- by Omachi Clifford Ezebunwo
The door to the 2023 presidential campaign hasn’t been formally opened yet but the line of potential contenders is already crowded and getting longer all the time. It’s shaping up to be a wide-open race, especially on the side of the All Progressives Congress (APC), but plenty of members from both leading parties are perceived to be stepping up to audition for President Buhari’s job.
The coming weeks and months will see a flurry of activity. Parties will conduct congresses, there will be arguments in the media, closed door meetings amongst Politicians, party positions zoned, national conventions held and, finally, formal declarations made.
There could be as many as two dozen aspirants with at least a semi-serious rationale for running when the dust settles before the end of 2022. But here’s a quick look at few of those who could make noise in 2023.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar:
In 2010, he returned to the PDP to contest in the presidential primaries but was bested by President Goodluck Jonathan who had succeeded Yar’Adua months earlier.
In 2014, Atiku joined the newly registered mega party, All Progressives Congress, and contested in the primaries but was defeated by General Muhammadu Buhari and then Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso. Not daunted, Atiku again returned to the PDP in 2018 where he won the presidential primary.
In 2019, he contested in the presidential election where he garnered 11.2 million votes and won 17 states, including the nation’s capital, Abuja. However, this proved not to be enough as Buhari polled 15.1 million votes, a victory margin of 3.9 million.
Atiku has, however, shown no signs of backing down. Last year, his son Adamu revealed that he would be contesting again in 2023. “Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with my father contesting for the presidency. In 2023, my father will be aspiring to the number one office in the land because he has been an astute, strategic, master politician for almost four decades,” he told journalists.
With his seemingly growing popularity in southern Nigeria, stupendous wealth and the support of some northern elements who believe the north should retain power, many believe Atiku could still become president of Africa’s largest nation, since Buhari also accomplished this feat after three failed attempts.
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo:
Although, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has not declared interest in the 2023 presidential race, his loyalists believe he perfectly ticked the box of the next president of the country as visualised by Babangida during his recent interview.
With less than 527 days to the presidential election, various support groups of the Vice President are no longer waiting for his official declaration as they have embarked on political journies to some states selling his candidacy and the need to continue the legacy of Buhari after 2023.
Political observers are of the views that Osinbajo is the most eligible to take over from Buhari in 2023. First, he is a Christian of the Pentecostal denomination. Two, he is from the South-west. Three, he is in his sixties. His capacity and capability to combine both politics and the economy for a smooth governance is equally not in doubt.
During the 2019 presidential campaign for the reelection of Buhari, Osinbajo took the campaign to the door step of the masses by visiting various markets across the country, relating with Nigerians and connecting with them. His campaign strategy went a long way in winning the election for the APC whose electoral fortune had taken a nosedive then.
With the country’s frail fault lines at the moment, the Vice President has been an advocate of a united Nigeria. He is of a firm believe that Nigerians have much more to gain from being citizens of a united country than they may derive from any secessionist entity that emerges from the nation’s fragmentation. To many, Osinbajo represents the best chance to unify the county. But the main question still remains, will he throw his hat in the ring? I guess time will tell.
Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi:
Political Engineering is not offered in any conventional institution as course of study. It is a strange Nigerian subject that crops up intermittently when the polity is at explosion point. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi will soon be the next topic.
There are subtle moves to prepare the Minister of Transportation as the next President of the country. Plans are still in the works with so much taken into consideration. The project has no direct supervisor but its operation is monitored by stakeholders who are bent on restoring peace.
The major drive is insecurity all over the land. In the recent past, it was confined to the North -East where the extremist Islamic group, Boko Haram opened camp and acquired territory. Beyond that axis, other parts of the North were relatively peaceful.
Presently neither the North nor the South is safe. We have moved from insurgency to killer herdsmen, bandits and seccessionists. It is a frightening development that continues to threaten the existence of the country. And not much has been achieved by government.
The root of the present decay lies somewhere in politics and politicians. As the 2023 presidential election approaches, it does appear man and the elements have conspired to drive peace from the landscape.
Some die hards in the ruling APC want President Muhammadu Buhari to hand over to another Northerner in 2023. This is neither politically correct nor advisable at this time for Nigeria is seen as a country of two deep divides, North and South.
It is in the bid to keep the country afloat that some moderates within APC circles and concerned stakeholders in the Nigeria Dream have zeroed in on Amaechi as a possible successor to President Buhari. It is a smartly packaged project.
Project Amaechi is meant not to scare the North. It is a move that is expected to woo the South-East and appeal to the South-West. The South-South is not given any consideration because the candidate is from that Geo Political Zone. This also automatically inters the Bring Back Jonathan eulogy.
Amaechi, as governor of Rivers State was a major stakeholder of the Buhari Presidential contract in 2015. And he delivered. He has so far remained a Buhari loyalist. He has given the North the Kano-Maradi and Kano-Dutse Standard Gauge rail project worth over two billion dollars.
The South-East is being given the Irabor treatment. Amaechi may be from the South-South but the idea is that the South-East will not cry buckets. That is the story of General Lucky Eluonye Onyenuchea Irabor. He is from the South-South and speaks the Ika dialect of the Igbo language as a Delta man.
Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi speaks the Ikwerre dialect, similar to the Igbo language and hails from Rivers. His wife, Judith Obiajulu (nee Nwankwo) hails from Enugwu Ukwu in Anambra State. Her mother was from Ndoni in Rivers, same hometown as Odili.
For the South-West, the name Rotimi should ring a bell. Beyond that, while rail services in the East are being reconstructed, Amaechi has animated the business in the Lagos-Ibadan axis. He is very popular among journalists around the Lagos/ West environment.
This is all power play. And events in the South appear to have jolted the North. It was never imagined that the South-East and South- West could find a common threat from the upper divide. Amotekun scares the North, more than Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho exchanging ideas. Field Marshal Rotimi Akeredolu spits fire like the lion of Judah.
Looking the way of Amaechi is believed to be an antidote to agitations in the South-East. It is also another ploy to check the ambitions of Peter Obi, should the PDP hand him a Presidential ticket. So far, he is seen as a strong candidate.
Former Vice President Atiku is not considered a threat as age seems to be against his dream. The belief is that supporting another Northerner by the North through PDP will offend Southern sensibilities. And after Buhari, there is need to look for younger choices.
Moderates in the North flaunt the stronger Middle Belt/ South ties as warning that power must shift from the Northern part of the country in 2023. And they have found in Amaechi someone who can fill in a lot of gaps and fit into many shoes.
All these explain the clement weather observed after the suspension of Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director of Nigeria Ports Authority by Amaechi. She is from Katsina like Buhari and has blood links with the Kano and Katsina ruling families.
Amaechi has an everlasting willingness to fight against the odds and he backs himself to win every single time. It was the trait he displayed when rising through the ranks to eventually become governor in Rivers State. It was the same trait he displayed while defying a sitting first lady and breaking with tradition to join the opposition as Rivers State governor.
It is the trait he continues to display, which has helped him survive for 5 long years as the most visible southern face on president Buhari’s cabinet.
You may be wondering why the minister of Transportation turns out in traditional Igbo red cap and Ishiagu. Amaechi would describe the Super Eagles as ‘agba ekperechi’, Igbo for in God we trust.The game is on and those who know , know.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu:
Recent developments in and around the political empire of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) point to the reality that his rumoured aspiration to bid for the presidency of Nigeria, has moved beyond the realm of conjecture and into actual jostling. For over a decade, and even soon after his two term run as the Governor of Lagos State, the man Tinubu had been associated with the prospects of his possible emergence as Nigeria’s president. In the context of the foregoing, he had also been involved in one scheme or the other, either to network contacts across the length and breadth of the country, as well as positioning his acolytes in strategic positions in the nation’s political firmament, ostensibly to build a formidable base to shore up support for him in any future contest. Some recent developments however suggest that Tinubu’s days of reaping dividends from his enterprise may have commenced.
Late 2020 featured perhaps the most elaborate showcasing of BAT by his loyalists as their anointed President-in-waiting, with at least one rally at Ibadan to press home their agenda. In another outing was when a group of prominent Yoruba politicians that goes by the name South West Agenda (SWAGA) met in Ibadan to launch perhaps the most audacious rally for a Tinubu presidency come 2023.
It is also significant that SWAGA cited as the core features of Tinubu’s credentials for bidding for the presidency, his superlative performance as governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007. Also cited by SWAGA as the basis for his eligibility his ‘messianic’ role in the birthing of the APC as well as collaborative efforts in the enthronement of the current Muhamadu Buhari administration. How far these two purely parochial achievements will sell him across a mult-cultural Nigerian society when the chips are down, is a matter of interest to political pundits. For except a more nationalistic agenda is projected for him, the touted bid for presidency stands on the shaky ground of a mere sense of entitlement and compensation for him. Put succinctly, it amounts to pedestrian political consideration to sell to the country the argument that Tinubu should be compensated with the Presidency just for the role he played in development of Lagos and the advent of both APC and the Buhari administration.
Just as well, with the backdrop of the SWAGA initiative the stage for 2023 Presidential race seems set with Tinubu projected as a constant fixture against whom shall stand any other aspirant from the APC, as well as whichever candidate emerges from other political parties. Nevertheless, this foretaste of the 2023 presidential race, still remains ephemeral and susceptible to the possible impact of several factors; a situation which SWAGA and the rest of the Tinubu lobby need to watch out for before clinking glasses. These factors include how the Nigerian public reads whatever special relationship that exists between the man Tinubu and the present administration of Muhamadu Buhari, future developments in the APC and the general turn of events in the highly effervescent Nigerian political space.
Without doubt, the issue of who becomes President of Nigeria in 2023, goes beyond installing any individual just on the basis of entitlement or compensation for good behavior in the past, but lies more on the capacity to move the country genuinely to the next level. Will Tinubu be considered for Buhari’s job? Again, only time will tell.
Ref. The Guadian, Thisday, Daily Trust, The African Post, Punch, Newscrystal.