CPC leader, Major General Muhammadu Buhari
By Chuks Okocha in Abuja
With three years to go before the 2015 presidential election, opposition parties have started considering a number of options on how to join forces to wrest power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party.
The stumbling block to their goal, however, is the much-speculated presidential ambition of the leader of the Congress for Progressive Change, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.), who is considered a threat to the plan of forging a working relationship between his party and the Action Congress of Nigeria.
But the renewed romance between the ACN and CPC seems not to have ruffled the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, with its national publicity secretary, Olisa Metu, waving it off as a distraction to the party’s commitment to transform Nigeria.
The last effort at an alliance of the two parties before the 2011 presidential election fell through due to irreconcilable differences between the leadership of the two parties.
Source told THISDAY at the weekend that some stalwarts of the two parties are considering the viability of the Buhari candidacy with the ACN national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, as running mate in the next poll.
If he runs in 2015, Buhari would have contested the presidency for a record four times since 2003 when he first took part in the presidential race on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party.
In the run up to the 2011 election, he stated that the contest will be his last, but in recent months speculation has been mounting that he may once more throw his hat into the ring come 2015.
Though Buhari is yet to take a clear stand on whether he would contest the 2015 presidential election, saying that he will continue to play an active role in the polity, his comment last week in Niger State warning PDP not to rig the 2015 election otherwise there will be bloodshed, was a pointer that he might take another shot at the presidency.
The snag in the Buhari-Tinubu ticket, if it becomes a reality, it was gathered, is that the CPC leader, who will be 73 by 2015, might be considered too old for the race in a world where younger elements are emerging leaders in other nations.
Considering this a setback, younger elements in the ACN and the CPC are canvassing another team, comprising former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and a close Buhari ally, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, and the governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola to fly the alliance ticket should things work out between the two parties. Fashola, by 2015, would have served out his two terms as governor.
THISDAY gathered that following exploratory talks between both parties, a situation that saw Buhari visiting Tinubu on May 6 for further talks, members of both parties are concerned over whether Buhari would still present himself as a presidential candidate of the CPC.
One CPC member involved in the alliance talks between the CPC and ACN said the talks between the two parties were still ongoing, however, noting that Buhari’s political future was casting a cloud over negotiations.
The source said the young Turks in both parties, nonetheless, have been meeting to work out a Plan B.
“Our game plan is to present two younger elements for the presidential ticket. We are thinking that el-Rufai and Fashola will make a perfect combination. But we don’t know the game plan that Buhari and Tinubu have.
“el-Rufai is popular among the northern youths and Fashola’s commendable performance makes him the perfect match for the former minister. This is what we are thinking of at the moment, but there could be changes in the future,” the source said.
According to him, the younger elements in the both parties are worried that the alliance talks between CPC and ACN may be moving towards a joint presidential ticket comprising Buhari and Tinubu.
“A joint Buhari-Tinubu ticket would mean closing the doors to the younger elements that have something to offer in the next dispensation,” he added.
On the terms of the talks between CPC and ACN, the source said, “From the initial talks, what is on the ground is an alliance and not a merger. We are discussing the possibility of presenting a unified presidential candidate and cooperating in subsequent elections and not an outright merger where one party will be subsumed by the other.”
Asked to clarify what he meant by an alliance, the source said, “By cooperating during elections as contemplated in the 2015 presidential election,” adding, “the details are not known yet; with time, everything will become clearer.”
The CPC national secretary, Buba Galadima, when contacted on whether Buhari would contest the 2015 presidential election, simply said, “Buhari is a leader in CPC.
“He is qualified to contest for the presidential election, but the decision depends on him. You just wait and see as everything unfolds after all, power is from Allah.”
However, the PDP said it was not bothered about the rumoured alliance between the two parties. According to the PDP spokesman, Metu, “As a party, we are determined not be bothered by the unholy alliance of the ACN and the CPC whose ultimate target is to distract our irreversible commitment to the transformation of Nigeria.”