2023 Presidency: Candidates draw battle line

Atiku, Tinubu, Obi, Kwankwaso emerge 2023 presidency frontrunners


The stage is set for an interesting contest for Nigeria’s number one position in the forthcoming general election as the various political parties have elected their respective candidates for the presidential poll. FELIX NWANERI reports


The battle line for the 2023 presidency has been drawn as the 18 registered political parties in the country have conducted primary elections to elect their respective candidates for the presidential election.


Among those who would be flying the flags of their respective parties in the presidential poll scheduled for February 25, 2023, include former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (Peoples Democratic Party – PDP), Bola Tinubu (All Progressives Congress – APC), Rabiu Kwankwaso (New Nigeria Peoples Party – NNPP), Peter Obi (Labour Party – LP), Malik Ado- Ibrahim (Young Peoples Party – YPP) and Omoyele Sowore (Africa Action Congress – AAC).


Others are Adewole Adebayo (Social Democratic Party – SDP), Kola Abiola (Peoples Redemption Party – PRP), Hamza Al- Mustapha (Action Alliance – AA), Christopher Imumolen (Accord Party – AP), Dumebi Kachikwu (African Democratic Congress – ADC), Yusuf Mamman Dan Talle (Allied Peoples Movement – APM), Peter Umeadi (All Progressive Grand Alliance – APGA), Okwudili Nwa-Anyajike (National Rescue Movement – NRM).


The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had set a June 9 deadline for completion of the presidential primary elections for the parties.


The commission, equally on Friday, announced June 17 deadline for presidential candidates to name their running mates. INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who disclosed this at the commission’s meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) last Thursday in Abuja, said the nomination of candidates commenced on June 10 (Friday).


His words: “For the next one week from tomorrow (June 10), all political parties are required to submit their list of candidates for national elections (presidential/vice presidential, senatorial and House of Representatives) latest by Friday, June 17.


“For state elections (governorship/ deputy governorship and state Houses of Assembly), the list of candidates shall be uploaded from July 1 to July 15, as already provided in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Election already released by the commission. “All political parties are required to upload the details of their candidates for each constituency to the INEC Candidate Nomination Portal (ICNP).”


Yakubu added that to achieve the  objective, four officials recommended by each of the 18 political parties were trained on the procedure for uploading the nomination forms to the dedicated web portal.


According to him, the Confidential Access Codes to the portal had already been given to each political party to facilitate the uploading of its nominations.


“For emphasis, the commission wishes to remind political parties that only the names of candidates that emerged from democratic primaries as provided by Section 84 of the Electoral Act 2022 shall be submitted to the commission.


“Similarly, the list of all presidential and governorship candidates must be accompanied by the names of their running mates (i.e. vice presidential and deputy governorship candidates) without which the nomination is invalid.


“All nominations must be uploaded to the portal on or before the deadlines. The portal will automatically shut down at 6.pm on Friday (June 17) for    national elections and 6.pm on Friday (July 15) for state elections. “With this innovation, the commission has eliminated the physical interface between party officials and INEC staff for the purpose of submitting the list of candidates for the 2023 general election,” the INEC chairman explained. While Prof. Yakubu advised political parties not to wait till the last day before commencing their uploading of their nominations into the commission’s dedicated portal as the deadline remained sacrosanct, none of the parties is yet to submit their candidates for the presidential election. To some analysts, reason for this development is not farfetched given that most of the presidential candidates, especially those of the leading parties, are still consulting on the choice of running mates. Among those at the crossroads over this are Atiku of PDP, Tinubu of APC, Obi of LP and Kwankwaso of NNPP.


The quartet have been described as the major contenders for the highest office of the land.


Atiku: Another date with history

The former vice president has never pretended about occupying the country’s number one position. He first took a shot at the presidency in 1993 and placed third after Chief Moshood Abiola and Babagana Kingibe in the Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential primary.


In 1998, he was elected governor of Adamawa State, but he was selected before his inauguration by the PDP presidential candidate, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as his running mate for the February 1999. They went on to win the election and Atiku was inaugurated as vice president on May 29, 1999.


After his first term as vice president, some governors elected on the platform of the then ruling party plotted to deny Obasanjo a second term. The plan was to hand Atiku the party’s presidential ticket in that year’s general elections, but he opted for a joint a ticket with his principal and both won the election.


However, the botched plot pitched him against Obasanjo and the cold war that ensued after their inauguration, degenerated to a bitter political battle by 2006, when Atiku declared his ambition to succeed Obasanjo.


Obasanjo’s insistence that Atiku will not succeed him forced the then vice president to leave the PDP for the defunct Action Congress (AC), which handed him its presidential ticket. The election was won by Umaru Yar’Adua (PDP). Atiku rejected the result and called for its cancellation. He, however, returned to the PDP in 2009. While his return was initially resisted by his state chapter of the PDP, he was granted a waiver by the party’s national leadership.

That   paved the way for him to contest the 2011 PDP presidential primaries. Atiku was selected by the Northern Elders Political Leaders Forum (NPEF) led by former Minister of Finance, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, as the region’s consensus candidate, but was floored at PDP’s presidential primary by then Acting President Jonathan, who went ahead to win the election.


The 2011 defeat did not deter Atiku as he surfaced again in 2014 for the 2015 presidency. He had before then made good his threat of dumping the PDP should the party’s leadership fail to return it to the vision of its founding fathers with his defection to the then opposition APC. Many had believed that he would be the candidate to beat in the APC presidential primaries given his financial strength and political structure, but he lost the ticket to Buhari.


With the 2015 presidential election won and lost, the former vice president returned to his chain of businesses, but a rumoured 2019 ambition emanated late 2015. It was alleged then that Atiku hosted political meetings in Dubai Dubai, United Arab Emirates, apparently to revive his political machinery ahead of the 2019 presidential election, but the former vice president described the rumour as the handiwork of political mischief makers, who want to draw a wedge between him and President Buhari.


Besides denying the 2019 presidential bid, Atiku added that the success of the Buhari administration has been his preoccupation, and that any true APC member should have the same zeal. But, denial being another name for politics, it was not long before the picture became clear that the former vice president will take another shot at the presidency.


However, there was a roadblock to this quest – Buhari’s second term bid. This seeming barrier apparently forced Atiku to resign from the APC on November 24, 2017. He hinged his decision on the party’s failure to deliver on its promises to Nigerians, who, according to him, have long been desperate for improved economic interventions. While the former vice president promised then to take time to ponder about his next political move, it was obvious that he would be returning to his former party. This belief manifested on December 3, 3027, when he formally returned to the PDP.


This set the stage for him to join the 2019 presidential race. As expected, Atiku defeated 11 other aspirants at the PDP’s national convention held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on December 7, 2018.


He polled 1,532 votes to beat his closest rival, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State, who scored 693 votes, while then Senate President, Bukola Saraki, placed third with 317 votes. Atiku’s emergence as the presidential candidate of the PDP drew the battle line for the 2019 presidency between him and President Muhammadu Buhari but the former vice president lost the February 27, 2019 election to the incumbent.


Atiku challenged the outcome of the election but the Supreme Court dashed his hope of upturning the table against Buhari. However, the loss in 2019 did not deter Atiku in his bid to lead Africa’s most populous nation. The former vicepresident has emerged the candidate of the PDP for the 2023 presidential election.


He polled 371 votes to defeat his closest rival, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who had 237 votes in the party’s presidential primary held on May 28. The 76-year-old former vicepresident, in his acceptance speech as PDP’s presidential standard bearer pledged to unite Nigerian if elected as the next president by forming an inclusive government. He also promised to tackle rising insecurity as well as to revamp the economy.


“Today, marks another milestone in the process to consolidate our democratic gains. You will recall on the 31 of March this year, when I stood before you and declared my interest to run for the office of president, in that statement I made a commitment to fight one issue, a pledge to unify this country. “That was why I referred to myself as the unifier. The reason why I feel that unity is very important for us is that the APC has disunited Nigeria completely between North and South, East and West, Muslims and Christians.


I pledge to work with a sense of unity and sense of belonging with all Nigerians irrespective of their area of origin. I also pledge to face the challenges to unify this county. “I also pledge to change the economy which was all caused the by APC government. The PDP government created one of the best economies in the country but the APC came and it went bad.”


Tinubu: The kingmaker wants to be king


The APC National Leader is one politician many have come to love or hate. Blessed with uncanny ability to identify political as well as electoral assets, there is no doubt that the former governor of Lagos State (1999-2007) played a major role in the emergence of Buhari as president in 2015.


Tinubu’s support for Buhari stemmed from APC’s national convention in Lagos, where he mobilised governors of the party then and other stakeholders to ensure that the former head of state was not muscled out by other presidential aspirants with huge financial war chests.


This explained why Buhari defeated four other aspirants – Atiku, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Rochas Okorocha and the publisher of Leadership Newspapers, Sam Nda-Isaiah (now late), to clinch the APC ticket. Buhari polled 4,430 votes to beat Kwankwaso to the second position with 974 votes. Shockingly, Atiku, who many had thought would give Buhari a good fight, was a distant third with 954 votes. Okorocha came fourth with 624 votes, while Nda-Isaiah had 10 votes.


To further push the Buhari candidacy, Tinubu jettisoned his purported vice presidential ambition  after consultations with party chieftains on the effect of a Muslim/ Muslim ticket on APC’s chance at the poll. That paved the way for the choice of a former Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as Buhari’s running mate but not without Tinubu’s endorsement. To many, Tinubu was not only the reason for the inroad Buhari made into the South-West in the 2015 presidential poll but the support he enjoyed from the zone afterwards.


It was against this backdrop that many were shocked, when the APC national leader reportedly declared in February 2017 that he would run for the presidency in 2019, even when it was clear that Buhari would run for a second term. Tinubu, who then spoke during the inauguration of Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu as governor of Ondo State for his first term in office, said he will not rule out the possibility of running for the office of president, but emphasised that it will only happen if there is a vacancy in the presidency.



His words: “You see there is nothing wrong with such ambition. It depends on the timing and the environment and what political leadership dictates. I will not brush aside such an aspiration. It has been historical even that Buhari tried first, second, third, and fourth before he got it.” Tinubu further said that there was no way he will reject an opportunity to serve the country.


“How can I rule such a thing out, the opportunity to serve my country? But you only do  that when there is a vacancy.” Expectedly, meanings were read into his statement at that time.


While some insinuated that he had already set machinery in motion to vie for the country’s top job in 2019, the former Lagos State governor came out to debunk the claim, saying he would rather support President Buhari. He maintained that those who misconstrued his comment to mean that he would contest the 2019 presidential election were out to pitch him against President Buhari.


Despite his explanation, some analysts said Tinubu sold a dummy to test the political waters given his ability to read situations and know when to throw his hat to the ring.



According to them, with Buhari serving out his second term in 2023, the coast would be clear for the man most of his admirers refer to as Jagaban to actualize his dream. And it was shortly after Buhari’s inauguration for a second term in office that some groups sprung up, urging the former governor of Lagos State to run for the 2023 presidency.


This was followed by pockets of endorsements from different quarters. Some of the groups even went to the extent of printing campaign materials in Tinubu’s name to show how serious they are. But Tinubu, in denouncing the groups, said he did not authorise such. The disclaimer, notwithstanding, Tinubu’s 2023 bid gained momentum, when a political pressure group known as South-West Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA), emerged on the scene.


The group, led by a former Minister of State for Works, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, said it was pushing for the candidacy of Tinubu for the 2023 presidential election because he has the political will and experience to turn the country’s fortune around. Tinubu confirmed Adeyeye’s assumption that he will not back out of the 2023 presidential race, when he told Nigerians on January 10 that he has informed President Buhari of his intention to contest the election.


The APC national leader, who briefed State House correspondents after he met with Buhari at the Aso Villa in Abuja, said he has the confidence, vision, and capacity to build on the foundation laid by Buhari to turn around the fortunes of the country. His dream of flying the flag of the ruling party in the forthcoming presidential election materialized on June 8, when he defeated 13 other  aspirants in a keenly contested primary election.


The former governor of Lagos State, polled 1,271 votes to defeat his closest rival, a former governor of Rivers State and immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, with a wide margin. Amaechi had 316 votes, a difference of 955 votes. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo placed a distant third with 235 votes, while the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan polled 152 votes to take the fourth position.


Tinubu, who marked 70th birthday in March, in his acceptance speech, not only stressed that the ensuing contest between the APC and PDP will be one of competing visions, but maintained that the ruling party must defeat the opposition’s reactionary ideals. “The competition is now over. Those who did not support me, you have nothing to fear. I hold no grudges or grievances. Let us each agree to join hands in defeating the PDP and beating back our common foes of poverty, terror and violence.


We now have a date with destiny in February 2023. Let us win, so that Nigeria can become the nation it is intended to be,” he said. He acknowledged that the country faces serious problems at the moment, but said that he believes that Nigerians have it within them to reach their finest destiny. “With help from God, we shall make this nation better for the generations to come,” he said.


He added: “President Muhamamdu Buhari has already laid a solid foundation in security, economy, and anticorruption. We will build upon this for the salvation of our people.” He promised economic reforms to tackle poverty; provision of meaningful education and jobs for the youth; new opportunities in the FINTECH sector, the creative and entertainment industries, digital skills and other areas. He also charged Nigerians on the need to muster collective strength to conquer terrorism, kidnapping, and violent evil of any form.


According to him, “our better, more progressive vision of Nigeria shall secure a better society for all Nigerians. May this be our task arising from this convention. Let nothing stand in the way of our achieving a more just society and a greater Nigeria.”


Kwankwaso: Aiming to upset the apple cart


Kwankwaso, who leads the popular Kwankwasiya Movement, a political pressure group, will fly the flag of the NNPP in the 2023 presidential poll. The former governor of Kano State, who was the sole presidential aspirant of the party, was elected through a voice vote. He is hopeful of stopping the candidates of the two leading political parties- APC and PDP.


This is the first time Kwankwaso will be on the ballot for a presidential election but he has made attempts in the past for the office of the president. He contested the APC presidential primary election in 2014 as well as that of the PDP in 2018 but failed to pick the tickets of the respective parties for the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections.


A consummate politician, 65-yearold Kwankwaso represented Madobi Federal Constituency of Kano State in the House of Representatives and served as deputy speaker during the aborted Third Republic. He was governor of Kano State for eight years (1999-2003 and 2011-2015) in the current Fourth Republic.


He was first elected in 1999 on the platform of the PDP, but lost re-election bid in 2003 to Ibrahim Shekarau of the then All Peoples Party (APP). He was, however, in July of the same year appointed as Minister of Defence by then President Olusegun Obasanjo. He made another unsuccessful attempt to return to power as governor in 2007. He was appointed as Presidential Special Envoy to Somalia and Darfur by Obasanjo after the polls.


However, luck smiled on him in 2011 as he returned to the Kano government house. After serving out his second term in 2015, he won election to the Senate, and represented Kano Central Senatorial District between 2015 and 2019. Kwankwaso has pledged to carry citizens along without favour on ethnicity or religion bias if elected as president.


He also promised that his administration will provide necessary infrastructure for the development of Nigeria. “Today, you have confirmed that Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso will be on the ballot paper in the 2023 general election. Let me assure you that I will do whatever it takes from my side to ensure the success of our party in the elections,” he said in his acceptance speech.


Obi: A man on a rescue mission

The former governor of Anambra State was among the frontrunners for the PDP presidential ticket of the PDP but he shocked most party faithful, when he announced his withdrawal from the contest and resignation from the party few days  shadow poll. He later opted for Labour Party (LP) and emerged as its candidate for the 2023 presidential election. The ex-governor, who was the PDP’s vice presidential candidate in the 2019 election, polled 96 out of the 97 votes cast at the LP’s presidential primary election.


One vote was voided. It was a smooth sail for Obi during the party’s convention and presidential primary in Asaba, Delta State as Prof. Pat Utomi and other aspirants withdrew from the race and collapsed their structures for him. Obi’s emergence as LP’s presidential flag bearer seems to have turned the party to a movement, particularly over mass mobilization by the youth for his ambition.


He said his mission is to rescue Nigeria from insecurity, wastage, misappropriation, mismanagement, and looting of public treasury by blocking all areas of financial leakages through prudent spending and bold ideas of economic transformation. “Our country stands hijacked by forces of retrogression. We are almost zero in all indices of development.


As a result, our future, especially those of the youth and generations unborn is in ruins. “We have become a laughing stock among other nations, including African countries where we were once revered. As I am nominated today, I humbly proclaim that the journey towards the emancipation of the country has begun. “I note with humility that the journey is going to be a collective one that will certainly require the cooperation of critical stakeholders in our country, especially the youth, whose future has been thoroughly degraded.


“In the battle to re-take Nigeria, the odds are great and seemingly insurmountable, but with our commitment, patriotism and understanding that we are doing, what we are supposed to do for our country, lest she shall die, we shall move on discontent with what is and focused on enthroning what ought to be. In doing this, our battle cry shall remain: Get your Permanent Voters Cards and become part of this great liberation,” Obi said in his acceptance speech.


While many are wondering how Obi will match other candidates believe to have deep pockets, there is no doubt that his rich profile makes up for what he lacks in terms of finance. Born on July 19, 1961, Obi, who served as governor of Anambra State between 2006 and 2014, succeeded in shaping the economy of the state and positioning it as first among equals. He also recorded huge success in improving the secondary education sector of the state.


As governor, Obi was also a member of the Presidential Economic Management Team as well as Special Adviser to the President on Finance. He was also vice-chairman of the influential Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Chairman of the South-East Governor’s Forum from 2006 to 2014.




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