The second term administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is barely six months old, but the race for who replaces the former General in 2023 has kicked off. With an already weaken opposition, it is fair to say the race for who takes over as the Commander-in-Chief would come from within his own party.
In this article, we try to identify the three front runners from the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, who coincidentally are Governors. From Gov. Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state to Gov. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state, one of this political gladiators could end up taking the mantle of leadership as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria come May 29, 2023.
It’s no surprise that the incumbent Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, has always had an eye for the Presidency. The controversial politician, who came into public consciousness as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration has never hidden his desire to rule Africa’s most populous nation. Born on the 15th of February 1960, El-Rufai attended Secondary School at the prestigious Barewa College, where he graduated at the top of his class in 1976. Incidentally, At Barewa College Zaria, it is said that the late President Umaru Yar’Adua was the House Captain of Mallam Smith House which was Nasir’s dormitory as a junior. Nasir also attended the Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria, earning a Bachelor in Quantity Surveying degree with First Class Honors.
He also attended post-graduate programs at Harvard Business School and Georgetown University. In 1982, El-Rufai and a few of his associates set up a Quantity Surveying and Project Management Consulting firm. It was in this line of work that he met incumbent President in the 90’s while the later served as head of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF)
As FCT Minister, he presided over an infrastructural revolution in the capital city and transformed a bureaucracy earlier riddled with corruption and vast deviation from the original master-plan into a well functional and effective ministry. With the establishment of the Abuja Geographic Information System within 12 months in office, Abuja became the first municipality in Nigeria with a computerized land register and information system. During the latter part of the Obj administration, the former EFCC Chairman described El-Rufai as the “de facto No. 2 official”. He had effectively taken over the role of Vice President after the fall-out between the former President and his Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar.
On the flip side, El-Rufai is a man that courts immense controversy, his tenure as Governor has been marred with his shoddy handling of the security crisis in Kaduna. He has also built a reputation as a Northern hardliner with little tolerance for opposition and criticism as shown in his many battles with religious leaders and anyone who dares to attack his government. On the positive side, the governor has been able to revive the ailing economy of his state by embarking on massive industrialisation. One factor that could work for the governor in actualising his presidential dream, is his perceived closeness to Buhari. Aside, having the president’s ears, mallam is also seen as one of the few Governors who have unrestricted access to the movers and shakers in Aso Rock. Add that to his closeness to the likes of Obj, Aliko Dangote and other big wigs in the ruling class, you will understand why Mallam Nasir El-Rufai might likely become Buhari’s replacement in 2023.
Next on our list is the current chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state. The former minister under president Buhari was chosen by consensus as the chairman of the all powerful NGF under the second term administration of president Buhari. He succeeded Governor Abdulazeez Yari of Zamfara State. Born on the 9th of February 1965, Fayemi attended Christ’s School Ado Ekiti from 1975-1980 and received degrees in History, Politics and International Relations from the Universities of Lagos and Ile-Ife now Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria and his Doctorate in War Studies from the King’s College, University of London, England, specializing in civil-military relations.
Armed with an impressive ceevee, some political analysts believe Fayemi could be the man the North will support to checkmate the presidential aspirations of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. The North sees the former Lagos governor as a treat to their hold in power and would prefer a less ambitious southern like Fayemi to be president than the Jagaban of Nigerian politics.
In other more mature democracies and developed societies, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano state would by now have been impeached for his bribery scandal which almost consumed the APC. But this is Nigeria, where members of the ruling party are regarded as angels, while opposition members are labeled corrupt elements. Although, the governor is an outsider in terms of who could succeed Buhari in 2023, we also cannot rule him out. If there is any governor that could lay down his life for president Buhari to succeed, that person is Gov. Ganduje.
Recall, how the 69-year-old politician was regarded as one of the governors who was key to Buhari’s re-election in 2019. As expected, he delivered massive votes which sent the all powerful opposition party led by his former godfather, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso into early political retirement.
Hopefully, the president would remember his good deeds and repay his loyalty by anointing him as his successor in 2023.
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