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Team Buhari: choosing who to lead Nigeria

By Tolu Ogunlesi in Lagos
Posted on Monday, 1 June 2015 10:46

The APC has proved this, and the poaching of disgruntled former PDP members has made victory emphatic. Now, an executive team has to be formed from these groups.

The ACN bloc

Led by Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) was one of the principal partners in the 2013 merger that created the All Progressives Congress (APC). Tinubu, ACN Governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007, is an assured dealmaker and political mobiliser with a remarkable eye for spotting and deploying talent.

Yemi Osinbajo, vice-president, served as his attorney general in Lagos State, while Tunde Fashola worked as his chief of staff before going on to succeed him as governor of Lagos in 2007. Tinubu defied great opposition within the party to handpick Fashola as his successor.

With Tinubu’s support, reformers like Kayode Fayemi (pro-democracy activist), and Adams Oshiomhole (a former president of the Nigeria Labour Congress) be- came state governors on the platform of the ACN, the party’s expanding influence coming not just through direct electoral wins but also through hard-won court battles. Today, Fashola and Fayemi are key Buhari loy- alists, respectively heading the fundraising and policy teams of his campaign.

Ibikunle Amosun, the governor of Ogun State in south-west Nigeria, has been described by Nigeria’s ThisDay newspaper as “perhaps the closest of Buhari’s south-west allies.” Between 2003 and 2007 he occupied a Senate seat as a member of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the same party on whose ticket Buhari ran for president in 2003 and 2007.

Olorunnimbe Mamora, deputy director, operations of the Buhari presidential campaign, is a medical doctor who served two terms as speaker of the Lagos State parliament while Tinubu was governor.

The most prominent female faces in the ACN bloc include Abike Dabiri, a member of the House of Rep- resentatives, and Remi Tinubu, Tinubu’s wife, who is currently a senator representing Lagos State.

The ‘New PDP’

The PDP was regularly saddled with members who felt left out in the scramble for patronage. During the tenure of Bamanga Tukur as party chairman, things got out of control. It led to the unprecedented defection to the APC of several influential members who had by that time formed a faction within the party and proclaimed themselves the ‘New PDP.’

This group included former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, former party secretary Abubakar Kawu Baraje, five state governors and several members of the upper and lower chambers of the federal parliament.

Allowing the governors of Nigeria’s second and third most populous states (Kano and Rivers) to leave the party was a bad mistake; with their move to the opposition it was no longer possible to regard the APC as a middling political party.

Among the ‘new PDP’ men, Rotimi Amaechi (governor of Rivers State), Rabiu Musa Kwankwanso (governor of Kano State) and Bukola Saraki (former governor of the northern state of Kwara, and currently a senator), stand out. Amaechi bagged the position of campaign director general. Saraki, firmly in control of the politics in his state (his hand-picked successor as governor followed him to the APC, as did the state’s law- makers), is now in the running for the office of Senate president.

Buhari loyalists

Organised as The Buhari Organisation (TBO), these are Buhari’s closest associates, who have supported his presidential ambitions ever since he joined partisan politics at the turn of the century.

They operated as a powerful bloc within the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), on whose platform Buhari ran in 2003 and 2007, and formed the core of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which he broke away from the ANPP to found in 2010, and on whose platform he ran in 2011.

Within the APC they have enjoyed less prominence than the other coalition partners, but are likely to make a comeback when Buhari forms his government.

Prominent names here include Sule Hamma, director general of the Buhari presidential campaign in 2003, 2007 and 2011; Buba Galadima, national campaign secretary of TBO then national secretary of CPC; Tony Momoh, a prominent member of every party Buhari has been involved in since 2003, emerging, in 2010, chairman of CPC; Sarki Abba, Buhari’s personal assistant; Ogbonnaya Onu, possibly his closest aide; and Hamid Ali, a former military governor of Kaduna State, and Buhari’s longtime chief of staff.

Galadima has openly fallen out with General Buhari in recent years, but is reportedly on his way back to the fold.

The thinkers

These are individuals who have mostly stayed away from the political spotlight while contributing intellectual and reputational capital to the Buhari campaign. Perhaps first on the list, Lamido Sanusi, former governor of the central bank and Emir of Kano, has long been a fan of General Buhari, and a defender of ‘Buharism,’ the economic philosophy of his military government. Sanusi will be an important ally in the fight against Boko Haram, and in the rollout of a Marshall Plan for northern Nigeria.

Hadiza Bala-Usman, 39, comes with an impressive pedigree; her father is a renowned historian and pan-Africanist who taught for many years at the Ahmadu Bello University in northern Nigeria. In her own right she has come to prominence in the past year as one of the founders of the Bring Back Our Girls movement, a group of activists who have pressured the Nigerian government regarding the still-missing Chibok schoolgirls.

The trio of Pat Utomi, Ayo Teriba and Doyin Salami, all highly respec- ted Lagos-based economists, have played important behind-the-scenes roles in formulating and shaping policy for the Buhari campaign.

Ifueko Omoigui Okauru is an accountant who came to national prominence for her work reforming Nigeria’s inland revenue service in the two terms she served as its first female executive chairman, between 2004 and 2012. Together with the economists she has advised Buhari on policy matters, and is being touted as a possible member of his cabinet.

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