Battle for Buhari’s job gains momentum

The 2023 presidential election has thrown up many politicians who want to fly their parties’ flag in the February 2023 contest. ONYEKACHI EZE and JOHNCHUCKS ONUAYIM look at those in the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and their chances of clinching the party’s ticket


Anyim Pius Anyim, former President of the Senate, seemed to be on the ‘loose’ literally. For a long time now, Nigerians had expected Igbo politicians to come out of their cocoons if they really want the 2023 presidency to be conceded to them.


But since the last quarter of last year, Anyim who is also former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), has thrown his hat in the ring. He has toured every nook and cranny of Nigeria canvassing for support.


Anyim told the Emir of Lafia, Nasarawa State, Justice Sidi Muhammed, while on consultation over his presidential ambition, “we need to reposition this country to catch up with the future so that we can preserve the future for our children. “In the next few years, the type of employment we will be talking about will not be the type we are talking about right now.


And sir, we need to reposition this country to catch up with the future so that we can preserve the future for our children. That is what I stand for, that is what I want to bring on the table and that’s why I have come…


“We are into a new season, a season that will set out a new future for the younger generation, a season that will refocus Nigeria, a season that will reunite Nigeria, a season we must not make mistakes about, a season we must bring everybody together to have a sense of nationhood. We have no other country than this country.”


Anyim is one of the aspirants seeking to fly the flag of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 presidential election. Others are former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former President of the Senate Dr. Bukola Saraki, Sokoto State governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, his Bauchi State counterpart Senator Bala Mohammed, a renowned industrialist Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, among others. What are their chances of clinching the PDP ticket and possibly winning the election?


Anyim Pius Anyim


Unarguably the most visible presidential aspirant from the South-East, Ayim has the reach and the financial war chest to prosecute his presidential ambition. Anyim said he delayed declaring for the presidency to enable the present administration to concentrate on governance. He told journalists: “Posters of my presidential bid and agitations by groups for me to contest flooded the social media in 2020 and I disassociated myself from such calls.


“Such calls resurfaced in the early part of 2021 and I choose to be quiet over the issue. “We presently have less than 18 months to the next elections and I feel the time is ripe to indicate my interest.” Anyim is not banking on the agitation for the zoning of the 2023 presidency to South-East to win the PDP ticket. Rather, he sees himself as eminently qualified to lead Nigeria, and he appears to be so.


As former President of the Senate and former SFG, the only position left for him to occupy is the presidency. The former SGF is expected to enjoy the sympathy of his South-East brothers and Nigerians who believe that for equity sake, it is the turn of South-East to produce the successor of President  Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.


He was well received everywhere he visited to canvass for support. Anyim won a major victory last week when PDP South-East leaders endorsed him as the zone’s choice presidential candidate for the party in 2023.


The party leaders commended his “decision to offer himself for national service by aspiring to contest in the 2023 presidential race.


“We take due cognisance of his previous record of distinguished and unblemished service as President of the Senate and Secretary to the Government of the Federation. In these positions, he distinguished himself as a detribalised statesman, consensus builder and true nationalist.


“We, therefore, unanimously endorse his aspiration with all conviction and enthusiasm and eagerly commend him to the rest of the nation as a worthy leader who will pilot the affairs of the nation towards greater security, unity and prosperity for all citizens.” But not every Igbo is happy at Anyim’s record of service.


Those against him believe the region benefited nothing from the previous offices he occupied, and he cannot be exonerated from the state of affairs in the region. The people did not feel the impact of the four years he spent as number three man in Goodluck Jonathan’s government.


Again, the former SGF has to do more  in mobilising delegates who will vote for him at the PDP presidential primary (because it appears the delegate system will be retained in the Electoral Act).


Ebonyi State where he comes from has no PDP governor. Only 79 persons from the state voted during the PDP National Convention last year where the party elected its current national leadership. He will also be ready to battle other aspirants for delegates from other states.


Atiku Abubakar


Atiku is a veteran in presidential contests. Since 2007, the former Vice President has contested every presidential election. But he was on the ballot only on two occasions, 2007 and 2019. Atiku was the candidate of PDP in the 2019 presidential election, which was brightest chance.


He came second behind President Muhammadu Buhari of APC who was eventually declared winner. The former Vice President still remains a joker for PDP in 2023.


He has the financial war chest and national support, and he is ready to battle other aspirants for the ticket of the party.


His is from the North-East, one of the two regions PDP committee that reviewed the party’s performance in the 2019 general election accepted to have the shortest stints at the presidency, and should be given special consideration

in choosing the presidential flag bearer of the party, for the 2023 elections. But Atiku may face stiff opposition from party members for his seeming abandonment of the party since after the 2019 election. The former Vice President attended PDP National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, and other activities of the party only once, in 2019 where he suggested that a committee be set up to review the performance at the election. Since then, he has made Dubai his permanent residence. Again, the table seemed to have turned against him. PDP governors appeared to have taken over the party’s structure and are prepared to ensure that one of them flies the PDP flag in the 2023 presidential election.


Aminu Tambuwal


The Sokoto State governor came second in the November 2018 PDP presidential primary in Port Harcourt. He is now Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum and Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), and umbrella body of all the 36 Nigerian governors. These have positioned him for the 2023 battle for the presidency.


The wedding of his son last November was more like a political gathering. His foot soldiers were on the ground to drum support for his presidential ambition. Tambuwal lost the PDP ticket to Atiku in 2018 due to disunity among governors of the party. This time, he has positioned himself to battle whosoever that may be interested in the ticket.


The former Speaker of the House of Representatives has been able to galvanise PDP governors and make them show interest in the affairs of the party. Tambuwal is from North -West, the same zone that produced late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and now, President Muhammadu Buhari. Most people would like the President to rotate to other parts of the country, or at most, other geopolitical zones in the North.


Bukola Saraki


The former President of the Senate is a respected political strategist. Many people did not take him seriously when he indicated interest to contest the Senate presidency in 2015. Against all odds, Saraki defeated the APC’s preferred candidate, Senator Ahmed Lawan. He retained the position for four years despite machinations of the presidency and APC leadership to oust him. Saraki came third at the PDP National Convention in 2018, and was appointed Director General of the party’s 2019 campaign council. At the moment, he is heading the PDP National Reconciliation and Strategy Committee. But Saraki is facing the challenge of identity. He is from Kwara State in North Central Nigeria, and he is a Yoruba by tribe. Whenever there are any political offices to be shared, Fulani, in the North-West, or at most the Kanuris in the North-East see it as their birthright, leaving out the North Central. Worse still, North Central Yoruba are at great disadvantage. They are neither accepted by their kit and kin in the South -West nor by the North, as one of them. That was the problem Bukola’s father, Chief Olusola Saraki, faced when he wanted to run for presidency in 1999 on the platform of now defunct All People’s Party (APP). The former President of the Senate might face the same problem in 2023.


Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa


Mazi Ohuabunwa is a technocrat. His journey in life is full of success. When he unveiled his New Nigeria Group (NNG) in January last year and announced his intention to run for the presidency, he kept the platform only to himself. But later in the year, Ohuabunwa declared for the PDP, “having noted its determination to run as a true democratic party with a new internal democratic ethos.”


Given his successes in business and everything he puts his hands into, Mazi Ohuabunwa has no match. And in a society desirous of a leader with an unblemished record, the  Abia State born industrialist fits into the search. But politics is not the same as a business concern.


Ohuabunwa may have carved a niche for himself in politics but very few people reckon with him when it comes to politics. He had served in various government positions as a technocrat not as a politician. Politics is about building structure. Ohuabunwa is not known to have such, even in Abia State where he comes from.


Tinubu raises the bar


The final disclosure at the Presidential Villa by the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu last week put an end to years of speculations about his presidential ambition. He was in control of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), one of the legacy parties that merged for APC to be formed. BAT as he is being called in some political quarters was a governor of Lagos State for eight years having served for two terms.


The Senator became prominence politically when he survived the onslaught against the Action Democrat (AD) by the Peoples Democratic Party in 2003 in the South-West. The AD controlled the South-West from 1999- 2003 when every other state in the geopolitical zone fell for PDP except Lagos State where Tinubu held sway. That singular political survival gave more relevance to his political stature in the zone.


Tinubu also became popular for creating more local government areas in the state, which became an issue of litigation between Lagos State and the Federal Government. Those new creations now exist as local council development authorities. Today, he is said to have created political supporters more than any politician in the country – a position former Vice President Atiku Abubakar held when he was in power.


But for his supporters, President Buhari wouldn’t have realized his dream, a reason some believe that the President owes him gratitude and should not hesitate to throw his support for his (Tinubu) Presidency. But some people believe that he does not have the health and age the office of the President deserves while others feel that it would be illogical for South -West to produce the President in 2023 having produced the President for eight years, Vice President eight years and Speaker for four years since 1999.


Orji Uzor Kalu (OUK)


The Chief Whip of the 9th Senate was a two-term governor of Abia State. Senator Kalu who is representing Abia North in the National Assembly. He established and sustained a wide political association and contacts over the years across the country. His presidential ambition dated back to 2003 when he challenged the former President Olusegun Obasanjo not to seek a second term. It was then alleged that Kalu had planned to be running mate to the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Already, the Senate Chief Whip, who is also a successful businessman has promised the nation economic miracle if elected, and that is timely in view of Nigeria’s ebbing economy, high inflation, spiraling unemployment and debt overhang. In his response to the current balkanisation of the country along ethnic and parochial lines, Kalu promises the 250 ethnic nationalities in Nigeria a sense of belonging as a basis for national cohesion. . However, Kalu, who has a very high political acceptability in the North having grown up in the zone needs to reignite his high political sagacity in the South-East where APC is not very popular. One thing that would boost his presidential ambition is his deep pocket and media connection. Orji has said he was not threatened by anybody’s presidential ambition.


Owelle Rochas Okorocha


The embattled Senator representing Imo West was governor of Imo State for eight years. Senator Okorocha is the only APC presidential aspirant who had contested the presidential ticket of political parties thrice. In 2003 Okorocha contested the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) presidential ticket against the incumbent President Buhari. He did also in 2007 on the platform of the PDP and lost to late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.


He came second in that contest with over 300 votes. In 2015, he was one of the presidential aspirants of the APC and he came fourth at the convention that produced President Buhari. The former Imo State governor also has serious political reach all over the country. He would always say that he is an Igbo by tribe, grow up in the North and made his wealth from the South- West.


The Rochas Foundation is one thing that has endeared him to the hearts of many families in the country. He came to APC with the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) at a time not many South Easterners had accepted APC as a political party. He is said to have divided APGA for APC as APGA became one of the legacy parties.


Okorocha has both age and health on his side as he is said to be less than 60 years. Okorocha’s supporters believe that his opponents are using the Imo State government to distract and distabilise the presidential ambition of the Senator. Despite the fact that his presidential stature seems to be diminishing, he is one person that many believe has a chance in the South-East should the ticket be zoned to the geopolitical zone. If capacity is the focus of Nigerians in 2023, Okorocha’s supporters believe that their principal is more qualified than others.


Vice President Yemi Osinbajo


Prof Osinbajo is said to be aspiring for the presidential ticket of APC based on the present position he occupies. He occupies the present position of Vice President on trust not on any known political influence or deep pocket. The highest political office held was a Commissioner in Lagos State, which was given to him by his benefactor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Tinubu’s supporters look at his presidential aspiration as ingratitude as he is desiring the meat of his master, without recourse to his constitutional rights. However, his supporters believe that the Professor of Constitutional Law has better credentials and endowment more than any other aspirants. To them, Osinbajo is a technocrat and has no baggage of any sort that can constitute a hindrance for him or the party. The Vice President is also enjoying some support of some APC governors, especially from the North. Osinbajo believes that his presidency would be divinely ordained. However, he would also have the same criticisms like Tinubu that it is illogical for the South -West geopolitical zone to produce the President in 2023.


Governor Dave Umahi


The governor of Ebonyi State is going into the presidential race based on his performance as governor. Umahi who also briefed the President about his ambition is one of the governors being rated to have performed by providing dividends of democracy to the people of Ebonyi State. Indigenes of other states in the South-East would always refer to his achievements in office when discussing their governors. However Umahi is a new entrant in APC. He came into APC in 2020 and the party might not be willing to cede its presidential ticket to such a person. Umahi is not deterred by any assumed limitation as he is declared to contest the presidential ticket of APC. The Ebonyi State governor doesn’t seem to have a wide political reach as he is banking only on his achievements in office as a two-term governor. Also it doesn’t seem that the governor of Ebonyi State has the deep pockets required to prosecute presidential election.


Rotimi Chibuike Ameachi


Chibuike Ameachi, the serving Minister of Transportation is from Rivers State, in the South-South, but his presidential ambition is anchored on the presidency of Igbo extraction. Ameachi has political experience having served as Speaker, River State House of Assembly for eight years and was Chairman of Speakers Conference.


He was also governor for seven years having lost a year to Chief Celestine Omehia. Ameachi was the first governor declared by the Supreme Court when the Apex Court ruled that he was the governorship candidate of PDP in 2007 and not Omehia. The Rivers State-born politician was the Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) but had serious opposition politically from his state. The Minister has not so much political clout in the country however, he has entrenched himself to some other geopolitical zones with his present position as Minister of Transport. He is relying on the President to actualise his ambition.


Dr. Kayode Fayemi


The Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, has been mentioned as one of the possible successors to President Buhari. The two term governor of Ekiti State is also highly cerebral and has a very good global view of issues and governance.

He is also seen as one of the protégés of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, therefore should not aspire for APC Presidential ticket against his political father. Fayemi might be a possibility given the fact that the President has admitted that there is somebody in his mind to succeed him. However, he has two things that might count against him.


He is from the zone that has produced president for eight years, Vice President for eight years and Speaker House of Representatives four years and also he is limited financially.


Alhaji Yahaya Bello

The Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello from North Central seems to be the only odd person seeking the APC presidential ticket. Bello seems to be swimming against the tide as it is obvious that the party will zone its presidential ticket to the South. However, the only political qualification Bello is going with to acquire a presidential ticket and possibly the presidential election is the eight years governance of Kogi State.


He does not have a good political reach but he started his ambition, he has been able to get people on his side in all the zones. Bello has been on his side but it would be difficult to say he has political credentials given his performance in Kogi State. Also he does not have the war chest for the presidential contest. He is also highly disadvantageous on the grounds that the APC national championship position would be zoned to the North Central. Pastor


Tunde Bakare


Tunde Bakare, a tele-evangelist and former banker became popular politically with the Save Nigeria Group (SNG), a coalition of pro-democracy groups and individuals he led during former President Goodluck Jonathan. He is a fearless preacher and the Presiding Pastor of Latter Rain Assembly. As a lawyer, he practiced in the chambers of Gani Fawehinmi, Rotimi Williams & Co and Burke & Co, Solicitors.


He established his own law firm Tunde Bakare & Co (El- Shaddai Chambers) in October 1984. Bakare has not held any political office but he is a critic of political office holders.


In 2011, he was nominated as the running mate of President Buhari on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change. Bakare, who is anchoring his presidential ambition on God’s promise said he is going to be the 16th President of Nigeria after President Buhari. He has tagged this as Project 16.


He believes strongly that he has a reach in the Christian community and has what it takes to bring Nigeria out of the woods. However, he has no strong deep pockets and like Tinubu and Osinbajo, he is from the South- West, the zone that has produced President and Vice President for eight years respectively since 1999.




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