By Dirisu Yakubu
‘Start early,’ is the unwritten guide politicians from this part of the world keep close to their chests. While some indulge in unending meetings cum consultations with the powers that be to get their nod to contest elections, the A-listers who game the system and can be regarded as Lords in their own rights, go ahead to make statements that easily give them away as lusting for one office or other in the next election cycle.
Their style is as unique as it is profound: they will not make a definite statement as to whether they are contesting or not just as they do not deny when an elective ambition is linked to them; thus leaving a puzzled public in the realm of speculation until the time is right.
Ahead of the 2023 general election, the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is keeping its game plan away from Nigerians, many of whom are already asking questions concerning its stand on zoning the much-sought-after ticket. While chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus insists zoning is not a topic of debate before the National Working Committee; other prominent members and leaders of the various organs of the party are reluctant to say a word on 2023. Those bold enough to speak have so far told Nigerians that the party would make its stand known after the submission of a report by the Governor Bala Mohammed-led committee, currently reviewing the PDP’s performance in the 2019 general elections.
But the recent utterances and actions by the trio of Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President, Governors Aminu Tambuwal and Nyesom Wike of Sokoto and Rivers states respectively, have left millions of Nigerians wagging their tongues over what becomes of the seat currently being occupied by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.
Although yet to declare interest in the race, Atiku who lost the 2019 Presidential election to Buhari appears to be testing the waters, given the tone of the public statements issued recently.
In a goodwill message he personally signed to congratulate US President, Donald Trump, Atiku’s epistle read like one authored by Buhari as it crackled more like a directive to the 46th President of God’s own country than a congratulatory message.
“As I congratulate President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, I urge them and their administration to strengthen US-Nigeria ties, and help our beloved nation’s war on terror by providing every type of support required to win our war against the insurgency we face and that threatens the peace of our sub region.
“I also look forward to the removal of every travel restriction on Nigerian citizens, in keeping with the good relations that has existed between our two nations, beginning with the July 27, 1961 state visit of our first Prime Minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, to President John F Kennedy, and continuing over the decades since then,” Atiku wrote shortly after Biden’s historic inauguration.
Only recently, a group which calls itself All Atiku Support Group, AASG, let the cat out of the proverbial bag when it hit Professor Tahir Mamman, National Vice Chairman (North East) of the All Progressives Congress, APC, for daring to counsel Atiku to forgo his rumoured 2023 Presidential ambition.
In a scathing rebuke of the Professor, AASG said he had “no business advising Atiku Abubakar or anyone else in the opposition party to abandon his presidential ambition, more so because it’s not within the right of Mamman to decide for PDP or interfere in its internal affairs.”
Continuing, AASG in a statement signed by Hon. Oladimeji Fabiyi added that “Atiku didn’t discuss his future political plans with Mamman and therefore he had no right to meddle in the affairs of the PDP. As far as Atiku is concerned, only God knows the future and so it’s too early to start talking about ambition at this point,” even as it bemoaned the state of affairs in the country under the stewardship of the APC-led government.
“Under the APC administration, our economy is groaning under the weight of heavy foreign debts which endangers our future. The Buhari administration has destroyed the efforts of former President Obasanjo to extricate Nigeria from the shackles of foreign debts. We are dealing with a government that is good at sharing money instead of creating wealth and dragging the country into massive debt burden. Prof. Mamman should advise the President to throw in the towel in the face of these miseries and disgraceful failures.
“Buhari’s second term is the continuation of poverty and hopeless future for Nigerians. A government that pretends to love the masses couldn’t have increased fuel price to N170 per litre; a government that pretends to love the masses should not have allowed basic food stuff to be out of the reach of the ordinary Nigerians. Today, a bag of local rice is sold between N28, 000 and N30, 000. When a bag of rice is higher than the value of the national minimum wage, what more evidence do you need that the APC has lost the plot? Prof. Mamman should apologise to Nigerians for these failures instead of using Atiku’s name to divert the attention of Nigerians from their hopeless situation and miserable living conditions,” it added.
Like Atiku, Governor Tambuwal’s mobility across the length and breadth of Nigeria has again led many to speculate about his future. In August 2020, Tambuwal who placed second behind Atiku in the race for the PDP ticket in 2019, undertook a private visit to the homes of prominent Nigerians including former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Defence Minister, General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (retd) and former Senate President, Senator David Mark; in what has since been described as consultation visits ahead of the polls.
A few weeks ago, a group, Tambuwal Support Organisation birthed on twitter and is gradually shaping the narratives around the ever smiling governor. The group which tweets @T_S_org and followed by the Ekiti state governor, Kayode Fayemi recently hint on what is to be expected when it tweeted, accompanied with a photograph of Governor Tambuwal the following: “Nigerians are looking for a young leader, brain and ideology but not old brain and ideology.”
He has been a regular face in PDP- controlled states in the past few months; enough for bookmakers to conclude that such visits are aimed at building bridges across the states of the federation in preparation for the big test.
Governor Wike has stirred the polity in recent times, not only with his incessant criticisms of the Buhari-led government but also his outings in his home state of Rivers. Nicknamed Mr. Projects by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Wike has been commissioning projects across the states and often invite members of the ruling APC to witness these events.
Although, there are rumours the lawyer cum politician is working in sync with Tambuwal on a joint ticket that would see him picked as a running mate; he may decide to gun for the ticket himself considering his stronghold on the party.
These rumours have intensified in the past few hours given Wike’s announcement of a donation of N500 million to victims of Sokoto burnt market; the same Sokoto where Tambuwal ruled the roost.
As Nigerians look anxiously to the months ahead, it would be interesting to see who among the trio and the horde of others fated to indicate interest in the race, the PDP will settle for to test his/her popularity among Nigerians for the plum job. It’s waiting time!