Donald Duke’s presence at Coaliton for Nigeria is at once exciting and confusing

Donning green caps and white shirts emblazoned with the map of Nigeria in cupped hands as its logo, members of the Coalition for Nigeria has kicked off offline activities with a launch event held at the Yar’adua Centre in Abuja on Wednesday.

In his sensational missive against the Buhari administration, Obasanjo had proposed the formation of a group composed of concerned citizens who would be in alliance to redirect the country from the drift towards anger, anguish and despair.

The event had, in attendance, former Governors under the Obasanjo presidency, Donald Duke of Cross River and Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun state. Mr Duke has a favourable reception by many as one of few politicians in the country retaining goodwill across party and regional lines. This is on the basis of his impressive 8-year stint at the Calabar government house, as well as for the appearance of not being desperate for political offices after the end of his tenure.

Former president Obasanjo said in that press statement that it was not his mission to support or provide a platform for any particular candidate for the coming 2019 elections. It was clear enough that he would not support Buhari, going by the definitive use of words in asking the president to go home and rest. However, the membership of the Coalition will raise eyebrows as to whether it would not end up serving as a take-off point for a campaign after all.

At the event, Duke said the group was not formed as a spoiler or to help anybody but is “directed more at the incumbent than any other political force in the country”. How does this compare with his previous statements on the political forces in the country?

Responding to questions at an event mid-2017 on why he had been away from actively seeking political positions, Mr Duke did say that he was only interested in running for the post of the presidency of Nigeria. At that event, he also expressed a strong desire for the National Assembly to amend the constitution to provide for Independent Candidacy to enable anyone run without being tied to the political parties. While the amendment has not yet been passed, the reliable and reasonable assumption over the past year has been that Duke would be in the mix as 2019 approaches.

At 37, Duke was one of the youngest governors in Nigeria when he was elected in 1999, reportedly against the wishes and machinations of the PDP kingmakers, particularly Chief Tony Anenih, at the time. This would be important to remember while considering the possibility of overcoming the obstacles to stand in any potential challenger to president Buhari, especially if such persons are non-northerners. He has the visage of the anti-establishment young Nigerian population and it would be naïve to put it past him to be taking the oath of office at noon May 29 next year.

That said, under what party would he be doing this? As it was clear from Obasanjo’s outline for the group, the APC and PDP are twin targets of the Coalition. Hence, if the group were to tacitly lean towards promoting any of its members as a candidate, it surely would not be for the support of either party. It could then imply that another one of the 68 registered political parties could become the ready-made material to inherit a potential golden candidate of Mr Duke’s calibre. This was the thought of the Raypower radio longtime political correspondent and analyst, Okhiria Agbonsuremi, while speaking on the daily programme Political platform.

It means we could see semblances of a bid amongst the other parties for whoever appears to be the favoured candidate of the Coalition. Would be interesting, wouldn’t it?

 

 

 

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