It is no longer news that the national leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu may be contesting for the office of the president come 2023. Many can see the handwriting on the wall, and if you ask a lot of people, it is cheering news that the Jagaban Borgu is finally coming out. There is still a little twist to this though, the Jagaban is yet to openly declare his intention to run for president come 2023. But just in case he finally makes his intention public, here are some five powerful men from the north that will certainly stand against him.
For sure, one of the men Asiwaju will have to contend with to realize his 2023 ambition is the small statured but immensely powerful Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. He is the Governor of Kaduna State. It is public knowledge that he is also interested in the presidency come 2023 and he is said to be very close to the President. This close relationship with Buhari enables him to have some measure of influence on Mr. President.
He is, without a doubt, one of those with unhindered access to the president. Indeed, he is one of the most regular state governors at the Presidential Villa. Sources within the Villa say that the governor doesn’t book his visits in advance. Protocols are simply waived for him. It is widely believed that Mr. President has a soft spot for El-Rufai because of his remarkable intelligence and proven integrity. It is expected that his closeness with Mr. President might put him in good stead come 2023. What this means is that President Buhari might not have such a hard time choosing El-Rufai ahead of Asiwaju as his successor.
Mamman Daura is also one of those men who will stand in the way of Asiwaju come 2023. Call him another power house in the presidency and you won’t be wrong. Mamman Daura is the president’s nephew though he is older. He is said to be extremely close to the President, which is why he makes major inputs in many of Buhari’s major decisions including appointments.
Surprisingly, this gentleman holds no political office in this dispensation, but Daura is often seen with the President. As a matter of fact, he is often on the president’s entourage and travels with him most times. He is believed to have considerable inputs in the choice of those who emerged as ministers, especially those from the North. He is certainly not going to be in the running for the presidency come 2023, but he will certainly be one of those who will have tremendous input as to where the pendulum swings.
And we can tell you for free that Mamman Daura will not let it swing in the direction of Asiwaju, not if he can help it. He is one of those core northerners who jealously guards their current hold on power, which is why he is an integral part of Aso Rock.
Daura’s influence in government did not start today. He and Buhari belonged to a group called “Kaduna Mafia” which was a group of young Northern Nigerian intellectuals, civil servants, business tycoons and military officers residing or conducting business in the former Northern capital city of Kaduna during the end of the First Republic.
Another powerful man from the northern Mafia group that will do all he possibly can to frustrate Asiwaju’s plans and hopes to become president in 2023 is Ismaila Funtua, the Chairman of the popular Bulet International Construction Company. He is said to be a personal friend of the President, hence he has Buhari’s ears on national issues, including appointments.
Like his friend, Mamman Daura, Funtua too, holds no political office, but you will be surprised to find that he has much influence on the President even more than those who are holding offices. He is one of those men who will mobilize the powerful northern forces against Asiwaju’s aspirations. All he will be waiting for is the president’s order.
Without a doubt, the most powerful of the lot is the gentleman called Abba Kyari. This man is as powerful as they come. Some have even described him as being more powerful than the president himself. Truth is, they may not be wrong. He is the Chief of Staff to the president. Abba Kyari is a man in whom Mr. President is well pleased. Although elderly, this extremely smart and intelligent man has the ears of the President.
If there is one personality members of the Federal Executive Council respect, fear and loathe all at the same time, it is Abba Kyari. If he says you will never get a one-on-one with Mr. President alone in his office, then forget it, because it will not happen. God help you if you step on his toes, if you do not make amends promptly, you can bet your days in office are numbered. This is the man believed to be behind the travails of the vice-president, Yemi Osinbajo. He is the last person that will want to see a Yoruba president, much less an Asiwaju presidency emerging in 2023.
Another strong man that could throw spanners in the works for Bola Tinubu come 2023 is the former Director-General of the Department of State Services, Lawal Daura. He was appointed by Buhari in July, 2015 before he was sacked by Osinbajo while President Buhari was on medical leave abroad. This man still has an axe to grind with Osinbajo and as far as he is concerned, Asiwaju and Osinbajo are one and the same. No doubt, truncating Asiwaju’s aspirations for 2023 will give him a huge sense of satisfaction. He is one of the reasons why the Chief of Staff has been making life unbearable for the vice president in Aso Rock.
If there is one man who will also fight tooth and nail to ensure Asiwaju does not become president come 2023, that man is former vice –president, Abubakar Atiku. Right from when he was vice-president under former president Olusegun Obasanjo, Atiku had always had the ambition to become president of Nigeria. In fact, many do not know that back in the days of SDP several years ago, Atiku had to step down for MKO Abiola to pick the party’s presidential ticket, that’s how long ago he has been nursing his aspiration to rule Nigeria.
So, expectedly, he can be said to be a man who is not happy about his unrealized ambition and it is only unnatural that he would even be unhappier that Asiwaju is aspiring to occupy the same office he denied him in 2019 when Asiwaju worked hard to ensure Buhari won the presidential elections. Although both Atiku and Asiwaju have maintained a cordial relationship thus far, having been members of same party years ago and even after the 2019 presidential elections, but it will be a different kettle of fish altogether in 2023 when Asiwaju steps out to contest for president. Atiku will see the opportunity as payback time for Asiwaju, except of course, if something really dramatic happens.
Kano Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje
Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is the current governor of Kano state. He previously served as deputy governor twice before he was elected governor in 2015. He is very close to Mr. President and wields enormous influence in the northern political set-up. His years as a two time vice-president and then governor of a state that produces largest number of registered voters in the north (around 6 million) makes him one of the most influential northern governors.
Ganduje is certainly one man that will be instrumental to Asiwaju’s aspirations. He maintains a strong hold over his people and they listen to him. Asiwaju will need a man like that to help him gather votes up north but it is highly unlikely that Ganduje will be excited at the prospect of helping Asiwaju become president of Nigeria. To start with, he is a conventional northerner, one of those who, sometimes openly places the north high above any other part of the country. Working with Asiwaju in 2023 to ensure power shifts back to the south-west might not be a realistic prospect.
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