In an interview with the BBC Hausa Service on July 28, 2020, Mallam Mamman Daura opined that competence, not geography, should determine the next president of Nigeria in 2023. Days before that, on July 24, 2020, former House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara had defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). These twin events have rekindled the agitation for the North-east geopolitical zone to produce the next vice president in the 2023 presidential election, especially in the APC.
The call for the northeast region to produce the APC’s next vice-presidential candidate is gaining momentum. In fact, recently, a ‘syndicate’ of 10 Northern groups within the APC urged the party to present a ‘new young face’ from the North-east as its vice-presidential candidate and zone the presidency to the Southwest in 2023 presidential election. Many groups have been emerging in the north-east advocating for the post of the vice president, but the APC 10 Northern group is the most powerful. The group boasts of the support of youths and many groups from the Northwest and Northcentral regions who back the calls for the northeast to produce the next vice president.
The names of possible candidates, both politicians and technocrats are already being whispered with the recent addition being Yakubu Dogara. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State, former SGF Lawal Babachir and Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami are also being mentioned.
Yakubu Dogara is controversy-free and has political experience, including a network of friends and political associates. But pundits believe that his political clout to win an election is limited to his primary constituency Bogoro, Dass and Tafawa Balewa LGAs. Dogara may also face trust issues because of his history of defections from PDP to APC, APC to PDP without convincing reasons.
Boss Mustapha is also smartly positioning himself for the position. Boss is a thoroughbred and experienced politician, armed with a very strategic an influential office. However, there are odds against him. At home, Boss lacks the political strength, doesn’t command grassroots followership and doesn’t have any political structures. In the North as a whole, he has not leveraged his position to build political friendships through patronage. But he still has time to set things right. Getting the ticket will be a herculean task for him.
Governor Mai Buni of Yobe and Governor Zulum of Borno States have not shown any interest or may not even be attracted to the contest. This is because getting a second term as governors will be more important to them and the APC’s desire to take advantage of their incumbencies in their states during the elections will be paramount.
Minister Pantami is not showing any interest publicly, but his name always comes up. The reason for this may be because he fits into the political permutations and individual requirements that the APC needs to pick a strong vice -presidential candidate from the region. Pantami is easily marketable in the south and is already a household name in the north. He is free of political and personal baggage and has the integrity a political party can use as a unique selling point. So far, Pantami is the man to beat for the Vice- Presidential position in the APC.
All these permutations, cross carpeting, mudslinging and scheming are a pointer to what should be expected in the 2023 elections in Nigeria which is still three years away. The 2023 game is for smart early birds, because it has already commenced.
––Zayyad I. Muhammad, Jimeta, Adamawa State