President Muhammadu Buhari’s return to Nigeria on Friday, March 10, 2017, following a 50-day medical vacation in the United Kingdom may have stalled intense lobby for the position of a new vice president in the event of the president’s demise.
Multiple sources with intimate knowledge of the matter told The Trent, this week, there has been an intense lobby for a new vice president to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo who is likely to become president “if the worst happens” to ailing President Buhari.
According to our sources, political power brokers within the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, are already putting in place a contingency plan and considering a list of likely candidates for the second highest office in the land.
The top contenders in the list of candidates for vice president (listed in order of the intensity of the lobbying) are:
1. Muhammadu Sanusi II, Emir of Kano
2. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Sokoto State Governor
3. Nasir El-Rufai, Kaduna State Governor
4. Bukola Saraki, President of the Senate
5. Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Former EFCC Chairman
HRH Muhammadu Sanusi II
By far the most interesting choice of shortlisted candidates, the former Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN governor and current Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II is said to have joined the intense lobby for vice president.
According to the sources, Sanusi’s emirate will not stop his ambition as he has perfected plans to abdicate if he is ratified for the number two job.
Sanusi, already testing the waters, paid a visit last month to Aso Rock for a meeting with Osinbajo during Buhari’s sick leave. He declined to speak to journalists on the purpose of his visit to the Presidential Villa at the end of the meeting. The emir simply told State House correspondents, “You can just report that I came to the Villa.”
The emir, an inside source revealed, has taken steps to strengthen his candidacy by becoming more visible in the media of recent and making comments that would appeal to the a national audience, for example, his recent comments on educating the girl child, replacing mosques with schools, and restrictions on polygamy for poor Muslim men.
“Essentially, what you have heard Sanusi say in recent times would irk his Muslim fundamentalist base but appeals to Christians and moderate Muslims,” one source said.
Sanusi’s biggest challenges are his antecedents as CBN governor and his perception as a hot-headed fundamentalist raise serious concerns about the Islamisation of Nigeria if he becomes vice president or by any ‘act of God’ rides on to become president.
Security reports on the emir, dating back to General Sani Abacha days implicate him in the December 1994 murder of an Igbo trader, Gideon Akaluka, who was kidnapped from a police cell by a Muslim mob and beheaded for allegedly desecrating the Quran, a charge that was eventually found to be false.
The possibility of a Muslim fundamentalist with such a track record is reportedly making the Donald Trump White House uncomfortable.
Aminu Waziri Tambuwal
The amiable governor of Sokoto State and former speaker of the Federal House of Representatives is said to have been penciled down as a strong possibility for the position of Vice President. According to informed sources, Tambuwal enjoys considerable backing from the power bloc of Northern governors. It is believed that the governors will play a key role in deciding who becomes vice president in the event of Buhari’s exit from the scene.
Tambuwal is also believed to be in the good books of the Sultan of Sokoto, Saad Abubakar III – Nigeria’s highest ranking Islamic leader. Only a few days ago, Acting President Osinbajo was received by Governor Tambuwal in Sokoto. Osinbajo later paid a courtesy call on the Sultan.
Controversial governor of Kaduna State Nasir El Rufai is easily regarded as President Buhari’s political successor owing to his seeming similarity to Buhari in rhetoric and political posturing as a fundamentalist and dictator.
According to informed sources, El Rufai is banking on support from the UK government in positioning himself for the position of vice president and eventually, president.
However, El Rufai’s consideration for veepee is faced with challenges similar to that of the Emir of Kano, as disclosed by a top security source.
“He [El Rufai] is not considered a moderate and is perceived across political divides as polarizing, hot-headed, a power abuser, and lacking in the temperament for the office of vice president or president,” the source who didn’t wish to be named told our reporter.
Acting President Osinbajo, the sources say is a “perfect gentleman who would need a vice president that complements and strengthens his position as a national unifier”.
Second, El-Rufai’s amateurish handling of the Southern Kaduna crisis in which hundreds of Christian have been killed by his native Fulani kinsmen is perhaps one of the biggest albatrosses on the governor’s neck.
Also the killing of the Shi’ite in Zaria in December 2015 and the governor’s role in what has now been confirmed to be religious genocide, continues to case a long shadow on his ambitions for federal power.
In light of his record as a human rights abuser and the petitions before the International Criminal Court over the state-sponsored killings in Kaduna, the British Government is said to be “treading cautiously” as it does not want to be seen as throwing its weight behind a man who may soon be declared wanted by the International Court of Justice for genocide.
Third, El-Rufai the sources disclosed, has earned a spot in the bad books of the White House as the Christian evangelical support base of US President Donald Trump is unhappy with the religious cleansing going on in Southern Kaduna and the increasing slaughter of Nigeria’s northern Christians under El Rufai’s watch.
El Rufai, the sources disclosed, is however stopping at nothing to realize his ambition and is believed to be behind calls for the removal of current Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele working through proxy civil society groups like EiE Nigeria and BudgIT. In the hopes of being able to influence Emefiele’s removal and the appointment of his successor, El Rufai, the sources said, would have access to an unlimited financial war chest.
A former Kwara governor and former presidential aspirant, Senate President Bukola Saraki is reportedly in the list for the position of vice president. Considered a moderate and a likely candidate for president in 2019, Saraki, the sources disclosed has refused to show interest in the tussle for vice president, devoting more attention instead to legislative reforms.
According to the sources, Saraki’s biggest challenges if he makes it through in the list of potential vice presidents, bother on the issue of his Code of Conduct Tribunal case which has become ‘inconclusive’. Then, there is the issue of his not being considered a “core northerner” being a Yoruba from the Middle Belt.
Also, concerns by APC national leader Bola Tinubu and the Buhari cabal in Aso Rock who see him as a threat to their long-term interests owing to the deft political maneuver that saw him emerge as an APC Senate President with a PDP deputy.
Nuhu Ribadu, a former presidential candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) comes to the table with “strong credentials” for his anti-corruption war under the Olusegun Obasanjo regime and his wide contacts with the international civil society community who also consider him as a progressive and a moderate. “But Ribadu has corruption allegations leveled against him at some point in his political career,” a source noted.
Ribadu’s greatest challenge is his lack of political clout. According to our inside source, the ‘governors bloc’ is said to be rooting for one of their own to become vice president.
Ribadu hastily decamped from the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and joined the All Progressives Congress late in 2016 leading some observers to say that he was a mole in the then ruling party
With Buhari’s return to Nigeria on Friday, conversations about a new vice president may have been stalled, but they haven’t been completely taken off the table.