Presidential Tickets: Between Heavy, Middle and Featherweights
The race for the presidential tickets of both the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party hots up this weekend with the planned convention of both parties. TUNDE AJAJA and ADEBAYO FOLORUNSO-FRANCIS take a look at the profiles of the aspirants, their chances and how they are likely going to fair during the primaries
Atiku Abubakari was born on November 25, 1946 in Jeda, Adamawa State. He is a businessman and served as Vice-President of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007 during the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo. He has about 30 children and many wives.
In 1967 he enrolled for a Law Diploma at the Ahmadu bello University’s Institute of Administration on a scholarship from the regional government. After graduation in 1969, during the Nigerian Civil War, he was employed by the Nigeria Customs Service.
Since the return to democracy, Atiku has contested in all the elections.
Atiku is said to be a rich man who is not tired of dispensing money to allies. He has supporters in all the 774 local government areas of the country. His supporters cut across the old and the young. Atiku also has in-laws across the majority of the six geo-political zones in the country. Unlike some politicians, he is also not among those who forget old friends after each election.
The clamour for power shift to the southern part of the country is giving some delegates the impression that Atiku is inconsiderate in his ambition to become President. Also, being the oldest among the aspirants at a time when the country is yearning for a young and energetic President is an issue. Though largely unproven, he has not been able to fully extricate himself from allegations of corruption and corrupt enrichment, and his disagreements with Obasanjo during their fractious eight-year rule give his critics the ammunition to tag him as overly ambitious and disloyal to constituted authority.
Bukola Saraki, a medical doctor, was born on December 19, 1962. He attended Corona School, Victoria Island, Lagos, before proceeding to King’s College, Lagos, from 1973 to 1978, and Cheltenham College in the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1981 for his high school certificate. He then studied at the London Hospital Medical College of the University of London from 1982 to 1987, where he obtained his M.B.B.S (London). His late father, Olusola Saraki, was a Senate Leader.
Bukola Saraki is a former Senate President of Nigeria and governor of Kwara State under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party from 2003 to 2011. He lost the senatorial seat in the 2019 election. Before then, he was first elected to the Senate in April 2011 under the platform of the PDP, representing the Kwara Central Senatorial District, and then re-elected in the March 2015 under the platform of the All Progressive Congress.
Saraki is a tested democrat and very close to notable politicians in the country. This is attributed to the positions he held before now. Having lost the PDP ticket to a former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, about four years ago, he was named the Director-General of the Atiku’s Presidential Campaign Council. As the President of the Senate, he was close to majority of the senators from the ruling party, the APC which he belonged to, but did not want him, and those from other political parties. Until recently, he was the chairman of the reconciliation committee of the PDP. He is young, energetic and has the oratory prowess to explain his points, while campaigning. He recently emerged as one of the consensus candidates by some northern leaders for the ticket of the PDP.
The old saying of whether he is Yoruba or northerner is still there. If he wins, where will he pick his running mate from? He may also not be able to match the likes of Atiku and Nyesom Wike cash for cash during the primary. His refusal to toe the party line, which led to his emergence as Senate President contrary to the APC leadership’s position may work against him even in the PDP as someone whose ambition will not allow to respect party hierarchy.
Ezenwo Nyesom Wike was born on August 24, 1967. He holds degrees in Political and Administrative Studies as well as Law. He was the Chairman of the Obio-Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State between 1999 and 2007, and Chief of Staff to Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi as governor between 2007 and 2011. Between 2003 and 2011, he was the National President of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria. He became Minister of State for Education on July 14, 2011 and later became the substantive Minister of Education. He later resigned to vie for governorship of Rivers State on the Peoples Democratic Party’s ticket, which he won in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019.
He is among those who have never defected from the PDP since he joined in 1998. He is also a financier of the party. He has been instrumental to the installation of its leaders. He is believed to have spent a lot of money to keep the party together when some governors and leaders left. Wike has a deep pocket, which he has been using to his benefit in running the party.
Many believe that he wants to take total control of the party because of the money he spends on it and its officials. He has also talked down on many leaders of the party and therefore has some enemies within. He has criticised majority of the presidential aspirants in the party. Wike is seen as someone who is not mature enough to lead the party and become its presidential candidate.
Peter Gregory Obi, CON, who was the vice-presidential candidate in the 2019 general elections under the platform of the PDP, was born on July 19, 1961. He was educated at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and was a former governor of Anambra State between 2006 and 2014.
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 Governors’ Forum from 2006 to 2014.
A smooth talker, Obi has knowledge of world economy and has strong views on how to turn the Nigeria economy around. He is believed to have done well as the governor of Anambra State. There are views that he could reciprocate the same at the national level. Obi is frugal. He is also a moderate person. Many are of the opinion that someone like him from the South-East should be allowed to take over the running of the country at this critical period.
Until now, Obi is not popular in national politics. The delegate election requires a lot of money, it is not very clear if he will be willing to bribe his way through. Also, the Nigeria election is skewed towards tribe and religion; Obi’s region may not be sufficient to back him for the plum ticket.
ASIWAJU BOLA TINUBU/APC
A former senator, two-term governor of Lagos State and a maverick politician, Tinubu was the first in the APC to openly declare his interest in the 2023 presidency.
Described as the godfather of Lagos, and by extension, South-West politics, he remains the man to beat for the presidential ticket, a project he swore was his life-long ambition. He has cult followership across the length and breadth of the country, and seamlessly mixes with fellow politicians from many camps. He is also wealthy and is believed to deploy his resources to achieve his ambition. Many acknowledge his role in bringing President Muhammadu Buhari to power, and consider now payback time for him.
His critics have over the years accused him of shamelessly playing the ‘bullion van’ politics and having a tight grip on governance in Lagos. Over the years, his age and health status have become a source of concern to Nigerians, many of who have yet to forgive him for selling Buhari to them. Tinubu has also not been able to convincingly explain the source of his stupendous wealth.
This former governor of Rivers State and immediate past Minister of Transportation proved to be one of the few shining lights of the Buhari administration.
His loyalty, competence and experience in governance over the past 23 years will come in handy should he succeed in winning the election. He started his political adventure as a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly and became the Speaker. He also led his fellow speakers from across the nation. Perhaps his greatest strength is standing up to the incumbent President as the Rivers State Governor and Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and later defected from the PDP to the APC and played a leading role in enthroning Buhari.
Amaechi is believed to have a deep pocket, which he is ready to deploy to his advantage. Among the many achievements he recorded as minister was the revitalisation of the railway system across the country.
Amaechi is not firmly in control of his Rivers State base as his issues with one time ally turned foe, Governor Nyesom Wike, are making the home turf very uncomfortable for him.
The sudden emergence of Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, in the race came as a big surprise to many Nigerians. Many didn’t see the political calculation that brought him into the race.
Political buffs believe he was pushed into the race by the APC northern bloc to neutralise the likely threat of an Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi ticket in the PDP. He may also have most of his colleagues in the National Assembly on his side.
Political watchers and analysts fear he may end up as another puppet for the powers that be because of the way the Senate under his leadership has so far allowed the Buhari regime to have its way on many things. Beyond the National Assembly, his influence as a politician of note is restricted.
PROF YEMI OSINBAJO/APC
When it comes to academics, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has an intimidating curriculum vitae. His strength lies in the wealth of experience he has garnered in the last seven years of this current administration and his previous position as Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the cabinet of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Osinbajo is a professor of Law.
His loyalty to President Buhari is acknowledged and may count for him, especially among power brokers in the North. As a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, he has a significant following among members. His performance and decisive actions during the period when Buhari was receiving treatment in the United Kingdom were considered in some quarters as inspiring and he has been able to criss-cross the length and breadth of the country trying to woo delegates.
The seeming cold war between Osinbajo and Tinubu’s supporters, who labelled the Vice-President a ‘betrayal’ for daring to run at a time his political godfather has declared for the presidency casts a shadow on his candidature. He is also not regarded as a grassroots politician with a solid structure, while his ability to outspend opponents has not been established. His campaign promise to carry on with Buhari’s programme has also convinced Nigerians that he can be trusted with power.
The poster boy of the ‘Not too young to run’ campaign, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State is the only aspirant from the North-Central zone.
Bello is the only governor to be born after the Nigerian Civil War. He recently received the backing of the leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra in his quest to clinch the APC presidential ticket.
Bello signified his intention early and has been spending massively to actualise his ambition. He has reached out to different zones and segments of the society. He is also very accommodating to women, who hold key positions in his campaign organisation.
Advocates of power shift to the South see him as an interloper. His critics also point to the condition of workers and pensioners in Kogi State, who are not being paid regularly as a minus for the governor. Despite claims to the contrary, the security situation in his state as not giving much hope to his ambition.
Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed is the governor of Bauchi State. He was born on October 5, 1958. He attended the University of Maiduguri and graduated in 1982 with BA degree in English Language. He also attended the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria in 1988 for a general management course.
He was elected a senator on April 21, 2007, to represent Bauchi South Senatorial District. It was from this position that he was appointed as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory in April 2010. He was elected governor of Bauchi State on March 26, 2019.
He is said to be a close ally of some northern power brokers. The inability of his North-East zone to produce Nigeria’s President up till now is also a plus for someone like him. Also, being a sitting governor with free funds available to be given to delegates is another strong point working for him.
Beyond Bauchi, his popularity is questionable. He is also believed not to have done well enough at the state level to warrant his elevation to the office of the President, especially by a struggling opposition political party desirous of returning to power. His fanatical support to the Fulani herdsmen, who are suspected of terrorising the southern part of the country, and his ferocious condemnation of the agitators in the South-East make some to see him as a regional leader.
Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who was born on January 10, 1966, has been the governor of Sokoto State since 2015. He was re-elected for a second term in 2019. Before then, he was the Speaker of the House of Representatives between 2011 and 2015. He was educated at the Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, where he studied Law.
Tambuwal defected from the PDP to the APC on October 28, 2014. He contested for the governorship in the April 2015 elections and won under the platform of the APC. But he returned to the PDP three years later. He contested for the party’s presidential ticket about four years ago, but lost to Atiku Abubakar.
He is young and expected to be full of energy.
The people that lined behind him four years ago are no longer there for him. Nyesom Wike, who was his number one supporter then, is also eyeing the same ticket now. Tambuwal is not articulate and not a crowd puller. His ability to win new converts is doubtful. It will be a miracle if he picks the party’s ticket.
ANYIM PIUS ANYIM/PDP
A former President of the Senate, Anyim Pius Anyim was born on February 19, 1961. He was Secretary to the Government of the Federation during the Goodluck Jonathan presidency. He attended the Imo State University. He was the first among the presidential aspirants to publicly declare his intention to run for the office on the platform of the PDP.
Anyim is seen as the voice of a section of the main opposition in his home state. He was the first to enter the race. He has reached out to many.
Anyim doesn’t have a structure to make his aspiration a reality. He also doesn’t have a deep pocket or national political contacts that will make him win the primary election.
Nicknamed ‘Mr Digital,’ the immediate past Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, who was born on born December 1, 1951, has grown his political profile and built a name since he came into Buhari’s cabinet.
The former Abia State governor is believed to command appreciable following in the South-East, which has been agitating for the presidency to be zoned to the region.
WeaknessAlthough the ex-minister has promised to revolutionise the country into a digital economy, his critics believe otherwise. They argue that the ministry failed to come up with any meaningful innovations throughout his tenure.
DR KAYODE FAYEMI/APC
Ever since he staged a comeback to return to the Ekiti State Government House, Kayode Fayemi’s political relevance has been on the rise.
His carriage and political calculations, especially as Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, show he can hold his own in the race. He recorded appreciable achievements as Minister of Solid Minerals Development in President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet from November 11, 2015 to May 30, 2018, and is regarded as one of the few dark horses that can spring surprises if he gets his cards right.
He is believed not to have national spread and is not very popular in his South-West base.
A two-term governor of oil-rich Akwa Ibom State and immediate past Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio is credited with transforming his state with many infrastructural and social projects. His disagreement with his successor, Udom Emmanuel, forced him out of the PDP and into the waiting arms of the APC.
Akpabio is a flamboyant politician capable of initiating and executing many high profile projects. He also appears to make friends across the different regions and is considered a generous spender.
WeaknessDespite his larger than life posture, the former minister seems not to be pulling his weight as one would expect. His campaign train has been idle as he embarked on a low budget consultation. The monumental corruption in the Niger Delta Development Commission as established by a forensic audit may work against him.
A former governor of Ekiti State, Peter Ayodele Fayose, was born on November 15, 1960. He was educated at the Olivet Baptist High School and The Polytechnic, Ibadan.
Fayose is a dynamic politician, who is very close to the grassroots. He identifies with the people at the grassroots by taking part in most of the things ordinary Nigerians do like riding motorcycles, eating at bukaterias and others.
His popularity is not beyond his home state of Ekiti. Fayose is also not campaigning unlike other aspirants. There are insinuations that he will step down for one of the candidates from the southern part of the country. He is not considered to be in the race.
DR MOHAMMED HAYATU-DEEN/PDP
Mohammed Hayatudeen was born in Borno State on September 15, 1953. He studied Basic Studies at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and graduated with honours. He began his career in principal investments and project finance at Northern Nigeria Development Corporation (later renamed New Nigeria Development Corporation). He rose to the position of Group Chief Executive before he was named President and CEO of FSB International Bank.
He is said to be rich and capable of matching the moneybags in the party money-for-money. He is also dynamic and young, considering the age of Nigeria’s many presidents.
Little is known about him in the political arena. He is also known to have fraternised with the powers that be in the party. He is considered to be a political neophyte who cannot lead the party to victory in the 2023 general elections. Perhaps, he is in the race to mark his presence so that he will not be forgotten in case the party emerges victorious next year.
Dele Momodu is a tested Nigerian journalist/publisher, businessman and motivational speaker. He is the CEO and publisher of Ovation International, a magazine that has given publicity to people from all over the world, mainly in Africa. He was born on May 16, 1960 at Ile-Ife, Osun State. He was also educated at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
He is young and energetic and full of ideas. He belongs to the crop of young politicians who many think should be allowed to take over the affairs of the government at the centre.
He doesn’t have a known political structure that is capable of delivering the votes to him. He is also new in the party. Momodu does not possess the financial muscle that the delegates’ election requires.
The Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, was born on July 11, 1966. He has been in office since May 29, 2015. He is a chartered accountant and also a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management. He began his career with Diamond Bank and later joined Zenith Bank in 1996 as a pioneer manager with the Lagos Central branch.
His political career began in 2013 with his appointment as the Secretary to the Awka Ibom State Government. He contested for the office of governor in April 2015 on the platform of the PDP.
HIs strength lies in the deep purse he parades and his rich work credentials.
Udom Emmanuel is not known to be politically relevant outside his home state. He does not have a zonal, regional or national political structure to take his aspiration outside his home state. He is unlikely to go far in the race.
Sam Ohuabunwa was born on August 16, 1950 in Port Harcourt. He began his education at Okrika Grammar School, Okrika. The Nigerian Civil War, which started in July 1967, interrupted his education. He later joined the war and fought for Biafran Army. He passed his West African School Certificate Examination in 1971. He then proceeded to the University of Ife in 1972 to study Pharmacy and graduated in 1976.
He has ideas on how to improve Nigeria’s economy and reduce the unemployment rate.
He can be described as a general without troops in politics. Ohunabunwa doesn’t belong to the mainstream of politics in the country. He is also not known to have visited the delegates with largesse expected of someone who wants to pick the party’s ticket.
Prof Ajayi Borrofice from Ondo State is the Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate. Despite promising to provide Nigerians with electricity subsidy, he seems to have stepped on many toes as a public servant. He was recently accused by his 2019 campaign director, Tolu Babaleye, of distancing himself from his constituents for 12 years.
The former governor of Ogun State and senator representing Ogun Central, Ibikunle Amosun, is banking on his executive and legislative experience to convince party delegates to give him the ticket. He is also very close to Buhari and many believe that he is the President’s right hand man.
Aside from having knowledge of financial management, he only boasts of regional influence. The cold war between him and his successor, Dapo Abiodun, may work against him. In the South-West, his influence does not extend beyond Ogun State.
If the presidential ticket is to be zoned to the South-East, Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, will be one of the top contenders.
After almost eight years in office, Umahi courted controversy when he defected from the PDP to the APC in November 2020. A cat with nine lives, he survived the hammer of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, which ordered him and his deputy, Dr Eric Igwe, to vacate office.
Except the position is zoned to his region, he is not considered strong enough to pick the ticket as he has not stayed long enough in the party.
Senator Rochas Okorocha, a former governor of Imo State, is unusually quiet in his quest for the highest office in the land. The Owelle has always wanted to be President of Nigeria.
Okorocha’s attempt is his fourth at clinching the coveted seat of power. A sociable politician with a nationalistic ideology, he has not enjoyed the support of Ndigbo, who constantly criticises his outlandish approach to issues concerning the South-East.
Until he was appointed as the Minister of State for Education, not much was known about Chukwuemeka Nwajuiba. Highly cerebral and unpredictable, he is one of the shining lights from the South-East. The politician raised a few eyebrows when he became the first aspirant in public office to tender his resignation after Buhari gave the order for those interested in contesting to quit the cabinet. He also purchased, filled and submitted his nominations form early.
When the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, entered the race, many didn’t take him seriously. His critics say he is fronting for another aspirant who preferred to work behind the scene. Despite being young and enterprising, Bankole has not done much politically after his sojourn in the lower legislative chamber.
UJU KENNEDY OHNENYE/APC
An Amazon and resilient personality, nobody gave Ohnenye a chance to come this far. She remains the only female aspirant in the APC. Her strength lies in her confidence and unwavering belief that she can stand up to the big wigs and favoured candidates in the contest.
Senior Pastor of the Citadel Global Community Church, Lagos, Pastor Tunde Bakare, shocked many of his critics who thought he would chicken out when the fee for the nomination and expression of interest forms was pegged at N100m. The fiery cleric dreams of transiting from the pulpit to the presidency, a vision he still has eight years after he was sacrificed for Osinbajo for the post of Vice-President. The question, however, is if he will agree to play dirty and brutal ahead of the APC primary. Besides relying on a divine arrangement, he is not known to be seriously wooing the delegates.
NICHOLAS FELIX NWAGBO/APC
A relatively unknown preacher, Pastor Nicholas Nwagbo set tongues wagging when he coughed up N100m for the forms. Who is he? Google got an unprecedented search request for his profile the moment he purchased the forms. Many have struggled to understand what the US-based pastor of the Miracle Church International intends to achieve by entering the murky waters of Nigerian politics.
Many have wondered why the former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, chose to join the race for the presidency at this moment. No one can dispute his experience and political dexterity. In fact, he was largely credited as one of the forces that shot down the alleged quest of former President Olusegun Obasanjo for a third term. Unless the ticket is zoned to the South-East, he will have an uphill task in challenging the heavyweight aspirants who are also in the race.
Until the last five years, former governor of Zamfara State, Senator Sani Yerima has always been in the news for the wrong reason. Obviously aware of the impression most people have about him, the APC presidential aspirant has spent the last few days convincing Nigerians that he won’t Islamise or impose Sharia law on all citizens as president. He also took a 13-year-old as bride some years ago.
Prominent but highly underrated, the Jigawa State Governor may be one of the favourites if the zoning pendulum swings in the direction of the North. Fondly called ‘Mai Calculator,’ Badaru’s business acumen was the propelling factor to his becoming a politician. He may not be one of the favourites to clinch the ticket, but he is no pushover when it comes to grassroots politics.
Just as Nwagbo, critics believe that 47 years old Tein Jack-Rich has no business in politics. He is the founder and President of Belemaoil Producing Limited, the first indigenous oil exploration and production company in the country. Until he purchased the nomination forms, many thought the indigene of Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State was just out to flex muscles.
Chief Ikeobasi Mokelu is a former Minister of Information and Culture during the late Gen. Sani Abacha regime. Despite promising at his presidential declaration to bring honour, character and integrity to governance at all levels, his political leaning does not project him as a serious contender.
Governor of Cross River State, Prof. Ben Ayade, is a delight to watch when he speaks at events and public places. He loves to showboat and enjoys the cheers he receives. However, his ambition to become the next President of Nigeria is not clear to even his supporters. For a politician who has never played at the national level, he has also not been seen engaged in any campaign since he bought the forms or engaged in any consultation with the delegates.