Strategists of President Muhammadu Buhari are leaving nothing to chance in the event that some bigwigs of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) dump the party in the build up to next year’s elections.
The Buhari camp has in place a Plan B to mitigate the effects of the possible defection of the likes of Senate President Bukola Saraki, House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Senator Aliyu Wammako, and Senator Ahmed Yerima, among others.
Also tipped to defect are Senators Shehu Sani, Suleiman Hunkuyi, Magnus Abe, Dino Melaye, and some other Senators and members of the House of Representatives.
The Buhari strategists, The Nation gathered authoritatively yesterday, have come to the conclusion that some political heavyweights of the APC are on their way out of the party.
Citing some recent political developments, the strategists at a meeting in Abuja said the bigwigs might abandon Buhari by shifting base from APC to PDP.
One of the likely defectors is said to have taken a secret trip to Port Harcourt last weekend to see Governor Nyesom Wike, escaping a near mishap when the chartered jet convening his delegation ran into a storm mid-air.
The trip was made under the cover of an official engagement.
Highly placed political sources said Thursday’s inauguration of the Liyel Imoke Committee by the PDP to work out modalities for receiving the APC bigwigs and alliances to ease out Buhari in 2019 was not co-incidental.
The committee has its origin in what the sources called a secret agreement in Port Harcourt to hasten up the gale of defections.
The committee was inaugurated by the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.
Responding to the PDP threat, the Buhari strategists decided to be a step ahead of the defectors, not wanting to be caught napping like ex-President Goodluck Jonathan when high profile PDP members left him in the lurch in 2014.
It was gathered that the strategists have devised a “state-by-state” response and what one of the more reliable strategists called a “local content” solution.
Giving an insight into the Plan B and why Buhari supporters are prepared for ‘aftershock’, one of the sources said: “With the exit of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the pattern is predictable for Buhari strategists. Some chieftains have shown by their conduct that they are no longer with APC in spirit. Some steps taken by these leaders are pointing to likely defection. We cannot be caught unawares again.
“We know some of those who may defect because intelligence has indicated that some of them are already negotiating the terms of their defection with a few opposition parties.
“We will give a peculiar local response or local content to each of the defectors. It is going to be high-wire politics.”
“For instance in Kano State, it is obvious that Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso will leave APC because of his presidential ambition and irreconcilable crisis of confidence with Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.
“He wants to prove a point by stopping Ganduje from earning a second term ticket. Since he is extremely popular in Kano, his candidate can become the next governor of the state in 2019 on a 50-50 per cent basis.
“We also do not rule out the possibility of a repeat of the election of Senator Aliyu Sabo Bakin Zuwo (of the defunct PRP) in 1983 as governor of Kano State against the highly favoured Abubakar Rimi of the defunct Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP). Kwankwaso can spring a surprise like Bakin Zuwo
“But Kwankwaso may not go far against Buhari in the presidential race because of some hurdles. His challenge is the platform to use because he has to face a stiff competition for the presidential ticket with his local rival, ex-Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, ex-VP Atiku, Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo, ex-Governor Sule Lamido, ex-Governor Attahiru Bafarawa, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, and others.
“The permutation of Buhari strategists is that if Kwankwaso gets the ticket of PDP, it will be easier to work with Shekarau’s camp to get substantial votes from Kano.
“Certainly, there will be split votes in Kano in 2019 but the strategists are working hard on how Buhari, who has a solid support base in Kano, can secure at least 60 to 70 per cent of the presidential votes in the state.”
The source said some PDP leaders are in subterranean alliance with Buhari’s camp in case Senate President Saraki moves to PDP.
The Buhari camp plans to work with PDP leaders (mostly from Kwara Central) who may ditch the opposition party in protest against the possible return of Saraki and his anointed candidates for the governorship and other election levels.
His words: “With the alliance, Buhari may get between 45% and 47% of the votes from Kwara State and the Kwara South Senatorial seat for APC which the incumbent governor from Ifelodun Local Government Area is interested in against Saraki’s long time ally, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, the current Senator.
“The results of the 2015 governorship election showed that the APC candidate, Governor Ahmed secured 295,832 votes to defeat the runner-up, Senator Simeon Ajibola, of the Peoples Democratic Party by 115,220 votes.
“A major plan of Buhari’s strategists is to close the gap in 2019 by working with those who may leave PDP like former Minister of National Planning, Professor Abubakar Suleiman, Saraki’s ex-Adviser, Moshood Mustapha, ex-VC of UNILORIN, Prof. Shuaibu Oba, Yinka Aluko, ex-PDP governorship candidate, Sen. Ajibola and others.
“If Saraki concedes the Kwara South Senatorial ticket to Offa, his camp can easily win the three senatorial districts in Kwara State. But if he allows the rivalry between the governor and Sen. Rafiu to fester, his camp might lose Kwara South because either of them can play a spoiler game.
“Most of those against Saraki’s hegemony in Kwara State are from Kwara South where the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed comes from. Saraki is worried that Mohammed has not been forthcoming in checking the ‘rebels’ in APC.
“Saraki has however taken his political destiny in his own hands to avoid any slip. He has been shuttling between Abuja and Kwara State in the past few weeks to fortify his base, and holding series of meetings and events in the state, sometimes without the knowledge of the governor who has allegedly created a political baggage for him.
“His major headache is the choice of the governorship candidate for Kwara State in 2019 from either Kwara Central or Kwara North which produced a governor last in 1992 (26 years ago) in the person of Senator Mohammed Sha’aba Lafiagi.
“The Emirs and other traditional rulers in Lafiagi recently stormed Abuja to demand the governorship slot from Saraki who asked them to resolve the divisions in Kwara North first. These rulers have raised a three-man panel on how to resolve the rifts in Kwara North.
“If Saraki crosses over to PDP, he will have the same problem of where to pick the next governor from between Kwara Central (the largest voting population area and where opposition to Saraki is unusually coming from) and Kwara North which has been deciding the fate of every elected governor in the state since 1979.
“Those opposed to Saraki either in APC or PDP are waiting for a slip by him on the choice of party and governorship candidate before forming an alliance against him for Buhari’s camp to capitalize on.
“As part of the Plan B, some APC chieftains are pushing for the choice of Saraki’s sister, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, as the national women leader of APC at the forthcoming national convention of the party.
“APC leaders from Kwara South are already plotting against the current National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi by claiming that the slot was conceded to them by the party following the election of Alhaji Lai Mohammed before he became a minister.
“Pro-Saraki leaders insisted that the office was only zoned to Kwara and not any senatorial district. But it is obvious that Sen. Gbemisola’s candidacy is meant to whittle down the influence of Bukola Saraki.
“Kwara may end up with two national officers of APC if the proposal is approved.”
The presidential ambition of Governor Aminu Tambuwal may force the Buhari camp to negotiate with ex-Governor Aliyu Wammako, who is closer to a strategic member of what is called the cabal.
The source added: “Although Wammako shares a political bond with Saraki, those in Buhari’s camp believe his grievances can be addressed if they are given local touch.
“There is a plan by Buhari’s strategists to return the party structure to the ex-governor in order to determine who will be the next governor of the state in 2019 and other elective posts. If the plan works out, Wammako may be able to install his governorship favourite in 2015, Farouk Malami Yabo (ex-Commissioner for Finance).
“But if Wammako sticks to his new found political ally (Governor Tambuwal) and shifts base to PDP, the alternative for Buhari’s strategists is to strengthen a faction of APC in Sokoto called APC Buhariyya which is propping up Dahiru Yusuf Yabo (a former Commissioner for Water Resources) as its gubernatorial hopeful. The Buhariyya group comprises those formerly in the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
“The target of the President’s men is Wammako who has proven to be unbeatable in Sokoto State.
“The terrain is also slippery for Wammako because the governor has planted all his loyalists in the APC structures from ward to the State Executive Committee. He has been boxed into a corner in a manner that only Tambuwal-anointed candidate can emerge as APC governorship flag bearer even if he moves to PDP.
“It will be in the interest of Wammako to remain in APC and allow Tambuwal to wander to PDP for the presidential ticket.”
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State is believed to be considering switching allegiance to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) because the PDP has shut its doors against him unless he wants to be an ordinary member of the party.
His chances as APC governorship candidate are not brighter either because his godfather, Senator George Akume, is no longer favourably disposed to him.
But SDP is willing to admit Ortom into its camp because of his grassroots connection and the political mileage which the killings in Benue State have earned him.
“Benue appears a write-off but strategists are relying on a change of governorship candidate to win the sympathy of the people of the state or, at worse, secure the mandatory 25 per cent of the total votes cast for Buhari,” another source said.
“While some strategists and forces in the presidency prefer the Managing Director of the Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Emmanuel Jime (who was APC governorship aspirant in 2015), Akume, the kingmaker in the state, wants Mr. Titus Tartenger Zam, who is a Special Adviser on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs to Governor Ortom.
“It is left to the strategists to take a risk or defer to Akume who holds the ace. But Ortom’s plot to control the party machinery in the state might box Akume into a corner.
“The likely exit of Ortom to SDP will leave three parties (APC, PDP, SDP) competing for votes in the state.”
Sources said Senator Yerima’s next move appears unclear for now “because of his romance with Saraki.”
However, Buhari’s camp is banking on Governor Abdulaziz Yari, some Yarimawa like ex-Governor Mahmuda Aliyu Shinkafi and his running mate in 2015, Madami Dandoto, and a former Deputy Governor in the state, Muktari Anka and others to checkmate the ex-governor.
“The battle is likely to be a royal one because the governor is interested in installing his successor in 2019 and he wants to contest for the senatorial seat being occupied presently by Yerima,” one source said.
“Yerima has told his political son that he is not yet ready to retire from politics now.”
Buhari’s strategists have the weighty influence of a former National Security Adviser, Gen. Aliyu Gusau, traditional rulers in the state and the unending killings in Zamfara to cope with.
“We think Gusau is in league with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and ex-President Ibrahim Babangida to stop Buhari in 2019,” another strategist added.
Governor Mohammed Abubakar’s strong hold on the party’s structure in Bauchi State is posing immense threat to the political career of House of Reps Speaker Yakubu Dogara, who represents Bogoro/Tafawa Balewa Federal Constituency.
From the look of things, it is unlikely that Dogara will get a ticket to return to the National Assembly or even have a shot at the governorship.
Although the Speaker has reported the governor to the presidency, not much intervention seems to have taken place.
The APC National Secretariat in August 2017 sent a Fact-Finding and Reconciliation Committee to the Bauchi State chapter but the panel which was headed by Labour and Employment Minister Chris Ngige could not go far.
A source said: “The Cold War between Dogara and the governor may lead to the exit of the Speaker from APC to PDP where he will join forces with leaders like ex-Governor Isa Yuguda and ex-FCT Minister, Sen. Bala Mohammed to fight the governor.
“The Speaker in May 2017, said: ‘It was because the people were getting so angry that they decided to take their destiny in their hands and everybody knows. You can find out from them in Bauchi that that was the direction we were heading to, a very dangerous direction and the president needed to intervene.’
“Buhari’s strategists are aware that Bauchi State is politically fluid. The signs of the deep crisis in APC in the state were obvious at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium in Bauchi during the recent visit of the President to the state.
“The strategists are relying on total reconciliation with top politicians like Dogara, Yusuf Tuggar and all the segments of the state to save the situation for Buhari. The reconciliation may involve President Buhari this time around.
“Apart from politicians, the traditional institution is unhappy with the deposition of about 150 district heads and civil servants were shocked by the suspension of their pay for three months. In fact, of the 12 members of the House of Representatives from the state, only five Reps are with the governor.”
A source said: “Once Tambuwal defects to PDP, Dogara will follow, I can tell you this.”
Apart from his hometown, Daura, President Buhari is emotionally attached to Kaduna where he almost lost his life to a bomb ambush about four years ago. Well-loved and treated like a tin-god by his large support base, Kaduna is an electoral nightmare for Buhari in spite of the pretence by Governor Nasir el-Rufai.
In an apparently frustrated tone, el-Rufai on Friday declared the three Senators representing the state as useless for allegedly blocking a $350m loan request by the State Government. The senators are Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central), Suleiman Hunkuyi (Kaduna North) both of the APC and Danjuma Leah (Kaduna South), who is from the opposition PDP.
Beyond the loan palaver, the battle ahead in 2019 is the hidden motive behind the vituperations of the governor.
The facts are not adding up in the presidency and among Buhari’s strategists on the logjam in Kaduna. The entire Kaduna South is almost lost due to incessant killings such that the governor has not been able to attend major events in the area lately.
The other two Senatorial districts are not an easy ride for el-Rufai who is Buhari’s self-acclaimed 2019 polls salesman.
The most difficult will be Kaduna North where Hunkuyi, ex-Governor Ahmed Makarfi, ex-Governor Ramalan Yero, a game changer, Isa Ashiru and the aggrieved huge population of followers of the Shiite leader, Ibrahim Yaqoub el-Zakzaky hail or operate from. El-Rufai is from Kaduna North although he votes in Kaduna Central.
Except for the influence of ex-Vice President Namadi Sambo in Kaduna Central, Senator Sani poses less political threat to Buhari because his senatorial ticket was a “consequence of Buhari-el-Rufai’s benevolence in 2015.”
Reputed as a human rights activist, Sani is not a natural or typical Nigerian politician. Although he is gifted with oratory skills, he will have to lean on big politicians like the ex-VP and the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki (who can negotiate his exit from APC to PDP) to realize his governorship or senatorial ambition.
But with the control of party machinery by el-Rufai, there were indications yesterday that Sani, Hunkuyi, Ashiru and other stalwarts might be PDP bound.
Six options open to the strategists of Buhari on Kaduna are relying on old and stale love for the President by his mob supporters; appeasing Kaduna South with enhanced security and development; granting automatic second term tickets to all House of Reps members and the state Assembly members from Kaduna State; immediate reconciliation with Hunkuyi and Sani by conceding automatic Senate tickets to them; factoring Ashiru into consideration with a better package and resorting to aged fault lines of ethno-religious politics to win votes in 2019.
A top source said: “Capitalizing on the age-long fault lines will make the politics in Kaduna in 2019 messier and Buhari might have the upper hand. The same factor will not make the Christians in Southern Kaduna to vote for Buhari.
“El-Rufai’s offer of automatic second term tickets to House of Reps members and the state Assembly members from Kaduna State is an ingenious political masterstroke which can make each of them to defend their frontiers.
“To knock out Sani, one of the propaganda stunts emanating from the fault lines against him is the fact that he is from Niger State and as a non-indigene, he should be disallowed from taking the slot of a native.
“Also, if Buhari’s camp can strike a deal with Ashiru and Hunkuyi, he can comfortably win Kaduna with a better margin. But Ashiru, whose ambition is to be a governor, might prefer following his political friend and ally, Governor Aminu Tambuwal to PDP. It is becoming too late to win.
The strategists of Buhari and followers of the First Lady, Hajiya Aisha Buhari have been trying to hijack the party structure in Adamawa State with a view to clipping the wings of ex-VP Atiku Abubakar who has tremendous influence on Governor Jibrilla Bindo.
The outcome of Saturday’s congresses will determine and define where APC stalwarts in the state like ex-Governor Murtala Nyako, SGF Boss Mustapha, ex-SGF Babachir Lawal, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Sen. Binta Mashi, Hajiya Aishatu Dahiru Modibbo Binani and others are headed.
A source said: “Adamawa is a heterogeneous state and the politics of 2019 is still dicey as I am talking to you.
“While Atiku is still pulling the strings in APC through the governor, all the leaders are divided. Governor Bindo has visited the Presidential Villa many times to assure the President of support but the strategists of Buhari are still suspicious of him.”