As 2019 general election approaches, politicians and their supporters are gradually getting prepared for the campaigns.
Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has already released a tentative timetable for the highly awaited elections.
INEC time-table shows that party primaries and resolution of disputes arising from them will hold from August 18 to October 7 for national and state elections while that of the FCT area council is slated for between September 4 and October 27.
Campaigns by political parties are slated to commence from November 18 for presidential and National Assembly elections; December 1 for governorship and state assembly elections and December 2 for the FCT area council elections.
To this end, sources in the federal cabinet say President Muhammadu Buhari may soon ask ministers with ambition to seek elective offices to resign to enable them focus on their aspirations.
Among ministers who may leave the cabinet to seek governorship tickets in their states are Adebayo Shittu, Minister of Communication; Aisha Alhassan, Women Affairs; Kayode Fayemi, Solid Minerals Development; Suleiman Hassan, Minister of State, Power, Works and Housing and Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum.
Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, is nursing a governorship ambition.
ADEBAYO SHITTU- OYO
Mr. Shittu is probably the only cabinet member to make public his ambition to seek the governorship seat in his home Oyo State.
The minister said in an interview last year that he is best suited to be the successor to governor Abiola Ajimobi.
“Today, as Minister of Communication, nobody in Oyo State has the experience I have in utilising ICT to develop Oyo State economy to the extent that other countries are using the same ICT to develop their country. They know that with my level of exposure and godliness that I will not steal their money. If you have someone who is ungodly, he will simply steal your state blind.
“You need the best, compassionate manager, most honest, experienced, educated manager to run the state so that what comes to Oyo state from federation account and our local resources are put to the best use in the service of our people,” Shittu had said.
Shittu, however, faces a herculean task to secure APC ticket. The incumbent APC governor, Mr Abiola Ajimobi, and Shittu are political enemies. Their rivalry precedes the formation of APC. Although Ajimobi is rounding off his second term and is thus not eligible to seek re-election, he is believed to be vehemently opposed to Shittu’s candidacy and recently boycotted a presidential event hosted by the minister.
AISHA ALHASSAN – TARABA
Mrs. Alhassan, fondly called “Mama Taraba,” was the candidate of All Progressives Congress, APC, in Taraba State in 2019.
Initial results of the election then, particularly the way APC was winning states in the northern part of the country, indicated that the nation was about to get its first elected female governor.
That did not happen as she was eventually defeated by Mr Darius Ishaku of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Alhassan was made minister by President Muhammadu Buhari even when the governorship election tribunal for Taraba State on November 7, 2015 declared her governor-elect.
By the time she was being sworn in as Minister of Women Affairs by Mr. Buhari, she was considered Taraba governor subject to outcome of appeal filed by Ishaku. Buhari in fact referred to Mrs. Alhassan as “Her Excellency” when he mentioned her name, which elicited general laughter inside council chamber of the presidential villa.
As politicians gear up for 2019, Alhassan was seen in a video pledging her loyalty to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
She also told the Hausa service of BBC that even if Buhari eventually decides to run, she will tell him she had already made her choice.
The minister is still popular in Taraba and is considered APC leader in the state. Party elements in Taraba said that her structure remains strong and she is working behind the scenes to upstage PDP’s Ishaku in 2019.
KAYODE FAYEMI – EKITI
Mr. Fayemi served for one term as Ekiti State governor before he was defeated by Mr Ayo Fayose of PDP.
He is one person expected to leave Buhari’s cabinet early because the governorship election in Ekiti is holding this year.
As early as six months ago, his loyalists had already set up a campaign structure, JKF Movement, for his yet-to-be declared ambition to run for the 2018 governorship race.
Speaking after its inauguration in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, Chairman of JKF Movement, Mr Ade Kolade, explained that the main focus of the group was to champion Fayemi’s development vision and ideals and to create awareness that “the current stalemate in Ekiti’s development process can be reversed”.
Fayemi will, however, have to battle with another presidential aide, Mr Babafemi Ojudu, and other aspirants for APC ticket.
SULEIMAN HASSAN – GOMBE
Mr. Hassan was inaugurated into the federal cabinet at the end of July 2017 to replace Mrs Amina Mohammed from Gombe State who had left to take up the post of Deputy Secretary General of United Nations.
Hassan is a political ally of Buhari and was the pioneer chairman of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Buhari’s personally formed political party. CPC is one of the parties that dissolved to form APC.
Sources in Gombe said APC is currently factionalised along three major groups comprising elements from CPC, ANPP as well as those who defected from PDP before the 2015 election.
To this end, leaders of the three factions all have their “structures and loyalists” within the same party.
It is also said that CPC faction has a stronger structure compared to the rest because it consists of die-hard Buhari supporters. Hassan is also the undisputed leader of the group and has a powerful grip of APC in Gombe.
It was also gathered that the minister’s loyalists want him to run because the other faction led by former Governor Danjuma Goje produced the governorship candidate in 2015.
IBE KACHIKWU – DELTA
Although Mr. Kachikwu has strongly denied nursing any governorship ambition, it was gathered however that machinery is already in motion for his candidature in 2019.
When news first filtered in that Kachikwu was seeking to be next governor of Delta under APC, and his posters were seen all over the state as well as Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, tspokesperson of the petroleum Ministry, Mr Idang Alibi, issued a statement describing the rumoured candidacy as false.
However, a source closed to the minister said, “he just doesn’t want to be distracted from his current job, but I assure you that the Hon. Minister is under pressure to come to the rescue of Delta state.”
Kachikwu’s Delta State has been governed by PDP since 1999, and thus he would face a herculean task to defeat incumbent PDP governor should he finally make a decision.
MANSUR DAN-ALI – ZAMFARA
Three different sources revealed that Minister of Defence, Mr Mansur Dan-Ali, is also nursing the ambition of taking over from the current chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, Mr Abdulaziz Yari.
However, it was learnt that the retired army general is yet to get the needed support from both Yari and other political leaders in the state.
Yari is completing his second term and is thus ineligible to seek re-election in 2019.
A source close to the minister said that “as far as Zamfara is concerned, the minister is one of those eyeing the governorship.”