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Tuesday, 2 September 2014

2015: Who will be APC’s consensus candidate?

President Goodluck Jonathan is primed to pick the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2015 presidential election ─ from all indications. Most of the aspirants that could challenge him for the ticket have left the party, while Jigawa Governor Sule Lamido is not regarded as a serious challenger.

Nigerians who want see the back of Jonathan will now have to look closely at the All Progressives Congress (APC), where there is an array of political heavyweights ─ some will say too loaded for APC’s own good. Although many of the aspirants have not come out openly to declare their ambition, it is anybody’s guess who the real contenders are.

Since the damn of this democratic dispensation in 1999, APC is the first serious attempt by the opposition in Nigeria to win power through a coalition. That the parties even agreed to fuse is already seen as some form of victory, but APC’s supporters would love the party to go all the way and dislodge the PDP from Aso Rock next year.

Since the party has unofficially zoned the ticket to the north, the top contenders will naturally come from the region. There are suggestions that APC would eventually settle for a “consensus candidate” to face Jonathan ─ to avoid the bitterness and rancour that could result from a fiercely contested primary.

The talk of consensus is gaining significant following up north, but the criteria are yet to be defined. There has been a series of meetings, first to forge a common purpose and then to see the possibility of backing a sellable candidate. In the opinion of some APC insiders, the party must look out for someone who has less baggage and can serve as a unifying force for different sections of the country. He must be somebody Jonathan’s machinery cannot easily tear apart.

In asking the question on who APC will pick to run against Jonathan in the February 14, 2015 election, TheCable takes a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the party’s top five contenders: General Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah.

Who’s he politically? He is a retired major-general who has served the country in different capacities: minister of petroleum, member of the Supreme Military Council, governor of north-eastern states, head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces and chairman of Presidential (Special) Trust Fund.

What’s hot about him? Arguably the politician with the largest street support in northern Nigeria, able to galvanise millions of votes without spending a kobo. Regarded as honest and incorruptible, able to fight corruption headlong. Strong political will, able to take the toughest decisions no matter whose ox is gored. Exceptional public service experience, having served in various capacities, including being a former head of state. Strong member of APC, controlling the second largest political platform that fused into the coalition. Modest lifestyle, therefore unlikely to be given to wasteful spending.

What’s not hot about him? Feared by the elite over his likely crackdown on corruption and waste in government. Limited in political manoeuvres, thereby perpetually at the mercy of party hawks. Failed in three previous presidential elections, forcing a conclusion that he is unelectable. Man of modest means, severely limited in war chest needed to prosecute elections and thereby vulnerable to compromise to campaign financiers. Seen as a religious fundamentalist and northern irredentist, significantly making him difficult to market in many parts of the country. At 71, some think he should give the younger generation a chance.

Who’s he politically? He is a former vice-president of Nigeria who acted as president several times in the absence of President Olusegun Obasanjo. He was elected governor of Adamawa State in 1999 but did not assume office after being picked as VP by Obasanjo. He has been seeking to be president since 1993, when he was in the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP).

What’s hot about him? A consummate politician, one of the most clinical the country has produced. Pan-Nigerian appeal with a wide network of foot soldiers and loyalists, although he played politics of northern sentiments in 2011. Heavy war chest, meaning he can finance his campaign without having to pander to any interests. Team-builder, able to identify talents and groom them for leadership. Experienced public officer, having served as vice-president for eight years at the critical moment of consolidating Nigeria’s democracy.

What’s not hot about him? Late-comer to APC, meaning he does not have enough hold on the party and may struggle to get the needed support. Frequent defector, having left and returned to the PDP and left again in his quest to be president, a development that makes some APC leaders doubt his fidelity. Rusty machinery, having been out of power for long and unable to dispense patronage like he used to do as vice-president. Corruption perception, having been indicted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)


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