Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
Cold political calculations and positioning for the 2023 presidential elections are behind recent demonstrations against prominent persons believed to be in the kitchen cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari, security sources told THISDAY last night.
Demonstrators had, at different times this week, taken to the streets of Abuja and Kaduna to protest what they called undue influence of close associates of the president, including his chief of staff, Malam Abba Kyari; nephew, Alhaji Mamman Daura; and long-standing friend, Alhaji Isa Funtua, among others.
The protesters had specifically called on the president to check the influence of the trio, asking that Kyari not be returned as his number one aide.
But security sources who spoke to THISDAY said they apprehended supporters and friends of Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, as the masterminds of the protests.
According to them, el-Rufai and former minister of Transportation, who was also head of the Buhari Campaign in 2015 and 2019, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, are both angling to take over the presidency in a bid to strategically position themselves as the inheritors of post-2023 Buhari presidency. Amaechi is said to be seeking the position of Secretary of the Government of the Federation (SGF).
THISDAY gathered that having lost out in their bids to install their cronies to lead the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and before that, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), they are now focused on taking up the positions of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Chief of Staff to the president (COS).
It was learnt that contrary to the belief that Amaechi wants to return as minister of Transportation, his interest is to become the SGF, an ambition that is sure to set him on a collision course with the former holder, Mr. Boss Mustapha, and another SGF aspirant, Senator George Akume, also a former governor of Benue State.
Meanwhile, el-Rufai’s friends say he is scheming to abdicate his governorship and take over as COS, intending to displace Kyari. This scheme, explained a security source, was the strategy behind his insistence on appointing a fellow Muslim as his deputy in the 2019 governorship election of a state as religiously volatile as Kaduna.
“Governor el-Rufai knew what he wanted to do and felt that his Muslim constituency would not forgive him if he resigns and a Christian takes over as it happened when former governor, Namadi Sambo, who left to become vice-president to former president, Dr, Goodluck Jonathan,” the source said, adding: “That was why he insisted on a Muslim-Muslim ticket, hoping that when he resigns another Muslim would take over; a Christian would then be appointed deputy governor to balance the religious equation in the state.”
Sambo’s deputy, Mr. Patrick Yakowa, a Christian from Southern Kaduna, had succeeded him when he moved to the presidency in 2010, an occurrence that the Muslim North part of the state was said to have bellyached over for a long time, particularly when Yakowa contested and won another term of office before his death in a plane crash in 2012.
Another security source said although Amaechi and el-Rufai are telling people that they want to take over the presidency in order to help the president deliver on his electioneering promised to the people, the belief is that both are positioning themselves for a post-Buhari presidency in 2023. el- Rufai has not publicly indicated he is interested in presidency 2023 nor has he confirmed or denied this development. Attempts to reach him last night proved abortive as he has multiple telephone numbers.
“With Kyari out of the way, the schemes of el-Rufai and Amaechi will not go unchallenged,” a source close to the SGF said, adding: “Both the persons they are scheming to displace and other key players in the power game in the All Progressives Congress, including the party’s national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, are not likely to fold their arms and do nothing.”