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2023 presidency: Celebrated contenders versus fresh contestants

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
19 September 2021   |   3:01 am
The coast may not yet be clear, but the stage is gradually getting set for the race to Aso Rock Villa in 2023, just as names of those that are showing practical interest

Atiku. Photo/Facebook/Atiku Abubakar

Crucial Issues In APC, PDP’s Pending Rematch

The coast may not yet be clear, but the stage is gradually getting set for the race to Aso Rock Villa in 2023, just as names of those that are showing practical interest in it have started making the rounds. 

Indeed, if the election holds this month, two broad categories of contenders would be discernible – veterans and newcomers. 
For now, the familiar faces on the turf with covert and overt interest in the contest include, former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, former Lagos, Imo, Kano, Kwara and Abia state governors, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Rochas Okorocha, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Bukola Saraki, and Orji Uzor Kalu. There are also Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, and Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim.

Kingsley Moghalu

First-timers in the race are Governors David Umahi, Kayode Fayemi, Bala Mohammed, Yahaya Bello and Nyesom Wike, as well as Chris Baywood-Ibe, Peter Obi, Rotimi Amaechi, Danjuma Goje, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and Senator Ahmad Lawan.
Apart from Prof. Moghalu who is yet to disclose the platform he intends to gun for the plum job, the rest are unevenly divided between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). How far they will go in ventilating their ambition, therefore, depends on how the two parties reconcile the various issues dogging their leadership structures at the national convention.
According to observers, the journey to the 2023 general election would have begun in earnest by the time the two predominant political parties hold their national convention later this year.
While the main opposition PDP has fixed its national convention for October 30/31, the governing APC believes that only after the October 2 state congresses, would the stage be set to fix a date for its national convention.
The two main political parties –the APC and the PDP are spoiling for another major political battle in 2023 and both believe that whichever party wins the presidential contest stands the chance of diminishing or even dismantling the other.
Consequently, 16 months to the 2023 presidential showdown, both the APC and the PDP are looking up to their national conventions to strengthen their structures for a competitive outing. And as they prepare, their chieftains are enmeshed in arguments over zoning.
Pundits believe that the emergence of national chairmen of the two major parties would provide ready indicators regarding which zone (between North and South) that would produce the presidential standard-bearers of both parties.
However, the Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin, told The Guardian that the position of national chairman of the party would not determine where the presidential candidate would come from, adding that the Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi committee would come up with the necessary guides for the zoning of those offices.
Also speaking in a television programme, the former PDP national chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, said that not being in power, the preoccupation of the party was to elect capable candidates to lead it to victory in the presidential poll after the successful emergence of the chairman.
On its part, the governing APC is battling with fundamental challenges, which include the zoning of the offices of the national chairman and the presidential candidate. The party is also divided over the claim that there was an agreement that power would shift to the South and that Tinubu would succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.
The former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, told journalists in Abuja, recently that it amounts to wishful thinking for anybody to expect that the 2023 presidential slot should be zoned to the South.
The octogenarian, who is also representing Nasarawa West in the Senate on the platform of APC, contended that every Nigerian of voting age is free to join the presidential contest since according to him, zoning is not contained in the country’s constitution.
“The constitution is being reviewed. If you want a specific provision that presidential positions be zoned, this is when to say it, and how you want it to be zoned. You can’t just wish away, a situation that is fundamental to a country. You can’t talk of merit and zoning at the same time. You can’t.
“So, let’s just go by merit; let every party find a way of selling itself in a manner that will garner the kind of votes needed to win the election. It’s as simple as that,” he asserted, stressing that, “even though federal character exists, it does not mean that parties must zone the presidency during the election.”
But short of dismissing the APC and the PDP as two sides of the same coin, the spokesperson of Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, stated: “There are several characteristics that the two dominant political parties have displayed for a very long time, it is the same parties that have been playing for a very long time. 
“Power is bought and sold. And so, it is only available to the rich and that is very dangerous. Political parties are supposed to serve certain purposes, they articulate the needs of the people, they represent them and they aggregate them, this is what we want for elite recruitment.”
Baba-Ahmed reasoned that instead of calling for a government of national unity to address the failings of both the APC and the PDP in moving the country forward, a credible “political process through the electoral process can create a government of national unity.”
He added: “All you need is a leadership that emerged legitimately. Every Nigerian needs to know that when you say this is the leader, you are referring to someone that won the election.”

Schemes, Positives/Drawbacks
APART from Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Tinubu and Prof. Moghalu, some of those showing interest in the 2023 presidential contest are running to clinch either the post of their party’s national chairman or settling for a possible presidential running mate.

Among those that have adopted these mixed tactics are senators Goje and Sheriff. Sources claimed that Senate Chief Whip, Kalu, is angling to run as deputy to Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan if the APC jettisons zoning and settles for an all-comers’ affair. Like Kalu, Wike is also alleged to be warming up to deputise for his Sokoto State counterpart, Governor Tambuwal. 
Despite these intrigues, the shape of the 2023 Presidency is being dictated by the following permutations.

Atiku Abubakar:
ATIKU has been a veteran of presidential contests dating back to the 1992 Ibrahim Babangida’s convoluted transition to civil rule. He narrowly missed becoming the presidential running mate to late Chief Moshood Abiola on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

That exposure, however, placed him at a vantage position to emerge Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s deputy in 1999, shortly after he won the Adamawa State governorship poll.  
Having fallen out of favour with Obasanjo in their second term, Atiku moved over to the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), on which platform he unsuccessfully contested the 2007 presidential ballot. 
In 2010, shortly after he returned to the PDP, Atiku lost the party’s ticket to President Goodluck Jonathan ahead of the 2011 contest. In 2013, peeved by President Jonathan’s quest for another term in office, Atiku moved over to the freshly founded APC. His search for the party’s ticket ended on a sour note as the party’s stakeholders, led by Tinubu, picked Buhari as the APC standard-bearer for the 2015 poll.
Atiku featured in the 2019 presidential contest after he rejoined the PDP and clinched the party’s ticket at the Port Harcourt convention. His loss to President Buhari was shrouded in controversies, even as PDP believed that the governing party manipulated the ballot to favour the incumbent.
Waving the banner of right of first refusal, Atiku is currently oiling his political machinery to seek the presidential mandate. Atiku is reputed to have the financial capacity and political network to make a big show of the 2023 contest. However, the main snag in his latest quest is the bandwagon agitation for power shift to the South.

Asiwaju Tinubu
REPUTED as a strong power broker and political godfather, the Jagaban Borgu yielded his ambition on two occasions to ensure power shift to the North in 2011 and 2015, when he supported the pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, and Buhari respectively for the Presidency.

Having worked for the successful consummation of the merger of former opposition parties to form the APC, Tinubu was allegedly pleaded with to sacrifice his right to the presidential running mate, with the assurance that at the end of Buhari’s second term, he would be free to seek the presidential mandate.
It is believed that the former Lagos State governor has the war chest to contest favourably and help the governing party to retain the Presidency in 2023. However, sources within the APC said that the pressure on incumbent governors from the opposition PDP to join APC is an attempt to defray the former Lagos State governor’s command of delegate votes. 
Apart from the push by some APC governors to prop up Governor Fayemi, Tinubu is said to enjoy the confidence of the South West bloc, significant parts of the North as well as votes from many non-APC states.

Prof. Moghalu
AS a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Moghalu enjoyed the demographic support of young people when he joined the fray in the 2019 presidential election. Having rebuffed overtures from Atiku to pair up with him as presidential running mate, Moghalu, ran with a promise of innovative leadership and paradigm shift, insisting that the old order must give way to the new if the country must make progress.
With the endorsement of such great personages as the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Moghalu’s first attempt at the presidential contest did not return with the laurel, but he made his mark.
Since the former CBN chief resigned his membership of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), upon which platform he contested the 2019 poll, he is yet to announce his new platform, even as massive mobilisation of funds and support is ongoing on his behalf across the country, particularly in the North.

Moghalu’s chief bragging right is said to be the age of his ideas and non-attachment to any ethnic bloc. Having founded the To Build A Nation (TBAN) political movement, Moghalu wants to be the face of the new Nigeria in the presidential contest.  
Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim
Olawepo-Hashim contested the 2019 presidential election on the platform of Peoples Trust (PT) shortly after he was displaced from the Association of New Nigeria (ANN). Last month, the international business and former democracy activist migrated to the governing APC to vie for the party’s ticket.
Olawepo-Hashim is among northern politicians that have rejected zoning as the basis of leadership recruitment in the country, stressing that zoning has no place in a democracy.

Rochas Okorocha
APART from Atiku Abubakar, Senator Anayo Rochas Okorocha is about the oldest presidential contestant that is still in the race. In 2003, Okorocha went around the country in search of votes on the platform of Action Alliance (AA). He quit the PDP and picked the presidential ticket of the AA for the 2003 Presidential poll. After contesting and winning the Imo State governorship in 2011, Okorocha joined the merger process that birthed the APC.
However, rebuffing entreaties from APC leaders, particularly Buhari’s allies from the Southeast, the former Imo State governor contested for the APC presidential ticket against Buhari. For that audacious display, in addition to his insistence on fielding his son-in-law as the APC governorship candidate in 2019, Okorcoha, who currently represents Imo West in the Senate, is embattled within the APC.
Despite the supremacy war between the former Imo State governor and the incumbent, Senator Hope Uzodimma, Okorocha’s supporters are mobilising support for him to pick the APC presidential ticket for the 2023 ticket.

For other feted aspirants, especially the former Senate President, Saraki, Senator Kwankwaso and Tambuwal, it is as if they are being slowed down by Atiku’s interest and the ongoing discussions over zoning of the presidential slot.

New Soldiers 
THE fresh entrants’ camp is populated by APC stalwarts. Indeed, most of them, excluding the Senate President, Lawan, governors Bello of Kogi State, and Mohammed of Bauchi State, are from the southern part of the country, which supports the impression that the APC is going to abide by the North-South rotation of political power in the country.

Governor Umahi
THE chairman of the Southeast Governors’ Forum, Umahi, joined the APC early to prepare grounds for his quest for the presidency. Leadership has always located Umahi, and that explains why he was drafted into the Ebonyi State working committee at a moment of great political upheaval between supporters of the former governor,
Senator Sam Egwu.

From serving as caretaker chairman and doing a good job, Umahi went on to serve as state chairman, deputy governor and governor. His movement to the APC came at a time of great promise for power shift and search for a Nigerian president of South-East extraction.
Through his years as state chairman of PDP and leader of Southeast governors, Umahi was widened his network of political contacts. With the assistance of his elder brother, General Abel Umahi, the Ebonyi State governor has maintained friendly contacts in the military, a strategic and crucial partner in Nigeria’s political space.
Umahi is believed to be APC’s political mallet to break opposition PDP’s hold on Southeast, particularly given the general perception in APC that he performed well in the areas of infrastructural and social development of Ebonyi State.

Governor Fayemi
DR. Fayemi has been wary of the implications of open presidential aspiration in the light of the looming influence of Tinubu’s well-known presidential ambition.
Losing his second term election in 2014, Fayemi congratulated his conqueror, former governor, Ayo Fayose, whose first term was also truncated before his rebound.  
Amid that political gamesmanship, the victory of APC at the national level opened up new opportunities at the centre for the former governor. Within the intervening four years, Fayemi’s political experience increased ditto his national clout, especially with his appointment as Minister of Mining and Solid Minerals Development. Armed with the new political impetus, Fayemi contested and reclaimed his governorship mandate in 2018.

As he rounds off his second term in 2022, Fayemi’s supporters, who have established campaign cells across the country, believe that he is ripe to gun for the Presidency in 2023, since according to them, age and experience are in his favour.
However, Fayemi’s constraints include Tinubu’s aspiration, and the perception among Southwest chieftains of the APC that he is being propelled by outsiders that are envious of Tinubu’s political clout, and electoral worth.

Chris Baywood-Ibe
RIDING on an online survey that rated him above other presidential aspirants in the South East, international businessman and advocates for youth and gender inclusion in governance, Mr. Chris Baywood-Ibe, said he is in the presidential race to champion a new orientation of leadership.

Having initiated the entrenchment of APC in the South East, Baywood-Ibe has been injecting massive funds to support the party’s candidates over the years. To propel a paradigm shift in leadership, the major player in oil and gas founded the Save Awgu Forum Enugu (SAFE) as a political action group to espouse his ideas and APC’s achievements in the zone.
Baywood-Ibe has been a regular visitor at the African Union (AU) and European Union (EU), where he has been advocating for a new impetus for young people to receive leadership internships through easy access and low budget nomination fees.
His Baywood Foundation is also advocating for economic empowerment, even as he is also behind the New Youth Movement that is strengthening gender affirmation action.
The entrepreneur and philanthropist believe that 2023 is the year for Nigerians to enthrone a new set of leaders, just as he insists that he is bringing fresh ideas that the country needs to propel it into the BRINCS (Brazil, Russia, India, Nigeria, China and South Africa) loop of emergent economically developing nations.

Rotimi Amaechi
AS the governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi fell out with former President Goodluck Jonathan. At the end of his second term, Amaechi worried about his future political safety and therefore worked for Buhari’s success.

Amaechi teamed up with his then Lagos State counterpart, Babatunde Raji Fashola, to pick the cost of Buhari’s campaign. Based on the lifeline they provided for the APC Presidential campaign in 2015, Amaechi and Fashola secured access into the inner caucus of the Buhari Presidency.

After six years at the top of the Ministry of Transportation bureaucracy, Amaechi has widened his political clout and enlarged his financial war chest for 2023. Amaechi’s presidential ambition pitted him against Tinubu, culminating in the Minister’s recent denial that there was a pact between Buhari and Tinubu regarding the 2023 APC presidential ticket.

Yahaya Bello
GOVERNOR Bello has said that he was running for the 2023 presidency to give expression to the Not-Too-Young-To-Run Act that paved the way for young people to participate in the leadership of the country.
He is about the first fresher to commence campaigns for the presidency, and he believes that the North Central or Middle Belt should be allowed to produce Buhari’s successor.

Hesitant Aspirants
TOP on the list of this class of aspirants is the 2019 vice presidential candidate of the PDP, Mr. Obi, who at the expiration of his second term as Anambra State governor, crossed over from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to the PDP.
In the buildup to the 2019 poll, Obi’s selection by Atiku Abubakar to serve as his running mate roiled the South-East chapter of the party. The PDP stakeholders that kicked against Obi’s nomination alleged that he was a recent member of the party.
As the race to the 2023 election hots up, Obi’s name is being mentioned in certain quarters as a feasible presidential candidate from the South East. However, Obi’s declaration that Nigeria is like a car, which engine has knocked, puts a cloud of doubt about his preparedness to throw his hat into the ring for the Presidency in 2023.
It is believed that unless he gets assurances from the Atiku camp in the PDP, Obi may not be bold enough to declare interest in contesting the party’s presidential ticket.
Another middle of the road presidential aspirant is Governor Mohammed of Bauchi State. Coming from the North-East geopolitical zone, and just in the first term of his governorship mandate, Mohammed is seen as merely testing the waters and hanging on the possibility of state governors’ opposition to Atiku.
Senate President, Lawan, is among North East politicians that believe that it is the turn of the geopolitical zone to produce the president after the stint of the late Nigerian Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.