By Saminu Ibrahim
Nineteen months into the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the build up to 2019 presidency is visible among the political class.
Clearly, the centre of attraction is certainly the north, because it is expected that the region will have to complete its 8 years in 2023 before power could shift to the south.
Consequently, head or tail, the north will still produce the next occupant of Aso villa in 2019. But the salient question is who will succeed President Muhammadu Buhari?
In retrospect, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) began the principle of zoning the presidency between the north and the south, unfortunately, it was the same zoning that literally ‘consumed’ the party when it eventually jettison the principle on the death of late former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and saw the emergence of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
A school of thought is of the view that if the PDP had handed its presidential ticket to a northerner perhaps the party would not have lost the 2015 presidential election; though this assertion is subject to debate, the rest is now history.
It is therefore safe to conclude that the PDP may have laid the template for zoning on which the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) will follow in 2019.
WATCHDOG news checks revealed that the coast may not be too clear to facilitate a definite inference, because the two major parties- APC and PDP are facing internal crisis such that today a third force is gradually rearing its head in the name of a mega party.
Meanwhile, proponents of the mega party said it is the ‘ashes’ of PDP and aggrieved members of the APC that will metamorphose into the mega party.
Former minister of information, and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Professor Jerry Gana disclosed recently that the PDP was not yet involve in the mega party talks, adding that the PDP is not considering the idea of changing the name of the party.
Gana however said “on progress of alliance, I would like to give details of what is being recommended. But the PDP is desirous of attracting all lovers of democracy across the country as we move forward.
“But there are details I cannot divulge at the moment because the committee’s recommendation will be pass on to the party leadership” he said.
Conversely, feelers from the Aso villa, the seat of power indicate that President Muhammadu Buhari may be keeping the decision of whether to re-contest in 2019 to his chest, a source said all presidential aides have been warned to avoid any public discussion on the 2019 project.
This may have informed the reason while the Wife of the president, Aisha Buhari during a BBC interview denied knowledge of whether the president will seek re-election in 2019. “He has not told me” Aisha said.
Indeed, the cloudy political atmosphere within the APC has made the 2019 discourse more confusing. There were initial reports that the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu may have fell out with President Buhari, saying Tinubu is romancing with the mega party, but the former lagos governor debunked the insinuation insisting that his loyalty to APC is unshaken.
The denial notwithstanding, analysts have said the Tinubu remark cannot be taken hook, line and sinker; arguing that the Lagos tactician is difficult to decipher.
However, political associates of the Lagos strongman have affirmed that Tinubu is not unaware of President Buhari’s effort in building new structures in the south west through his allies in the zone such as the governor of ogun state, Ibikunle Amosun, minister of power, works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, minister of solid minerals, Kayode Fayemi among others.
Specifically, a source noted that the recently held rally in Lagos #I stand with Tinubu: was a political statement to those who may think Tinubu’s influence has been diminished in Lagos in particular and south west in general.
Ofcourse, the factor of former vice president, Atiku Abubakar cannot be wave aside inspite of strong opposition from his former boss, Olusegun Obasanjo; Atiku according to close sources is undaunted by Obasanjo’s opposition to his aspiration in 2019.
The Turakin Adamawa is 70 years, hence this may be his last shot at the presidency in 2019, against this backdrop, he may cross path with Obasanjo as the battle get closer.
It would be recalled that Obasanjo had told a delegation at his Abeokuta residence who came to seek his support on the formation of a new party, though OBJ acknowledged a third force, saying both the PDP and APC have not fared well, but quickly added a caveat that he will give his support provided the new party will not parade Atiku Abubakar as its presidential ticket.
Apparently, Obasanjo may have fired back at Atiku who earlier told the world how he reportedly stopped Obasanjo from achieving the famous “third term agenda” in 2007.
In the middle of these intrigues, analysts have opined that Atiku may move out of APC in 2017.
An indication to this was first made public when former acting national publicity secretary of APC, a strong ally of Atiku, Timi Frank lambasted the leadership style of the APC national chairman, chief John Oyegun.
Frank said “you are aware that there are several realignments going on now in the country and my party has only now and January 2017 to put its house in order. If we don’t harmonize all the contending interests, some of us would be exploring new avenues to pursue our various political agenda”.
Frank who said he was speaking the mind of most members and other stakeholders of the party, added that “at the appropriate time, more leaders of the party would speak out”.
Perhaps it is in line with Frank’s outburst that Atiku of recent has spear headed the campaign for restructuring the federation. In a twitter handle recently, the former vice president claimed that the heavy load on the federal government may “collapse” the centre.
These may be a tactical way of firing salvo at the Buhari-led federal government.
But according to a former lawmaker, Mohammed Sani Takori, the intrigues and permutations notwithstanding; Takori is of the view that “illiteracy, religious and ethnic factor may bring back Buhari in 2019”.
In a separate interview with former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Abdullahi Jalo, ahead of 2019, “I will not say am against Buhari, the reason being that I do not want my people to be kill by Boko Haram, instead of my people being killed, I will even prefer a coup to end this democracy.
He continued “If Buhari is not contesting in 2019, God will bring another person, with security and strategic knowledge that I will support”.
Significantly, inspite of the veiled support for Buhari by certain strata of the society, the proposed mega party cannot be handle with levity. The Independent National Electoral Commission has granted approval to the Action Democratic Party, ADP to go ahead with the procedures for full registration as a political party.
The ADP according to WATCHDOG News investigation is only an integral part of the proposed mega party, as our findings have shown that membership of the proposed party has been drawn from the All Progressives Congress, APC; the People’s Democratic Party; PDP, the Social Democratic Party, SDP; Accord party among others.
Further investigation revealed that INEC’s decision to allow sponsors and proxies of the party go ahead with the full registration process may not be unconnected to several meetings which have been ongoing by members who preferred anonymity.
Further checks revealed that INEC has already communicated in a letter to stakeholders of the new party to go ahead with other requirements in line with approved guidelines for registration.
A letter dated November 14, 2016, with reference number, INEC/DEPM/ ADP/ 314/1, and signed by the INEC’s Director, Election and Party, Monitoring, EPM, Bala Shittu, addressed to the Protem Chairman, ADP, and entitled, “Re: Application For Registration as a political Party,” said “The commission received your application as a political party under the proposed name, Action Democratic Party (ADP).
“The commission has considered your application and found that the proposed name complies with the requirements for registration as a political party under section 222 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended).
Barring any sudden development, investigation shows that the mega party may be marshaling its arsenal against whoever the APC will field in 2019.
What is certain however is that a northerner from the proposed mega party may confront a candidate of the APC. Will it be Atiku against Buhari or will the president not seek for re-election in 2019? Time will tell.