With the 2023 Presidential elections slated for February 25th, 2023, by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), several names have begun to pop as potential candidates to take over the coveted office from the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR).
This list of interested persons contains veteran contenders, new entrants, wannabes, and dark horses. But who takes over the position as the President of the most prominent black country in the world on May 29th, 2023?
Every election cycle sees specific candidates pop up with little to no prospect of winning the presidential elections. Such candidates contest for several reasons ranging from chasing clout to using their candidacy as a bargaining tool for benefiting from the leading contenders. However, some have genuine intentions but cannot run an effective presidential campaign.
The oil and gas mogul with philanthropic footprints spread across the length and breadth of Nigeria is a Harvard-trained entrepreneur with a track record of lifting others. Jack rich is a philanthropist driven by a desire to give back to society and has used his Foundation to award scholarships to hundreds of students to schools in Ghana, Canada, the USA, the UK and the Philippines.
He has been touring some parts of Nigeria to spread the gospel of his interest in contesting for President with his posters and billboards scattered across the country. The business mogul seems to be testing the waters to know what he weighs, and it won’t be a surprise to see him as a part of the next government in a critical capacity. However, he has very little chance of becoming the flag bearer of major political parties in 2023 Presidential elections.
Known as Yahaya Bello or GYB by his teeming supporters, he was born June 18th, 1975 is the current Governor of Kogi State, a position he has held since 2016. Mr. Bello began his active political journey by contesting the APC gubernatorial primaries against Prince Abubakar Audu, where Yahaya Bello emerged second place. Prince Audu, however, died on Election Day, and Mr. Bello was chosen to replace him as the nominee of the APC. He would eventually be sworn in as the Governor of Kogi State, where he served before being re-elected for a second term in 2020.
GYB was one of the first politicians to declare for President openly and soon after began his GYB to PYB campaign. He anchors his ambition because he is one of the youngest elected officials in Nigeria and boasts of a close working relationship with President Buhari. However, with the Presidential ticket of the APC probably being zoned to the South, Mr. Bello’s chance appears quite slim. However, one thing is certain, and that is the fact that he will play a key role in who becomes the candidate of the APC. But would he be lucky enough to clinch the ticket as he did in 2015 once again in 2023?
Chief Orji Uzor Kalu (OUK) was born on April 21st, 1960, and hail from Abia State, where he has served as governor and currently sits as the Chief Whip in the Senate. OUK contested for President back in 2007 on the Progressive People’s Alliance platform, where he lost. He comes from a wealthy business background as the chairman of SLOK Holdings, New Telegraph and Daily Sun Newspapers.
Kalu got convicted by a Lagos Federal High Court on December 5th, 2019, and was sentenced to 12 years in prison on allegations of a 7.65 billion fraud. He was, however, released by a Supreme court judgment which ordered a retrial on May 8th 2020. While he may have a solid political background cutting across different tribes, religions and power blocs, he faces an uphill task convincing the electorate to overlook his many travails. However, one thing is certain: Kalu will be a significant deciding factor of who picks up the Presidential ticket of the APC. But OUK as President? The prospects don’t look bright in that direction.
The Dark horses
The dark horses are another set of people to watch out for in the 2023 elections. These hitherto unknown people have gained significant importance and publicity over the past few years.
Born 14 May 1976, Shina Abiola Peller is a Nigerian politician, entrepreneur, industrialist and currently serves as a member of the 9th Assembly. Famously known for the exploits of his Night club Quilox, Honorable Peller represents a voice for the youths in the current dispensation and has been known to advocate for youth-friendly policies and programs. These days, he leads a youth-centered foundation, the Lead Generation Initiative, which operates with a commitment to providing opportunities for a new generation of leaders in nation-building. The Lead Generation Initiative has seen him travel the length and breadth of Nigeria, meeting with relevant stakeholders and conducting leadership training for the youth. He and his team recently embarked on a South West Progressive Youth Festival in Ibadan that saw over 30,000 Youths attend. His large youth followership, dynamism, entrepreneurial spirit and energy pitch him as one for the future. But will he be on the ballot in 2023? Only time will tell.
With a Degree in Public Administration from Columbia University, Sowore, as he is fondly called by his followers, is a politician and activist and also the founder of Sahara Reporters, a leading online news platform. Sowore contested the 2019 presidential elections, where he came sixth in a keenly contested election with a total vote count of 33,953 under the banner of the AAC. Unlike most of those who contested the 2019 elections, Sowore has become even more active in the political space despite being restricted to Abuja by a court order since 2019. The ‘Revolution_Now Movement’ leader recently declared to run for President and appears confident to cause an upset. He stands out from the crowd because many see him as a credible alternative to the power blocs that have held Nigeria for long. However, some view Mr. Sowore as volatile, and they believe he doesn’t have the political and emotional capacity to lead Nigeria at this time. Will we witness a significant upset with Sowore emerging as President? The final vote count will be the deciding factor.
Tony Onyemaechi Elumelu CON MFR(born 22 March 1963) is a Nigerian economist and philanthropist. He is a Business owner, citing Heirs Holdings, Transcorp and founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation. Mr. Elumely hails from Onicha-Ukwu in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State. He has carved a niche for himself as a true lover of Nigeria with investments in different sectors of the economy. The Tony Elumelu Foundation has invested over $80 million directly in over 15,000 African entrepreneurs, thus making it the leading private promoter of entrepreneurship in the continent. Although he hasn’t indicated any interest in running for President, some people believe Mr. Elumelu possesses the magic wand to steer Nigeria towards the path of economic prosperity, considering his experience and impact in the private sector. The chances of him emerging President seem relatively low, but you never say never in Nigerian politics!
Ezenwo Nyesom Wike CON was born on December 13 December 1963, and currently serves as the Governor of Rivers State. Wike is regarded as one of the strongest forces in the Leading opposition party, the PDP. He began his political journey as a two-term Executive Chairman of Obio Akpor LGA between 1999 and 2007. He was appointed as a Minister under the government of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, where he served as the Minister of State for Education. He would later be appointed as Acting Minister of Education before he contested for and won the seat as the Governor of Rivers State.
Governor Wike is viewed as a solid and independent-minded politician who survived the coordinated onslaught of the APC led by the current Minister of Transport Rte. Hon Rotimi Amaechi to win a second term in 2019. The odds are not exactly in his favor, especially regarding the possibility of emerging the presidential candidate of the PDP and eventually becoming the President of Nigeria. His support base seems primarily domiciled in the Niger Delta, and many feel he could make a good Vice Presidential candidate. In contrast, others think he will be better off being a kingmaker. Whichever way the pendulum swings in 2023, Wike will undoubtedly be an essential factor in the scheme of things.
Rotimi Amaechi currently serves as the Honorable Minister of Transport in the cabinet of President Buhari. He served as a two-term governor of Rivers state and was very instrumental to the emergence of President Buhari, where he served as his campaign Director-General. Recently, he was turbaned in Daura, the President’s hometown, which prompted many to assume the President indirectly anointed him as his successor. However, many still view Mr. Amaechi as a traitor, especially in the Niger Delta Region where he comes from. The reason for the negative perception of the Honorable Minister may not be unconnected to the active role he played as then-president Goodluck Jonathan lost his re-election bid to President Buhari, a ‘Fulani man.’
While he may not seem like a top contender, the proper backing from the famous ‘Aso Rock Cabal’ may see him clinching the ruling APC’s presidential and ticket and possibly win the grand prize!
Ordinarily, 59-year-old Rochas Anayo Okorocha should be considered a major contender even as we approach the 2023 Presidential elections. However, internal disputes within the Imo State APC, where he lost most of the party structure to the current governor Hope Uzodinma have seen his chances of clinching the presidential ticket with the APC dwindle. Rochas Okorocha currently serves as the senator representing Imo West after serving as a two-term governor in Imo state between 2011 and 2019. His first attempt at becoming President dates back to 2003, where he contested the presidential primaries on the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) platform but lost.
Mr. Okorocha is regarded as a founding member of the APC as he led a faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) on the 2nd of March 2013 to form the current ruling party. He is a well-traveled Nigerian with strong ties in the North and South, with many viewing him as a detribalized Nigerian who understands the dynamics of our diversity. However, the prospects of him clinching the presidential ticket of the APC appear slim, and this may see him jumping ship to contest on a different platform. But will we be seeing President Rochas Anayo Okorocha come May 29th, 2023?
Elections in Nigeria are generally expensive to conduct and contest, which is perhaps why it eventually becomes a two-horse race between the two leading political parties. For instance, if a candidate wants to win the presidential ticket of either the PDP or APC, it is expected that such a person will spend hundreds of millions, if not several billions, of Naira. It, therefore, suffices to say that for a person to be considered a contender, they must have the proper funding, political followership and exposure. This list of contenders consists of people who fit the earlier indicated criteria.
Professor Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo, or ‘Star Boy’ known by many of his followers, was born on the 8th of March 1957. He served as the Attorney General of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007 under then-Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The Vice President is intelligent, savvy, a skilled talker, hardworking and easily connects with Women, youths and the older generation. Osinbajo’s emergence as the Vice Presidential candidate of the APC was a miracle according to his own words, as captured in the Legit.com story of January 31, 2022 “Look, nobody gets anything except he receives it from the Lord Almighty. He is the giver of all good gifts. Every perfect gift comes from him. He is the one who can do all things. The race is never to the swift nor the battle to the strong. “Time and chance happen to us all. That is the Almighty God. He has a purpose for everything. And that’s why today I’m vice president. There is no way I could win a local government election in 2014, no way. Nobody knew who I was. Nobody knew who I was. Yes, I had served as a commissioner in Lagos, but hey, there were loads of commissioners.
“Nobody knew who I was, but God had his hand in it. He had his hand in it. By the time I was nominated… I was nominated overnight. I was waiting to go to court. I was sitting down in a hotel room with my colleagues from my chambers, preparing for a case at the Supreme Court the next morning. “1 am, I got a call. “Where are you? We’re coming to pick you up. I said, “What do you mean you are coming to pick me up? I am preparing for a case tomorrow morning. And I was told I had been nominated as the vice-presidential candidate of my party, and I knew that it was God at work. I did not doubt in my mind. Because it is not by power or might, by the spirit of the Almighty God himself, I knew it was God.”
Recently, the Vice President has been touring the length and breadth of Nigeria, paying courtesy visits to politicians and royal figures while also commissioning projects across the length and breadth of Nigeria. While some believe President Buhari doesn’t view Professor Osinbajo as a worthy successor because of some decisions he took. At the same time, the President was away sick for an extended period in London. Some believe the President’s Statement about not wanting to name his successor so he doesn’t get killed was a subtle way of endorsing Osinbajo.
There are several obstacles to the VP’s emergence as the APC’s presidential candidate, chief among which is the candidacy of his perceived political godfather and benefactor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It is an open secret that Tinubu was supposed to emerge as the VP candidate of the APC in 2015, but that wasn’t to be, and as such, he handpicked Osinbajo to fill the slot. Principles of loyalty will prevent him from contesting against Tinubu. Even if he does gather the boldness to pick up the nomination form of the APC, he stands little chance of contesting against the political and financial might of Asiwaju Tinubu. With the Presidential primaries just a few weeks to go, could we witness another ‘Osinbajo miracle of 2015?’
Aminu Waziri Tambuwal was born on January 10, 1966, and is currently the governor of Sokoto State, an office he has held since 2015. Tambuwal also served as the Speaker of the 10th House of Representatives. Back in 2019, Tambuwal was the major contender for the PDP Presidential Ticket which he lost agains Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Tambuwal currently has a solid support base within the PDP, with men like Nyesom Wike backing him in the 2019 presidential primaries. He is viewed as a bridge between the young and old generations with a sound understanding of the diversity of Nigeria. With the PDP presidential primaries drawing closer, Tambuwal is touted as one of the major contenders for the party’s presidential ticket, but he has Atiku to face once again. His relatively young age, strong followership in the core North, and experience in governance may work to his advantage. Just like Nyesom Wike said a few weeks ago, “People should watch. There will be a shock as far as PDP convention is concerned. People should watch what is going to happen. People like to underrate so many persons, and it is not good in politics.”
Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Very few Nigerians have experienced the fortune that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has enjoyed over the past few decades. Born on the 29th of March 1952, Tinubu rose to prominence as a founding member of the National Democratic Coalition. This group mobilized support for the restoration of democracy and recognition of Moshood Abiola as the winner of the 12 June election. Tinubu started his political career back in 1992 when he became a member of the Social Democratic Party and was elected into the senate, a short-lived Third Republic.
Jagaban, as his followers fondly call him, clinched the Governorship ticket of the Alliance for Democracy, defeating Wahab Dosunmu and Funsho Williams to emerge the party’s candidate in the 1999 elections, which he would go on to win. Tinubu governed Lagos state between 1999 and 2007, initiating reforms that saw an increase in revenue and several infrastructural projects. A unique attribute of BAT is noted for is his unusual ability to raise leaders. Every governor that has emerged in Lagos from 2007 till date has come from the Jagaban clan, and this influence spreads to several states in the South West.
Before the 2015 General Election, Tinubu was one of the significant forces that pulled together the then opposition party, The APC. The political union between the Alliance of Democracy (AD) which was Tinubu’s camp, All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), APGA Faction, and the PDP faction led to one of the major political upsets in the history of democracy in the world. He currently holds the National Leader of the APC and is credited for nominating Professor Yemi Osinbajo as the Vice President.
Many point to the fact that Tinubu is quite old shows signs of cognitive and physical decline, and does not want to experience leadership under a president with ailing health. Also, several people pointed fingers at Asiwaju as the brain behind the Lekki Toll Gate shooting during the EndSars protests, claiming that he has come out to debunk severally.
Although there is powerful opposition to his candidacy in the APC, Tinubu has solid structures across the 36 states of the country and the FCT, which makes it difficult to push him aside. As the party primaries draw closer, barring any major upset, we may see Bola Ahmed Tinubu emerging as the flag bearer of the APC and even becoming the President of Nigeria.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was born on 25th November 1946 in Adamawa State and has seen reasonable success as a public servant and businessman. He served as the Vice President of Nigeria with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and before then ran for Governor of Adamawa state in 1990, 1997 and 1998 and was elected before becoming the running mate of President Obasanjo in the 1999 elections.
Since making his foray into politics in 1993, Abubakar has contested five times for the office of President of Nigeria in 1993, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. He recently contested against President Buhari in 2019 and came to a close second position, losing by just over 3 million votes. Atiku looks in pole position to clinch the ticket of the PDP once again in 2023, and he has been actively consulting relevant stakeholders within and outside the country. The Waziri Adamawa is known to have a purse deep enough to prosecute a successful presidential campaign and boasts of foot soldiers in the 744 local governments of Nigeria.
Mr. Abubakar, however, faces several hurdles as he aims for the coveted office of President of Nigeria, chief among which is his age. Many Nigerians are wary of entrusting the leadership of Nigeria to a 70 plus years old man because of their perceived negative experiences with the incumbent. However, some counterarguments suggest that Atiku will be a good fit for the post despite his advanced age. Atiku is widely seen as a detribalized person with a solid background in business. He is seen as one that can help create cohesion and prosperity with the right leadership style if given the opportunity. With the party primaries just a few weeks away, barring any last-minute surprises, the Waziri Adamawa looks set to clinch the presidential ticket of the PDP once again. But will he emerge the President of Nigeria this time?
This article was written by Ogundare Kehinde
Ogundare Kehinde is a disruptive innovator with a degree from the Federal University of Technology Akure and a Post Graduate Degree from Bingham University in view. He is passionate about good governance, youth inclusiveness, gender equality and technological innovations.
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