Meet top Nigerian politicians tipped for 2023 presidential race

...as INEC announces election date, get set for nationwide voters registration

With the announcement of the date for the 2023 presidential election and the preparation for nationwide voters registration, the curtain has finally fallen on the poll, unveiling politicians who may contest for the 2023 race.

According to the Acting Chairman of INEC, AVM Ahmed Mu’azu, the resumption of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise will commence in the first quarter of next year (2021), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced.

NewsClickNG gathered that wide-ranging consultations and political permutations have now been unleashed with known gladiators whose presidential ambition has been barely concealed, hitting the road.

Leading the pack are Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the February 23, 2019 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar; two-term governor of Lagos State and National Leader, All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; Pastor of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare; Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State; his Kaduna State counterpart, Malam Nasir el-Rufai; former national chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega; and former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi and former President, Goodluck Jonathan

1. Atiku:

The former vice president of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, may still emerge PDP’s candidate in the 2023 general election.

Although it is believed that Atiku might still show interest, his close associates are telling him that he should take up an advisory role in politics.

Meanwhile, the PDP has said that the party’s floor is open for any contender willing to contest for the presidential election in 2023, including Atiku.

National Chairman of the Party, Prince Uche Secondus, said this while reacting to questions from journalists in Bauchi recently on whether the party will re-present Atiku who lost the 2019 presidential election to Muhammadu Buhari.

“There is no room for discrimination,” Secondus said in Bauchi State during a solidarity visit on Governor Bala Mohammed.

The ambition of Obi, who was the running mate to Atiku in the February 23 presidential content, is said to be sustained by the clamour for a South-east presidency by Southern and Middle-Belt leaders, who argue that equity demands that after eight years of Buhari, the presidency should revert to the South of the country.

That the Southern leaders’ argument is failing is evidenced by the caliber of aspirants from the North and South-west, who analysts say, have positioned themselves strategically for the run.

2. Bola Tinubu

One of the most visible politicians whose interest in becoming Nigeria’s president is now an open secret is the two-term governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu.

According to reports, Tinubu, has quietly opened a campaign headquarters in a Maitama property that once housed a private school in Abuja. The 2,700 square metres property, former home of Eagle Heights International Schools, sits just North of the Philippines Embassy at 2, Kainji Crescent and just across the street from Body of Benchers, which regulates admission into Nigerian legal education institutions.

Tinubu has long been rumoured to be interested in running for President but he has sparingly parried questions around his ambition and clearly has not begun open consultation as an aspirant.

But his supporters have been coordinating in Lagos, Abuja and elsewhere to work towards a seamless strategy that will see him clinch the APC presidential ticket.

While Tinubu’s circles are confident of his chances, the numerous corruption allegations against him is one big challenge they need to address.

Even though he has continued to deny it, Tinubu had been courting President Buhari and the cabal, a group of power brokers at the Aso Rock Villa led by late Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, with the hope of clinching the APC Presidential ticket in 2023.

But there was a huge setback to his political structure and 2023 presidential ambition plot after President Buhari and other APC leaders in a meeting in June sacked the National Working Committee of the party headed by his loyalist, Adams Oshiomhole.

The former Edo State governor belongs to the Tinubu camp and with him and his NWC out of the way, the chances of the ex-Lagos governor succeeding Buhari grew ever slimmer.

Tinubu had also convinced himself that by surrendering his loyalty to President Buhari and the cabal he would be able to curry the favour of the Northern parts of Nigeria for his presidential ambition.

3. Yemi Osinbajo

The vice president has been subjected to a flurry of corruption insinuation in the media, particularly in the social space. His close associates are of the view that this is fueled by the belief of powerful forces that he is nursing a presidential ambition. “They wish to rubbish him,” a source said.

Although Osinbajo has not revealed that he would be contesting for the coveted post, a few analysts contend that he might be looking to reap from the networks he has built while in office as Buhari’s Vice.

Said to be trusted by the president, he is said to be banking on that trust to reap the president’s support to push for him to ascend to the presidency. The case for that, said a source at the Presidential Villa, is the need for continuity.

Not a few political and social analysts agree that the little opportunity he got to stand in for his boss, he proved that he too could be president.

Respected for his intellectual clarity and wide understanding of political and economic issues, Osinbajo, say some political watchers, maybe the dark horse that would upstage Tinubu in the impending contest. But will vested interests baying for blood in the media allow him?

4. Kayode Fayemi

Also reputed for his intellectual arsenal, Fayemi is believed to be positioning for the presidential slot. Political analysts point to his deft political move in clinching the position of the chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum earlier in the year, pointing out that he appears to be leveraging on it.

To be fair, said an analyst, the Ekiti State governor, who just clocked one year of his second tenure, has shown leadership in his new position, breathing life into the almost comatose forum under former Zamfara State governor, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari.

Standing on the forum’s platform, Fayemi, who was also minister of Solid Minerals, has been around the country, either delivering addresses or leading his colleagues on one advocacy or the other, the most recent being the governors’ battle against wholesome deduction of bailout refund as well as uniform implementation of minimum wage and the allied consequential adjustment.

He is believed to be sounding out his colleagues and other power brokers on what 2023 would look like as he moves around the country supposedly on the forum’s assignment.

5. Tunde Bakare

The fiery pastor of the Latter Rain Assembly is the only one of the lots that has openly declared his intention to replace Buhari at the villa.

Having run the race with Buhari in 2011, Bakare said he was the most suitable person to succeed the president in 2023. He told his congregation recently that he was not only interested in the race but was certain to win.

It is, however, unclear on which platform he would run being without a known party presently.

6. Nasir el-Rufai

When in a prologue titled, ‘Defeating a Determined Incumbent – The Nigerian Experience,’ which he contributed to a book –Power of Possibilities and Politics of Change in Nigeria – written by the Director-General of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Mr. Salihu Lukman, el-Rufai, canvassed the argument for the scrapping of zoning, to give way for competency, those not versatile in the subtlety in the nuances of Nigerian politicians would look at the argument on the face value.By 2023 when Buhari is expected to round off his term, power is expected to return to the South under the nation’s informal arrangement of power rotation.

Should the political elite buy into el-Rufai’s well-considered argument, the 2023 race will be opened to aspirants from the North, especially in the two major political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and PDP that to a large extent considered the power rotational principle an article of faith.

And one of the main beneficiaries of such a new arrangement would be the promoter of the no-more-zoning campaign: el-Rufai.
El-Rufai, who by 2023 would have ended his tenure as governor, is one of the key Northerners being touted to take a shot at the presidency. Although he has not officially acknowledged his political ambition, as typical of a Nigerian power seeker, there is no doubt he nurses an ambition to be the next occupant of Aso Rock.

Already there is a shadowy organisation, Nasiriyya Group, modelled after a grassroots association promoted by former Kano State Governor, Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso, for political mobilisation, rallied the governor’s loyalists to launch his 2023 bid.

The Nasiriyya Group, a support group loyal to el-Rufai, and headed by Alhaji Ibrahim Nabuga, Garkuwan Rijau, has started putting the blocks together to give wings to el-Rufai’s muted ambition. The Plateau State Chairperson of the group, Hajiya Nafisatu Omar, made a pitch for him, describing the governor as “a detribalised, and not a religious bigot, suitable for the job of a president.” The group has opened a campaign office for el-Rufai in Jos has launched the Nasiriyya Organisation Support Group(NOSG) to drive the governor’s yet-to-be declared presidential bid.

A quantity surveyor, who launched his public service career as Director General of Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), to oversee the nation’s privatisation programme under the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, made such an impressive showing that he got promoted to cabinet rank as Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) during Obasanjo’s second term from 2003 to 2007.
El-Rufai, who will be 63 by 2023, is a focused administrator who pursues his agenda with determination and has networks across party lines.

7. Peter Obi

Against the run of play, Mr. Peter Obi, a businessman with vast interest in banking, brewery and commerce, among others, emerged the running mate to Atiku. What undoubtedly gave him the post despite opposition from his fellow South-east politicians, where the position was zoned to, was his eight-year stewardship as governor of Anambra State and his reputation as a parsimonious manager of public funds.

Had the PDP succeeded with its appeal at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, he would have been the nation’s vice president by now. But with the apex court’s summary dismissal of the appeal and age not being on his septuagenarian principal side by the next election season, Obi, who is now 58, looks sure, for now, as one of the likely serious contenders to scramble for the presidency in 2023.
Given the groundswell of sentiments for the South-east to be allowed to take a shot at the presidency, for the first time since the rebirth of democracy in 1999, given his credentials, Obi would stand tall among his kindred, should such concession get a nationwide backing.

The 1984 Philosophy graduate of University of Nsukka, and member of the Presidential Economic Team in the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan began his foray into politics when he vied for the governorship of his state on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in 2003.

Before he left office in 2014, he had started hobnobbing with the PDP, the then ruling party and his eventual defection to the party came as no shock to political watchers.

8. Aminu Tambuwal

Until the last hours, the auguries favoured Tambuwal, a former speaker, House of Representatives, to pick the PDP presidential ticket to square up to Buhari for the occupation of Aso Rock, the seat of power. He and Atiku were the frontline contenders for the party’s ticket and with backing from the powerful bloc of his fellow governors, he looked good to clinch the ticket until the table finally turned in favour of Atiku. With his defeat by Atiku, he returned to his state where through subterfuge, he had prepared the ground to be able to run for the governorship election, in case he lost the presidential ticket as he eventually did.

Tambuwal, now 53, is a 1991 graduate of Law from the Usman Dan Fodiyo University, Sokoto, who began his political career at the outset of the Fourth Republic in 1999 as a Personal Assistant on Legislative Affairs to the then Senate Leader, Senator Abdullahi Wali.

In 2003, he contested election into the House of Representatives on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) to represent the Kebbe/Tambuwal Federal Constituency, and won.

Towards the 2007 general elections, he dumped the ANPP to join former Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, in Democratic People’s Party (DPP), which the latter founded. His membership of DPP was, however, brief as he returned to ANPP when his new party denied him, along with some other defectors, tickets to run for election. Again, he dumped the ANPP and moved with the party’s governorship candidate for Sokoto State in the 2007 election, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko, to PDP.

During his stay in the House of Representatives, he was minority leader, deputy chief whip and at various times, a member of several committees, including the House Committees on Rules & Business, Communications, Judiciary, Inter-Parliamentary and Water Resources.

Should the PDP throw open the 2023 race by abandoning the zoning policy or conceding the presidency to the North, Tambuwal, who is a veteran of many political battles and has over the years built political alliance across party lines, is in a good stead to vie for the party’s ticket.

9. Attahiru Jega

Until June 8, 2010 when the then President Goodluck Jonathan nominated him as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the reputation many Nigerians have of Prof. Attahiru Jega, a former Vice Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano, was that of an academic and a unionist.

As President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), in the early 1990s, Jega rallied the union behind labour and other activists to form a body of opposition to the military administration of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, over his convoluted transition programme and other policies.

However, his defining moments were his superintendence of the electoral commission, especially after the shambolic conduct of the 2007 elections by his predecessor, Prof. Maurice Iwu, which the winner of the presidential stanza, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, said had shortcomings and his running mate who eventually succeeded him, Jonathan, confessed caused him a lot of embarrassment, notwithstanding the Supreme Court judgment that upheld their victory.

Jega, a leftist academic with a doctoral degree in Political Science from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois in the United States, brought credibility to the conduct of elections in the country that under his leadership, led to a drastic reduction in number of election petitions filed to challenge electoral outcomes.

His leadership style and predisposition contributed largely to the plaudits that trailed the conduct of the 2015 general election that saw for the first time in Nigeria’s annals the defeat of an incumbent president and the peaceful transfer of power from the ruling party to the then opposition party.

He returned to his base after his tour of duty at INEC and nothing could have linked him to the jostling for the 2023 presidential race but for his declaration in August for the People’s Redemption Party (PRP), a party with a leftist leaning.

Since his declaration for the party, the polity has been awash with tales of Jega’s warming up to throw his hat into the ring and be an active participant in a race he was once the chief officiating official.

10. Jonathan

While Former President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has continued to distance himself from the 2023 presidential race, his associates in the south are unreletless and busy tinkering with the idea of pushing his candidacy.

Their calculation is that the presidency can return to the North in 2027 since Jonathan, if he wins in 2023, will be ineligible to contest again.

Jonathan, who remains a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), lost his bid for a second term in 2015 when he was defeated by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Political allies and former aides of the Bayelsa-born politician, The Nation gathered, recently met in Abuja to discuss the possibility of his contesting the 2023 presidential election.

Sources knowledgeable about the development said some prominent chieftains of the PDP have bought into the idea on account of the zoning principle.

Although the former president himself is yet to openly signify interest in the race, some of his allies, who do not want to be named, said discussions are ongoing following growing appeal from some prominent Nigerians and groups to him.

One of the sources said: “especially with the growing concern about zoning, we are discussing all possibilities. Political leaders and other stakeholders from the North and the South are talking about it.”

Sources also said the Abuja meeting was convened by two chieftains of the Southern Nigerian Consultative Forum (SNCF) possibly after discussions with the former president and his associates.

It was gathered that the plot to draft Jonathan into the race may not be unconnected with fears that the North plans to field candidates for the next presidential election contrary to the principle of rotating the presidency between the North and the South.

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