2015: Who will be APC’s consensus candidate? ….THE CABLE
President Goodluck Jonathan is primed to pick the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2015 presidential election ─ from all indications. Most of the aspirants that could challenge him for the ticket have left the party, while Jigawa Governor Sule Lamido is not regarded as a serious challenger. Nigerians who want see the back of Jonathan will now have to look closely at the All Progressives Congress (APC), where there is an array of political heavyweights ─ some will say too loaded for APC’s own good.
Although many of the aspirants have not come out openly to declare their ambition, it is anybody’s guess who the real contenders are. Since the damn of this democratic dispensation in 1999, APC is the first serious attempt by the opposition in Nigeria to win power through a coalition. That the parties even agreed to fuse is already seen as some form of victory, but APC’s supporters would love the party to go all the way and dislodge the PDP from Aso Rock next year. Since the party has unofficially zoned the ticket to the north, the top contenders will naturally come from the region.
There are suggestions that APC would eventually settle for a “consensus candidate” to face Jonathan ─ to avoid the bitterness and rancour that could result from a fiercely contested primary. The talk of consensus is gaining significant following up north, but the criteria are yet to be defined. There has been a series of meetings, first to forge a common purpose and then to see the possibility of backing a sellable candidate. In the opinion of some APC insiders, the party must look out for someone who has less baggage and can serve as a unifying force for different sections of the country. He must be somebody Jonathan’s machinery cannot easily tear apart. ]
In asking the question on who APC will pick to run against Jonathan in the February 14, 2015 election, TheCable takes a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the party’s top five contenders: General Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah.
BUHARI: MASSES’ FRIEND, ELITES’ NEMESIS
Who’s he politically? He is a retired major-general who has served the country in different capacities: minister of petroleum, member of the Supreme Military Council, governor of north-eastern states, head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces and chairman of Presidential (Special) Trust Fund. What’s hot about him? Arguably the politician with the largest street support in northern Nigeria, able to galvanise millions of votes without spending a kobo. Regarded as honest and incorruptible, able to fight corruption headlong. Strong political will, able to take the toughest decisions no matter whose ox is gored. Exceptional public service experience, having served in various capacities, including being a former head of state. Strong member of APC, controlling the second largest political platform that fused into the coalition. Modest lifestyle, therefore unlikely to be given to wasteful spending. What’s not hot about him? Feared by the elite over his likely crackdown on corruption and waste in government. Limited in political manoeuvres, thereby perpetually at the mercy of party hawks. Failed in three previous presidential elections, forcing a conclusion that he is unelectable. Man of modest means, severely limited in war chest needed to prosecute elections and thereby vulnerable to compromise to campaign financiers. Seen as a religious fundamentalist and northern irredentist, significantly making him difficult to market in many parts of the country. At 71, some think he should give the younger generation a chance.
ATIKU: CONSUMMATE POLITICIAN, TAINTED PAST:
Who’s he politically? He is a former vice-president of Nigeria who acted as president several times in the absence of President Olusegun Obasanjo. He was elected governor of Adamawa State in 1999 but did not assume office after being picked as VP by Obasanjo. He has been seeking to be president since 1993, when he was in the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). What’s hot about him? A consummate politician, one of the most clinical the country has produced. Pan-Nigerian appeal with a wide network of foot soldiers and loyalists, although he played politics of northern sentiments in 2011. Heavy war chest, meaning he can finance his campaign without having to pander to any interests. Team-builder, able to identify talents and groom them for leadership. Experienced public officer, having served as vice-president for eight years at the critical moment of consolidating Nigeria’s democracy. What’s not hot about him? Late-comer to APC, meaning he does not have enough hold on the party and may struggle to get the needed support. Frequent defector, having left and returned to the PDP and left again in his quest to be president, a development that makes some APC leaders doubt his fidelity. Rusty machinery, having been out of power for long and unable to dispense patronage like he used to do as vice-president. Corruption perception, having been indicted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2006, even though no law court has yet convicted him as he denies all allegations.
RMK: SILENT ACHIEVER, POLITICAL TALKATIVE:
Who’s he politically? Kwankwaso is a two-time governor of Kano State and was minister of defence under President Olusegun Obasanjo. He was deputy speaker of the house of representatives in the aborted third republic (1992-93). What’s hot about him? Very popular politician in Kano State, the wealthiest northern state, officially the most populated state in Nigeria and state with the highest number of registered voters. Good performance record, generally regarded as the best governor in the state since Alhaji Abubakar Rimi. Budding national politician, recently building relations beyond his Kano base. Popular among young turks in the north, thereby representing a shift from the old order. What’s not hot about him? Talks a tad too much and embarks on politically explosive confrontations, particularly on the Niger Delta. Lacking national appeal, despite his best efforts at integrating into the broader political field in Nigeria. Seen more as a northern activist rather than a Pan-Nigerian thinker. Lacks a good base in APC, with many of his fellow defectors from PDP having divergent interests.
TAMBUWAL: FRESH FACE, SHAKY BASE :
Who’s he politically? He has been a member of the house of representatives since 2007 and served on various committees in the legislature. He was elected speaker of the house of representatives in 2011 despite not being the candidate of his party, the PDP. What’s hot about him? Young face of politics, and, at 48, providing the much-needed option of generational shift. Fairly clean record, with no reported scandals against him in a tricky chamber of the national assembly where scams are never hard to find. Wide network of friends, making him sellable across the length and breadth of the country. Calm and mature, coming across as someone who has the demeanour of a president. Deft political management skills, able to manage the diverse interests and camps in the house of representatives. What’s not hot about him? Suspicion abound that his real interest is in governorship of Sokoto State, thereby limiting general optimism about his rumoured presidential bid. Being an APC man in PDP skin, there is still confusion on his next political move ─ although he is expected to defect to APC soon. Shaky base in APC, following the redrawing of the political map by the south-west bloc which was virtually his strongest platform before the merger of opposition parties. Inexperienced in exercising executive powers, having been only a lawmaker in his political career.
NDA-ISAIAH: BIG IDEAS, SMALL CV :
Who’s he politically? Not a heavyweight. He has never contested any election and has never occupied any public office, making him completely new in politics. He is the publisher of Leadership, one of Nigeria’s leading and innovative newspapers. He is a trained pharmacist and a businessman with successful businesses within and outside Nigeria. What’s hot about him? At 52, one of the youngest presidential aspirants. A new face of politics and a representative of the school of generational shift. Successfully set up multi-million naira businesses from the scratch, giving fillip to his “Big Ideas” mantra. Media constituency could be useful in an environment where journalists are key movers of political currents. A Christian minority from the north, leading to calculations of possible dilution of Jonathan’s support in Christian north. Could unify traditional divides in the north if picked as APC candidate. What’s not hot about him? No previous experience in public service, having not held either an elective or appointive position all his life. Northern minority status could also count against him ─ a typical northern candidate is not usually a Christian, except the tide changes in the anti-Jonathan calculations. And since the end of the era of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, media owners have not made a strong bid for presidency.