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4 things that may happen as El-Rufai declares support for the south to take over from Buhari in 2023 (opinion)

Editor's Note: In this piece, Nurudeen Lawal, a digital journalist, writes on the political dynamics which could emanate from Governor Nasir El-Rufai's support for the south to produce President Muhammadu Buhari's successor in 2023.

Up until the early hours of Monday, February 24, many people had believed the speculation that the Kaduna state governor, Nasir El-Rufai, was interested in contesting the presidency in 2023.

If I could recollect accurately, the rumour started in September 2019 when Governor El-Rufai stated that presidential zoning should be abandoned for merit and competence.

The Kaduna governor's view was contained in the preface he wrote for a book written by Salihu Lukman, the Director-General of the Progressives Governors' Forum.

Since then, speculations have been rife that political stakeholders from the north were scheming to retain the presidency after President Muhammadu Buhari's exit in 2023. According to the speculations, Governor El-Rufai's statement was parts of the north's plot to retain the presidency; perhaps through his candidature.

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Governor El-Rufai was aggressively "attacked" by southern political leaders who believed his statement was parts of the north's plot to take over from Buhari.

Three key developments lent credence to the speculation: first, about the same time El-Rufai made the statement, the national president of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, Ahmed Yerima, also stated that the north should still replace Buhari in 2023; two, a former Kaduna senator, Shehu Sani, also "confirmed" at the time that some northern stakeholders were already scheming to ensure the presidency remains in the north in 2023; third, Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo's visit to El-Rufai in Kaduna in December 2019.

Presidency 2023: 4 things that may happen as El-Rufai declares support for the south (opinion)

Governor El-Rufai declares support for the south ahead of 2023. Photo credit: Presidency
Source: Facebook

Obasanjo's praise for the Kaduna state governor made many to speculate that he had backed El-Rufai's alleged 2023 presidential ambition; as against the southwest's Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is also allegedly interested in the presidency.

Many political pundits even speculated that the alleged presidential ambition of Tinubu and El-Rufai would tear the All Progressives Congress (APC) apart in 2023.

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However, Governor El-Rufai's unexpected "conditional" declaration of his support for the south to take over the presidency in 2023, has shattered all the political speculations and permutations.

According to Vanguard, Governor El-Rufai said there is no justification for the north to retain the presidential seat beyond 2023.

He noted Nigerians generally support the idea that the presidency should rotate evenly between the north and the south.

However, the Kaduna state governor mentioned that the APC does not have a constitutional provision for the rotational presidency, unlike the Peoples Democratic Party.

The Kaduna governor also insisted that he personally would prefer merit over zoning but maintained that the Northern APC should honour the unwritten agreement and allow a Southerner to take over from Buhari.

As expected, the position of the Kaduna state governor has changed the political permutations and dynamics.

I am of the opinion that four key developments will arise from Governor El-Rufai's support for the southern president in 2023.

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First, by declaring his support for the south, El-Rufai may have ruled himself out of the presidential race in 2023.

By so doing, he has indirectly made the chance brighter for the widely speculated Tinubu presidency.

Though Tinubu has not officially announced his interest in the presidency in 2023, many political pundits, including the supporters of the former Lagos state governor, believe he is strongly interested in the 2023 presidency.

If El-Rufai had also declared his interest in the presidency as earlier speculated, he would have constituted a great obstacle to the possibility of the Tinubu presidency, given his political influence, achievements as Kaduna governor, the possible support of the north, and key southern political leaders like Obasanjo.

But with his support for the southern presidency, the coast is getting clearer and the chances are getting brighter for Tinubu to take Nigeria's number one citizen in 2023.

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Please note that El-Rufai did not specify any zone in the south, as some bloggers erroneously reported that he declared support for the southeast.

Two, with his declaration of support for the southern presidency, and given his achievements and influence which I have earlier stated, El-Rufai may emerge a running mate to Tinubu or whoever eventually emerges as the presidential candidate of the APC in 2023.

Three, El-Rufai's declaration will not only distort the permutations in the APC camps, but it will also affect the strategies of the PDP.

At the moment, there are still agitations among the PDP stakeholders regarding which zone should produce the party's presidential candidate in 2023.

Without a doubt, the PDP stakeholders will have to reconsider their positions regarding the 2023 presidential ticket in the wake of El-Rufai's statement.

How the opposition party reacts to this will make or mar its aim of returning to power in 2023.

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Four, North/El-Rufai may still get the APC 2023 presidential ticket.

Going by the Vanguard's report, El-Rufai's support for the southern presidency is conditional.

The fact that he supports the south does not automatically mean that the northern APC will accept his stance. Thus, his position is still subject to the approval of the northern APC stakeholders.

They can either listen to El-Rufai and support the south or jettison his advice and insist on producing Buhari's replacement.

Also, the Kaduna State governor's statement in support of the southern presidency has a clause/condition.

He said the north should not replace Buhari again in 2023, "unless there is some extenuating circumstances".

In other words, though Governor El-Rufai supports the south, some "extenuating circumstances" may demand that the north retain the presidency. And if the north insists on retaining the presidency, El-Rufai still stands a great chance of emerging the APC presidential candidate, even though he personally supports the south.

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka
Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

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