The battle over who succeeds President Muhammadu Buhari when his tenure expires on May 29, 2023, is gathering momentum, throwing up drama, surprises and intrigues along the way.
The battle is even more fierce in the president’s party, the All-Progressives Congress (APC) as powerplay, high-stake lobbying and intense politicking are underway among the 22 men and 1 woman who have purchased and submitted the party’s Presidential Nomination and Expression of Interest Forms as they battle to outwit one another and clinch the party’s sole ticket.
The party is faced with a herculean task on how to manage the high number of candidates slugging it out for the party’s ticket.
The New Diplomat in this piece chronicles the 23 aspirants jostling for the APC’s ticket.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo is believed by many as ordinarily the most ideal to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari after working with the President for almost eight years. And against all odds, Osinbajo, on April 11, 2022, declared his intention to succeed his principal, Buhari, through a short video uploaded on various social media platforms. With his form submitted and consultations currently on-going in almost every part of Nigeria, the die is cast. Many believe he is the best equipped intellectually for the top job!
News that the current President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, was eyeing the presidency was like a rumour. Many had thought it might end as a rumor that would not evolve into reality and this was for obvious reasons. However, he is among the 23 other aspirants and appears to truly mean business. Even as some analysts fault Lawan’s presidential ambition, he is unperturbed. No one knows where the pendulum will swing. Since he joined the race, his entry appears to have altered the political dynamics and calculations in a strong way. But in the meantime, nobody is certain how things might play out politically.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu
In many respects, a lot of political analysts, have begun to think that the tide is slowly tilting in the favour of a former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. For a man, who considers his presidential aspiration as a life-long ambition and the first to publicly declare his intention, he knows this is definitely not a sprint and he appears ready for whatever lays ahead. But the dynamics are not clear yet how the political game will play out!
The former governor of Ogun State and senator for Ogun Central, Ibikunle Amosun, comes to the race with a record of stellar performance as governor. A close ally of the president, Amosun boasts not just very deep knowledge in finance – combined with his executive and legislative exposures but also the task of leading the country to the next level if given the opportunity. He is also a strong willed politician.
A senator from Ondo State, Ajayi Borrofice, incidentally, made it to the point of submission, even though the misgivings about his decision to run are yet to subside. The fact that he has also crossed this hurdle, counts for him in many ways, even though it has not fundamentally altered the subsisting beliefs about his the perceived lack of seriousness about his aspiration
At this stage, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Ogbonnaya lOnu, is arguably one of the names to watch out for. Unlike some of his colleagues, who chickened out, when the reality of what might be lurking next door stared at them, Ogbonnaya appears not to be joking with the demand for a president from the South-east part of the country, albeit for Nigeria and Nigerians. While some still have reservations about him, he certainly would stand shoulders higher than many of the other contenders.
Former speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole might have sent a clear message too, staying up to this stage. Earlier considered as one of the jokers in the race, he cannot be described as such again, having made it to the second round. But how he plans to waltz through the political landmines and beat the heavyweights to their game, is yet to be seen. Young and personable, but being Nigeria’s president requires more than youthful energy!
Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, is one seemingly indomitable spirit in the race for Buhari’s job. Despite many things working and standing against his plausible choice and decision, especially, the unsavoury public perception about him, he has continued to give his all, possibly to prove he is not in the race to play around. Bello remains one interesting character in the race for the APC ticket and can no longer be taken for granted.
Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, according to some analysts, is in the race for justice, equity and fairness, which the Igbo demand. In addition, he is said to be convinced he has the gravitas to turn things around. Interestingly, he has a good record of performance, after serving Ebonyi for nearly eight years now. But how far his record of a relatively small Ebonyi would take him cannot be taken out of the concerns for his decision, when push comes to shove.
A serving Senator and former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, has always wanted to be president of Nigeria and this is about his fourth attempt. He might come off simple and sociable, he is equally of serious and progressive standing. He appears to mean ⅚business and is determined to give all that it would take to, not only emerge a candidate of the party but also ensure that the Igbo gets its rightful place in the body polity.
Minister of State for Education, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajuiba appears to be one candidate setting the pace for the others in many respects, an indication he is not in the race to while away time. He obtained his form first and was the first to resign, even before president Buhari handed the order to political appointees with intent to run for elective offices to resign.. He submitted his form as quickly as he could and was ready early enough for screening. He is following rules and setting his own standards. Analysts say whoever underrates this aspirant would do so at a huge cost, in addition to the fact that some northern elites seem to be backing him.
Since the former Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio, declared his intention to run for president, he has yet to catch the sort of attention expected to underscore his seriousness. Although he has been holding some skeletal consultations in view of his aspiration, Akpabio has not come out as strong as some of the front liners. Yet, he is not one to be pushed behind in the scheme of things.
Uju Kennedy Ohnenye
As the only female aspirant in the race for the APC presidential ticket, Uju Kennedy Ohnenye has fought a good fight so far and to the awe of many, who had thought she would have long fallen by the wayside. Her confidence and belief in her ability to turn the tide positively are indeed, big assets that are working in her favour.
If there was a list of people deemed as likely to chicken out from the race, one name most certainly to be missing in that list is the General Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church, Lagos, Pastor Tunde Bakare. He has not only been calling himself the number 16 to the office of the president, succeeding Buhari; he has been working to realise it too for some time. Thus, crossing the second round was not a surprise, and how far he would push this further is also not what anyone can envisage.
Nicholas Felix Nwagbo
Young and unknown Nicholas Felix Nwagbo, has sent a subliminal message to his critics by crossing the second stage of the process of his aspiration. A US-based Nigerian pastor at the Miracle Church International is the second pastor in the race for the APC ticket after Bakare. Whatever he intends to achieve with this, only time will tell.
Ekiti State Governor, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, who has led his colleagues as Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), is without a doubt, a man of class, panache and character. And with capacity and competence not in question, he is one of those who has marked up the ranks and quality of those aiming for Buhari’s job. Even though he kept this ambition close to his chest, he has never pretended about it and has always meant business. For Fayemi, the game is on and right. He has great intellectual pedigree and class.
The immediate past Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi is one aspirant, whose aspiration mean different thing to many people. To some, the former governor of Rivers State knows the game of political intrigues and horse trading. Since declaring for the office of the president, Amaechi has been consulting across the country. He has also shown the stuff he is made of. Amaechi has also held several positions including being speaker of Rivers House of Assembly.
Renowned largely for killing former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s third term agenda, a former President of the Senate, Ken Nnamani, is another face from the South-east in the race that cannot be taken for granted. He is believed to have experience, and maturity and has shown that he knows Nigeria and her challenges. Despite his personal inadequacies, he wouldn’t stop getting a deserved mention until this is over.
A prominent and critical factor in some of the APC power centres is the Jigawa State Governor, Abubakar Badaru. He cannot be pushed back as far as the race for the APC ticket is concerned. Whilst a majority of the people think his being in the race is to negotiate the office of the vice-president, who says if the South mismanages their chance, he would not gladly take the presidency itself? This is why governor of Jigawa state cannot be underrated.
A former governor of Zamfara State, Senator Sani Yerima’s presidential ambition is one that a lot of political observers have yet to situate in context. But from the time he obtained his forms to submitting them, he has neither flinched nor fidgeted about what he wanted. He clearly has some plans up his sleeves. Whatever they are, all eyes are on him as the battle for the APC ticket thickens.
A former Minister of Information and Culture during the late Gen. Sani Abacha junta, Chief Ikeobasi Mokelu, was among the last to venture into the race for the APC ticket. But, he is already boasting that his presidency would apply honour, character, and integrity in the application of efficient and sustainable governance at all levels and in the three arms of government. Whatever his end game is, the floor is open, at least, for now.
The Cross River State Governor, Professor Ben Ayade, is another presidential hopeful on the APC’s long list of aspirants, whose intention is hard to decode. Disadvantaged on many points, this former member of the opposition PDP, is gradually wearing a serious look, having crossed the second round of the nomination process. Although not much has been seen of him in terms of consultation, the question of how much home support he could garner has kept coming back each time serious analysis of actual contenders is written.
Forty-seven years old Tein Jack-Rich is the President and Founder of Belemaoil Producing Limited, a company often described as the first indigenous oil exploration and production company in Nigeria, even though that consideration is arguable. Coming from an oil-producing community in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, not a few understood yet what a completely apolitical Jack-Rick is doing flexing muscles in an otherwise muddy political terrain. But he seems convinced about his decision and is leaving nothing to chance as the journey to the presidential primaries continues.