2019 may be a long way away but the conversation about the next elections has already begun. Here are 11 people who will be there in the coming months.
In Nigeria, political parties begin to prepare for a new election as soon as one ends. The 2019 elections are closer than they seem and camps are already forming.
While the rest of Nigeria re-heated Sallah meat over the week, Aisha Al-Hassan, Buhari’s Minister for Women affairs, endorsed Atiku Abubakar for president.
Atiku has since criticized President Buhari for being ungrateful, like a disappointed benefactor. While this reminds many of Atiku’s position as the perennial candidate, it has brought new attention to the rest of the political landscape.
Apart from the usual suspects, former governors, a few ministers are expected to run for the President’s office in the next general elections.
Besides Atiku, some of these potential aspirants have been making what may be interpreted as strategic moves, like Rabiu Kwakwanso.
Others, like Governor Rochas Okorocha, are battling to manage internal problems that may leave them weak going into 2019.
Here are the most likely suspects you should expect to see more as the next elections draw closer.
(1) President Muhammadu Buhari: The 72-year old’s health has been a major plot line through his presidency. Few expect him to run for office in 2017, after two long stints on medical leave in London.
Buhari himself has remained quiet about his candidacy in 2019. On the other hand, many blame his policies for the harsh economy. His fight against corruption, a major point of his agenda, has also been tainted with accusations of bias and political motivations. His return to office has been rather eventful.
After two cancelled FEC meetings and reports of Nigeria’s emergence from recession, the Daura-born former General might be more focused on the present than anything else.
(2) Babatunde Raji Fashola: In 2015, Fashola was appointed Minister of Power, Works and Housing on the strength of his sterling reputation as Governor of Lagos.
Two years later, many commentators describe that appointment as something of a pyrrhic gift. Fashola has been unable to bring change at the rate that he once promised.
Many feel that this has demystified the minister. The former Lagos Governor has not acknowledged any rumours of his candidacy. Meanwhile, he juggles three important ministries.
Each has many important projects in progress, or close to starting. Sources have told Pulse that there will be a cabinet reshuffle in the coming days.
In the unlikely chance that Fashola does not make the cut, many sides will be interested in what he does next.
(4) Atiku Abubakar: Turakin Adamawa, Atiku, has been jostling for the top seat for decades. In 2015, his goals were cut short at the APC primaries and the former Customs head retreated to his Adamawa base.
In the past few days, Atiku has taken shots at President Buhari for being ungrateful and leaving him out of the picture since the 2015 victory.
The Ex-VP is expected to run in 2019 and he enjoys a large following in his home state of Adamawa that could prove important. It is unlikely that he will remain in the APC for much longer.
Atiku has a history of jumping parties to run for office and he will not be reluctant to explore other platforms before 2019.
(5) Yemi Osinbajo: Before he was picked as Buhari’s running mate, few people outside the legal profession or the RCCG knew of Prof. Osinbajo.
As Buhari’s health faltered through 2017, the Vice-President held the fort in his place for a few months. His willingness to communicate and work ethic endeared him to many Nigerians.
While that may be too little to convince, many were impressed enough to promote the lawyer as a younger, better alternative, come 2019. But if he has heard this news, there is no sign from his camp.
The VP continues to fulfil many duties in Buhari’s place, even after the latter’s return. This week, he is on a state visit to areas of Benue ravaged by blood.
(6) Musa Rabiu Kwakwanso: Former governor, Rabiu Kwankwanso came second in the APC National Primaries in 2015. In place of the presidency, he ran for the Senate and got elected.
Kwankwanso is seen as the strongman of Kano politics but his influence is being threatened by Abdullahi Ganduje, his former Deputy, now Governor of Kano. As 2019 looms, a thick cloud hangs over his ambition.
He has endeared himself to the people through his Kwankwansiyya Development Foundation and other initiatives. While he enjoys strong support, his biggest challenge is finding a platform to run.
He faces stiff competition in the APC. Crossing to the PDP is an option but it may damage his credibility and see his return to a camp that distrusts him.
(7) Bukola Saraki: In the last two years, Senate President Bukola Saraki has given more credence to his reputation for ambition and foresight.
The Senate President has antagonized several party leaders with his dealings in the Senate and showed he is not one to stay in the background. Many believe it is almost certain that Saraki will make moves to run for office in 2019.
Yet, the Ilorin-born politician remains entrenched in the Senate President’s seat, for now. He has created an identity separate from the APC and the Buhari administration.
Going into 2019, many expect that he will draw away further to push himself as a viable alternative.
(8) Ayo Fayose: Ekiti State’s Governor Peter Ayodele Fayose seems intent on riding his wave of controversy to Aso Rock. While residents of his state protest unpaid fees, the Governor has stayed in the news by taking shots at the APC, the Presidency, Buhari and anyone unlucky enough to cross his mind.
In a large rally held in Ado-Ekiti in July, Fayose announced his intention to run for the presidency in 2019.
He is not the candidate with the most elaborate plans (or any plans for that matter), but as Trump proved in the US, that may not matter.
Media publicity is Fayose’s favourite tool and he’s using it to greater effect as the conversation about 2019 becomes more relevant.
(9) Governor Rochas Okorocha: As things stand, there are few politicians from the South-East with the clout or resources to run for the presidency in 2019. Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha is one of them.
While Okorocha enjoys considerable influence within the APC, he suffers a crisis of credibility in the North East. He will also face stiff competition for the APC ticket if he chooses to run.
He has already given two conditions that will determine his candidacy in 2019: if President Buhari refuses to contest in 2019 and he gets the endorsement of at least 10 million Nigerians.
At the moment, though, he is more concerned with the home turf. Market women in Owerri have protested his demolition of the important Ekeukwu market in recent weeks.
Many are dissatisfied with his performance as governor, an issue that could damage his chances before he even considers them.
(10) Bola Tinubu: The 2015 general elections enforced Asiwaju’s reputation as a major power broker and the most important politician in the South-West.
Many of his proteges occupy offices in the Buhari administration and around other states in his power base. Despite being considered as a likely candidate in successive elections, the former Lagos governor shows no intent to run in 2019.
Since 2015, many of his typical chess plays have not gone according to plan, thanks to Senate President Saraki. He is also hindered by what political commentators call the “Daura Cabal”, a North-eastern bloc loyal to President Buhari.
Still, his influence in the South-West and the APC cannot be understimated. Tinubu may not run for office but he will be influential in determining who flies the APC’s flag, come 2019.
(11) Nasir El-Rufai: Despite writing a very critical open letter to Buhari months ago, El-Rufai is still seen as one of the President’s loyalists.
There are claims that the Kaduna state governor will only run if Buhari chooses to throw in the towel after his first term. El-Rufai’s public perception will be his biggest challenge.
Insensitive comments made in the build-up to the 2015 elections caused many to accuse him of explicit tribalism.
In his home base, his handling of theSouthern Kaduna crisis drew some criticism from other rivals, most notablySenator Shehu Sani.
2019 will present El-Rufai with a potential second term as Kaduna governor but he might set his eyes on bigger things.
For now, Kaduna is his primary charge. Infrastructtural projects are on-going. Still, the governor has not missed any opportunity to contribute to the national discourse, including berating Aisha Al-Hassan for endorsing Atiku Abubakar.