As reactions continue to trail Monday’s declaration by President Muhammadu Buhari that he would seek re-election in the 2019 general elections, there are indications that some chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC) would dump the ruling party ahead of the polls.
The looming defection, New Telegraph learnt, is because the President’s confirmation of his second term bid has foreclosed the ambitions of some APC chieftains also eyeing the party’s presidential ticket.
A party source, who disclosed this to our correspondent, said the presidential hopefuls, mostly outgoing governors of northern extraction and top ranking federal lawmakers, have to look elsewhere to realise their respective ambitions.
According to him, there is no doubt that presidential ambitions of these younger northern politicians in the APC have been buried because Buhari would have little or no opposition in picking the party’s ticket.
His words: “There is no doubt that the jostle for the APC presidential ticket is over because President Buhari will have had little or no opposition in picking the party’s ticket as it is certain that he will have had the right of first refusal as an incumbent.
“At the moment, he is the only person to have officially declared for the party’s ticket and it is unlikely that anyone else will do. And with the way the President had his way in the recent impasse over tenure elongation for members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), it is clear that he is now fully in control of the party structure.
“So, it is expected that anyone who has a presidential ambition within the party should look elsewhere as it will be foolhardy for anyone to face him at the primaries.”
The belief in some political quarters before now was that the President will not seek for re-election, given his health and age. He is 75 years and would be 76 by May 2019, when his first tenure elapses.
There was also an alleged agreement that the President would serve only one term to pave way for other interests in the party to have a shot at the presidency given that the APC is an amalgam of three major opposition parties – Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
It was against this backdrop that some northern political leaders within the ruling party, at a time, started shopping for his replacement ahead of 2019, to avoid being caught napping.
Among those touted then were former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; Senate President Bukola Saraki; former Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso and Governors Kashim Shettima (Borno), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara) and Nasri el-Rufai (Kaduna).
But Atiku left the ruling party for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in November last year, when it became clear, as some of the President’s supporters predicted, that he (Buhari) would be fit to re-contest in 2019.
The source, who confirmed that some of the APC presidential hopefuls will toe Atiku’s path, said: “There will be movements out of the APC in the days ahead. And the likely destination for those who would be leaving is the PDP. But the challenge some of them will face is whether the former ruling party will open its door to them given the way they dumped the party ahead of the 2015 elections, which contributed to the party’s loss of the presidency to the APC.”
He ruled out the option of the would-be defectors joining the third force being championed by for President Olusegun Obasanjo, saying the PDP provided a more veritable platform for anyone who intends to unseat the APC.
“Yes, those behind the third force have been mobilizing Nigerians ahead of the 2019 elections, but it is likely that it won’t make any impact because you need a platform with structures across the country to defeat an incumbent government. This is where the PDP comes in. So, expect movements into the party any moment from now because no one can stop a sitting president like Buhari from picking the APC ticket.
“And one thing that the APC members are likely to cash in on is the PDP’s resolve to field a younger candidate in the 2019 presidential election. Some of them are young and fit into the calculation of the opposition party,” he said.
The source added that though some people in the presidency have dismissed the one-term deal allegedly entered into by Buhari, the PDP and ACN camps of the APC feel betrayed as they have to wait till 2023 before they can take a shot at the number one position as the CPC camp, which produced the president in 2015, is insisting on going for a second term.
His words: “There was a mutual agreement in 2015 that the various camps that formed the APC will take turns at the presidency, which informed the one term deal, but now that the CPC camp is insisting on Buhari’s second term, what do you expect the PDP and ACN camps to do because they have to wait till 2023, and that is for those from the southern part of the country.
“For those from the North, they have to wait till 2031, given that after Buhari’s second term in 2023, if he wins in 2019, power will shift to the South for another eight years. The question is: Where will the northern elements who are also interested in the presidency now be in the next eight to nine years?
“Kwankwaso is 61 years old now, by 2032, he will be 70; Saraki is 55 years old now. By 2031, he will be 64; Tambuwal is 52; he will be 62 then; Shettima is 51 and by 2031, he will be 60, while El-Rufai, who is 58 years old now, would be 67 by then.
“This was the main reason why Atiku, who is 72, left the APC. If he had remained in the party and opted out of the 2019 race because Buhari is contesting, he would be 77 by 2023, when power is expected to return to the South. Can the former vice president afford to wait for another eight years after 2023 to actualise his dream?
“Would he be disposed to run for the presidency again at 85 in 2031, when power will return to the North, if the power shift arrangement still subsists? Would he still have the financial strength to fund the project, and what happens if a new power bloc emerges in the North by then?”
Last night, efforts to speak to the Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, proved abortive. He did not pick his calls nor replied to text message sent to him.