Waiting for the Opposition Candidate

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Time is running out for the opposition to unveil a candidate that is likely to take  on President Muhammadu Buhari, write Tobi Soniyi, Segun James and Shola Oyeyipo
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If President Muhammadu Buhari has his way, he will call on the opposition to wait till after the 2019 presidential election before fielding a candidate for president just like he told the youths after signing the Not Too Young to Run Bill into law.

Luckily enough for the president, he does not need to ask the opposition. Those in opposition appear not ready to challenge him.
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Despite his much advertised scorecard in three years, the generality of Nigerians would want the president replaced by a more capable and pro-unity leader.

Achievements speak for themselves. However, President Buhari’s  achievements have to be advertised‎ for people to become aware of them. People can’t seem to see the achievements. They just have to take the president’s words for it.

Hope of replacing Buhari in 2019, however, remains forlorn as those in opposition are yet unable to come up with a formidable candidate that can mobilise voters to realise their dream of replacing Buhari.

Although there are plenty of aspirants, including women who want to be president, voters ‎have yet to see that ‘special person’ that they can support. Worse still, political parties have also not been able to narrow down their search to few electable persons. Yet, presidential election, barring any unforeseen circumstance, will hold in February, 2019.

‎Meanwhile, the main opposition party the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has many aspirants who have indicated their interest in taking a shot at the presidency. The party, has however refused to gravitate towards any of the candidates. The decision not to show preference for any of the aspirants, it was learnt, was to avoid past mistakes where the party imposed candidates ‎on the electorates.

“We want the people to choose for us. We are watching all the aspirants and gauging the public mood”, a PDP official w‎ho said he was not authorised to comment on the issue told THISDAY Politics.
Another reason why the opposition is treading softly may be to protect its potential candidate. Those who have already indicated their interests in running for the office of president are already being targeted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Many expect Buhari to easily win his party’s nomination. But there is a member of his party SKC Ogbonnia who has publicly announced his intention to ‎contest the APC’s primary with Buhari. The odds remain heavily stacked against him though. Not many have heard about him. Ogbonnia is from Enugu and was a supporter of Buhari during the 2015 general election. He believes that APC should field a vibrant candidate like himself to retain power in 2019. ‎ He has beautiful ideas. But is Nigerian primordial and sentiment based politics ready for Ogonnia? Not many think so. One thing you can’t take away from him is that he has gut. Not even experienced politicians like Bola Tinubu are willing to take on Buhari. But Ogbonnia is ready. When he takes on Buhari at the primary, many in the APC already know what the result will be.

Back to the opposition, the 2019 general election is barely eight months away; yet the opposition, including is yet to have any clear cut candidate(s) for the election. Below are some of the heavyweights who have signified their interest in the race.‎

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Atiku Abubakar
Former Vice President‎ Atiku Abubakar is without doubt a political juggernaut in the country. A former vice president to Chief Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007. Atiku has never hidden his determination to rule the country. This naked ambition has been the bane of his political problems.
Atiku is one person who has the political base and machinery to give President Buhari a run for his money. Furthermore, he has the financial strength and wherewithal to take on both Buhari and the APC in the election.
However, he does not always enjoy the support of the power that be.‎‎ His greatest undoing may his unstable political nature. Since within the last 12 years, he has left the PDP for the Action Congress before moving back again to the PDP.
When he was unable to realise his ambition in the PDP, he once again left the party for the APC. But frustrated at not again being able to become the presidential candidate of the party, he has since again left only to be back at the PDP.
Some powerful elements within the PDP don’t seem like to like him.
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Sule Lamido
This political godson of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and a former governor of Jigawa state is a political powerhouse in the north where he is very respected.‎
Lamido, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs is an intellectual who was one of the few performing governors in the country. He has a considerable following in the north and has always been touted by the region as a northern candidate for the presidency.
‎He however, has a weak national  political base. He has never endeared himself to the southern part of the country where is hardly known. He will be a hard sell to other parts of the country if he his to engage Buhari in the presidential race.

Rabiu Kwankwaso
The former Kano State governor remains very popular in his state and has a large following in the south-west. The problem is- no one knows the political party he will adopt to realise his ambition. He has almost been pushed out of his party, the APC. He has, however, maintained a dignified silence. He has yet to publicly announce whether he will run for the office of president or not. Many are urging him to take the plunge. Kwankwaso, who was also a former minister for defence may turn out to be a thorn in APC’s flesh. He does not have much time on his side. Now that the Coalition for Nigerian Movement has adopted the African Democratic Party, the party obviously has a vacancy for presidential aspirant. Will Kwankwaso fill that vacancy? Time will tell.

Ahmed Makarfi
After leading the battle to rescue the Peoples Democratic Party from Ali Modu Sheriff and his group, followed by holding a scripted national convention, no one can blame the former governor of Kaduna State for his decision to wish to be president.
On top of the fact that he stabilised the PDP, he is one of the rare aspirants adjudged to be free of encumbrances. If integrity is a factor, Makarfi stands out among the rest.
However, he stepped on plenty toes in his bid to stabilise his party. That may be his undoing as those who felt that he did not treat them well when he was in control of the party would want to pay him back. He is also struggling to win follower ship in the south. Many members of the party in the South-west, either wrongly or rightly hold the view that he was a party to the plot to deny the south-west the party’s national chairman.

Ibrahim Dankwabo
Any one who attended the PDP’s convention last year in Abuja would easily remember how followers of the Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dankwabo stole the show with traditional dances to announce the governor’s decision to seek his party’s nomination for the presidency. At a time, the leadership of the PDP was said to be given serious consideration to Dankwabo’s ambition.
He has started campaigning even before the process is officially declared open. He will probably not remember how many endorsements he has received. But beyond the endorsements, Dankwabo does not appear to have many followers in the south. That, however, is a job his party can do for him, if it chooses to adopt him as its candidate.

Ayodele Fayose
Until recently, the Ekiti State governor was telling whoever cared to listen that he planned to seek election into the office of the president. No one knows what has changed because the governor does not appear to be interested anymore. His party, the PDP has made it abundantly clear that it would support a candidate from the north. May be this is the reality that has finally dawned on him. If he chooses to press on with him ambition, he is not likely to enjoy the support of his party and his people in the south-west. Many in the party are of the view that the Ekiti State governor only wants to be vice president.
Aminu Tambuwal
The name of the Sokoto State governor and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal keeps coming up as someone who is interested in the presidency. He has not made that intention known. He seems to be one of those hoping to take the plunge if the opportunity presents itself. For instance, if president Buhari changes his mind and decides not to run again. As long as Buhari is interested in reeletion, many expect the Sokoto State governor to seek re-election as governor.

Nasir el Rufai
The Kaduna State governor, Nasir el Rufai is another aspirant waiting in the wings. If President Buhari today changes his mind, el Rufai will throw his hat into the ring. He is a straight talker who is not afraid to make enemies. That quality which has endeared him to many has in equal measure made the enemy of many.

Ibrahim Shekarau
Also a former governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau has announced his ambition to be president. He understood the value of education and introduced measures to increase school enrolment in the state. He was also a former minister for education. He encouraged more girls to go to school. Like Lamido, he is having a running battle with the EFCC.
Non-conventional Candidates
There are other candidates who are not your typical politicians who are equally interested in President Buhari’s job. Some of them are:

Kingsley Moghalu
One prominent entrant into the 2019 presidential race is political economist, lawyer and former United Nations official, and Professor of Practice in International Business and Public Policy at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Kingsley Moghalu.
Also a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from 2009 to 2014, he is the founder, Sogato Strategies LLC, an emerging markets risk, strategy and macro-economic advisory firm.
He hopes to realise his ambition on the platform of the Young Progressives Party (YPP). He is radical in his views, with a sound knowledge of the economy and appears to want to bring genuine change.
However, he will need to do a tough job convincing voters to support him. For those who thought all he wanted was a vice president’s job, here is his reply, “People call me and ask if I am using my presidential aspiration to negotiate for a vice presidential ticket. But I want to say that the battle is here, and we need you to win it. I am not negotiating to be vice president to anyone.  I will be a candidate of a party.”

Fela Durotoye
Another unique Nigerian aspiring to takeover President Buhari’s job is Fela Durotoye. Mr. Nigeria, as he is also known, is perhaps one of the most famous motivational speakers in Nigeria. He represents the young generation.
He formerly declared for the presidency and registered with the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), one of the newly registered political parties, which has as one of its core motives, to position professionals to displace career professionals in the running of the country. He is banking on the youths to make this happen.
Displacing career politicians isn’t going to be easy. To do that, Durotoye will first have to convince the voters first. As he will soon discover, that is a no mean task.

Elishama Rosemary Ideh
A female aspirant, Elishama Rosemary Ideh, has also indicated that she would run for the office of president in 2019.
She hopes to run on the platform the Alliance for a New Nigeria (ANN). Her priority, she said, would be to restructure the country.
According to her, Nigeria at this time needs a different model of governance.

Dr Johnson Edosomwan
The founder of Nigeria Democratic Congress Party, Dr Johnson Edosomwan has also announced his intention to run for the office of president in 2019.
Given his overriding interest in the party, he is certain to secure his party’s nomination as candidate.
Despite the fact that his party remains relatively unknown, Edo‎somwan is confident that the future belongs to his NDCP.
According to him, ‎his party’s manifesto resonates with the people.
‎He has carefully identified the issues that must be addressed before Nigeria can take her rightful place in the comity of nations. Top among these issues is unity. Without first uniting the people, Edosomwan, argues, governing Nigeria will remain a challenge. ‎His party, he claims, has a magic wand with which it intends to unite the people.
‎He stated that his party’s aim was  to transform Nigeria for the better, if given the chance to pilot the affairs of Nigeria from 2019.
‎Apart from uniting the people, ‎Edosomwan said his party would also focus on infrastructure development, human capital enhancement, job creation, among others.