The search in the North for a consensus candidate to challenge President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election may soon be over.
Although Jonathan has not signified an intention to seek re-election, there is serious speculation that he will.
Multiple sources told SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday that the region’s powerbrokers are rooting for the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, to run for President.
Our correspondents gathered that some senior politicians in the opposition mega party, the All Progressives Congress, have made overtures to Tambuwal to dump the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and be the APC flag bearer in 2015.
A former Head of State and presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change in the 2011 general election, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and the National Leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Senator Bola Tinubu, reportedly held a private meeting with the Speaker last week to persuade him to join the mega party.
Some leaders of the North, in separate interviews with SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday, described Tambuwal as a credible alternative to Jonathan, stating that he would get their support, whether as the flag bearer of the PDP or APC. However, they stopped short of declaring the Speaker as the consensus presidential candidate of the region.
The Northern Elders’ Forum said although it had not decided on a consensus northern candidate for the presidency in 2015, Tambuwal’s “youthfulness and performance” as the Speaker made him an attractive option in the region’s bid to reclaim the presidency.
The spokesman for the forum, Dr. Paul Unongo, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said Tambuwal would get the support of many Nigerians, especially northerners, should he emerge the presidential candidate of any political party.
He said, “I have a very deep respect for the Speaker. He is an amiable and courageous young man who, I believe, has served his country well. He is somebody that I know that will enjoy the support of a lot of Nigerians.
“The Northern Elders Forum will support a candidate from the North. But we have yet to zero in on anybody, whether Christian or Muslim. However, with what Tambuwal has done as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, he looks quite attractive. If Tambuwal emerges as the candidate of any party he associates with, whether PDP or APC, we will be happy to discuss with him. And I’m sure he will enjoy the support of some of us.”
Another influential group in the North, the Coalition of Northern Politicians, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen, noted that supporting Tambuwal was not based only on the preferences of the people of the region.
The coordinator of the group, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, told one of our correspondents that Tambuwal had the potential to turn the fortunes of the country around.
He said, “It’s not a question of a northerner throwing a challenge to Jonathan, it’s a question of what is good for Nigeria. Looking at the prospects, Tambuwal is good for Nigeria. What he did during the election that made him the Speaker was a very positive development for democracy in the nation and also a sobering warning to all the parties to be more internally democratic.
“Goodluck Jonathan and the gangs around him pose a very serious threat to us in this country by their sheer incompetence and irresponsibility. Competence and integrity are clearly lacking in the government and the Presidency, which Jonathan leads. I’m sure Nigerians will be more than happy to have an opportunity to support Tambuwal.”
Mohammed further described Tambuwal as a credible alternative to Jonathan.
“He is a kind of leader who will give alternative tendencies a chance to overthrow the PDP, Jonathan and all that they stand for. I believe Tambuwal will be a better leader and a better person for the presidency.
“I’m saying this because I know Tambuwal and I also know Jonathan. So, I can say, with some certainty, who is a better leader; Tambuwal or Goodluck. We have seen how Goodluck has performed or underperformed in the past few years as the President, and we have seen how Tambuwal has performed as the Speaker, clearly Tambuwal is a better leader than Jonathan.”
Similarly, the National President, Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, Yerima Shettimah, said Tambuwal could win the hearts of youths in the North but only if he was not sponsored by “northern politicians who contributed to the woes of the region.”
Shettimah said, “We saw Jonathan as a young man and we felt he came from a poor background like some of us. We felt that he was going to come up with our aspirations. At the end of the day, what happened? We want a young leader but not one that is being used by older politicians.”
The Arewa Consultative Forum, however, stated that it was too early to crown North’s consensus candidate, since all the northern aspirants had yet to declare their intention to run.
The spokesman for the forum, Anthony Sani, said, “I think it is too early to start talking politics to that level at this time, precisely because such talks will not only heat up the polity but distract us from governance. It is premature to talk of which candidate is qualified to be President and deserving of support, since we do not know all the aspirants yet. But when the time comes, nobody will tell us what to do.”
However, the Speaker’s office denied knowledge of any plans by the APC to pick Tambuwal as its presidential candidate.
His Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Imam Imam, told one of our correspondents in Abuja that talks about 2015 presidency were “distracting Tambuwal who has a four-year mandate, as a member of the House of Representatives, to serve.”
Imam added, “We have spoken on this issue (2015 presidency) several times and our position has not changed. The Speaker is preoccupied with serving his four-year mandate. He is about to enter the mid-term of the four-year mandate. All his efforts and attention are devoted to serving his term as a member of the House of Representatives. That is all we can say.”