•Say they are too silent to be trusted
There is disquiet in All Progressives Congress (APC) and the camp of President Muhammadu Buhari over the disposition of some stalwarts of the party to the fortune of the party ahead of next year’s polls.
Senate President Bukola Saraki; House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara;Sokoto State Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal; ex-Governor Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso; ex-Governor Aliyu Wammako; ex-Governor Danjuma Goje; ex-Governor Ahmed Sani Yerima and some APC governors are among such party chieftains.
Some of them dumped then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to be part of the coalition which led to the birth of APC.
Authoritative party sources said last night that none of the leaders has made any commitment to a possible second term ticket for Mr Buhari because they are weighing their own options on the way forward.
A few of them have a strong political relationship with ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo, who wrote a toxic letter to the President last week.
Obasanjo, in the letter, asked Buhari to jettison any plan to seek reelection next year and pay attention to his health.
He called for the formation of what he called a Third Force to wrestle power from APC and stop opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from returning to power.
Prominent politicians across party divide are said to be already lining up to join the “Third Force.”
Investigation by our correspondent indicated that the Presidency is worried by what sources termed the “silence and cold attitude” of these leaders to Buhari’s second term bid.
Although some of the leaders believe it is too early now to start politicking, some APC leaders and Buhari’s strategists are suspicious of such position.
The closeness of some of them to Mr Obasanjo has compounded the fears of those in Buhari’s camp.
It was learnt that a few of them, including some APC Senators and members of House of Representatives, have practically abandoned the party.
It was gathered that a minister recently met one of the leaders on the second term bid of the President but the highly-placed match-maker allegedly said: “It is the President who should tell me, not you.”
According to findings, the development accounted for the series of dinners being organised by the President to interact with these leaders to gauge their mood and indirectly seek their support.
The President has already dined with Senators and members of House of Representatives.
The last dinner he had was with a group comprising ex-Senate President Ken Nnamani, ex-Governor Orji UzorKalu, ex-National Chairman of PDP, Abubakar Kawu Baraje, and others.
A top source in Buhari’s camp said: “Most of these top leaders have not been forthcoming on the second term aspiration of Buhari.
“Some of these leaders are too silent to trust. Look, loyalists of Buhari are also not taking things for granted at all.
“Virtually every day, consultations and negotiation are going on with leaders, political groups across the six geopolitical zones.
“While some are weighing options, we are also suspecting that some of them are behind Coalition for Nigeria (CN) campaign by Obasanjo because they don’t want to come out; they don’t want a direct confrontation with Buhari.
“We are however giving some of them benefit of the doubt because the political climate might be unpredictable in their states and they may have no option than to remain in APC with Buhari.”
But a source, who had attended some dinners with Buhari, said: “I think the President is also watching his steps because he has not come out categorically that he is interested in a second term.
“For instance, at the last dinner with ex-Governor Kalu and others, he only ate with us. In spite of the fact that ex-Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso was at the session, Buhari did not tell us he would seek a second term ticket.
“He gave us so much to eat and did the talking alone. The President’s handlers did not allow him to have any feedback from us.
“Such a dinner would have been a golden opportunity to speak our minds and forge a new rapprochement. It is not sufficient to say at a dinner that you have not forgotten some party leaders without telling us what you are driving at.
“In fairness, I do not see these leaders as mind readers. The President will now need to do more to consult individually and in group on his re-election ambition.”
A source in Tambuwal camp, who spoke in confidence, said: “You should know better that the governor does not pretend.
“When he was Speaker of House of Representatives, it was obvious to all Nigerians that his heart was with APC. I can tell you that by now, if he has alternative plan, you would have known.
“I think some leaders in the party are suspicious of Tambuwal because he has refused to commit himself to the seven governors spearheading the second term aspiration of the President. Oga has repeatedly told them that the mood of this country is not for politics now. He has always said during politics, we will play politics.
“But some of these governors are in the forefront of second term agitation because their political fate is tied to Buhari because they have not performed in office.”
A source in Saraki’s camp said: “The President of the Senate has cooperated with this government and he is focusing on governance. The truth is that as a politician, he prefers tactical maneuvering to doing the talking. And do not forget that his office is too strategic to be politically flippant.
“I know we are already using an airline (APC) but we don’t know yet if we will stick to the airline or book another flight. One thing is sure; we will get a boarding pass at the end of the day. We are watching the lips of our leader although our dilemma is that it is difficult to read his body language on this type of issue.
“You cannot rule out consultations and weighing of options by Saraki and others.”
A close strategist of Kwankwaso said: “If the President is seeking re-election on the platform of APC, you should not expect that Kwankwaso with presidential aspiration to remain in the same party.
“But if Buhari is not contesting, Kwankwaso will remain in APC. This is a straightforward matter and it is discernible.”
Asked of the next move, the source added: “Once Buhari declares interest in running for second term, Kwankwaso may join a stronger party after weighing options and consulting widely.”
A source in Dogara’s camp said: “I have not really discussed the issue with him. I will find out and get back to you.”
Another source said: “Those leaders from the North are keeping their game plan to their chest because of the consequences of early opposition to Buhari’s second term ambition by some of his blind loyalists who can start hurling missiles at every occasion.
“Some of those in this group include a few Northern governors who are not keen on Buhari project.”