Update on Buhari’s successor

  • Atiku, Mark, Kwankwaso top list
The build up to 2019 General Elections in Nigeria is fast garnering momentum across the country. While the various state and political actors seeking tickets for elections are busy lobbying their party leaders for support, non-state and non-partisan actors in the open society have been involved in wide consultations, deliberating on prospective successor to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019. The deliberations, however, did not exclude considerations for probable support for the incumbent president if persuaded that he has the capacity to continue in 2019; the president’s loyalists have intensified lobby seeking support for the return of their principal for second term.
The horse trading for 2019 presidential race is concentrated in the North where the two leading political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have zoned their presidential candidates.
The search for Buhari’s successor is led by some northern leaders and other elder statesmen who constitute the ruling elite of Nigeria’s mainstream body politic.  The search for next president also cuts across party lines.
There have been reflexes of seeming cross-party re-alignment among the partisan political elite in the bargaining and negotiations currently going on across the geo-political zones.
Findings showed that the consultations going on among the ruling elite and some northern leaders are focused on certain presidential aspirants who are yet to declare their interests in the race. Among those given preference are former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Senator Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, former Governor of Kano State, and former President of the Senate, David Bonaventure Mark. However, some governors were discovered to be holding consultations to drag Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Governor of Sokoto State, into the 2019 presidential race.
It is curious that none of the aspirants who have declared for the presidential race is among those being considered to succeed Buhari in 2019 in the ongoing negotiations and horse trading. However, only the PDP has received notifications from four aspirants, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, former Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, former Governor Attahiru Bafarawa of Sokoto State, former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano State, of their intentions to contest for president in 2019.
APC has received no notification but the party’s presidential ticket is automatically reserved for incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.  
Meanwhile, the PDP is the main party open to alternative presidential candidates.  Those elder statement considering Kwankwaso are of the view that if incumbent President Buhari does not contest, the Senator may pick the APC ticket. However, since Kwankwaso is undeterred in his presidential ambition irrespective of Buhari’s re-election bid, the former Kano Governor could be supported to compete for presidential ticket on any other political party platform. The PDP is currently the only platform where opportunities are still available for 2019 presidential ticket, except the unexpected happens in APC.
The three major presidential aspirants – Atiku, Mark and Kwankwaso are still consulting and mobilizing for support to first pick the party ticket before the general elections.
Kwankwaso has taken his political overtures deep into the North East, liaising with elders and party leaders in Taraba, Gombe, Adamawa states. Kano State was gathered to be safe haven for the former governor irrespective of the attack from incumbent Governor Ganduje.
Atiku, who is currently having his end of the year vacation overseas, has deployed his political machine on duty to secure the PDP ticket. The former vice president was advised by former President Goodluck Jonathan to beg former President Olusegun Obasanjo if he really means to contest the 2019 presidential election. Atiku has an immeasurable goodwill in the South, which would work to his advantage. The former vice president has developed high name recognition score that makes him a seeming household name capable of triggering consciousness across high population in the polity.  
David Mark is subtly a product of retired Generals who insist on a retired officer from the military brass being the next president to stabilize the polity. They appear to have lost confidence in the incumbent president. Mark has, however, not built a national character or political network. He low name recognition score that could boost his popularity across the country.
The aspirants are expected to declare their presidential ambitions after the consultations are concluded.
Findings show that residence of certain elder statesmen and others who belong to the ruling elite have become cynosure of political pilgrimage for consultations.   Even before the December 9, 2017 PDP National Convention, former Head of State Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, repeatedly hosted PDP leaders who visited him for consultations. While making arrangements to go to Obasanjo, Atiku also visited Babangida for consultation after his return to the PDP.
Others like T.Y. Danjuma, former President Shehu Shagari, former Head of State Abdusalami Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, leaders of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), including Obasanjo, have been in the centre of consultations by the various presidential aspirants and other elder statesmen.
The legion of former governors and ministers are not left out of the negotiations.
Paradoxically, the PDP leadership is under pressure to ensure that a credible presidential candidate emerges from the party. More defections are anticipated into the PDP for the presidential ticket. Apparently, the current mood is that whoever is being endorsed for the presidential ticket will rely on the PDP political structures for the 2019 elections.