Whereas many people are looking forward to this Saturday to elect a president for the country, many other political actors are looking beyond towards the next presidential election when they would either be on the ballot themselves or have their interests represented.
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Senate President Bukola Saraki has perhaps been the boldest person to express what many claim as the hidden interest of many of the country’s leading political actors ahead of this weekend’s election.
In a strongly worded statement on Monday evening, he accused the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of being blinded by what he claimed as a blind ambition to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.
“Tinubu on his own part said though he agreed with me about my assessment of the man, he would continue to support Buhari even if the man had to govern from the hospital stretcher because that is the way he (Tinubu) could become the President in 2023.”
Saraki’s assertion that Tinubu wants to succeed Buhari is, however, not new. The former governor of Lagos State a gave a peep into it himself in November 2017 during a reconciliation visit to Afenifere had said that he would contest the presidency if President Buhari does not contest.
Also in the same statement he issued on Monday, Saraki also alleged that the political difference between himself and the former governor of Lagos State had to do with his opposition to the Muslim – Muslim ticket between Buhari and Tinubu in 2015.
Tinubu has yet to speak on the allegation by Saraki or even comment on a previous allegation in the same vein as alleged by Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.
Whether true or not, Tinubu as a factor in 2023 is one that cannot be underestimated.
The idea that Tinubu is supporting Buhari only because he wants to succeed him, however, would largely come into play if Buhari wins today’s polls.
However, there are other factors that have lately emerged to contend with Tinubu as a factor from the Southwest in 2023.
Among the leading contenders is Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo the once thought of apolitical apparatchik who has now become one of the most controversial political actors of the present campaign.
The enthusiasm with which the vice-president has taken to hustling for votes has lately drawn suspicion from many stakeholders as being beyond the ordinary.
His well-heeled staff in the villa according to mutterings is equipped and perhaps financed beyond the reach of recent vice-presidents.
Osinbajo has also performed as acting president for a stretch beyond which none of his predecessors has acted. It is now being gossiped that the man that Tinubu positioned to hold the turf for him may have become enamoured with the office as to now pose a serious political challenge towards Tinubu’s aspiration.
Is it possible for Osinbajo to boldly confront or challenge Tinubu for the presidency in 2023 if they succeed today? It is a guess work that is bound to be a spectacle among political actors in the country.
Meanwhile, Osinbajo is not the only one that is bound to unsettle Tinubu at home.
The intentions of Mr. Babatunde Fashola, the minister of works, power and housing remains a specter for many in the Tinubu camp. Though he was brought to the political limelight by Tinubu, Fashola has evolved to become his own man and is today believed to be among those former Tinubu associates positioning themselves to play an independent political circuit to Abuja outside the Tinubu route.
Among those believed to be on the Fashola side are the likes of the governors of Ekiti, Ondo and Ogun States, respectively, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Rotimi Akeredolu and Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
Of the lot, Senator Amosun who is finishing his second term as governor is the only one on the ballot today as the APC candidate for Ogun Central. It is still within the realm of political permutations that Amosun who arguably has the oldest political linkage with Buhari in the Southwest could be resuming in the Senate to sustain the relationship with the intention of pushing a 2023 agenda.
The permutations of 2023 are, however, loudest in the Southeast. Supporters of the president in the region have taken the 2023 agenda as the most visible campaign issue to market to the people of the region.
Speaking in Ozubulu, Anambra State earlier this week, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, director-general of the Voice of Nigeria, VON, said that Igbo leaders who recently visited President Buhari went to negotiate the 2023 issue with him.
Okechukwu who is about one of Buhari’s strongest allies with relationship dating from 2002 during the pair up with the late Chuba Okadigbo has maintained the stance that the APC ticket gives the Igbo the fastest route to the presidency.
His argument has been that Atiku could decide to contest for a second term whereas Buhari would be ineligible.
“We’re saying that Buhari’s four years is cast in constitutional stone. The Buhari I know cannot come tomorrow to say he wants to prolong his stay in office. It’s not about pledge but constitution.”
Though Osita and many Buhari supporters have been canvassing this strategy to win over the Southeast, it is remarkable that the strategy has largely failed to win traction among the elite and grassroots in the region.
The reason some say is that seeing is believing. The Southeast in the view of some has been most neglected in terms of appointments by the Buhari administration with no single Igbo in the security line up of the administration.
It is in that respect that the 2023 agenda canvassed by Mr. Okechukwu and others has had trouble in sailing through.
The 2023 intentions of the cabal around the president is also unknown. Should the strength of the cabal hold on with a Buhari victory this Saturday, the cabal is bound to play a decisive role in the emergence of a new president in 2023.
It is also being said that the cabal may not look beyond the north in finding a new president.
Given that the constitution does not approve of rotation of the office of the president, the cabal could decide to look within itself or among possible lackeys that they could use to hold on to power.
One of the most qualified persons for the office at that time could be Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. However, the Kaduna State governor is no friend of the cabal and would only struggle for supremacy in the national sphere if he is able to survive his own election in two weeks time; and then fight the cabal.
Governor El-Rufai has strong alliances with the south to project his aspiration, among whom are Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of transportation. The gist of the two pairing up in 2023 has been gossip for sometime.
The cabal’s capacity to produce one of its own as a candidate may be difficult. Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, arguably the most politically exposed strategist in the inner workings of the Buhari inner room is 73 this year. In four years time he will be 77, obviously weighed down by age, but definitely not in his thoughts and imaginations.