Is Nasir el-Rufai planning to run in 2027? 

Nigeria

Published on Monday 8 April 2024 Back to articles

Kaduna State’s 2015-2023 governor, Nasir el-Rufai

The apparent fallout between Kaduna State’s 2015-2023 governor, Nasir el-Rufai, and President Bola Tinubu and his subsequent romance with the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) is raising speculation that el-Rufai he may be nursing presidential ambitions for 2027. He had been one of Tinubu’s strongest supporters in 2023 elections and led the group of governors who demanded that someone from the South should succeed President Muhammadu Buhari when his eight years in office ended. He also backed Tinubu last year because of the latter’s strong backing for Buhari in 2015. 

The expectation therefore was that el-Rufai would be rewarded with a political post once Tinubu became president. He was eventually nominated for a cabinet post with speculation that he was going to become the Minister of Power and have the gas portfolio added to his ministry. Despite this, some key players in Tinubu’s Presidency reportedly worked with the National Security Adviser (NSA), Nuhu Ribadu, to ensure that el-Rufai was not appointed by engineering a damning petition against him.

Senators refused to confirm his nomination because of the security report which was never made public. El-Rufai was reportedly angry that Tinubu did not support him and allowed the senators to embarrass him. He now appears to be making new political alliances which has raised speculation that he could be planning to run for the presidency in 2027 in a new party or back another candidate against Tinubu’s bid for a second term. 

Speculation about the reason for el-Rufai’s 20 March visit to the SDP headquarters has not diminished despite his subsequent denials that the visit was not political. On 7 April the SDP’s chairman Shehu Musa Gabam, said that the visit had no political undertones. He admitted, however, that the party was in discussion with prominent but unnamed Nigerian politicians ahead of the 2027 elections. 

However, a 22 March tweet by Daniel Bwala — a former People’s Democratic Party (PDP) spokesman of Atiku Abubakar’s 2023 presidential campaign — further elevated the speculation around el-Rufai’s visit to the SDP headquarters. Bwala, who is now a staunch supporter of President Tinubu, claimed that the Labour Party’s 2023 presidential candidate, Peter Obi, plans to desert the party and join the SDP. He and el-Rufai would then run on a joint SDP ticket as its, respective, president and vice-president candidates. 

Obi has recently threatened to leave the Labour Party which has been bogged down by its internal crises. Neither he or el-Rufai has commented on Bwala’s allegation even though it is most unlikely that they would run on a single ticket, and especially with Obi as the lead candidate. El-Rufai is known for his extremist views on Islam and is therefore unlikely to run on a ticket led by a Christian. Besides which, he has not indicated that he has any plans to leave the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). 

El-Rufai has never hidden his presidential ambitions but he is unlikely to run in 2027. The expectation is that he will throw his weight behind Tinubu again, hoping that the latter will either support him or at least create a level playing field for all those who want to succeed him. El-Rufai is politically savvy enough to know that Tinubu is likely to be undefeatable in 2027 and will therefore wait until the 2031 presidential elections when Tinubu will have to leave office. 

The speculation about him joining SDP is likely to be inaccurate. He knows that his best chance is to remain in the ruling APC which will almost certainly beat an opposition party which lacks much of a following and has little political clout. 

This excerpt is taken from our Nigeria Politics & Security weekly intelligence report. Click here to receive a free sample copy. Contact info@menas.co.uk for subscription details.

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