Home Nigeria Who is President Buhari’s preferred candidate? Enter the probables and the possibles

Who is President Buhari’s preferred candidate? Enter the probables and the possibles

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President Buhari
President Buhari

In January 2022, President Muhammadu Buhari sparked off a frenzy in an interview with Channels TV when asked about his preferred candidate in the presidential race.

“I don’t have any favourite for 2023 and if I do, I won’t reveal his identity because if I do, he may be eliminated before the election. I’d better keep it secret,” he famously said.

At his meeting with APC governors on Tuesday in Abuja, he said a number of things that were quite loaded and gave much away without revealing everything.

One, he solicited the reciprocity and support of the governors and other stakeholders “in picking my successor”, appealing to all of them to allow “our interests to converge”. This is the clearest indication that he wants to determine who the candidate would be and reach a consensus with the governors, who effectively control the delegates.

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Two, the president said “our choice of candidate must be someone who would give the Nigerian masses a sense of victory and confidence even before the elections”. That suggests that the candidate must be popular and electable. Featherweight politicians are automatically ruled out.

Three, he said focus should remain on the “changing dynamics of our environment”. A straight-forward interpretation would be that he wants a counterweight to Atiku Abubakar, who has just been elected as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Does that mean a northern candidate or a heavyweight flag bearer?

Four, he spoke about the need for continuity, saying “the party has successfully established internal policies that promote continuity and smooth succession plans even at the state and local government levels”. He is hinting at a member of his government, apparently.

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No single contestant ticks all these boxes and many of them will still fancy their chances of falling into one category or another as Buhari continues to speak in parables.

In this lowdown on the APC presidential conventional slated for June 6-8, TheCable projects that Buhari’s choice out of the 23 contestants will be one of these hopefuls.


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OLUYEMI OLULEKE OSINBAJO

WHY? Having been Buhari’s No 2 since 2015, Osinbajo would consider himself the best bet for the job and has been campaigning on the basis of consolidating the legacy (“continuity”). He was acting president on a number of occasions and many believe he did commendably well in taking key decisions that got the government machine moving. He cuts the picture of a modern, forward-looking and confident leader. Reported attempts to get Buhari to drop him before the 2019 elections failed — somewhat an indication of the president’s trust in him.

WHY NOT? While acting as president in 2017 when Buhari was seriously ill, Osinbajo took a number of decisions that appeared to question his loyalty to his boss, especially by replacing the president’s nominees with his own. The final straw, some insist, was the removal of Lawal Daura as the DG of the Department of State Services (DSS) in August 2018 while Buhari was abroad. That was the last time Buhari officially transferred power to him before travelling abroad.

ANOINTING RATING

  • Convergence between Buhari and governors: **
  • Connection with masses/victory chances: ***
  • Counterweight to Atiku: **
  • Continuity factor: ****

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BOLA AHMED TINUBU

WHY? It is rumoured loudly in the APC that when the party was about to be formed ahead of the 2015 elections, promises were made to Tinubu that he would be first in line of succession after Buhari’s tenure. Tinubu was the strongest politician from the south-west. His coming on board the Buhari train helped change the voting pattern: in all previous elections, Buhari did not score 25 percent in any south-west state. In 2015, if the south-west had voted the same way they voted in 2011, Buhari would not have defeated Jonathan. In fact, Jonathan would have been re-elected by about a margin of about 500,000 votes. Tinubu’s supporters believe that Buhari owes him one.

WHY NOT? Having failed to pick him as his running in 2015 because he did not want a Muslim-Muslim ticket given the religious sensitivity in parts of Nigeria, Buhari is unlikely to push for a Tinubu candidate because it would still be politically delicate. There is no strong northern Christian to balance the ticket and a Muslim-Muslim ticket is a risky venture at the moment, especially as the PDP is not likely to go the same way. Moreover, some people are uncomfortable with Tinubu’s perceived baggage.

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ANOINTING RATING

  • Convergence between Buhari and governors: **
  • Connection with masses/victory chances: ***
  • Counterweight to Atiku: ****
  • Continuity factor: **

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AHMAD IBRAHIM LAWAN

WHY? On August 18, 2021, Senate President Ahmad Lawan was pictured pulling out a chair for Buhari at the Council Chambers. Many Nigerians raised an eyebrow about the No. 3 citizen turning himself into an ADC. What they did not know was that Lawan was playing the loyalty game. Lawan, who holds a doctorate in remote sensing/GIS from Cranfield University, the UK, is a Buhari loyalist. He, it was, that Buhari wanted as senate president in 2015 but Bukola Saraki upstaged him. Buhari’s love for the north-east, where Lawan comes from, is well documented. If Buhari decides to back a northern contender — with PDP also fielding a northerner — watch out for Lawan.

WHY NOT? Governors are said to be uncomfortable with Lawan becoming the presidential candidate and would rather negotiate with Buhari to back one of them.

ANOINTING RATING

  • Convergence between Buhari and governors: *
  • Connection with masses/victory chances: *
  • Counterweight to Atiku: ***
  • Continuity factor: **

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CHIBUIKE ROTIMI AMAECHI

WHY? Amaechi was one of the closest ministers to Buhari and one of the very few with unfettered access to him since 2015. Even when Abba Kyari was chief of staff, Buhari exempted Amaechi from the list of ministers who needed to pass through Kyari’s office to see him. The word in the presidential villa was that there was nothing Amaechi wanted that Buhari did not do and there was no memo he presented that Buhari did not sign. While APC leaders were still scouting for who would be Buhari’s campaign DG in 2019, Amaechi presented a letter signed by the president appointing him into the position.

WHY NOT? Buhari is said to privately worry about Amaechi’s temperament, a trait that would be vital in managing Nigeria’s complexity after a particularly testing period.

ANOINTING RATING

  • Convergence between Buhari and governors: **
  • Connection with masses/victory chances: **
  • Counterweight to Atiku: **
  • Continuity factor: ***

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OGBONNAYA CHRISTOPHER ONU

WHY? Onu was a member of the All Peoples Party (APP), later renamed All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), from the very beginning in 1998 and remained their until ANPP joined the coalition that formed APC in 2013. Buhari was a member of ANPP before founding the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2009. Essentially, Onu is well known to Buhari and they had been political associates for a long while. If Buhari had chosen a running mate from the south-east in 2015, he most probably would have picked Onu, a first-class product of chemical engineering.

WHY NOT? The former governor of the old Abia state was not one of the ministers with unrestricted access to Buhari, and this says a lot. He has also not been pulling his weight politically despite his sterling credentials.

ANOINTING RATING

  • Convergence between Buhari and governors: *
  • Connection with masses/victory chances: *
  • Counterweight to Atiku: *
  • Continuity factor: ***

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KAYODE JOHN FAYEMI

WHY? Fayemi has enjoyed a very warm relationship with the president since the formation of APC and it was not surprising when he was picked as the minister from Ekiti state in 2015, even though Tinubu and Osinbajo had different candidates in mind. Buhari, it is said, is very impressed with Fayemi’s intellectual capacity and was happy with his work on the policy team of APC. Fayemi has always had direct access to Buhari. His election as governor of Ekiti state in 2018 reportedly had Buhari’s blessing. He is chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and enjoys a good relationship with his governor colleagues.

WHY NOT? Buhari was reportedly not comfortable with Fayemi’s position on the creation of the Amotekun security outfit in the south-west in the heat of the herders/farmers clashes.

ANOINTING RATING

  • Convergence between Buhari and governors: ****
  • Connection with masses/victory chances: ***
  • Counterweight to Atiku: **
  • Continuity factor: **

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CHUKWUEMEKA UWAEZUOKE NWAJIUBA

WHY? Cool and calm, the former minister of state for education has for long been in the good books of Buhari but this was not publicly known. Their relationship dates back to the days of the Sani Abacha government. Both were close to Abacha. Against all odds, Nwajiuba was elected a member of the house of reps on the platform of APP in 1999 — even though the south-east was overwhelmingly PDP. The 54-year-old lawyer who holds a PhD was chairman of the board of TETFund during Buhari’s first term. He is often referred to as Buhari’s “son” because of their closeness. Buhari, sources said, was impressed with his principled stand of resigning his appointment as minister to pursue his presidential bid. He immediately asked other ministers who want to contest elections to resign.

WHY NOT? There are no signs yet that Buhari would support someone from the south-east, partly because the APC is not that strong in the zone. He may also consider Nwajiuba as not experienced enough.

ANOINTING RATING

  • Convergence between Buhari and governors: *
  • Connection with masses/victory chances: *
  • Counterweight to Atiku: *
  • Continuity factor: ***

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BABATUNDE GBOLAHAN BAKARE

WHY? The pentecostal pastor was running mate to Buhari in the 2011 presidential election. Buhari did not benefit much in terms of votes but it made a statement to those who classified him as a religious extremist who would not want to accommodate people of other faiths. Buhari eventually picked another pastor in 2015 and won. Bakare and Buhari have maintained a healthy relationship and the radical pastor has called himself the 16th president of Nigeria after Buhari, No 15. Since he sees Buhari on a regular basis, there is a feeling that the lawyer got some encouragement from him to buy the nomination form as well. Bakare also enjoys a good relationship with Tinubu and could be a compromise candidate.

WHY NOT? Although he has always been a member of APC and was present at the national convention in April, Bakare still comes across more as a pastor than a politician.

ANOINTING RATING

  • Convergence between Buhari and governors: *
  • Connection with masses/victory chances: **
  • Counterweight to Atiku: **
  • Continuity factor: ***

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