The government and political parties not only pretend but deliberately ignore underground campaigns for the next Presidential election. With the Jonathan’s six year single tenure still hanging on the balance, Nigeria will in no time begin to prepare for the 2015 polls. While the People Democratic Party (PDP) is likely to have its way in the Presidential Election against weak opposition parties, the supporters and close associates of major contenders are surreptitiously working covertly to perfect their strategies in ensuring victory of their respective candidates in the primaries even when the main election is still far away.
In attempts to measure public concerns, their supporters deliberately fly kites, fake events and concoct stories in the media to promote their principals. The candidates, knowing the implication of declaring their intentions prematurely engage in wider consultations with traditional institutions and religious leaders and attend top public functions to establish and sustain networks of contacts. Acquisitions of awards and donations for charity causes are becoming new features to sustain their visibility in the minds of electorates.
While their supporters and close aides are reluctant to speak to the Economic Confidential due to the sensitivity of the issue, the Presidency and the machinery of ruling party are in the picture of five major contenders. The secret campaign teams of the aspirants are not only busy, they hold meetings in unusual places both locally and internationally to avoid the prying eyes of security agencies and other opponents within the party.
General Muhammadu Buhari of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) may choose not to run the presidential race again because of his age. While bringing his 2011 campaign to an end, he pointed out that: “We have been struggling for liberation; I ran in 2003, same in 2007 and now in 2011, and I said, this is the last time that I will run, and the thought that some people because of abject poverty will sell their votes also made me emotional and I wept for our country.”
In the same vein former Military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, another interesting candidate may not run again considering the manner in which he was edged out by Adamu Chiroma-led Northern Leaders Forum and the wide outcry against him before the last primary elections by political activists and the media. There are other former and current elected public officers, like governor who nurse the ambition to contest for the presidency but are afraid, fearing security agents digging into their past and wasteful spending that could go with such adventures now.
Though there could be few major contenders that could slug it out come 2015, a dark horse may not be a surprise at the long run. So far candidates whose supporters are engaged in wide consultation and secret campaigns have common denominators: apart from their huge investment in the private sector, they command respect and followership, at least within their respective constituencies. They are Northerners and sometimes very controversial figures. In fact most of them have the second highest national award of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON).
They are Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President, Alhaji Namadi Sambo, current Vice president, David Mark, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, a Senator and former Governor and Aliko Dangote the Founder of Dangote Group.
- Namadi Sambo
The alleged Vice President Namadi Sambo’s 2015 ambition which was unveiled by the media at the PDP north-west zonal meeting held September 8, 2011 in Kaduna where a branded vehicle was seen with some youths decked in T-shirts and face-caps, bearing Vice President Namadi Sambo’s pictures with the inscription “The Promise, Namadi Project.” Though Namadi dissociates himself from the campaign and his aides described it as an attempt by mischievous politicians who want to see the VP and his boss lock-horns.
It is worthy to note that, every serving aspirant at the initial stage usually dissociate themselves from such sponsored groups in order to maintain some level of cordial relationships with their principals. Hence, it is not surprising that Vice President Namadi Sambo did same.
His spokesman, Umar Sani had refuted the report, saying it was an act of mischief and figment of the imagination of the writers. It was also noted that the vice president has not mandated anyone to campaign or promote his cause.
One thing that could not be denied was the fact that his supporters turned out in their large number especially the youths in solidarity with him, raising banners and distributing flyers extolling the political virtues of the VP.
Nigeria’s Vice President, Architect Namadi Sambo GCON has the power of incumbency and legitimacy to the presidency; this can only happen if detractors do not come between him and President Goodluck Jonathan and if he is able to sustain a good working relationship with Mr. President.
Members of other political groups say that Namadi Sambo is work over because he was not able to deliver his State in the last general polls. Some of his supporters are of the view that that Namadi Sambo is a politician who does not believe in violence or thuggery; he allowed free and fair election in Kaduna State. They pointed out that violence and thugs were used in some States to intimidate people in order to win elections. He is a man of integrity and peace loving. One of them told the Economic Confidential that: “If Namadi is a violent man he could have use all his power and ensure victory through brutal force to win all the elections in the state. Because he is a peace lover, humble and simple man he even tolerated the excesses of the political opponent as he does not believe in do-or-die politics.”
It will be recalled that following the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua, when Goodluck Jonathan became the President, Sambo was nominated as Vice President. He resigned his office as Governor of Kaduna State to be formally sworn in on 19 May 2010 as the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and he is the chairman of the Nigeria’s economic team.
- Atiku Abubakar
Nigeria’s former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar GCON, Turakin Adamawa has been known to nurse Presidential ambition since the period of General Ibrahim Babangida as a military ruler. The continuous funding and maintenance of the Atiku Media Campaign Office located in the Jabi District of the FCT is obviously targeted at his presidential ambition. His strategic media team is strongly on ground responding to national issues and comments. On his part, Atiku has reconciled with former rivals in his state, Adamawa and the national level these include Governor Murtala Nyako and President Goodluck Jonathan. One of his aides told the Economic Confidential that Atiku is the most experienced and strongest presidential candidate to be presented by the North in the next elections. In fact, “the Northern leaders are urging him to run for presidency in 2015”.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was an influential member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) until 2006 when he switched affiliation to the Action Congress party but made a controversial return to the PDP in 2009. He came up the ranks of the ruling PDP primarily, due to the pivotal role he played in the formation of the party.
Atiku’s source of wealth, in the findings of the Econ
omic Confidential, has caused some curiosity among Nigerians but that also goes for many other wealthy Nigerians. There are many allegations and reports engineered against him of self-enrichment, but Atiku said he made his money “through wise investments, hard work and sheer luck of being at the right place at the right time.”
Atiku who joined the Nigerian Customs and Excise in 1969, serving in Seme, Kano, Maiduguri, Kaduna, Ibadan and Lagos rose to the rank of Deputy Director (second in command nationwide). He went into private business after his retirement, with interests in oil services, agriculture, food and beverages, print media, insurance, pharmaceuticals, and education. He is the proprietor of America University of Nigeria (AUN), Yola, the license for this university was acquired under the Obasanjo/Atiku administration in their effort to deregulate the educational sector. Although it is said that the school is exclusively for the rich but Atiku is known to have given out several scholarships to indigent students.
In 2006, Atiku was involved in a face-off with his principal, former President OlusegunObasanjo, due to Obasanjo’s eventual failed attempts to amend certain provisions of the constitution in order to take another shot at the presidency for the third consecutive time. It is unclear whether Atiku’s opposition to Obasanjo’s “inordinate ambition” was altruistic or selfish. Nonetheless, Atiku had never hidden his interest in the coveted position.
The Senate President, David Mark is also being geared by his own constituency, the legislative arm, to take a shot at the presidency so as to become the first legislator to occupy the seat of Nigeria’s President. He was first elected senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Benue-South Senatorial district under the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 1999 and sworn in June of the same year, he was subsequently re-elected in 2003, 2007 and 2011. At the end of his current term, he would complete sixteen years at the senate, making him one of the longest serving legislators and longest serving Senate President in Nigeria.
Senator David Mark, former Military Governor of Niger State and Member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council; the highest decision making body during the Military Juntas in Nigeria, is one of those retired senior Army Officers who have successfully metamorphosed and recreated themselves to fit into the democratic dispensation. He was also a Minister of Communication, when he was alleged to have said that telephones were not meant for the poor.
Apart from the legislators as members of his constituency, Economic Confidential gathered that the Idoma people in Benue State have endorsed him as their son to contest for next Presidential elections in Nigeria come 2015. The Senate President’s ambition which had been an open secret in political circles, according to a report, reverberated during a reception in his honour by the Idoma League of Professors, ILP, led by Prof. Owoicho Akpa, with Mike Omeri, a former special adviser to the Senate President had canvassed for Senator Mark’s Presidency at the next general election; arguing that the Senate President had the pedigree to lead the nation after President Goodluck Jonathan. Also speaking in the same vein, the president of the ILP, Prof Akpa, rallied support for Senator Mark by calling on all Nigerians to support the enthronement as the next Nigerian president. Though at that occasion, Senator Mark had urged his supporters to refrain from further campaigns and warned that it would be too early in the day to start talking of the 2015, he did not categorically deny having such ambition.
Senator Bukola Saraki comes from the Saraki Political Dynasty of Kwara State where family members have held top elected offices since the First Republic. Some former governors and a few serving ones are urging Senator Bukola Saraki to re-join the presidential race in 2015 after his failed attempt in 2011. Also urging him are some young political leaders. One of his close associates told Economic Confidential that there should be a paradigm shift from the old to the young stock of politicians who are energetic, innovative and daring like President Barack Obama of the United States. These qualities, his supporters claimed could be found in Bukola Saraki as displayed when he was former governor and chairman of the PDP Governors’ forum.
Born on 19th December 1962 into the family of Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, the Turaki of Ilorin, he attended the London Hospital Medical College, University of London between 1982 and 1987 and later worked as a Medical Officer in few health facilities abroad before he returned home.After working as a Director in a bank owned by his father Societe Generale, he was appointed Special Assistant to President Obasanjo on Budget and elected Governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011 under the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
His supporters argued that he put a lot of effort into creating support infrastructure for businesses particularly in upgrading the Ilorin International Airport, and by personally ensuring that there were regular commercial flights to Ilorin, firstly by Overland, Capital Airlines, and now Arik Air. His administration brought key institutions to the state from the public and private sectors. He also developed the agricultural sector when he invited the Zimbabwe farmer to diversify Kwara State’s economy through agriculture. The state produces about three hundred and forty thousand metric tons of paddy rice per annum.
In a country where youths are passionate about football, Saraki established the first-ever West African football Training Academy – The Kwara Football Academy (KFA) to provide formal education with football training and management in 2005. The academy was commended by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) President and Chairman of the English Premier League Chairman. The academy provides football management and cost-free opportunities for young boys to study and groom their football talents. It has produced professionally trained footballers who have progressed onto joining major league football teams across Europe.
Alhaji Aliko Dangote
He is the private sector’s largest employer of labour and the richest African worth over US$14 billion. His business surged over 500 per cent within a year, becoming the world’s biggest gainer. He is an absolute monopolist who has a control over manufacturing and importation sectors on some popular products in Nigeria. Sources close to the 54 years old international business mogul said that Aliko Dangote is “being pressured from all sides to run for the nation’s top job but he yet to show keen interest.” According to our sources, the pressures are coming from members of the young northern Turk, local business people and the foreign investors who are close associates and business partners of Dangote.
From a business loan from his maternal uncle over 30 years ago, Dangote has built one of Africa’s largest industrial conglomerateswith a workforce of over 20,000 people, which has extensive interests in cement, flour, sugar, textile, haulage, foods & beverages and oil & gas.
Some of his supporters told the Economic Confidential that Dangote is patriotic. According to one of them: “unlike other Nigerians who would rather stash their money in foreign accounts or invest abroad, a common feature of fraudulent fronts and public office looters; instead Dangote has huge investments in nearly all the six geo-political zones of Nigeria.”
It is observed that Dangote has been playing around the corridors
of Aso Rock Villa for quite some time; he is known to be a frequent and generous donor to political campaigns for the ruling and the opposition parties and causes for which he has been greatly rewarded. One instance readily comes to mind; he donated US$2 million to Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidential library and was rewarded with several choice government concessions that earned him billions of naira. Lately he has been donating to educational endowments, victims of disasters and charity organisations. Other steps taken towards entering the Aso Rock villa are his inclusion into the Nation’s Economic Team and now the shocker, President Goodluck Jonathan has nominated him to receive the second highest national award of the GCON which was exclusively reserved for Vice Presidents, Senate Presidents and Chief Justices of the Federation. Never in the history of Nigeria has the nation’s second highest award been given to any private individual. Some say it is an honour well deserved by a man ranked the 53rd richest person in the world and for his immense contributions to the economic development of Nigeria.
The Dark Horse
While this report highlights the frontrunners towards the Presidential election in 2015, the Economic Confidential does not rule out the emergence of a dark horse; an unpopular person that could sneak in to prominence and win the elections. Examples of Dark Horses abounds in Nigeria, for instance, the underrated Shehu Usman of Shagari Village in Sokoto State, Olusegun Obasanjo emerged from Abacha’s prison to become President and Late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of Katsina State, surprised Nigerians to become an elected President in spite of all the giant, healthy and qualified candidates.
The dark horse could emerge from anywhere; it may be one of the governors, senators, businesspeople, academics, politicians, youth leaders or even a woman more determined than Mrs. Sarah Jibril,