Paul Michael, Deputy Political Editor
The race to replace President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023 has started in earnest with a lot of intrigues, politicking, alignment and realignment as well as political maneuvering currently taking place.
While the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is still contemplating on either zoning its presidential ticket to the north as a political strategy to outwit the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) or zoning the same to the south for fairness and equity, the APC seems to have settled for the south for its presidential candidate ahead of 2023.
So far, different prominent leaders, as well as well-known politicians, have made known their interests to run for the president on the platform of the APC. Topping the list is the national leader of the party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu; former governor of Imo State and Senator representing Imo West Senatorial district, Rochas Okorocha; Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi; and Senate Chief Whip, Orji Uzor Kalu.
While the above mentioned political heavyweights have the clout, reach, political support base and experience to man the most coveted yet demanding office in the country, there is a general consensus that President Muhammadu
Buhari with his cult-like northern followership is a major factor in deciding the presidential flag-bearer of the APC. No wonder all the aspirants that have indicated interest to run for the presidency have gone to Aso Villa to formally inform the president and solicit his support.
It will be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, January 5 in an interview with Channels TV said he has a favourite successor in 2023, but he will keep the identity of the person secret. He stressed that if the person is not kept in secret, he could be eliminated.
Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, though has not expressed interest in the 2023 presidential race, many followers of Buhari have started awareness campaigns and political meetings on his behalf. Many believe that a loyal Vice President like Yemi Osinbajo will most likely be the “anointed successor.” No move, however, has been made by the president to give credence to those projecting Osinbajo.
A source who spoke with The Trumpet on condition of anonymity said, “Osinbajo is a presidential material; he has the temperament, intelligence, capacity and a believer of one Nigeria. But it seems the kingmakers in the north are not with him. And you know it is extremely difficult to be president without the support of the north.”
As the search for the “anointed candidate” continues, Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who has been calm for a while has suddenly become the talk of the town following his turban by the Daura Emirate Council as the “Dan Amana Daura” (Trusted one of Daura).
The conferment of such a sacred title on Amaechi by the traditional custodians of the Buhari ancestral home has triggered a lot of reactions with many attaching a political colouration to the title. More so, the congratulatory message of President Buhari has revealed that there is more to the chieftaincy title.
Presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, said in a statement that “President Buhari described the conferment of the title of ‘Dan Amana,’ (the trusted one) to Amaechi as a clear commitment to the harmonious relationship between the nation’s diverse cultures.
“He commended the Minister ‘for working with enormous energy to make the CHANGE we promised Nigerians a reality,’ noting that “the change we are witnessing in the transport sector is an extraordinary legacy.”
There is no gainsaying that this presidential statement at a time many supporters are expecting a sign from Buhari couple with the carefully selected title of “Dan Amana” by Buhari’s Daura kinsmen is enough body language for many ahead of 2023.
Though Amaechi is yet to declare his interest for the presidency in 2023, this event has triggered a campaign tagged #AbegCallAmaechi2023 with different prominent Nigerians placing a call on Amaechi to run for Nigeria’s President.
Why will Amaechi be crested as “the trusted one” by the north in such a critical time in the history of Nigeria when majority of northerners, especially members of the APC are looking at the south for the successor of President Buhari.
Prior to the 2015 general elections, Rotimi Amaechi, who was then a PDP member and Governor of Rivers State, was the major access through which the north that wanted to cease power from Dr. Goodluck Jonathan gained in-road to the Niger Delta and South-South region.
Amaechi was not just having a running battle with then-President Goodluck Jonathan, he led a substantial number of PDP Governors and prominent leaders into the APC and also headed the APC Presidential Campaign council as Director-General on a radical campaign against PDP and Jonathan, a southern Presidential Candidate for the enthronement of Buhari, a core northerner.
Since then, Amaechi has been in the good books of President Muhammadu Buhari and he has been his most trusted ally in the South-South region. Outside calling the shots in the south-south region in the Buhari administration, Amaechi became the Minister of Transportation; one of the very few Ministers that have a free hand to run their portfolios.
As a Minister of Transportation, Amaechi has continued to build on the existing trust he shares with President Buhari and the north; he took the University of Transportation to Daura, a Federal Polytechnic to Daura, and a Kano-Maradi railway project that cut across Katsina State.
The university which is taunted as first in Africa will, among other things, assist to build the capacity of Nigerian professionals, technicians and human resources in the transportation sector and also to fast-track technology transfer and Nigerian content in contracts, science, engineering and technology.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the project was performed by President Muhammadu on December 2, 2019 and according to the minister, the N18billion (US$50million) university was gotten free of charge by the Chinese government as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility.
Another plus for the minister is how he is connecting the North through rail. Already, Portuguese construction company, Mota-Engil has started working on the $1.8bn railway track that will link Nigeria and Niger in West Africa.
The kick starts the project; a ground-breaking ceremony was held at the site of a proposed station in Makira in Katsina State. When completed, construction of the 284 kilometers Nigeria-Maradi Standard Gauge Rail line will enable interconnectivity with countries in the West African sub-region for the promotion of trade and commerce.
How else does someone earn the trust of a people that when the most powerful seat in the country is handed over to him he will not betray the trust but serve without religious or regional inclinations?
The turban of Rotimi Amaechi as “the trusted one of Daura” by the Daura Emirate Council, indeed, has a lot to say as well head to 2023.