When all is said and done – after all the back and forth, the frenzy by both pretenders and contenders – only 23 aspirants are up for screening. Twenty-four actually returned their nomination forms. But Akinwumi Adesina pulled out of the race a few days ago, leaving these 23 members (22 men and one woman) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to slug it out for the presidential ticket.
But questions remain about the strange rush to make a visible impression on the APC presidential dashboard. What do they really want? Why such an unwieldy number for just one office? Has the presidency become an all-comers affair? Is the motivation really the love of country, or personal aggrandisement, or just pursuit of ambition? How many of the aspirants actually have the capacity to manage a society as complicated as Nigeria?
How is the ruling party going to manage this huge number of people ready to take over from President Muhammadu Buhari without creating needless crises that may even ruin the party?
The questions are endless. But the D-Day is almost here.
Meet the 22 men and one woman who want to succeed Buhari. They come from diverse backgrounds – reflecting Nigeria’s rich diversity.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo is believed by many as ordinarily the most ideal to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari after working together for almost eight years. And against all odds, Osinbajo, on April 11, 2022, declared his intention to succeed his principal, Buhari, through a short video uploaded on all the social media platforms. With his form submitted and consultations going on in almost every part of Nigeria, the die is cast.
News that the current President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, was eyeing the presidency was like a rumour many had thought would not evolve into reality and this was for obvious reasons. Interestingly, he is among the 23 other aspirants and appears to truly mean business. Even as many continue to say God forbid to Ahmad’s presidential ambition, Lawan is unperturbed. No one knows what the owners of Nigeria have up their sleeves. Since he joined the race, he is not crisscrossing the country to woo delegates. Well, who knows, maybe his confidence comes from his backers – that he doesn’t need to woo delegates. Or maybe it’s just a reflection of his nature and how he treats otherwise important issues with levity – like the way he conducts Senate’s business. He has practically turned the senate and by extension, the federal legislature into an appendage of the executive. This ironically, has remained what he’s been selling in his public statements in the name of being cooperative with the executive. Everyone is waiting to see how he will emerge.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu
In many respects, a lot of political analysts, have begun to think that the tide is slowly tilting in the favour of a former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. This though changes nothing about the swirling perception about him – his corrupt disposition – it has however, improved his standing in the race for the APC ticket. For a man, who considers this project a life-long ambition and the first to publicly declare his intention, he knows this is definitely not a sprint and is ready for whatever lays ahead.
The former governor of Ogun State and senator for Ogun Central, Ibikunle Amosun, comes to the race with credibility, nobility and record of stellar performance as governor. A close ally of the president, Amosun boasts not just very deep knowledge in finance – combined with his executive and legislative exposures – he is not just ready for the race for the presidential ticket, but the task of leading the country to the next level. With his forms filed for consideration, maybe he is ready.
A senator from Ondo State, Ajayi Borrofice, incidentally, made it to the point of submission, even though the misgivings about his decision to run have yet to subside. The fact that he has also crossed this one line, counts form him in many ways, even though it has not fundamentally altered the subsisting beliefs about his aspiration and his true intentions.
At this stage, the Minister of Science of Technology and Innovation, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, is arguably one of the names to watch out for. Unlike some of his colleagues, who chickened out, when the reality of what might be lurking next door stared at them, Ogbonnaya is not joking with the demand for a president from the South-east part of the country, albeit for Nigeria and Nigerians. While some still have reservations about him, he certainly would stand shoulders higher than many of the other contenders.
Former speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole, might have sent a clear message too, staying up to this stage. Earlier considered as one of the jokers in the race, he cannot be described as such again, having made it to the second round. But how he plans to waltz through the political landmines and beat the heavyweights to their game, is yet to be seen. Young and personable, being Nigeria’s president requires more, lest, he knows.
Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, is one seemingly indomitable spirit in the race for Buhari’s job. Despite many things working and standing against his plausible choice and decision, especially, the unsavoury public perception about him, he has continued to give his all, just to prove he was not in the race to play around. Bello remains one interesting character in the race for the APC ticket and can no longer be taken for granted.
Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, is in the race for justice, equity and fairness, which the Igbo demand. In addition, he is convinced he has the gravitas to turn things around. Interestingly, he has some good record of performance, after serving Ebonyi for nearly eight years now. But how far his record of a relatively small Ebonyi would take him cannot be taken out of the concerns for his decision, when push comes to shove.
Senator and former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, has always wanted to be president of Nigeria and this is about his fourth attempt. He might come off simple and sociable, he is equally of a serious and progressive standing. He means business and is determined to give all that it would take to, not only emerge candidate of the party, but also ensure that the Igbo gets its rightful place in the body polity.
Unpredictable Minister of State for Education, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajuiba, appears to be one candidate setting the pace for the others in many respects, an indication he is not in the race to while away time. He obtained his form first and was the first to resign after Buhari handed the order. He submitted his form as quickly as he could and was ready early enough for screening. He is following rules and setting his own standards. Whoever underrates this south-easterner would do so at a huge cost, in addition to the fact that some northern elites seem to have a thing for him.
Since the former Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio, declared his intention to run for president, he has yet to catch the sort of attention expected to underscore his seriousness. Although he has been holding some skeletal consultations in view of his aspiration, Akpabio has not come out as strong as some of the frontliners. Yet, he is not one to be pushed behind in the scheme of things. He is grounded and understands the terrain as well as its tricks. With record of outstanding performance as governor, albeit largely superficial, he is probably coming into the race with an uncommon resolve to change the face of the presidential run.
Uju Kennedy Ohnenye
As the only female aspirant in the race for the APC presidential ticket, Uju Kennedy Ohnenye, has fought a good fight so far and to the awe of many, who had thought she would have long fallen by the way side. At this stage, nothing can be put past this woman of courage as she trudges on. Her confidence and belief in her ability to turn the tide are indeed, notes for file.
If there was a list of people deemed as likely to chicken out from the race, one name most certainly to be missing in that list is the General Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church, Lagos, Pastor Tunde Bakare. He has not only been calling himself the number 16 to the office of the president, succeeding Buhari; he has been working to realising it too for some time. Thus, crossing the second round was not a surprise, and how far he would push this further is also not what anyone can envisage.
Nicholas Felix Nwagbo
Young and unknown Nicholas Felix Nwagbo, has sent a subliminal message to his critics by crossing the second stage of the process of his aspiration. A US-based Nigerian pastor at the Miracle Church International, is the second pastor in the race for APC ticket after Bakare. Whatever he intends to achieve with this, only time will tell.
Ekiti State Governor, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, who has led his colleagues as Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), is without a doubt, a man of class, panache and character. And with capacity and competence not in question, he is one of those who has marked up the ranks and quality of those aiming Buhari’s job, more so from the Southwest. Even though he kept this ambition close to his chest, he has never pretended about it and has always meant business. For Fayemi, the game is on and right.
Unquestionably the most-experienced in the race, having not just held different offices in the past 23 years, but has remained in government for that stretch of time since the return of civil rule in 1999, the immediate past Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, is one issue, whose name is expected to send jitters each time it is mentioned. He knows the game, especially, palace politics, and has since declaring for the office of the president, shown the stuff he is made of. Amaechi is one man to watch out for and whose capacity for showing up insidiously is top notch. He boasts competence too.
Renowned largely for killing former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s third term agenda, a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, is another face of the South-east in the race that cannot be taken for granted. He has capacity, experience, maturity and has shown to know Nigeria and her challenges. Despite his personal inadequacies, he wouldn’t stop getting a deserved mention until this is over.
A prominent and critical factor in some of the APC power centres is the Jigawa State Governor, Abubakar Badaru. He cannot be pushed back as far as the race for the APC ticket is concerned. Whilst a majority of the people think his being in the race is to negotiate the office of the vice-president, who says if the South mismanages their chance, he would not gladly take the presidency itself? This is why this Jigawa governor cannot be underrated.
Former governor of Zamfara State, Senator Sani Yerima’s presidential ambition is one that a lot of political observers have yet to situate in context. But from the time he obtained his forms to submitting them, he has neither flinched not fidgeted about what he wanted. He clearly has some plans up his sleeves. Whatever they are, all eyes on him as the battle for the APC ticket thickens.
A former Minister of Information and Culture during the late Gen. Sani Abacha junta, Chief Ikeobasi Mokelu, was among the last to venture into the race for the APC ticket. But, he is already boasting that his presidency would apply honour, character, and integrity in the application of efficient and sustainable governance at all levels and in the three arms of government. Whatever his end game is, the floor is open, at least, for now.
Fustian and unashamed, the Cross River State Governor, Professor Ben Ayade, is another presidential hopeful on the APC long list of aspirants, whose intention is hard to decode. Disadvantaged from many points, this timid-looking former member of the opposition PDP, is gradually wearing a serious look, having crossed the second round of the nomination process. Although not much has been seen of him in terms of consultation, the question of how much of home support he could garner has kept coming back each time is name is put up in focus
Forty-seven years old Tein Jack-Rich is the President and Founder of Belemaoil Producing Limited, a company often described as the first indigenous oil exploration and production company in Nigeria, even though that consideration is arguable. Coming from an oil producing community in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, not a few understood yet what a completely apolitical Jack-Rick was doing flexing muscles in an otherwise muddy political terrain. But he seems convinced about his decision and is leaving nothing to chance as the journey to the presidential primaries continues.