Senate President Bukola Saraki has confirmed he has been consulting and he is considering running against President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 2019 election.
He made the confirmation in a wide-ranging interview with Bloomberg in Abuja.
Saraki who had evaded the question on his interest in the country’s number one position at a press conference last week, was more forthcoming in the interview:
“I am consulting and actively considering it,” Saraki, 56, said in the interview held at his residence in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
“I believe I can make the change,” he added.
Since last week, the Senate President had visited two former Nigerian leaders, General Ibrahim Babangida and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo at their hilltop homes in Minna and Abeokuta. But he had been coy about his missions to the homes of the two former leaders, who are also opposed to President Muhammadu Buhari and had issued statements, asking him not to run next year.
After meeting Babangida, Saraki tweeted that he only “dropped in” to pay his respects to “General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Always happy to be with a father and leader”. In Abeokuta, he said he came to have a look at the monumental Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, which was formally opened in April 2017, the event which he said, he missed.
Saraki who switched from the ruling All Progressives Congress to his old party, the Peoples Democratic Party along with a dozen renegade senators in July, will need to secure the PDP nomination. And he has at least six aspirants to contend with.
Among them are Atiku Abubakar, a former vice-president, who quit the ruling party much earlier to the PDP; Ibrahim Dankwambo, governor of Gombe State, Ahmad Makarfi, a former senator and former governor of Kaduna State. There are also Sule Lamido, a former governor of Jigawa State; Aminu Tambuwal, governor of Sokoto state, who is yet to make a formal declaration of intent and Attahiru Bafarawa, also former governor of Sokoto state.
The party’s primary election is due between 5 October and 6 October. Political pundits are predicting a bruising contest among the aspirants.
Saraki had been at odds with Buhari and the APC leaders, since he emerged as senate president in June 2015. He got the post by playing out many members of his party who were gathered elsewhere for a meeting with Buhari. He struck an alliance with the PDP to claim the position. In return, he traded the senate vice-presidency to the opposition senator, Ike Ekweremadu.
Saraki claimed in the interview with Bloomberg that investors and citizens have lost confidence in President Buhari. The latter claim has been punctured by the wave of victories recorded by the APC in governorship and senatorial bye elections in recent times.
Pundits also believed that investors could not have lost confidence in Buhari’s administration, if it was able to raise record amounts of money in oversubscribed Eurobond sales and it is attracting foreign loans to rebuild rail, ports and power infrastructure, which the PDP abandoned in 16 years of running the country.
The Senate president in the interview said the blockade of the National Assembly gates by hooded DSS operatives on August 7, was contrived by the executive to impeach him, despite the prompt denial by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, the APC and and the sacking of DSS boss, Lawal Daura.
“If a government can go and lock up an arm of government — and it’s never happened in our history — we should all be very concerned,” Saraki said.
“We should not be surprised that they would use security agencies for elections.”
Saraki, who is now the national leader of the PDP, believes the party has learnt its lesson from the loss in 2015. And conversely, he thinks the APC has not learnt from its victory.
“While negotiating with the PDP “we listed a number of issues. We talked about how to sustain and improve the fight against corruption; the issue of providing more powers to the states; inclusion and having a more nationalistic approach on things we do; to continue to improve the environment that will ensure investments. We listed a number of items during the discussions with the PDP, and there is a written agreement to that. We trust that we can hold them to that.
“We would ensure that the party is strong on security. The APC too have not done well on the issue of security. We have the opportunity with the right kind of presidential candidate and president to provide the leadership for the party. The party has a good opportunity to lead the country in the right direction.”