Without doubt, the race for who succeeds President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023 is intense. As more aspirants openly declare for the top seat, the intrigues have also heightened.
Across party lines, some persons have been touted to be in the race while others have since declared their intention.
Those whose names have been linked to the contest are former President Goodluck Jonathan; vice president Prof Yemi Osinbajo; former vice president Atiku Abubakar; Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal; former Kano State governor, Musa kwankwaso; APC National Leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu; PDP presidential running mate in 2019, Peter Obi.
On the other hand the likes of former Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim; former banker, Kinsley Moghalu and Kingsley Moghalu; and Mazi Samuel Ohuabunwa a former president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, have openly declared their intentions to seek the top post.
As the debate rages over which zoning should produce the next president, the ones which seem to stand a better chance have been pushing their best credentials forward. With the South Presidency clamour gaining traction, the North Central zone is leaving nothing to chance to get the position.
The North Central strategy
Like the southern region, the political leaders from the North Central believe they deserve to provide Buhari’s replacement in 2023. The North Central Peoples Forum (NCPF) has stated this repeatedly.
But with the agitation from other regional stakeholders mounting, LEADERSHIP gathers the North Central leaders might be pulling their ranks across political parties lines to make a collective bid for the presidency.
The ultimate goal, it was learnt, is to ensure that the idea of a Nigerian President from the zone is acceptable to all and sundry from the zone and that it becomes a consensually accepted idea.
It was gathered that top-level meetings have been going on in Abuja, Jos, Makurdi, Lafia, Ilorin, Minna, and Lokoja.
“The campaign is being handled at different levels with members of the National Assembly from the zone, former members of the National Assembly, present and past governors from the Zone, Speakers of the state Houses of Assembly, retired generals, business people, and traditional rulers being co-opted to start working at various levels to sell the agenda to their colleagues, friends, and associates from the other zone,” an insider told LEADERSHIP.
“The leaders of the North Central zone and their people believe that this time around, their counterparts in the North Central and North East zones should support their agitation to produce the next President. They stated that their agitation is supported by historical facts, the principle of justice and equity as well as the concept of brotherhood.
“They argued that since 1960 when Nigeria became independent, the unity of the North has been achieved because the North Central solidly supports the Arewa oneness. They noted how leaders like Chief Sunday Awoniyi, S. B. Daniyan, Alh. Aliyu Makaman Bida, Alh. Ahman Pategi, and others stood solidly behind Sir Ahmadu Bello and ensured the Gamji tree provided cover for all northerners.
“They also noted that when the military took over, the North Central was the reason why Nigeria did not break into pieces as an aftermath of the 1966 coup. The nation had to look up to a young officer of North Central origin, Col. Yakubu Gowan as the most acceptable officer to provide stability, lower the tension and assuage hurt feelings across board. Part of their position is that North Central lost a lot of its people who fought as Nigerian soldiers during the civil war and that is why it is said the people of the area made supreme sacrifices to hold the nation together. By extension, It is also said that the Zone holds the key to the unity of Nigeria.”
The source also stated the leaders would argue that nobody has become the President of Nigeria without having strong showing or support in the North Central.
From Shagari to Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan, and Buhari. “This our zone decides who becomes the President. We are tired of being kingmakers. We want to produce the King because we have numerous qualified, experienced and connected individuals,” the leader said.
It was further gathered that they intend to leverage on the argument that they are not just the food basket of the country, but the epicenter of Nigeria’s unity, being a multi-cultural, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic region.
Much like some other regions, the North Central leaders are also claiming that it is the only zone that has neither produced a president nor vice president since the advent of the country.
“This fact, they stated, placed them in a worse situation than that of the South East which between 1979 – 1983 produced Vice President Alex Ekwueme,” the source stated.
There is more. The North Central leaders argue that the success of the South-South in producing a President has imbued confidence, the spirit of nationalism, and patriotism in the people of the zone.
As for what’s to be expected ahead of 2023, the North Central leaders, it was learnt, have begun mobilising their political sons and daughters from the zone to join the race in their respective political parties as a way of advancing the North central agitation.
“The plan is to ensure that two or at least one of the two leading political parties presents a presidential aspirant from our zone while the other parties also get ready to present presidential candidates who are from the Zone. Then you will see our people solidly coming out to persuade the rest of the country to vote for a Nigerian candidate from the North Central”, one of the leaders stated.
As much as the leaders believe a candidate from the zone can easily win the trust of the rest of the country, unite the country, they are set to start sending emissaries to all the other geo-political zones where they will meet other leaders and persuade them to help make the idea of a Nigerian from the North Central zone possible the way they did in 1999 when the entire country was made or persuaded to elect a Nigerian President from South west.
But the North Central leaders certainly have a tough task as other regions. The South East has also intensified their bid for the top seat going by the recent comments of Ohaneze Ndigbo and the argument by others like Chief Willy Ezugwu of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), who believe that the political atmosphere favours South East presidency.
Other top contenders from the South West and the North East also believe they have as much right to aspire for the seat as anyone from any region. Alas, all eyes will be on the political parties.
“How the political actors pull their weight within their parties remains the crucial thing”, says Maxwell Obiekwe, a political analyst and lawyer.
“Every region would have to find a way to ensure that its interests align with the aspirations of the political parties’ desire to win the 2023 election,” he added.