Fel­low trav­ellers on the road to 2019

The Africa Report - - POLITICS -

THE BIG PIC­TURE EMERG­ING, as the govern­ment strug­gles with a rise in eth­nona­tion­al­ism, is that the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion due in mid-2019 will be the most open in Nige­ria’s his­tory. Open in the sense that nei­ther of the two main par­ties – the All Pro­gres­sives Con­gress (APC) and the Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Party (PDP) – have a favoured can­di­date, given that Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari looks un­likely to run for a sec­ond term. The elec­tion is open also be­cause of the ten­u­ous al­liances hold­ing both par­ties to­gether. In the op­po­si­tion PDP, Ahmed Makarfi’s dis­si­dent fac­tion has stepped up its cam­paign against the group led by Ali Modu Sher­iff. The two sides are locked in court bat­tles, af­ter which the loser may de­camp and start a new party. In the APC, there have been re­ports about mys­te­ri­ous meet­ings over­seas be­tween ex-vice-pres­i­dent Atiku Abubakar and ex-gover­nor of La­gos State Bola Tin­ubu about leav­ing the party to form a break­away. Un­cer­tain­ties about Buhari’s health may have changed their cal­cu­la­tions. Tin­ubu sees him­self as a men­tor to vice-pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo, who served as finance com­mis­sioner in the La­gos State govern­ment. If Buhari steps down and Os­in­bajo be­comes a care­taker pres­i­dent ahead of the 2019 elec­tions, that would change the stakes in the APC’S pres­i­den­tial pri­maries. Se­nate pres­i­dent Bukola Saraki is a top pres­i­den­tial con­tender af­ter the code of con­duct tri­bunal dropped charges against him in June over claims he had made a false dec­la­ra­tion of his as­sets. He will still face a govern­ment bid to ap­peal the de­ci­sion. Other top con­tenders are Kaduna State gover­nor Nasir el-ru­fai and for­mer defence min­is­ter and Kano State gover­nor Rabiu Kwankwaso. But most favoured by po­lit­i­cal in­sid­ers is for­mer speaker of the house of rep­re­sen­ta­tives Aminu Tam­buwal, who has nur­tured good re­la­tions across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum. As a veteran politi­cian in Abuja tells “Some­times in Nige­ria, it’s the can­di­date with the fewest en­e­mies who wins.”

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