Bigwigs Jostling For Buhari’s Job Exposed


…Saraki, Akitu, Lamido, El-Rufai in secret moves

…Reach out to Obasanjo, Tinubu, South East Leaders

Ahead of the 2019 presidential election, the schemings and intrigues have begun in earnest.The New Diplomat’s Political Intelligence Desk profiles some of key players in the race that is three years away.


  The former Economics and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, chairman and former Presidential Candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, CAN, is a leading candidate who is likely to emerge as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in 2019.

  Insiders squealed to The New Diplomat that President Muhammadu Buhari specifically requested that Ribadu be brought back to the party and he is seen as the anointed candidate of the president.

  Ribadu’s return to the party, following overtures by ex-Governor Murtala Nyako, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal, may be sure-fire signs of his emergence as the presidential flagbearer of the APC come 2019


  He is seen as incorruptible as evident in his role as the chairman of the EFCC. His time as the no-nonsense anti-graft boss also seems to have conferred on him an aura of believability that is hardly enjoyed by any other Nigerian politician apart from Buhari himself.


  He is still largely seen as a green-horn in politics which is evidenced in the wrong calculations he made while attempting to be the Governor of Adamawa. His defection history is another thing that will count against him as he is seen in some quarters as a schemer.


  Perennial “Also-ran” and former vice-president of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, is not giving up on his ambition to rule the country. He fanned the embers of suspicion when he paid a visit to the national chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun at the party’s secretariat in Abuja, on the 18th of July, 2016.

  Recall that Atiku had not (publicly) visited the APC secretariat since the last National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in April this year with President Muhammadu Buhari also in attendance.

  Atiku visited the APC secretariat in the company of the Adamawa State Governor, Muhammad Bindow Jibrila.

  His visit may not be unconnected with his ambition to rule the country and to secure the support of the leadership of the party ahead of 2019 in the face of Ribadu’s return to the party.


  A political disciple of the late Gen Shehu Musa Yar’ adua, Atiku is a political gladiator having cut his teeth in 1989 when he was elected a National Vice-Chairman of the Peoples Front of Nigeria,PFN, the political association led by Yar’Adua. He is adept at the game of politicking and has a great political base perhaps due to his very deep pockets. He is also reputed to have played a very prominent role in the formation of the PDP, once regarded as Africa’s biggest political party. He is also a philanthropist.


   He is regarded as being too ambitious which led to his falling out with former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He has made attempts at the presidency three times failing on each occasion.

  His back-to-back defection has also cost him a lot of goodwill and he has lost political ground in the North and South-West in the last seven years.

  He is also burdened by corruption allegations. From the Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF) mismanagement allegation to the alleged link with a former United States congressman, William J. Jefferson, who was jailed on November 13, 2009 for $100,000 bribe scam, Atiku has always been branded as “corrupt” by his political enemies. But he has never been found guilty of any economic or financial crimes.


  This technocrat-turned-politician is not new to Nigeria’s political landscape. He came to the consciousness of Nigerians in his days as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. He was nicknamed “privatisation czar” due to his work as the director general of the Bureau of Public Enterprises in the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

  He was with President Buhari in the days of the now defunct, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. He remains a close ally of Buhari. During the build-up to the 2015 general election, it was learnt that the president practically forced him on Kaduna APC as there were other candidates in the party interested in the ticket.

  El-Rufai has proved his mettle as a governor. Few months into his administration, he has showed signs of performance and he may want to replicate same at the centre come 2019.


  He was Director General of The Bureau of Public Enterprises, the head privatisation agency in Nigeria and also the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory responsible for the realisation of the Abuja Master plan.


  Many in Kaduna State accuse Mallam el-Rufai of making unguarded utterances and is seen as being disrespectful. His ongoing feud with Senator Shehu Sani is also a factor against him; so also is his handling of the Shiite, military clash.


  Okorocha has never hidden his ambition to rule Nigeria. He has contested for the position in the PDP and the defunct All Peoples Party, APP, where he vied for the presidential ticket in 2003 and lost.

  As a savvy politician and two-term governor on the platform of the APC, he might once more contest for the party’s presidential ticket for 2019.

  He is the voice of the South-East geopolitical zone at the centre and chairman of the APC governor’s forum. This could be an advantage for him, but the issue of zoning may work against him if the party decides to zone the party’s flag bearer in 2019 to the North.

  However, being a tactical politician, he might make a case for Ndigbo and be compensated with the vice president slot.


  Okorocha is a philanthropist with a heart of gold. He is also noted for executing quality projects. A committed grassroots politician with the alias, “My people, my people,” he is at home in the North, as in the South-West and the South-East. He is a crowd-puller with his intellectually-inclined speeches. Having been born in Jos, he speaks fluent Hausa. This has endeared him to Northerners.


  Okorocha allegedly prefers to build an empire around himself than allow democracy to flourish in the spirit of separation of powers. He is also quite loud about his achievements. He won the 2011 governorship poll through the people’s revolt but the revolution seems to have suffered a setback. He seems to be reviving the revolution again.

  He is also politically unstable having moved around PDP, ANPP, AA, APGA and APC.


  Former Kano State Governor, Dr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, is another candidate that is in a pole position to clinch a ticket to run as a presidential candidate come 2019.

  He is already being wooed by the opposition PDP. A Chieftain of the PDP who is in the know squealed that Kwankwaso will be another viable option because of his huge popularity in Kano which has always produced the largest bulk votes in recent elections.

  Beside this, the former Kano governor, now a Senator-elect equally enjoys wider acceptability across the country as evident in the fact that he came second in the APC presidential primary despite his late entrance into the race. Atiku came a distant third.


  He is committed to the cause of the downtrodden with masses-oriented projects. His Free Feeding for Primary School Pupils as a governor earned him a United Nations recognition. As governor, he was committed to probity and accountability, as he published every week the account of his tenure.

  He has broad experience having been Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Minister of Defence and a two-term governor of Nigeria’s second largest state — and now a senator. He boasts very strong leadership skills


  Kwankwaso is deeply involved in Kano politics to the extent of being labelled a local champion. Every project he executed is branded “Kwankwasiyya” in seeming violation of the basic principle of democracy that power belongs to the people.

  He is deemed stubborn and uncompromising. He has no national support-base.


  Former Speaker of the House of Representatives and current Governor of Sokoto, Aminu Tambuwwal, is another candidate highly tipped to emerge as a presidential candidate.

  He has repeatedly maintained that it was too early to talk about the 2019 polls and that his administration is focused on delivering the dividends of democracy to the people.

  “We will discuss 2019 when 2019 is around the corner; it’s too early to be talking about that. I believe that we should face what we are facing now, that is, governance and the mandate given to us by the people of Sokoto State,” he said


  He is a charismatic leader who rarely talks but allows his records to speak for him. His tenure as the Speaker of the House of Reps speaker was characterised by progress. An astute lawyer, consummate politician, he is a friend to both the mighty and the lowly.


  He plays politics of convenience by switching from one party to the other. He has so far moved from the ANPP to PDP and now APC, and has used this to get his way all the time.


  Former Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido has already declared his interest to contest the 2019 presidency on the platform of the PDP.

 He made his intention known recently to newsmen in his village, Bamaina.

    “If my party finds me worthy of the party’s presidential ticket to serve Nigeria, I will thank God and oblige.

  “Although there are issues in the party that we are all working to resolve, we hope to have success soon and come out united.”


  He has the backing of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who has repeatedly urged him to run. With the dearth of credible candidates in the PDP, the coast may be clear for Lamido to realise his ambition.

  Widely accepted in his state of Jigawa going by his pedigree, exposure and experience, he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with anyone as far as the capacity to lead Nigeria is concerned.


  He has a fractious relationship with Alhaji Ishaq Hadejia, (now with the APC) who has repeatedly challenged Lamido’s qualification to vie for the office of the President in 2019. Hadeija challenged the governor to come clean on the allegation of certificate forgery and the quality of leadership rendered so far in Jigawa State.


  A second term Governor of Zamfara State, he has been politically active since 1999 when the military relinquished power to democratically elected government.

  He is influential among his colleagues which could explain why he was elected chairman of Nigeria Governor’s Forum, NGF. He is rumoured to be eyeing the presidency come 2019.

  So far, Yari’s emergence as the chairman of Nigeria Governor’s Forum, has brought about peace to the forum after it was locked in a battle of supremacy in the previous administration.

  He might ride on this influence and with the help of his colleagues contest for the position of the president in 2019.


  His meteoric rise is a testament of his wide acceptance among his colleagues. Being a two-time chairman of the NGF is also an indication of his rising profile. He is a peacemaker who has brought calm to the NGF.


  His handling of the crisis rocking the state is a testament to his management skill. He is accused of abandoning the state, and his handling of the state resources, especially the bailout funds released specifically to pay workers’ salaries has been faulted. His ongoing fracas with the state House of Assembly will also hurt his ambition.


  He is a quiet but very effective politician. Highly skilled in the intricacies of the Nigeria’s political firmament, he is also President Buhari’s kinsman and the present Governor of Katsina State. He is also a former Speaker of the House of Representatives.

  As speaker of the house, he was able to lead the house successfully without rancour between 2003 and 2007.  In the build-up to the 2011 general election, he ran unsuccessfully for his present position on the platform of the defunct CPC.

  Being President Buhari’s kinsman might be an advantage for him if he decides to launch his presidential ambition. He may through his calm disposition win the hearts of Nigerians in the run-up to 2019 general election.


  Aminu Bello Masari hails from Funtua zone which has the largest percentage of voters in the state. His vast political experience and connections across political divides is also an asset.


  He is seen as not having deep pockets to effectively prosecute the campaigns needed to emerge as a presidential candidate.


  The incumbent Senate President is another person who is believed to be nursing a presidential ambition ahead of 2019. Saraki, former Governor of Kwara State from 2003 to 2011, was first elected to the Senate in April 2011, representing the Kwara Central Senatorial District, and re-elected in the March 2015 elections.

  His rise as a politician has been meteoric and he has a reputation of going for what he wants not caring whose ox is gored in the process.

He’s currently facing trials at the CCT over false declaration of assets.


  A two-term PDP governor of the North Central State of Kwara, a senator before becoming Senate President of the 8th Senate, he is a thoroughbred politician.

  Politically suave, his role in the emergence and formation of the APC into where he led a retinue of disgruntled members of the PDP speaks volumes of his politicking skills. He enjoys sound political backing from part of the APC and the PDP. He successfully whittled down the power of the APC while enjoying the support of the PDP. He is seen as a man who will command huge respect among his followers


  He is seen in some quarters as a man who will do anything to get what he wants as evident in the high-level machinations that led to his emergence as Senate President. He even went against his own father to get his own way.

His ongoing trials are also an indication that he is not widely accepted and does not command the respect of his party.


  He is Borno State’s first governor to serve two consecutive terms (2003–2011). Though Sheriff had held two elective offices as a member of the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP, he would later join the APC as a founding member.

  In 2014, Sheriff switched affiliation to the PDP to actualise his ambition of becoming president. He acted as the national chairman from February 16, 2016 until the party’s national convention, when he was replaced by Ahmed Makarfi. He’s still embroiled in the battle for the chairmanship which has greatly threatened the unity of PDP.


  He is a dogged fighter. Little wonder he is called the “Political godfather of Borno State” and “The lion of the tribe of Kanuri.” His rise to his current status is also interesting emerging from nowhere, with little or nothing known previously about him to get to the Constitutional Conference and then to the Senate in the 90s. With little or no educational background or political pedigree, he has suddenly become politically prominent and relevant with overwhelming influence.


  He has been accused of being a sponsor of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, by an Australian hostage negotiator, Steven Davies. This allegation will continue to haunt him in his quest to be president.


  After running unsuccessfully for the office of President in the 2003, 2007 and 2011 general elections, he emerged in December 2014 as the presidential candidate of the APC for the March 2015 general elections.

  Buhari won the election, defeating the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. It was the first time in Nigeria that an incumbent president lost to an opposition candidate in a general election. He was sworn in on 29 May 2015.

There are also indications that he is going to stand for re-election come 2019. He has not come out to refute nor confirm this.


  Renewed Vigour in the War against Boko Haram, waging a “non-negotiable” war against corruption, clean-up of the messy Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC and mending of Nigeria’s fractured relationship with the world powers are some of the achievements of his administration.

  Buhari is perceived by many as a person of integrity, a trait that has endeared him to many. He commands a cult-like following among the poor and talakawa of the North. 


  Some peoples’ perception of Buhari as a religious extremist has not abated despite efforts to correct it. And with continuing Boko Haram attacks, many Christians and Non-northerners are uncomfortable with his presidency.

Age is not on Buhari’s side, though he still looks fit.

 He is weak on policy and latest global trends and will have to rely on aides who may foist on him their personal agendas.

  Buhari’s handling of the Fulani herdsmen menace is also considered as not good enough by many who have called for a stronger and more decisive response from the country’s Number One security officer. He may well be the last president of a unified Nigeria.

Subscribe to Our VIP Newsletter

Previous articleNigerian Troops Foil Boko Haram Attack, Kill 5 Terrorists in Borno
Next articleAyeni, Ex-Skye Bank Chair, In Dramatic Move To Save Ntel
Hamilton Nwosa

The New Diplomat stands for ethical journalism, press freedom, accountable republic, and gender-equity. That is why at The New Diplomat, we are committed to speaking truth to power, fostering a robust community of responsible journalism, and using high quality polls, data, and surveys to engage the public with compelling narratives about political, business, socio-economic, environmental, and situational dynamics in Nigeria, Africa, and globally. From our insightful reports of political issues to our riveting investigations and analyses of business, socio-economic, and cross-cutting sectors, The New Diplomat remains ever committed to investigative reporting and ethical journalism. Support and partner with The New Diplomat today, to guarantee a positive future for all under an atmosphere of free press!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here