Saturday, 13 May 2017

ISSUES I Buhari's Men In Dilemma As North Battles Self Over 2019 Presidency

By Ismail Omipidan

President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to say whether or not he would seek a second term. But his teeming supporters across Nigeria want him to run. They are, however, unsure whether or not he would re-contest, especially because of his health condition.

However, Saturday Sun gathered that other aspirants from the north are already working underground to actualize their aspirations. And one advantage they appear to be banking on is the seemingly lack of fund in the Buhari camp, to prosecute electioneering, should Buhari even decide to run.

Saturday Sun further gathered that apart from the fact that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, is broke, the President’s friends and associates, who had contributed financially to his campaign in 2015, are not only broke, they are also complaining that they are not getting government patronage that would have helped them “recoup” the expenses they “incurred in 2015.

But, a few of Buhari’s friends and associates who are in government are of the view that funding would not pose any challenge to the President’s second term bid, arguing among other things that APC chieftains like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Senate President, Bukola Saraki and ex-Rivers governor and Transport Minister, Rotimi Ameachi, did not contribute any financial war chest to the campaign in 2015, contrary to their claims. To this group of Buhari supporters therefore, even if the trio fails to make available funds to prosecute Buhari’s second term bid, it would not affect the prosecution of the project adversely.

Regardless, with less than two years to another presidential election, the north, which is likely to still produce the president, whether or not President Buhari runs, is already at war with itself ahead of the poll.

Only last week, former Plateau State governor and Senator representing Plateau North, Jonah Jang, accused the core north of rotating the presidency among its people each time the position was zoned to the north, insisting that it was the turn of the Middle Belt to produce the President in 2019.

Specifically, Jang said: “We keep hearing that Presidency has been zoned to the north and one part of the north has cornered everything about the Presidency, they are passing the position from one person to the other, we in the North – Central, as they call us, have enjoyed nothing.

But I only hope that somebody from the Middle Belt will come out strongly in the PDP, because the party has zoned the Presidency to the north, we are all northerners and by right it is the turn of the Middle Belt to produce President in 2019.”

But by last weekend, another federal lawmaker, Goni Bukar Lawan, from the North East, joined the fray, saying that it was the turn of the North East to produce the President in 2019. Unlike Jang, there was a caveat to his own proposition. He said the only reason the region would concede the position, was if President Buhari would be seeking a re-election.

But, if Buhari decides not to run, the North West zone should not be a contender for the All Progressives Congress, APC ticket, because it has produced six Heads of State, and that was more than its fair share of the Nigerian presidency, he remarked.

Lawan told Saturday Sun in Abuja that the North East was the most eligible part of the north that should produce a presidential candidate in 2019.
He further said that while the region was in total support of Buhari, because of the “love and empathy” he has shown to the region, it would insist on replacing him in 2019, should he decide not to run.

Lawan’s position, was in reaction to the comment by former presidential spokesman, Dr. Doyin Okupe, who was quoted in a national daily last weekend to have said the North West, where Buhari hails from, should retain the APC ticket in 2019 in the event that the president does not seek re-election.

Okupe had added that Buhari’s key associates from the North- West should be considered for his replacement. But Lawan who represents Geidam, Bursari, Yunusari, Federal Constituency of Yobe State, thinks otherwise.

He said since 1960, the North- West has produced six Heads of State, two Vice Presidents and four Speakers of the House of Representatives, making it the highest beneficiary of top public offices in Nigeria.

“Allowing the same zone to retain the Presidency in 2019 if Buhari does not run will amount to grave injustice to the North East ,which is the zone in the north that has had the least shot at the Presidency and other top national offices.

“ North- West has produced the highest number of top office holders, the North Central zone also produced three Heads of State and four Senate Presidents, while the North East only produced a Prime Minister ,who was not a Head of State; one Vice President, one Speaker and two Deputy Speakers of the House of Representatives, making it the least beneficiary of top national offices in the north.

“I believe Dr. Okupe was merely testing the waters on behalf of some aspirants from the North West. Our prayer is for Buhari to be healthy enough to lead us for two terms. But then, I consider it necessary to respond to Okupe so as to set the records straight.

“Unless President Buhari will seek re-election, we have had enough from North West, if at all we want justice. They have produced General Murtala Mohammed in 1975; President Shehu Shagari in 1979; General Buhari in 1983; General Sani Abacha in 1993; late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2007 and Buhari again in 2015. As we know, General Abacha, though originally from the North East , grew up in Kano and adopted Kano as his home of origin, he regarded himself as someone from North West and he was even buried there in Kano.

“The North West has also produced two Deputy Heads of State in persons of late Shehu Yar’Adua during Obasanjo’s regime in February 1976 and Namadi Sambo under Jonathan in 2009 and 2011. From 1999 to date, the same zone has produced four Speakers of House of Representatives. We had Salisu Buhari in 1999; Ghali Umar Na’abba in 2000; Aminu Bello Masari in 2003; and Aminu Waziri Tambuwal in 2011.

“In the case of the North Central, the sub-region produced General Yakubu Gowon, General Ibrahim Babangida and General Abdulsalami Abubakar. The North Central has also produced four Senate Presidents, namely Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, Senator Ameh Ebute, David Mark and Abubakar Bukola Saraki.

The region also produced two Deputy Senate Presidents, Haruna Abubakar and Ibrahim Mantu. The least patronized zone is the North East, which produced only Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister, not a Head of State. The North East produced only a Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, one Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and two Deputy Speakers, Babangida Nguroje from Taraba and Bayero Nafada from Gombe.

“So, unless anyone is seeing those of us in the North East as second class northerners, there should be no contest about the entitlement of the North East to produce the next President if President Buhari is not seeking re-election.

“President Buhari is the only President that ever showed empathy for the North East and we can understand why. He was Military Governor of the old North Eastern State and his wife hails from the North East. If Buhari leaves, where are we ever going to have anyone that will show empathy to the zone especially with the havoc we suffered? We respect the rights of all qualified Nigerians to aspire for any position in 2019, since the constitution guarantees the rights, but when it comes to zoning the Presidency within the North, only the NorthEast deserves it, ” Lawan, declares.

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