The search for a dark horse
Since January, when President Buhari hinted at his favorite presidential candidate in a rare Channels TV interview, the nation’s curiosity about it has grown. This candidate’s prediction has eluded political outsiders probably because of the populace of the character cast who rushed to get the ruling party’s nomination forms. Buhari’s choice to keep his favorite ‘secret’ lest he ‘get eliminated’, a half-teased excuse from the Commander-in-Chief, makes almost every self-proclaimed wannabe a prime suspect in this growing suspense.
That the identity of this frontrunner should be protected keeps observers away from the easiest guesswork, which usually has to start with the possibility of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. As second-in-command, Osinbajo should have the right of first refusal to succeed his principal. But above this apparent privilege hangs the dark cloud of ambition of its director, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Both politicians are stalwarts of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) camp in the coalition that has become All Progressives Congress (APC) and a region most favored to produce the party’s next presidential candidate.
If Osinbajo and Tinubu were Buhari’s preference, his secrecy wouldn’t have been necessary. There too, there would not have been the fear of a possible elimination if the identity of one or the other was revealed. They are heavyweights in the political arena, able to finance their defense against any adversary or hostility inside and outside the party. They don’t need Buhari’s protection, only his approval.
Osinbajo’s diminished influence is not news. He was successfully subdued by Buhari’s right-hand men, and the job he loved to do moved to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. Even if Sadiya Umar Faruk is not faring any better, she has regained center stage which has been the envy of the presidency. His humanizing brotherhood with the beneficiaries of the government’s economic and humanitarian intervention programs must have been interpreted as an attempt to eclipse his master.
For Tinubu, the opposition has been largely subtle but unequivocal. There is the experience of the former chief executive of its support groups, Dr Abdulmumin Jibrin, who was harassed by the government and accused of breaking civil service rules for openly campaigning for the former governor of Lagos, and also the antagonism of his former rebel mentees. who are part of Buhari’s cabinet. Dr Jibrin’s yellow card was flashed by the Minister of Works and Housing who once rode Tinubu’s mantle to become Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babatunde Fashola. Tinubu has also been openly upset with another member of Buhari’s cabinet who, like Fashola, is his political beneficiary. Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the Home Minister, set out to clip Tinubu’s wings when he backed a gubernatorial candidate in Osun State to beat the one endorsed by Tinubu. He lost.
Another contender likely to qualify as the president’s favorite is the transport minister. Since Rotimi Amaechi fired Hadiza Bala Usman, the politically pampered former chief executive of the Nigeria Ports Authority, for insubordination, his political profile has grown. It was a war he was supposed to lose because Mrs. Bala Usman was not only Buhari’s political daughter, she was El-Rufai’s mentee. These connections must have emboldened her to miss her not being indispensable. But, then Amaechi’s chances came under scrutiny when former president Goodluck Jonathan, a broader profile of his geopolitical area, became a variable.
But neither Rotimi nor Jonathan would need Buhari’s protection to escape elimination. Both are set for the coming storm. So when on Wednesday Buhari ordered all his ministers running for elective office to resign by May 16, Minister of State for Education Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba caught our attention when he rushed to submit his letter of resignation. It is not a Nigerian thing for a politician who seems to have no chance of winning to give up such a post. Even though Mr. Nwajiuba fits the profile of a politically vulnerable option, APC’s desirability in the South East is not inspiring enough to make him the bride of the party.
Next in Nwajiuba’s vulnerability is the former speaker of the House of Representatives, a political dinosaur whose childish charms have been outweighed by a corruption allegation that has left him buried too long. Even though he was acquitted by the court, the issue of these alleged financial transgressions was amplified for analysis when his media managers hired social media influencers to promote his brand online. Even with the wariness of Buhari’s anti-corruption credentials, he is unlikely to settle for a midshipman with such a moral stain.
Last week, a notable civil servant and commentator, Dr Aliyu Tilde, hinted at the likelihood that Borno State Governor Prof Babagana Zulum will be APC’s presidential candidate. As a political upstart propelled by a former supporting principal, Senator Kashim Shettima, his vulnerability is not low key. If chosen, he will likely need Buhari’s protection. Unfortunately, it’s a ticket that won’t sell. The moral debate of running a northern candidate after eight disappointing years of a northerner in charge is a calamity the APC is not prepared for. This offer would sink the party ship, and there aren’t a number of bullion vans capable of preventing an unintended consequence.
In the early hours of Saturday, May 14, a new name appeared in a tweet by President Buhari’s personal assistant on new media, Bashir Ahmad: “Bola Tinubu, Yemi Osinbajo, Akin Adesina, Rotimi Amaechi, Ahmad Lawan and 20 others presidential candidates contesting under our great party, the APC has returned its expression of interest and nomination forms. It was not the first time that the name of the high-flying president of the African Development Bank appeared on the list of candidates for the APC ticket for Aso Rock, the competition rumor of Dr. Akin Adesina had been wild before his name does not appear in the presidential election. help communication and, predictably, it made headlines.
Adesina is one of four citizens and heads of international organizations – along with Dr Ngozi Iweala of the World Trade Organization, Amina Mohammed of the United Nations and Mohammed Barkindo of OPEC – who have become the brand ambassadors of the country. But he stands out from the quartet for being a recurring decimal in intellectual projections of the 2023 presidential elections. Arguments for his relevance appeal to rural Nigerian farmers, who benefited from his innovative thinking as Minister of Agriculture between 2010 and 2015 as much as to the educated population for whom he is a role model.
Whether the record-breaking economist and development banker is Buhari’s dark horse remains to be seen, but he qualifies as the only candidate worthy of the president’s caution among the players prepared for the party’s primaries this month. His intellectual and moral superiority in the race to clinch the APC ticket makes his case compelling. As a politician with no career and the region where the president is most likely to pick his favorite, his entry makes our dark horse theory easy and difficult to solve.