14 aspirants are in contention for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) ticket, with the contestants cutting across all the six geo-political zones in the country. On the other hand, 23 aspirants are jostling for the presidential ticket of the ruling All Progressives (APC)). The primaries of the two leading parties are slated for this weekend with that of the PDP starting today, while that of the APC would start on Sunday at the Eagles Square, Abuja, while that of the PDP will also hold at the Federal Capital Territory. Oladipupo Awo jobi writes on the weaknesses and strengths of the top contenders in the two leading parties.
PDP Top Contenders
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the former vice president of Nigeria has a history of contesting election since 2007, when he contested as the presidential candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), but he was defeated by the late president Umar Musa Yar’Adua of the PDP. Atiku later showed interest in the office in 2015 from the newly formed APC then, but he was defeated at the primary by President Muhammadu Buhari. Also, in 2019, Atiku came out under the PDP, but he was defeated at the general elections by President Muhammadu Buhari. While Atiku might have a stronghold in some parts of the north, he has become seemingly unpopular in the South East and in the South West. Atiku is seen as a serial contestant with many wondering what he actually wanted in the office after serving as vice president for eight years. Another factor that might work against Atiku is the fact that he is a northerner and a Fulani like President Muhammadu Buhari and he might not be a good sell for the party as the country is looking forward to a southern president despite the fact that the PDP did not zone the office to any part of the country.
A former president of the Nigerian Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki is led sustained campaigns, consultations and meetings across the six zones. He has also unveiled and placed in the public domain his plans for Nigeria if elected president. He is perhaps a visible, outspoken and focused among the aspirants for the ticket of the main opposition party. Ac-cording to the rating by some analysts, Saraki has an ample chance to emerge as the candidate of the PDP. Their view is that he has age on his side; he is also said to be highly connected coupled with his wealth of experience from both the private and public sectors. Saraki was Kwara State governor for eight years and he would later become the president of the Nigerian senate from 2015 to 2019. All these might work for him, but he is from the north central of the country and he doesn’t seem to have that wide acceptability that would give him the day at the primary.
For Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, he has enjoyed a lot of public interest because of his tenacity to issue-based campaign. Emmanuel has consistently spoken on critical issues of national importance and how he would address the multifaceted challenges as president in 2023. Despite being a top contender, Udom is from the South-South, which is not so favoured for the office at this material time. He also does not have that strong personality or strong followership that would help him get enough votes at the party primary unless the powers that be want him as the candidate of the party.
Also believed to be a key aspirant from the South is Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who has continued to fight all shades of political battles. He is the most vocal of the aspirants in the PDP, who has promised to defeat the ruling APC at the polls. But many people say he has stepped on toes, created enmity and suspicion with his outbursts during his visits round the country. But Wike says he has no regrets for his brand politics of ‘speaking truth to power in whatever form and guise.” A major factor, which he said brought back the PDP to life after its defeat in 2019. The firebrand governor adds that he remains an uncompromising PDP faithful. So, his associates are hoping for compensation for him through the presidential primary of the party. He appears to be battle ready for the office and he has been everywhere campaigning and telling whoever cared to listen that he has everything that is required for the coveted office as a former minister and two-term governor of oil-rich Rivers State.
Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State has kept his presidential bid alive after a tragic incident in his state. He has strengthened his campaign, and sustained it with aggressive campaign, consultations and meetings with stakeholders and delegates in the final buildup to the convention. Tambuwal, a former speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, has used his second bid for the presidency to set agenda on issues that bother on the core challenges impeding national stability and progress. He believes Nigeria needs a leader with passion, courage, vision and direction, the attributes he says he represents.
What could work against him is being a northerner and someone, who has not actually attracted the support of the majority of the leaders of the party, but he appears determined to win the ticket of the party to contest the coveted office.
APC Top Contenders
Professor Yemi Osinbajo
Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo is one of the most visible aspirants for the office in the APC. Osinbajo parades an intimidating credentials spanning a wide areas of human endeavours, especially in academics, administration, law, rights activism and mentoring. He hails from Ogun State, which has over the years, dating back to the pre-independence era being the source of quality leadership, professionalism and industry for Nigeria as a whole. He got into prominence as the commissioner for justice and attorney general of Lagos State in the administration of former governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Lagos State and has been the vice of President Buhari since 2015. Many people believe that he is well positioned to clinch the party primary as he must have been emboldened to go for the office by the president. He even said recently during a visit to Lagos State that seven years as vice president has adequately prepared him for the coveted office. The only snag is that many people feel he doesn’t have the requisite structure within the system that would give him victory at the primary.
The President of the Nigerian Senate, Ahmed Lawan is among the longest serving members of the National Assembly. Lawan moved from being in the House of Representatives to the Senate, and he is from Yobe State. Whereas he is perceived as the aspirant of a section of the northern political establishment, he has made spirited efforts to shed light on his ambition. Many also rationalise his bid on his relationship with the executive arm of government, alleging that he is a stooge of President Muhammadu Buhari. His entrance into the race jolted many people, who did not expect a northerner to pick the form of the party, when it is expected that the candidate for the office from the party would come from the southern part. Lawan prefers to play along instead of speaking, when the need to do so arises. Again, he has debunked the claim that he had turned the Senate to the rubberstamp of the executive. He is seen as a surprise package of the party with enormous resources and connection to carry the day if the party agrees that the office should go to the north after President Buhari’s eight-year rule.
Former Lagos State Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is among the major pillars of the APC. His spectacular rise to political limelight is unrivalled.
He moved from being a senator in the aborted third republic to becoming governor in Lagos State for two terms. A crowd-puller, with knack for engaging and galvanising quality professionals for leadership and service, Tinubu is involved in a battle that could thrust him to the peak of his momentous political career. With a huge dose of resources that he has deployed to see to fruition of the political aspirations of many others, the national leader of the ruling party has a large followership that are willing to support and collaborate with him to achieve his ‘life-long ambition’ of becoming the president of the country. Indeed, Tinubu has the backing of a number of governors and power brokers from the northern establishment. His main constituency, the South-West has a fairly large number of delegates, many of who are likely to identify with his aspiration, and they might see him as the right man that could deliver the votes for the party at the general elections. But, many wonder why his political son and mentee, Professor Osinbajo came out against him and this has in no small measure affected what many felt could have been an easy ride for the celebrated political godfather and a leading political strategist in the country at the moment.
The immediate past minister of transport, Rotimi Amaechi, is also regarded as the alter ego of President Buhari. The former speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and later governor of the state is among the governors of the PDP that defected to team up with like-minded people to form APC in 2013. Two years later, he became the Minister of Transportation under Buhari who won the 2015 presidential poll. Amaechi has, however, had a running battle with his estranged ally, Senator Magnus Abe, over the structure of the APC in Rivers. However, the ex-governor is believed to have the prospect of picking the APC ticket as some party sources claimed the president prefers power shift to the South and with the possibility of fielding a Christian. That Amaechi did not capitulate like the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige to drop his presidential ambition and cling to his office, gave people an assurance that he might be the anointed candidate of the party. While many people believe that his campaign has not been as eventful as expected, he is believed to be operating silently and might spring a surprise at the primary. As the clock ticks for the two leading political parties to produce their presidential candidates, Nigerians are waiting with much anxiety to know the likely successor of President Muhammadu Buhari. It is believed in many quarters that once the two parties produce their presidential candidates, then Nigerians would have an idea of who their next president would be in the coming months.