5. Anybody who is interested in the APC presidential ticket is circumscribed within this time frame to indicate interest by stepping out to procure the expression of interest and nomination forms at a cumulative fee of N100 million. After that, the only window that is available for significant intervention is substitution of candidate.

According to feelers, President Buhari, is quite appreciative of Jonathan’s gesture in accepting the outcome of the 2015 presidential election and congratulating him via a telephone call even when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was still collating results in last two northern states.

Buhari is said to be enamoured with the nationalism of Jonathan who was then widely reputed for his electoral mantra that his election was not worth the blood of any Nigerian. The president, as learnt, considers Jonathan’s nationalism a great asset that can further be deployed in stabilizing the country and strengthening national unity.

Whereas, Jonathan is said to have made up his mind to intervene in the quest for a patriotic leader of his ilk, THE CONCLAVE learnt that he requested for a seamless arrangement that would deliver him without hitches as president to spend his last term of four years.

Could Jonathan be or emerge as President Buhari’s preferred candidate to succeed him? This is the question on the lips of some watchers of the presidential power politics in Nigeria.

Jonathan and Buhari

THE CONCLAVE reports that Jonathan might have been referring to the perfection of the negotiated arrangements in his response to a protest on Friday, April 22, 2022 by supporters who laid siege to his private office in Maitama, Abuja, to demand that he should throw his hat in the ring for the 2023 presidential race.

Jonathan had told his protesting supporters that he could not tell yet if he was contesting because a political process was ongoing, but, he, however, urged them to “watch out.” The “watch-out” call is considered pregnant with meaning that is laced with political insinuations.

In essence, whereas all aspirants are looking up to President Buhari for his significant endorsement, Jonathan, as learnt, appears to be attracting the consideration of President Buhari as a beautiful bride.

THE CONCLAVE reports that in the event political process that Jonathan referred to falls through, President Buhari has other solid options to choose from, to wit: Osinbajo, Amaechi and Nwajuiba (who also has yet to declare his interest in the presidency, although he has been nursing it quietly and had a long time ago emplaced a think-tank to reason through the project).

Nwajiuba enjoys very close relationship with President Buhari right from the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) days. He has also been a committed and reliable member of a group of Buhari’s loyalists. His aspiration is being encouraged by his boss in the Education Ministry and confidant of President Buhari, Malam Adamu Adamu (Minister of Education).

President Buhari, as learnt, has yet to indicate conclusively to his aides the person he wants to succeed him on the APC platform. He is keeping the trump card close to his chest for now.

Meanwhile, the list of his okay aspirants for consideration in the intricate and gritty succession race has continued to grow, even as there were feelers as of the time of this report that a former governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun is set to declare his interest in the presidency on May 5, 2022 while a business mogul, Mr Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, is billed to declare his presidential interest on the APC platform on May 3, 2022.

So far, the list of those who had declared interest in the APC presidential ticket comprises Vice-president Osinbajo, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Governor Yahaya Bello, Hon Rotimi Amaechi, Senator Chris Ngige, Senator Ken Nnamani, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, Governor Dave Umahi, Senator Rochas Okorocha, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Ibinabo Joy Dokubo, Ikechukwu Dallas-Chima, Rev. Moses Ayom, Dr Ibrahim Bello Dauda, and Mr Tein Jack-Rich, among others.

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