There is no doubt that 2022, the year preceding the highly anticipated general elections, will definitely be an interesting but busy one for politicians, watchers of political developments and political analysts.
As many discerning Nigerians eagerly await the resolution of the controversial parts (mode of conduct of party primaries) in the Electoral Act as amended by the National Assembly and pending presidential assent, as well as the long-awaited national convention of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), presidential aspirants have started emerging across political parties, ahead of the 2023 general election.
Many aspirants, who have been, through their body language, trying to express their interest in succeeding President Muhammadu Buhari, are now coming out openly to declare their ambitions.
Though who succeeds Buhari next year remains very unclear and fluid at this time, feelers coming from the power brokers and those who would influence how the parties chose their candidates have given a bit of clarity to who the real contenders are.
Interestingly, and from all indications, the political party amongst the two leading entities that presents a presidential candidate that appeals to stakeholders and voters across party lines will likely win the election.
Last week, within the space of two days, two presidential aspirants, a former Governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, told Nigerians they had visited Aso Rock to inform the President of their intentions to contest the presidential election scheduled for February 2023.
Earlier, a former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, had been going round the country for consultations on his interest to succeed Buhari.
Others who have either indicated their interest openly and through proxies include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; former Vice President Atiku Abubakar; former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr Kingsley Moghalu; Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State; Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State; Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State; former Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso; Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi; the Publisher of Ovation Magazine, Dele Momodu; former Abia State governor and Senate Chief Whip, Dr Orji Kalu; Sam Ohuabunwa and former Presidential spokesman, Dr Doyin Okupe. Of all these names, only Bala Mohammed, Kwankwanso and Tambuwal are yet to openly declare their interest.
Although it is too early to say who will emerge victorious or not, certain trends have started emerging to show the contending forces that would test the mettle of the aspirants. A few of these forces are political and geo-political, some are power centres and others are the war chest to fund elections, which is often a do-or-die affair in Nigeria.
In the area of political and geo-political contests, almost all the six zones in the country have challenges that would test and try aspirants and even candidates hoping to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari. For now, 18 parties are known on paper, but in reality, two are active in the public domain and continue to dominate headlines; they are the governing APC and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP).
In a year in which both parties will witness the exit of many state governors, who have done second terms in office under their platforms, and lingering controversies over unresolved congresses, the intrigues and power play are aplenty as presidential aspirants will have to take more than a passing interest in ensuing intrigues involved in producing governorship candidates in their localities.
Among the 24 governors on the platform of the APC, only Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State and his Gombe counterpart, Inuwa Yayaha, will be going for a second term. Both of them emerged in 2019. Also, Ekiti and Osun States will witness off-cycle polls, which all the political parties will contest between June and July, 2022.
APC’s Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo, who was re-elected in October 2020, still has two years to complete his tenure. For the PDP, only Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and his Adamawa counterpart, Umaru Fintiri, will go for a second term out of the 12 state governors on the party’s platform. They, too, were elected in 2019. PDP’s Governor Duoye Diri of Bayelsa State was sworn into office on February 15, 2020 after the Supreme Court annulled the election of David Lyon of the APC. He still has two years to run. The stakes are high on who succeeds the outgoing governors in almost 30 states of the country.
Moreover, both rival parties are struggling with intra-party crises. The PDP recently overcame its stormy leadership crisis when it successfully organised its national convention to elect new executive officers. The APC, on the other hand, is still grappling with convention-related issues and court cases over the suitability of its interim exco headed by Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State.
Investigations revealed that power is changing hands in both political parties, so fast that aspirants may wake up the next day and find their aspirations go up in smoke. In the PDP, the governors are said to be bent on producing one of their own, especially after Makinde, Fintiri and their Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike, orchestrated the exit of former National Chairman, Uche Secondus, accused of fronting for former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who is bent on running for the presidency in 2023.
In reality, it turned out that the real motivation to kick out Secondus was to pave the way for Wike to aspire to the presidency or the position of Vice President, which Secondus’ presence would have made difficult. Secondus hails from Rivers State, just as Wike, a factor that could also pave the way for him among advocates of a president from the South-East. But political analysts believe that though Wike has the money to push his way through, his stance on the controversy over who collects the Value Added Tax between the states and the Federal Government might be his albatross as he might face opposition from the North.
Not to give anything to chance, Atiku’s men, led by the Chairman of African Independent Television, Alegho Raymong Dokpesi, are canvassing their principal’s presidential interest by reaching out to potential delegates across the states.
In the APC where Buni and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abukakar Malami, are calling the shots, antagonising either or both men may spell doom for aspirants. Indeed, Buhari’s revelation in a TV interview a fortnight ago that his preferred presidential candidate may be eliminated if he named him, is said to have prompted Tinubu’s presidential consultation so that the former Lagos State governor’s dream to fulfill his life-long ambition is not stalemated after the president’s candidate has been revealed.
Since 1992, when he joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and was elected to the Senate to represent Lagos West Constituency in the short-lived Third Republic, through his membership of the pro-democracy National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), a group which mobilised support for the restoration of democracy and recognition of Chief M.K.O. Abiola as the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election to 1999 when he became governor of Lagos State on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy, Tinubu has been a major stakeholder in the Nigerian project. His determination of the outcome of the APC presidential primaries in Lagos and subsequent emergence of the party in government not only raised his national political capital, but also put him in reckoning for the highest office in the land.
But Tinubu’s fortunes appear to have dipped. His firm grip on the politics of the South-West political zone has been considerably reduced by a combination of factors, including disloyalty by former acolytes who got federal appointments and joined his ‘enemies,’ against him, particularly those “who trashed him” after APC’s victory in 2015, as his wife, Oluremi, once described in an interview.
He said he would soon make public his intention to run for President in 2023 after officially informing President Buhari about it last week.
His notable achievements as a two-term governor of Lagos State put him in a good position to realise his ambition of becoming Nigerian president.
Many, however, believe it will be inappropriate for him to contest the Presidency in 2023 because of old age (69 officially though believed to be older), his unexplained source of stupendous wealth, his crude grip on the resources of Lagos State and his recent health challenges. Only last year, Tinubu spent a long time in London and the United States where he had gone for medical treatment and Nigerians are wary of having another ‘sick president,’ after Buhari.
Analysts also believe Nigeria needs a younger and digital President, who is conversant and understands the language of the modern age and is in tune with trending world events, not one dependent on feedback from his acolytes.
Oluyemi Osinbajo, SAN, is a lawyer by profession and a politician, who has served as the Vice President of Nigeria since May 2015. The former Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General of Lagos State between 1999 and 2003 is cerebral and he is generally believed to have no dirty baggage, being also a Senior Pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God. His supporters say he will ensure continuity of Buhari’s policies and programmes. This may turn out to be a big campaign issue, if he were to base his campaign on ‘continuity,’ considering the worsening insecurity, poverty, hunger, unemployment in the country and the mistrust unleashed among Nigerians by the Muhammadu Buhari administration. His shortcoming is that he lacks a formidable political structure having risen to prominence from the Tinubu political machine and this may work against his ambition. Also, there are divisions in the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) on Osinbajo’s candidature as many believe that a Christian from another denomination, aside Redeemed Christian Church of God, especially a Catholic, should step into his shoes to represent the interest of Christians.
Then there is the Tinubu factor. THEWILL gathered reliably that Osinbajo’s presidential aspiration has angered and frustrated Tinubu so much that he has sworn that if he does not get the APC ticket he would ensure that Osinbajo too does not get it.
The Minister of Transportation, who was a two-term governor of Rivers State, first on the platform of the PDP and then the APC, to which he defected before the 2015 general election, is said to be nursing an ambition for the presidency, given the likelihood of the APC zoning the ticket to the Igbos, who are majority in the South East and minority in the South South.
Sources say the minister’s Igbo heritage even though he is from the South South zone presents a bridge between the two zones, a political strategy that some party hawks who do not like Amaechi are adopting in their bid to woo ex-President Goodluck Jonathan into the race for the APC’s ticket.
Amaechi enjoys chummy relations with the president and has been exceptional in his performance as Transport minister.
Adebayo, the cerebral Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, has caught the interest of the party because of his link with the military establishment, courtesy of his late father, General Olayinka Adebayo, a one-time military governor of the Western Region. The former governor of Ekiti State on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy from 1999 to 2003 and former Deputy National Chairman of the ruling party, is an establishment man who the current power brokers within the party think would make a good team player. He has not openly declared his interest for the presidency.
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele is said to be in the good books of the APC leadership and he is being considered for the position of president on the party’s platform because of his good understanding of monetary policies and the politics of allocation of resources in a way that satisfies all interests across the political and business worlds. For those who are calling for space to be given to technocrats willing to step into the political arena and get the business of governance going without unnecessary politicking, Emefiele fits the bill.
Emefiele, an Igbo from Delta State in the South South region, is also a hybrid choice and a bridge to the South East.
Umahi made his intention known when he visited the President at the Aso Rock Villa, 24 hours after Tinubu made the same visit. He is banking on the possible zoning of the presidency to the South-East by the APC.
The governor, who was elected on the platform of the PDP, from where he defected in 2020 to the APC, is sounding so desperate to prove his aspiration that he is paying no respect to groups in the South-East and their viewpoints. He thinks Ohanaeze Ndigbo should abstain from politics, not to talk of partisanship. Also, he contends that Ebonyi State is not “part of Biafra.’ Such reactions by Umahi may haunt him in the days ahead as exemplified in the zone’s interest in presenting a united front for negotiation, with the total commitment of collective interests to resolve IPOB related issues.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan is said to be nursing an ambition to return to the Aso Rock Villa. A former MD of a defunct national newspaper based in Lagos confirmed that the former President is giving serious consideration to pressure to return to Aso Rock.
“Dr. Jonathan consulted me. He is very interested and will run only if the ticket is given to him,” the senior journalist categorically told our source.
However, his spokesperson, Ikechukwu Eze, has denied the speculation.
Eze said, “Defection issue and presidential ambition are all rumours. It has no foundation. We do not want to be reacting to such (things) again. We have issued statements on this before.
“Former President Jonathan went to the Villa to brief the President on the forthcoming ECOWAS meeting in Ghana. The meeting will discuss the political happenings in Mali. So, as a special envoy, he was at the Presidential Villa to brief President Buhari.
“There are issues in Mali and at the forthcoming meeting, ECOWAS leaders are to look at the transition timetable proposed by the Malian rulers and take a position on it. It is also at this meeting that a decision would be taken on whether to sanction the Malian military ruler or not. This is the issue that took oga (Jonathan) to the villa.”
ANYIM PIUS ANYIM
Anyim has remained one of the most vocal aspirants from the South-East. He has begun to lobby for support across the country, starting from the South-East. He is banking on the expected zoning of the presidential candidacy of his party, the PDP, to the South.
Anyim, who was former Senate President, declared his intention to run in October 2021, but many believe he lacks the financial muscle required to contest the office of president in Nigeria. He is also seen by the younger elements in the country as one of the old politicians who should quit the stage for the younger generation.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar unsuccessfully contested in the 2007 presidential election on the platform of the Action Congress (AC) and lost to PDP’s Umaru Yar’Adua. In 2019, he ran on the platform of the PDP and lost to the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. His age may be a disadvantage, but he has proved to be of good health in the past years. He is believed to have a great chance of doing well in the election and has substantial wealth to pursue his ambition. But it remains doubtful if he would be able to survive the onslaught and dominance of key state governors in his party, who have forged a formidable alliance with Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike, who is seriously opposed to Atiku’s candidacy, as its arrowhead.
The Bauchi State governor is one of those governors in the PDP who strongly believe that it was about time the governors played dominant roles in the party, including vying for the presidency on its platform. As Chairman of the committee that recommended that the contest for the country’s highest office be thrown open to all zones in the country, he is said to be showing great interest in contesting for the presidency as he, in addition, thinks the North-East has been unjustly treated in the politics of the North because the zone is yet to produce a president. His major weakness is his structure, war chest and clout nationwide, compared to that of Atiku Abubakar, who also hails from that geo-political zone.
The Rivers State Governor is one of the leading voices in his party demanding that the PDP zone the presidential ticket to the South and he is pressuring other key leaders of the party to ensure it happens. As a major financier of the main opposition party, Wike has been able to persuade the party leadership to do his bidding in the past.
As one of the governors that dictate the tunes in the PDP, Wike will be rounding up his second term in office and if performance is a yardstick for the job, he would grab the ticket, given his involvement in policy planning and execution in Rivers State. He is nursing the ambition to run for President and if that does not work out then the Vice President ticket will suffice.
Part of his strategy to consolidate on his ambition includes inviting state governors from within his party and his friends in the APC, such as Senator Rochas Okorocha, to commission projects in Rivers; making donations for causes like the whopping sum of N500m donated to the Sokoto State Government in January 2021 as his contribution to the rebuilding of the burnt Central Market. One of the reasons he joined Oyo’s Makinde and Adamawa’s Fintiri to kick out Secondus, from Rivers State as PDP National Chairman was to pave the way for the realisation of his ambition.
Governor Okowa has gathered some clout for himself, apart from running the Delta State Government without much friction. His knack for detail and organisational skills have endeared him to party members and leaders alike and his counterparts across political parties. Such feats as his headship of the PDP National Convention Committee, which successfully organised the presidential convention in 2019, as well as the revived Southern Governors Forum in Asaba in May last year, have counted well for him at a time he is doing his second term in office. The zoning of the party ticket will finally decide when this versed and experienced administrator, who once served as senator, Secretary to State Government and one- time local government chairman in Delta State, will formally decide to run.
A source close to the top hierarchy of the PDP t disclosed that the opposition party is determined to return to power in 2023 and it will tighten up all loose ends in achieving this.
“We are putting our house in order and settling all the differences within the party. We believe that only an organised party can beat the APC to the game and we are determined that we resolve all our differences and agree on which zone to produce the presidential candidate by March,” the source, who craved anonymity, told this paper.
Okowa and Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, already beating their drums and preparing themselves as alternative candidates from the South, should Wike be frustrated by the North because of his stance on VAT.