With the 2023 presidential election fast approaching, there is a likelihood that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will zone its ticket to the South. The general feeling in the party is that the North cannot be considered again, having had its fair share of two terms of eight years.
In this report, TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI lists some powerbrokers in the party who have their eyes set on succeeding President Muhammadu Buhari whose tenure expires in May 2023.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu
The ‘Jagaban’ as the former Lagos state governor and APC national leader is called by his teeming supporters is a major force to reckon with in the ruling party as far as the issue of 2023 presidency is concerned.
There has been allegations and counter-allegations that there is a pact or gentleman’s agreement amongst founding leaders of the APC that President Muhammadu Buhari who was first elected in 2015 will handover to Tinubu in 2023.
None of them has come out to confirm or deny this claim.
Even though Tinubu is yet to state whether he will contest or not, several political groups, the principal one being the South-west Agenda for Asiwaju 2023 (SWAGA ’23) has been canvassing support for him across the country.
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo
If there is any candidate best qualified to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023, then it is Osinbajo, a loyal, sound legal expert with versed knowledge of economic matters. Many youths in the country are rooting for Osinbajo because of his age (he will be 66 in 2023).
Others also believe that having understudied the president in the last six years, he has a clear vision of the programmes of the administration and will continue with it if he becomes president.
However, two factors militating against Osinbajo is the fact that he has no political base. But for the controversy over a Muslim-Muslim ticket in APC in 2015, he couldn’t have been considered as Buhari’s running mate then.
With the likelihood of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, his benefactor running in 2023, Osinbajo stands no chance at all because it is likely that the Presidency may not endorse him. Analysts believe that the cabals are yet to forgive him for ‘taking the shine off the President when he acted on his behalf.
It is also believe that he is yet to be forgiven for sacking the Director-General of the Department of State Service (DSS) , Lawal Daura in 2018 following the invasion of the National Assembly.
Fayemi is another leader who has the capacity to lead the country in 2023. The Ekiti state governor who is serving out his second term also has a huge followership among Nigerian youths. When he lost his reelection in 2014, he was handed the task conducting the presidential primary of the APC where he served as the Chairman of the APC National Convention Committee.
He received accolades over the seamless manner in which the primary which produced President Muhammadu Buhari as the candidate was conducted. The President later appointed him as Minister of Mines and Steel Development, a position he resigned from in 2018 to contest for the Ekiti governorship election.
However, some of Fayemi’s critics especially in the APC believed that his position as the current chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum has gotten into his head, making him challenge some leaders of the party who made him who he is today.
Also, he is facing a herculean task of reconciling the APC factions in his home state of Ekiti, many of whom are plotting to stop him from installing a successor in next year’s governorship election.
Analysts believe that Amaechi, a former two-time Speaker, two-time governor and current Minister of Transport is another force to reckon with when looking for likely presidential materials in 2023.
Others also believe that Amaechi, a former chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum also has the needed experience to continue from where President Buhari will stop in 2023, especially on his achievements in the rail sector, a critical programme the current administration has pursued vigorously.
However, being a blunt and fearless politician who says his mind without caring whose ox is gored, others believe he lacks the temperament needed of a leader of a country like Nigeria. There are others who believe that his being blunt is an asset as Nigeria needs a honest leader who will tell them the truth always.
When the Ebonyi state governor defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to APC in November 2020, many believed it was because he has ambition to succeed President Buhari. Till date, Umahi has not publicly said whether he is interested in the race or not.
In a recent interview, he said the chances of the South-East region producing the nation’s presidency in 2023 is in God’s hands.
The current Minister of Works and Housing is also another potential presidential material. Well-read, articulate and broad-minded, Fashola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria shone brilliantly during his tenure as governor of Lagos state between 2007 to 2015.
It was believed that President Buhari desired him as a running mate in 2015 but since that was not possible due to the Muslim-Muslim ticket controversy; he made him the most important minister in his cabinet with three portfolios as Minister of Power, Works and Housing. The President only removed the Power ministry from him because many believed the challenges in the power sector alone is enormous for one man to handle.
Recently, the emergence of some viral posters from a group, “The Nigeria Project 2023”, allegedly presenting Fashola and the Governor of Borno State, Prof. Babagana Zulum as presidential and vice-presidential candidates respectively went viral with many people attesting that they are both good pairs.
However, in a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr Hakeem Bello, the minister distanced itself from the group, saying he has never met with them.
“Ordinarily, the poster and the various social media reports almost instantly orchestrated on its account would have been ignored as the handiwork of mischief-makers. However, it became necessary to issue this disclaimer for two key reasons.
“The first of such was to answer with a strong negative to the numerous inquiries from right-thinking and well-meaning Nigerians on whether the Honorable Minister had been contacted or if the groups had his consent in issuing the invitation.
“Without equivocation, no individual or group has contacted the Honorable Minister for or on behalf of The Nigeria Project 2023,” the statement read.
It stated that the minister is currently focused on leading his dedicated team in the Ministry of Works and Housing to deliver on the mandate of President Muhammadu Buhari for an expanded and upgraded road transport infrastructure, and affordable housing nationwide in order to achieve economic growth and prosperity for the citizenry.
“Secondly, is the fact that entities unknown to a political party cannot present candidates on behalf of such a political party. As a ranking and loyal member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the individual and groups cited as promoters of The Nigeria Project 2023 are unknown to the APC and the Honorable Minister,”.
In view of this, the minister urged members of the public to be wary of the antics of unsolicited individuals and support groups whose real intentions remain questionable. “Every support possible should be given to the efforts of the current administration under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari to deliver a better nation for all,” it said.
Shortly after Fashola’s disclaimer, another group, Fashola/Zulum Presidency Support Group, issued a statement saying the Minister should be President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor in 2023, saying with the current level of developmental projects scattered across the country, Nigeria needs continuity devoid of bitter politics and political witch-hunting.
The group stated that it would be of disservice to Nigeria and Nigerians if gains recorded during the Buhari-led administration were allowed to be eroded by another crop of leaders who do not understand the dynamics of the country and what it means to effectively manage the nation’s diversity assume leadership positions.
The group’s National Convener, Barrister Abayomi Medemaku, said that with Fashola’s vast experience and his blend of knowledge across all walks of life, he is better positioned to take the mantle of leadership and continue from where Buhari stops in 2023 and consolidate on his achievements.
Speaking during the group’s launching of Fashola/Zulum Presidency Support Group, Medemaku stated that he was convinced that Nigeria Project 2023 was worth investing in and that the group has began mobilising for the actualisation of this mandate.
According to him, Fashola and Zulum are the ones who can inspire hope in the young. There words is their bond. They are not after personal aggrandizement. They have given a new meaning to loyalty and dependability.
“We want to sell our candidates to their parties. The duo of Fashola/ Zulum can salvage our nation from it drowning state, thus we took it upon ourselves to mobilize for them. We sampled people’s opinion and the sampling tallied with our conviction. A Fashola/Zulum Presidency we believe if actualized will drive the Nigeria Nation forward. Fashola (SAN)and Professor Babagana Umara Zulum will turn Nigeria around for good. We have seen in these two men persons who share good visions for Nigeria and whose vision are selfless and heroic”.
It however remains to be seen if Fashola will listen to the demands of those asking him to vie for the presidency in 2023 or not.
The argument out there is that Fashola has no political base but his loyalists have argued that it won’t be an issue if he has the backing of President Buhari as all the political machinery in the party will work for whomever the president supports.
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