As more aspirants declare their interest to contest the PDP presidential primaries this year, JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAH takes a look at the chances of Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed, a new entrant in Nigeria’s presidential race.
Political pundits have skewed the 2019 presidential race towards a straight contest between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The thinking is that the other over 60 political parties are just on paper and not on ground. Also in their calculation, new political movements like the third force being touted by former President Olusegun Obasanjo are dead on arrival. They maintain that just like what played out in 2015, it would be a straight battle between APC and PDP.
Barring any last minute change, President Muhammadu Buhari is set to fly the APC flag in 2019, having declared his interest to seek reelection earlier this year. On the other hand, close to 10 aspirants have indicated their interest to contest the PDP primaries. While some have openly declared, others are engaged in horse-trading behind the scenes.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, former governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarfi, former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose and former minister of special duties, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki have all declared their intentions to run for the highest political office in the land.
Others who are touted to contest the PDP presidential primaries are Senate President Bukola Saraki, Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal and Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso. It is billed to be a battle of the heavyweights, as all the candidates are stalwarts in their own right.
On the other hand, there are other presidential hopefuls described as midgets in the political landscape who have passively declared their interest in the 2019 presidential race. While they have done so in passing, they are apprehensive about spending their fortune in setting up political structures to execute their plan. Conscious of their unpopularity, they are afraid that it may turn out to be a wild goose chase for them in a clime where the balance of terror is often in favour of popular and big names, in a political contest.
No doubt, American politician and civil rights activist, Robert F Kennedy (1925 – 1968), intended to puncture such political feeble mindedness when he said, “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
However, Kennedy’s remark aptly captures the decision of Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed to contest the 2019 presidential election on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). History is replete with stories of politicians who dare where others fear to tread and seems Baba-Ahmed is one of such, going by the above quote.
In April this year, Senator Baba-Ahmed, who represented Kaduna Central Senatorial district between 2003 and 2007, announced his intention to contest the 2019 presidential election. Premising his decision on the notion that the nation needed to be rescued from the economic stagnation it finds itself, he said what should be uppermost to any leader is re-engineering the nation. According to him, leadership failure over the years has brought about distrust among the led, thus making it impossible for citizenship cooperation.
Speaking through the chairman of his campaign media committee, Ibrahim Biu, at a media briefing in Abuja, Baba-Ahmed said the unity of Nigeria can only be guaranteed through making equal opportunities available to Nigerians irrespective of ethnic and religious differences.
“We are in an era of leadership distrust and the nation is in dire need of leaders that will remember, engineer the country and create jobs for unemployed youths. Having represented Zaria federal constituency before getting to the Senate, I have a different perspective to the nation’s challenges and too. 2019 presidency should not be made an all comers affair because of the crack among the regions of the country occasioned by miss-governance in the past, there must be a concerted effort to unify the country before any other move.”
Baba-Ahmed is very confident that he has what it takes to be the next president of Nigeria. He said it would be so easy for him to defeat and send President Buhari back to Daura, Katsina State, if the PDP grants him the party’s sole ticket. “I have never been afraid of incumbency. I am a Nigerian and I am contesting on the same Electoral Act and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, unless they are going to violate it, which we shall challenge. Muhammadu Buhari is welcome to contest for the Presidency in 2019 and I think it is a healthy practice to have a gentleman of his age, his mould and people who have been in power for the past 50 years contest.
“But as for popularity, it is highly arguable. I think the support of many Nigerians have been taken for granted. I think the average Nigerian is now more intelligent politically and more aware. That political awareness is what I think leaders who have been in power take for granted. They automatically think that without people making recourse, they will just endorse them and support them. What I have learnt in my few years in life is that no one should ever take others for granted.”
He further observed that Buhari who only defeated his closest rival, Goodluck Jonathan by 2.5 million votes in 2015, would not have a free ride in 2019. “Absolutely, he will not have it easy. Do not forget that President Buhari had contested three elections and lost until a certain action by the PDP made many members exit the party for the APC. That is what gave him his win. APC is practically PDP.
“Even at Buhari’s best, his very best, he won by only 2.5 million. Today, he is at his worse with the economy on its knees, insecurity, the herdsmen issue that he has not attended to, the educational system and millions of jobs lost. All while the people’s awareness is on the increase.”
The PDP has zoned the presidency to the North and Senator Baba-Ahmed believes he has what it takes to clinch the PDP ticket. Pundits consider him as an Obama in Nigeria. They aver that, like the former American President who against all odds caused an upset when he clinched the Democrats ticket in 2008, Datti may replicate the same upset in the PDP ahead of 2019.
Besides, there are speculations that the PDP is looking for a candidate who is below 55 years to fly its presidential flag. Some keen observers of the polity believe that Senator Baba-Ahmed might be PDP’s joker in the pack. He is already getting endorsement from some Nigerians.
A group, Concerned Nigerian Youths (CNY), have endorsed him as a “credible presidential candidate come 2019.” The group, after their meeting in Abuja, said Senator Baba Ahmed stands tall in terms of credibility, unblemished political record and acceptability among the array of people parading themselves for the presidency. National coordinator of CNY, Sani Danbarno, noted that at their Abuja meeting tagged, “Save Nigeria,” they resolved to push Senator Baba-Ahmed to unveil his agenda for Nigeria.
“We actually call on him to aspire because we have seen some leadership qualities in him and based on his antecedents, he has all the credentials to lead Nigeria out of its troubles. He should simply declare that this is his time and we will do the rest. Nigerians are yearning for him. After analysing all presidential aspirants in various political parties, we have come to the conclusion that Senator Baba-Ahmed is the only capable aspirant for the seat. Nigeria needs to be salvaged and he has the knowledge, experience and youthful energy to succeed. He sponsored many bills while in the senate and empowered his constituents. Above all, the senator has changed the lives of many youths through his generosity in education.”
For those who may not remember, Senator Baba-Ahmed was a member of the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2007. He was also elected Senator on the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2011 in what was arguably the biggest upset in Nigeria’s elections when he defeated former Kaduna State governor, Ahmed Makarfi.
If he succeeds in clinching the presidency, he would be the very first most schooled president the country has ever had. He got his BSc and MSc Economics in 1991 and 1995 from the University of Maiduguri. He went on to bag an MBA in 1996 from University of Wales and a PhD from University of Westminster in 2005.
Other courses he has attended include Portfolio Management and a certificate course from London School of Practical Economics between 1996 and 1997. He was awarded Fellow of the Science Association of Nigeria (FSAN) in 2012 at ABU. In 2015, he completed a Senior Executive Programme at London Business School and in August 2017, he completed a highly selective course on International Security at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is currently part of a three year OPM Programme at Harvard Business School. Baba-Ahmed single-handedly began Baze University in 2008 after about 12 years of planning. The university is regarded as one of the top private universities in the country.
Analysts posit that at 49, he fits the bill of a modern politician who is urban and suave. Some aver that it will require someone who has been successful in a business in the mould of Donald Trump to be the next president of Nigeria.
During the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, he was among lawmakers who opposed the third term agenda. One of the things he did to thwart the idea was to declare in May 2006 that he would not seek reelection unless action was taken to investigate allegations that members had been bribed to support the constitutional changes needed for a third term presidency. In 2007, he took the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to court over miss-conduct of past elections. He is known for speaking out against corruption.
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