• Tussle for party ticket, interest may tear APC apart
• ‘Atiku, Saraki, Tambuwal’s promoters begin horse trading’
• Plot against Magu heightens over dossiers on politicians
The sudden arrival of President Muhammadu Buhari in Nigeria on Saturday has changed the permutations on whether he will recontest in 2019 or the acceptable candidate that may fly flag the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential ticket in 2019.
The President had left Nigeria on May 7, 2017 for medical treatment in the United Kingdom while he transmitted a letter to the National Assembly, informing the lawmakers that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo would act as president, pending his return to the country.
But The Daily Times had exclusively reported on Wednesday that Buhari would return before August ending and he would also celebrate the Sallah festival with the Muslim faithful in Nigeria.
Confirming the newspaper’s story, the President arrived on Saturday after spending 103 days in London just as jubilations erupted in certain cities over his arrival.
But permutations and high wire politics have begun within the ruling APC in preparation for the 2019 general elections.
A prominent chieftain of the APC, who spoke under condition of anonymity, also confided in The Daily Times that
Buhari’s appearance and his carriage have changed the dynamics of the tussle for the 2019 race.
The highly connected APC chieftain further said that the sudden arrival of the President has prompted the promoters of certain candidates to go back to the drawing board in order to strategise, as he claimed that the tension in the APC is about 2019 race.
He said: “The spontaneous jubilations of supporters who displayed their support for the President within the short notice of his arrival is causing certain unease among some party chieftains who assumed that Buhari is no longer popular.
“But with what we saw on Saturday, the President is still enjoying support and we are definitely in for tight race in 2019.
“And the matter is not helped by the President’s body language. He has not discussed with anybody that he is running for 2019. Each time we discussed party’s issues with the president, he is much concerned with three issues- security, economy and war against corruption. He is so passionate about these issues. I can confirm to you that the president is apolitical.
“Apart from Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, all our leaders are interested in 2019 and I can tell you that so many meetings are ongoing with serious horse trading on who gets what. My brother, it is all about interest and the president is keeping his joker to his chest. Maybe he will release some of his thoughts on national issues during his broadcast today (Monday).
“Please note that the tension in our party is about whether Buhari is running or who will succeed him from the North. You know the President is entitled to maximum eight years under the 1999 Constitution (as amended). But some of our leaders have claimed that the president’s health status may prevent him from running in 2019.
“But that view can no longer be sustained with what happened on Saturday. The president has miraculously recovered and he will definitely do certain things because I know that he is full of surprises. “
On the number of people gunning for Buhari’s position, if the president declines to contest, the source said that some candidates are working at the background as underdogs while alleging that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, are forerunners for the race.
He said: “It is an open secret that Atiku Abubakar is running again for the presidency in 2019. He has begun consultations and his political machinery is on the ground for the matter.
“Some of the Northern APC governors are rooting for one of their own, Governor Tambuwal in case Buhari is not running in 2019. And the campaign is underway in some states.
“You will recall that Saraki withdrew for Buhari in 2015. So he is interested in presidency. You will notice that the Senate president is building bridges and attending important functions. It is an open secret that the Senate president is nursing a presidential ambition.”
The APC chieftain also disclosed why the hatred for the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, is so intense, saying that most of the political leaders would not want him to be in-charge as 2019 draws near.
According to him, Magu has serious dossiers on all the political leaders and politically exposed persons who are eyeing the coveted seat and other elective posts.
He said: “You know that Magu is stubborn when it comes to issue of compromise over the war against corruption. He will never bend and that is the problem. Every politician is afraid of his activities and the fact that he has dossiers on our leaders. That explains why the Senate refused to confirm him. Incidentally, the President and the
Vice President appreciate him and they are supporting him. To people like us who are politicians, the fear of Magu is the beginning of wisdom because he can cause certain upset in his disclosures of certain activities as 2019 is around the corner.”
According to him, the role Magu over alleged exposure of politicians and their past records is the reason why he is
not a favourite of many politicians.
The Daily Times recalls that the recent shunning of the monthly consultative meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party and its governors on the platform of “Progressives Governors Forum” (PGF) is a pointer that all is not well with the APC.
The meeting scheduled to hold on Wednesday was suspended as the governors failed to turn up. According to a source at the party headquarters, the non-attendance of the governors at the meeting was attributed to in-house crisis rocking the party at all levels.
The meeting which was scheduled for 2pm could not hold as only two governors out of the 24 Progressive Governors Forum members were at the party secretariat in Abuja coming in several hours behind schedule as the party leadership were kept waiting.
After several hours of waiting, it dawned on the party leaders that the governors were not coming, hence the meeting was called off.
The Daily Times gathered that the recent ward congresses held in Kano and Kogi states which ended in controversy were said to have annoyed the governors against the positions taken by the Chief John Oyegun-led NWC.
A source at the party secretariat told our reporter that “this suspension is an indication of in-house crisis rocking the party both at Federal, States and the Local levels as all seems not well with the party especially since the court judgment in favour of the Makarfi-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)”.
Two governors, including Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Mohammed Badaru Abubakar and Deputy Governor of Edo State, Hon. Philip Shuaibu, had arrived for the meeting before the meeting was announced to have been cancelled.
The meeting would have been the fifth in the series of the monthly meeting of the APC National Working Committee and the governors since inception in April, 2017.
At the beginning of the meeting, the party had stated that it was in preparation for 2019 general election and also using the meeting to address issues bothering on financing of the party and its non-elective National Convention.
Briefing journalists after the last month meeting, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said “the party had expanded the meeting to include APC principal officers at the National Assembly”.
The suspended meeting would have been the first to be attended by the APC principal officers of the National Assembly.
Giving reasons for the cancellation, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, said the meeting could not hold because of another meeting scheduled between the governors and the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
It is instructive to note that the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu had reportedly stated that the President is healthy enough to run for the 2019 race.
Shehu was further quoted as saying that, “The President is good enough to continue in 2019” but the President’s reelection is not the issue at the moment.
“The main issue is for the President come back home in full health and resumes office. It is left for Nigerians to decide. I know the decision is with the people. But President Muhammadu Buhari is good enough to continue.”
A chieftain of the APC and former Ogun State Governor, Chief Olusegun Osoba, also stated in one of the national newspapers on Sunday that the party must avoid imposition of candidates.
According to Osoba, the development is capable of thwarting the APC’s chances of winning the 2019 general elections.
He said, “I have been preaching among our party leaders that the only way to win an election is not by imposition. Take for example, in Ogun State; the endorsement of a particular candidate is dangerous for us.
“Another mistake was, along the line, the party was handed over to the governors. I have no objection to governors being leaders of the party; but any governor who says that ‘I am the alpha and omega’, should know that he has a tenure.”
Tony Amokeodo, Mathew Dadiya, Tom Okpe and Francesca Iwambe, Abuja