The 2023 presidential race has thrown up many aspirants cutting across political parties and regional lines.
Although competence, age and pan-Nigerianism have been central to the discussion of who the next president should be, the agitation for the seat to be zoned to the southern part of the country has remained topical as well.
LEADERSHIP Weekend reports that so far no fewer than 29 presidential aspirants, male and female, have formally declared for the top job from the six geo-political zones.
The aspirants belong to the following parties: All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Social Democratic Party (SDP).
However, there are other aspirants that are yet to declare
The APC however has only one candidate from the north while the PDP has at least five.
But the sheer number of aspirants from the southern part of the country, the fact the sitting president is from the north and the general understanding that power should rotate between the north and the south is increasing the pressure on aspirants from the northern part of the country.
While the ruling APC appears likely to concede the presidency to the south, the question of electability of the aspirants has been pushed to the back burner in the two major parties. Not all the presidential aspirants are going along.
Atiku Abubakar, 75
He needs little introduction in the Nigerian political space having contested the presidency a record six times. He has contested every presidential election since 1993 which easily gives him the record of the most consistent presidential aspirant in Nigeria’s history. And barely two weeks ago, he formally declared his intention to contest the seat again on the platform of the PDP.
Atiku is arguably the most influential vice president since 1999. He served under President Olusegun Obasanjo whom he fell out with in the build-up to 2007 presidential election which, according to some accounts, was his major political undoing as he has since struggled to shake off the perception of alleged corruption and power-centric person.
Although he was PDP presidential candidate in 2019, his ambition to represent the party again in 2023 has been met with resistance by most PDP governors who have openly kicked against persons above 70 years emerging president in 2023. This notion, interestingly, has received the support of some former heads of state, especially Gen Ibrahim Babangida, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar and ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo.
Also, his multiple defections, across ACN, APC and PDP, has also given him out, somewhat, as being desperate for the position. But his supporters believe he is the most experienced of the lot going into the 2023 presidential election. And he is believed as having a large war chest.
Bola Tinubu, 70
Former governor of Lagos, APC national leader and kingmaker, Tinubu shook the political space when he formally declared his ambition to contest the 2023 presidency.
Tinubu etched his name in Nigeria’s political history when he and President Buhari spearheaded the merger arrangement that culminated in the formation of the APC which took over power at the centre in 2015. He has since become a national figure and major contender for the 2023 presidency, amassing followers (especially in the North) beyond the South West where he is regarded as a political godfather. Tinubu has been part of the progressive movement since the Third Republic.
However, this will be the first time he will be contesting a national election after he ran for Senate and won in 1993. Many also believe he will have a herculean task of getting the APC presidential ticket which will largely be influenced by whomever President Buhari would back ahead of the primaries. Like Atiku, he has a large war chest and he is in the 70-year-old bracket.
Dr Peter Obi, 60
Astute businessman and accomplished administrator, Obi has solid experience in the corporate world and in public governance.
Obi recently declared for president and his presidential forms were secured by a group of young professionals ahead of 2023. The thinking within the political space is that with his brilliant performance as Anambra State governor, he would be a formidable contender in the light of his strong background in prudence, simplicity and achievements. As governor, he showed courage in taking hard but needed decisions for the public good that placed the state high on many indices including education, business and political stability.
Also, he proved he is not a pushover politically with the way he emerged the PDP vice presidential candidate in 2019.
Dr Kingsley Moghalu, 58
Moghalu was the first aspirant to openly declare his ambition to be president in 2023 on June 1, 2021. A former presidential candidate of Young Progressive Party (YPP) in 2019, he has since continued to engage the political space even though he tends toward trying to rewrite the narrative about Nigeria in the international community with speeches at different fora
A lawyer, author, former United Nations official, who also served as deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Moghalu is perceived, in some quarters, as a new face of politics, drawing from his robust academic and diaspora base. He, however, has the task of not being perceived as being too elitist in his politics.
Also, having pitched his political tent with African Democratic Congress (ADC) which is not one of the major parties, he would hope to galvanise the neo-progressive political movement, the business community and the savvy young population.
Bala Mohammed, 63
The governor of Bauchi State was a former senator and former FCT minister under President Goodluck Jonathan. He is one of the contenders for the PDP presidential ticket. He had led the party’s post-2019 election review committee which recommended that its presidential ticket should be thrown open to all contenders and not be zoned, despite the fact that the North East and North Central zones have yet to occupy the seat since 1999.
His altercation with the Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, over the incessant criticism by the latter of the Fulani herdsmen who had terrorised his state had cast Mohammed in a certain un-nationalistic light.
Before he emerged governor in 2019, he was facing an alleged corruption charge by the EFCC. However, it is believed that since he is still entitled to a second term which he can fall back on, the presidential bid might not be as intense for him compared to others.
Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, 56
Politically savvy and strategic, Tambuwal, a lawyer, has played actively in the three arms of government – judiciary, legislature and executive. The governor of Sokoto State at a young age served as the 10th Speaker of the House of Representatives between 2011 and 2015, and in 2019 he vied to be PDP presidential candidate which he lost to Atiku. He boasts of strong legislative experience and now an executive experience. Tambuwal fits most of the criteria for the kind of president Nigeria needs, considering his public service record and scandal-free political career. But whether or not the PDP will zone the presidency to the north or to the south will determine his political trajectory.
What’s more, coming from the North West region (Sokoto State), the same region Buhari (Katsina State) who would have served for eight years by 2023 is from, puts the governor in a bind of sorts. The last PDP president from the North (Yar’Adua) also came from the North West (Katsina).
Nyesom Wike, 59
The governor of Rivers State is regarded as the most influential governor and key stakeholder in PDP today. He is a grassroots politician, having been the chairman of the populous Obi Akpor LGA in Rivers State.
Vocal and daring, he took on the federal government on the issue of collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) and won. A lawyer and minister of state for education during the Jonathan years, Wike, a second term governor, has been at the heart of every leadership change in the PDP since 2015. He had supported Tambuwal’s 2019 presidential ambition, but they lost to Atiku. Only last week, however, he declared his intention to run for president. His PDP forms were bought for him by his associates.
Although he is not shy of speaking his mind and has performed well in infrastructure development of Rivers State, many have questioned his comportment for presidential office. More so, his acceptability in the North will be an issue for debate. But he has a huge war chest for the election.
Abubakar Bukola Saraki, 59
The two-term governor of Kwara State and Senate president is regarded as one of the most savvy and connected politicians today. He recently declared his presidential ambition while his ticket was secured for him by some young professionals.
He hopes to project his experience both on the executive and legislative pedigree as well as his acceptability among the youth demography.
Saraki, a strong advocate for the PDP to throw its presidential ticket open, is currently leading the charge for a consensus candidate to emerge from among the Northern PDP aspirants. He is also a strong believer in North Central producing the next president.
However, he contested the presidential ticket of PDP in 2019 and earlier in 2011 although he didn’t scale through the screening process of the Adamu Ciroma-led Northern consensus candidate committee.
He however considers himself a bridge between the North and the South as a Kwara indigene with Yoruba/Fulani blood.
Dele Momodu, 62
Dele Momodu, publisher of Ovation Magazine, had contested the presidency under the platform of National Conscience Party (NCP) and lost in 2011. He recently declared his interest to run for the presidency under the platform of the PDP. Whether his robust network will translate to a strong political base in his quest to secure the PDP presidential ticket is another matter. But he has since purchased his forms by himself. Whether he has the war chest to embark on this capital-intensive project is also interesting to see.
Khadija Okunnu, 39
She is one of the female aspirants that has declared for president of this country. She is the daughter of Mr Femi Okunnu, former Minister of Works. She is clearly a new entrant to the political game and she has taken on the big task. How well she stamps her authority in the field will be key to how far she goes in raising the bar of discussion in the course of the polls. How well she is known beyond her political circle is suspect.
Sam Ohuabunwa, 70
Mazi Samuel Ohuabunwa is renowned as a businessman and founder/former CEO of Neimeth Pharmaceutical. He was also a former president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria.
He, just like Moghalu, has formally declared his intention to run for president. Although he is a staunch PDP member, Ohuabunwa is also the convener of the New Nigeria Group (NNG), a non-partisan group dedicated to changing the Nigerian narrative.
A recipient of three national awards by three different presidents, namely Olusegun Obasanjo (2001), Goodluck Jonathan (2011) and Muhammadu Buhari (2018), the head of the Ohuabunwa dynasty hopes to strike a chord with all the critical stakeholders in the voting demography. But whether the most influential power bloc in his party, PDP, will back him is another matter.
Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, 60
Anyim has cognate experience: he has served as Senate president and as secretary to the government of the federation (SGF). With these high positions, Anyim, a PDP stalwart, seemingly has an edge with regards to political capital and goodwill, if well harnessed.
He has also made public his intention to vie for the top seat. Interestingly, his declaration came shortly after he was called for questioning by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in October. While some reports have it that he was detained by the anti-graft agency for two days, he clarified that he visited the commission of his own volition because his name was mentioned in a corruption case. However, there are reports he has been embarking on consultations with former presidents and elder statesmen to advance his case. Getting the PDP ticket will come at a huge cost as he will be up against other contenders who boast of equally intimidating political CVs. He recently secured his PDP presidential forms by proxy.
Senator Rochas Okorocha, 59
The former Imo State governor is no stranger to competing for the presidency having done so in 2003 and 2015. Although he is having a rough patch within his party, APC, Okorocha has formally declared for the top seat, but his new political crusade, which sees him attempting to forge an alliance beyond his party, smacks of his strategy for the 2023 contest. If he hopes to run on the platform of the APC, his major hurdle would be his successor, Governor Hope Uzodimma, with whom he has been locked in a long battle for supremacy in the state.
Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, 61
Kalu is also not new to the contest for the presidency.
The chairman of SLOK Holdings and media mogul had contested the presidency in 2007 on the platform of Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), a party he formed.
So far, loyalists of the former Abia State governor have been mobilising support for him with one of such groups threatening to sue him if he refuses to contest. Another group said it was mobilising others for a one-million-man march to persuade him to declare for president in 2023.
The Senate chief whip has also been embarking on consultations and enjoys a long relationship with some of the top generals.
Governor Dave Umahi, 58
Governor Umahi is seen as one of the contenders. The former PDP stalwart who joined APC in 2020 is seen as one of the top personalities in the party from the South East zone that will seek the ticket. He has canvassed for fair treatment of the Igbo within the political space, one of the reasons he gave for leaving the PDP for the ruling APC. He has declared his interest in the presidential race and, like Tinubu, he informed President Buhari personally about his quest.
Only recently, the Ebonyi State commissioner of information, Barrister Orji Uchenna Orji, recalled that Ebonyi leaders and elders issued a communiqué and resolved to tell the world that Umahi has got a commodity that can change the narrative of this country.
As for the tough task of securing the party’s ticket, Umahi hopes to leverage on his closeness to President Buhari which he had openly displayed even when he was in the PDP.
Udom Emmanuel, 55
Like his counterparts in PDP, Emmanuel recently secured his presidential forms by proxy. From the banking sector, he shot into the political scene when in July 2013, he was appointed secretary to the state government of Akwa Ibom State.
In 2014, Emmanuel contested the governorship of Akwa Ibom State in a primary election and defeated 22 other aspirants to emerge the PDP candidate. In 2015, he was elected governor and was re-elected in 2019. With the clamour for Southern presidency raging, he has joined the race, but whether he has the political network, net worth and clout to embark on this intensive contest is another matter.
Gbenga Olawepo-Hasim, 57
APC chieftain, Olawepo is one of the key figures in Nigeria’s democratic struggle. His name emerged on the national scene during the anti-apartheid movement as a student activist, when he and other student leaders of the University of Lagos were clamped in a Police cell in Nigeria in 1989 after a protest. He also very active in the fight against military rule in Nigeria.
In 1995, he joined partisan politics when he emerged the national publicity secretary of the National Democratic Labour Party (NDLP) in the transition programme of the Abacha regime. After his party was denied registration, he joined other principled politicians who opposed the late Nigerian military dictator, Sani Abacha. This group of politicians first organised around the Institute for Civil Society and G-34 which led let to the formation PDP.
Despite playing a very active role in PDP’s formation and emerged deputy national publicity secretary, he left the platform on principle.
In April 2007, he ran as governorship candidate of the Democratic People’s Party (DPP) in Kwara State and was declared first runner-up.
In 2019, he contested to be president of Nigeria under a third party, People’s Trust. This time however he will contest on the platform of the APC.
Omoyele Sowore, 51
Sowore has for long engaged the Nigerian political space through political activism until he joined partisan politics. On 25 February, 2018, Sowore announced his intention to run for president in the 2019 general election.
In August 2018, he founded a political party, the African Action Congress (AAC), on whose platform he ran for president in 2019 though unsuccessful.
On 1, March 2022, Sowore announced his intention to run for president in the 2023 general election. His first experience obviously didn’t go as planned but whether he has amassed capacity and network to change the situation this time remains to be seen.
Chukwuma Monye, 43
A renowned social innovator and multinational management consultant, Mr Chukwuka Monye has declared his interest to contest for the presidential seat.
The Delta State-born strategist made the public declaration at his country home of Onicha-Ugbo in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State amid loud shouts of approval by thousands of supporters, mostly youths from across the federation.
In an emotion-laden presentation, Monye said his campaign would be anchored on the slogan, “Our Future Is Now” which captures his vision on security, institutional reforms and job creation.
In 2007, Monye, who said that he was detribalised and strongly believed in the unity of Nigeria, founded and has been the managing partner of Cuici Consulting, which has led over 400 institutional change programmes in Nigeria, Africa, American and other countries.
According to Monye, who was the director-general of the Delta Economic Summit Group, a non-partisan political group, he was in the race to liberate Nigeria from the economic quagmire it has found itself due to years of bad leadership.
Muhammad Hayatu-Deen, 69
Renowned economist and founder and former chairman/CEO of FSB International Bank Plc, Mohammed Hayatu-Deen joined PDP in January and declared for president last week.
A founding leader of the Nigerian Economic Summit, Hayatu-Deen will be having his first partisan elective political experience at the highest level. Having advised three presidents, he believes he has what it takes to manage a country like Nigeria. He has since joined the consensus arrangement being canvassed by some aspirants in PDP.
His name is yet to register with grassroots Nigerians beyond his zone, and getting this done is a task that might be herculean between now and the 2023 election.
Yahaya Bello, 47
Bello, a second term governor of Kogi State, is one of the young political office holders who wield influence in the Buhari-led APC administration.
Bello has been the youngest governor in Nigeria throughout his term in office. He has formally declared his intention to contest the 2023 presidential election on APC platform. He would hope to become the representative of the youth aspiration for generational power shift, but he will be judged by the way he has managed Kogi State. No doubt he has embarked on campaigns across the country but whether it will translate to him getting the party ticket is another thing. He would also hope to leverage on his closeness to the villa.
Professor Funmilayo Adesanya- Davies, 60
The Ira-Kwara-born professor is a linguist, educationist and politician. Born to a royal lineage, Adesanya- Davies is a PDP presidential aspirant.
She is a member of Livelihood Award Centre, UN-POLAC International Peace Advocate, who currently serves as the Country President, serving humanity towards achieving ECOWAS millennium goals.
Adesanya-Davies was the presidential candidate of Mass Action Joint Alliance (MAJA) during the 2019 general elections.
A woman of impeccable character, Adesanya-Davies cherishes the ideals of a democratic, free and egalitarian society.
She is an academic and educational consultant, on professorial cadre, at Rivers State University of Education, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where she has lectured in language, linguistics and communication studies for 32 years.
A presidential aspirant on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Barrister Adewole Adebayo has said that Nigeria will be the most just country in the world if he emerged president.
According to Adebayo, the legal infrastructure in the country is a barricade to justice, and he will fix the problem as president.
Speaking when he played host to a team of Hague Institute for Innovation of Law, led by her Nigeria Country Representative, Ujeoma Nwafor, Adebayo said even though the society itself is not just, the law and the people dispensing justice must deliver justice by conscience.
A Prince of Ebira land, Malik Ado- Ibrahim is a presidential aspirant under the banner of the Young Progressives Party (YPP). He believes he can alter the PDP/APC dominance in the polity. He would hope to also cash in on the young demography.
Moses Ayom is a businessman and APC member from Benue State who has been reaching out to political stakeholders. But it is doubt whether he has the political clout to win the APC ticket
Other aspirants in the race are Oliver Diana (PDP), Nwachukwu Anakwaeze (PDP) and Favour Ayodele (ADC).
There are, of course, some others who are making underground moves but are yet to tell the public about their ambition.