2019 Presidential Periscope: Saraki, Atiku, & Tinubu Factors

Some people may wonder why I will be talking about 2019, when the Eight National Assembly has just been sworn-in and President Muhammadu Buhari has not even completed thirty days in office. That notwithstanding, smart politicians are already making calculations for 2019 and even 2023.

In fact, our able Commander-in-Chief has yet to name ministers that will make up his Executive Council. Only two media aides (Shehu Garba and Femi Adesina) have been appointed by his excellency. While President Buhari may be slow or deliberately calculating who to put in his ministerial list, the legislative arm is already embroiled in controversy.

Yes, the business of governance is supposed to have been started and in an ideal situation, a true statesman cum politician should be more concerned about delivery the nebulous dividends of democracy to the people, than concern for his next election victory. That is not obtainable in Nigeria. An astute Nigerian politician calculates every move to ensure, not only that he remains relevant by winning re-election or selecting his replacement, but also to ensure that he reduces the chances of his opponent (real or perceived) upstaging him.

The election of All Progressives Congress (APC) Senator Bukola Saraki as the President of the Eight Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Tuesday, June 9, 2015, speaks not-so quiet volumes of what the unfolding political landscape will be, at least at the national level, vis-a-vis the 2019 Presidential contest.

Now that the APC leadership has averted a major conflict by seeing the wisdom of accepting Senator Saraki as the Senate President (even though it is technically not their constitutional business), minds are cracking as to where does the party go from here? Does the party now really command any total respect and loyalty? How effective will the APC government cohesively govern Nigeria in the next four years, if it cannot discipline its members and get them to act in a herd-like manner?

The other “elephant in the room” is whether Saraki will be a good replacement for President Buhari if the latter should stick to his promise to be President for only one term. As we have seen with the immediate past president, the allure of the office of the Commander-in-Chief makes it extremely difficult to fulfill the promise to stay for only one tenure. In fact, even those that have stayed for two tenure or over five years have salivated over a third tenure or desired to be life-President. I did not mention OBJ, IBB or Abacha, but your mind is allowed to wander.

The former two-term peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governor of the North Central State of Kwara, jumped ship to APC to change his clothes and jump from Executive to legislative branch of government. Whether he will jump back to the executive arm, without changing clothes to PDP, still remains to be seen. A very valid point is the fact that he could not have become Senate President without the help of PDP Senators.

While Senator Saraki may be “preparing” for 2019, we cannot overlook two key players. The former Vice President of Nigeria and 1999 PDP elected Governor of Adamawa State, Alhaji Dr. Abubakar Atiku and APC leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu are clear game changers in the build-up to 2019. Atiku who has contested for President every four years (2007, 2011, 2015) since he left elected office in 2007, believes that he has been cheated all these times and deserves to be President of Nigeria someday, notwithstanding the rumored fact that his former boss will never allow it to happen. The fact that PDP is no longer in power at the national level, may not have any bearing as former President Olusegun Obasanjo tore his PDP card in public and is supposedly a closet APC supporter. Atiku considered a political yoyo by some, decamped from PDP to Action Congress and contested for President in 2007, which he lost and re-decamped to PDP three years later, only to again leave for APC in 2014. Atiku may also be encouraged by the fact that President Buhari also tried and succeeded a fourth time. So, if the fourth time is the charm, it may work for him.

Tinubu, the former Governor of Lagos State and undisputed APC leader, has shown himself to be a political juggernaut that can no longer be taken for granted in the politics of the South West and now Nigeria. He singlehandedly battled Obasanjo and established his former party Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) as a dominant force in Nigeria. APC could not have done as well as it did, without the power of CAN, which brought more governors and National Assembly members into the merger than Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). Whether Tinubu himself will contest for President or anoint a candidate is left to speculation for now. Regardless of which option he chooses, he will definitely be a factor.

Was Saraki really Tinubu’s secret candidate or Atiku’s choice for Senate President? The answer to this question may affect 2019. The North may feel that Saraki is not really a Muslim and associate him with the South West, which is a colorable argument. This may affect Saraki’s chances if the North still believes that they must produce the next President again. However, this may be a non-starter because Saraki featured prominently in the PDP quest for a northern consensus Presidential candidate in 2011. Of course, the Ibos of the South East are still there waiting for their “turn.”

Will Saraki and Atiku remain in APC if they do not get the APC 2019 Presidential ticket? In Nigeria, a political party is just a vehicle to get elected, which means any vehicle is okay as long as the end justifies the means. Again, the expression still resonates that there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics – only permanent and personal interests. If APC does not implode before 2019, we know that several politicians will decamp if they do not get APC ticket. The point is that most politicians that continue to decamp from one party to another are doing it for their own gains, and not for the benefit of the masses.

We all know that 2019 is not too far. Nigerians are watching.

Rev. Atawa-Akpodiete, a public Affairs Analyst and media consultant, writes from Asaba. Contact him on 08138391661 or [email protected] .

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Articles by Prof. Alex O. Atawa Akpodiete, Esq.