•Southern leaders unhappy with bid
Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Even as tongues have begun to wag over his reported presidential ambition more than two years to the starting block of the race, Sokoto State Governor, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, is intensifying his efforts to realise his bid for the nation’s top job, laying out an elaborate plan for wider consultations across the country.
THISDAY had reported on Monday that Tambuwal had started to consult key political influencers, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo; former Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd.); and former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, to aid his ambition in 2023.
But Southern leaders THISDAY spoke to since the story broke have frowned at the governor’s move, saying it runs against the clamour for power shift to the South from the North.
There has been agitation for the presidency to move down to the South after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tour of duty in 2023.
The president’s older nephew, Malam Mamman Daura, had rekindled the controversy when recently he argued for merit over geopolitical consideration in the bid for his uncle’s replacement.
Southern leaders, particularly the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, had responded, dismissing his argument as self-serving.
The ones who spoke on condition of anonymity yesterday said Tambuwal’s ambition would exacerbate the feeling of injustice and exclusion in the South, explaining that it would be socially unjust for another northerner to replace Buhari in 2023.
The governor’s bid, they said, is particularly untenable given the fact that he is contesting on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a party, they pointed out, has the principles of zoning and rotation engraved in its constitution.
Although some analysts have also reasoned that it may be too early to start such consultations, warning that he may run out of steam before the actual contest starts, THISDAY gathered last night that Tambuwal has actually designed an elaborate plan to sustain the momentum.
The Sokoto State governor had bided for the ticket of the PDP for the 2019 presidential contest, coming a distant second to the eventual winner, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who polled over 1,500 votes to Tambuwal’s 693.
However, it was understood that Tambuwal, who had the backing of most of the governors of the PDP, a powerful bloc in the power equation of the party, lost to the support Atiku had from the party’s founding fathers and establishment.
Learning from that pitfall, he is said to have decided to take steps to court the support of the party’s older cadre, visiting last week the military wing of the PDP that is believed to hold the aces in the political organisation known for its high-stake conspiratorial politics.
“Tambuwal knows where the rain beat him the last time and has decided to take cover,” a source in his strategy team told THISDAY last night.
He is, however, not letting off his old and reliable constituency, the PDP Governors’ Forum, which he currently chairs.
“His chairmanship of the PDP Governors’ Forum, deputy head of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, are strategic moves to place him at an advantage of leveraging on those positions to further the larger objective of taking the top seat in the nearest future,” another source told THISDAY, explaining that the positions would enhance his political networking.
THISDAY had reported on Monday that Tambuwal had begun consultations with some notable political leaders over his presidential aspiration on the platform of the PDP.
He started the meetings last Thursday when he met Mark, during which he discussed his ambition with him.
Tambuwal was to continue the consultation on Saturday with visits to a former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and a former Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd).
The governor had met behind closed doors with Obasanjo for about an hour in his Presidential Library Pent House in Abeokuta.
A statement by Obasanjo’s Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Kehinde Akinyemi, had quoted the governor as saying he visited the former president to consult with him on issues concerning governance and others.
“You know baba is our leader, statesman. And it is always good for us to come around to see how he is doing, pay homage and consult him on many issues of governance. That is why we have come this afternoon. And, we brought him the greetings and felicitations of the good people of Sokoto State,” the statement had quoted the governor, who was a leading contender for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 election season, as saying.
However, THISDAY learnt yesterday that the main reason for the visit, which the former president’s aide described as unscheduled, was for Tambuwal to feel Obasanjo’s pulse on his presidential bid.
Sources told THISDAY that after the meeting with Obasanjo, Tambuwal headed for Lagos where he held talks with Danjuma in his residence.
He was said to have briefed the former minister on his decision to vie for the presidency in 2023.
The meeting was said to have lasted for over two hours before the governor departed for Sokoto.
Investigation also revealed that as part of the series of consultations, Tambuwal had on Thursday met with Mark in his Abuja residence.
However, the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) has not officially announced the party’s zoning arrangement for 2023 presidential ticket, as THISDAY gathered that the main opposition party is said to be waiting for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to make a decision before announcing from which zone its candidate will come from.
When THISDAY contacted the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, for his comment on Tambuwal’s consultations, he said that zoning was not yet on the agenda of the PDP.
According to him, the party is concentrating on the governorship elections in Edo, Ondo and other by-elections slated for September and October 2020.
But another party source, who spoke on Tambuwal’s consultations, told THISDAY: “In the PDP, the manner of zoning is not clear, but the governor of Sokoto State, Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal stands out clearly.
“He is the youngest in the race with a loaded credentials both in the executive and legislative arms of government. Moreover, he is a lawyer. That is the judicial arm.”
According to him, Tambuwal has solid credentials that make him fit for the job.
The governor was speaker of the House of Representatives for four years and is about to complete his two-term tenure of eight years as governor of Sokoto State, he said, adding that he is currently the deputy chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and also the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum.
The source explained that Tambuwal also enjoys the support of PDP governors, who form a critical power bloc in the party.
“Take it or leave it, political pundits say that he is the aspirant to beat. He carries the PDP governors along with him and the South-east is merely jostling for the vice-presidential position,” the source said.
The source, however, added that from the body language of a former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, he is also interested in contesting the 2023 presidential election.
But he said that age might not be on his side as he would be 77 years by then, stressing that the belief that the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari has been impaired by old age and health challenges may make Nigerians wary of entrusting another near octogenarian with power in 2023.
A former aide of the late President Shehu Shagari, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, had also told THISDAY that any opposition party must adopt a zoning system that would earn it votes if it is serious about winning the next presidential election.
Yakassai explained that the other political parties which are also operating a zoning principle must not tailor their zoning arrangement to suit that the ruling party.
“It does not mean that the opposition party must align with the zoning arrangement of the other party. In other words, if one party produces a candidate from the North, the next one should produce from the South. But zoning arrangement cannot prevent another party from producing a candidate from the zone where the other party had produced a candidate that occupy that office at one time,” he stated.