2023: ONE OF THESE MEN WILL BE NIGERIA’S PRESIDENT
Another general election year in Nigeria, 2023, is around the corner and politics is in the air. At the national level, the star election, unarguably, is the Presidential election. About two scores of prominent and not-so-prominent Nigerians, men and women from Northern and Southern parts of the country, have declared or are in the process of declaring their intention to contest for the position of Nigeria’s First Citizen.
There are currently 18 registered political parties in Nigeria but the two dominant ones are the All Progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party at the national level, and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). While most of the parties are expected to field presidential candidates for next year’s election, it is only APC and PDP and their presidential aspirants that are enjoying the limelight. They are the ones well organized to win the presidency and are, therefore, the central focus of Nigerians and this publication. The discourse among Nigerians has so far centred on the mode of selection of the parties’ presidential flagbearers, which part of the country they should be picked from as well as their likely chances of victory at the polls.
The debate over the zoning of the presidency has overshadowed other issues such as the capabilities and manifestos of the aspirants and the parties. Already, APC and PDP have elected their National officials, with the position of National Chairman of both of them coming from North Central geopolitical zone. While APC has gone further to zone the Presidential ticket to the South, PDP is finding it difficult to take a decision on the issue. It was easy for APC to take the decision because the incumbent who would be rounding off his two terms of eight years, is from the north. PDP, on the other hand, is in a dilemma as to whether to balance intra-party power sharing equation or the national one. Out of the 16 years the party held the presidency, the South accounted for 14, leaving two years for the North. In fact, the last PDP President, Goodluck Jonathan, is from the South. This is the reason northern aspirants in the party are insisting that the Presidency should go to the North. But to pick a northern presidential candidate would conflict with the general mood of the nation which favours a Southerner, particularly the Southeast which is the only zone in the South that has not produced the country’s President since 1999.
This is why the preponderance of aspirants of both parties come from the South. There is only one serious APC aspirant from the North (Alhaji Yahaya Bello, Kogi State Governor) while PDP has about four. This pattern is reflected in the number of aspirants that are featured in this special edition of The Top10 magazine titled: Presidency 2023: The Top 10 most electable Presidential Hopefuls. In arriving at the choice of the 10 that made the final list, all the aspirants of the two political parties from the North and South were considered. Rigorous checks and analyses were carried out on them with respect to the electability criteria such as personal accomplishments, government/political antecedents, credibility/integrity and national outlook.
Only Atiku Abubakar and Bukola Saraki, both Muslim and PDP, made the Top 10 list from the North on account of their towering political credentials and the fact that they are from the geopolitical zones (northeast and north central, respectively) that have not produced the country’s President since the commencement of this political dispensation in 1999. In the particular case of Abubakar, his selection is premised on the fact that he is a veteran (some say professional) Presidential aspirant with virtually everything required to win a free and fair election, zoning or no zoning: a huge and fanatical followership, solid political structures, formidable campaign war chest, and firsthand knowledge and experience of Nigeria’s national politics, especially the presidential election terrain.
Down South, the list of formidable aspirants so far includes Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Lagos state Governor and the National Leader of APC, prof. Yemi Osinbajo, vice president of Nigeria, from the Southwest.
Though there are reports of a handful of notable APC politicians from the southeastern zone who have declared for the Presidential race, but none of them has made our top 10 list from the APC from the Southeast. This is on account of lack of strong support for APC from the Southeast. It is our considered believe that for somebody to be voted as president of Nigeria, he or she must have strong regional support for the political party he is contesting on.
That the Southeasterners considered themselves highly favoured by zoning considerations is one of the reasons why the highest number of aspirants from there – three – have made our Top 10 list: Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, Senator Pius Anyim and Dr. Peter Obi. But they are not there just on the basis of zoning or to make up the numbers. They are formidable contenders compared to any other: Mazi Ohuabunwa, an exceptional entrepreneur and Boardroom Octopus-turned politician, ranks very highly on personal integrity, diversified experience and vast knowledge of the economy and the country. For most of political career, Anyim was a towering national leader who served two terms as Senator and Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Peter Obi has entered the consciousness of Nigerians as the shrewed resource man of integrity who distinguished himself as a two-term Governor of Anambra state who almost became Vice-President on PDP’S Atiku-Obi Presidential ticket in 2019.
South-South geopolitical zone is another zone being considered to produce Nigeria’s next President though former President, Goodluck Jonathan who handed over to President Buhari after serving for six years hails from there. Three presidential aspirants made the list from there: Chief Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, former Rivers State Governor and serving Minister of Transportation and Chief Nyesom Wike, incumbent Governor of Rivers State, Gov. Udom Emmanuel, governor of Akwa Ibom stat. All of them got into the Top 10 list not only because of their qualification to be President but majorly on account of their reputation as high performers in the various responsibilities they have handled since the beginning of their political careers.
The fate of the top 10 Presidential aspirants profiled here and, indeed, of the others, will be determined in the coming weeks when the parties hold their National conventions for the nomination of their presidential flagbearers. Barring the incidence of a huge upset and imposition of candidates through “consensus” arrangements, two of these men (one each for APC and PDP) will win their party nomination if the contest is free and fair, with one of them emerging as Nigeria’s President in 2023.
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo: Stepping out to take command
If it’s possible for anyone to succeed Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s President in 2023 without going through election, the most qualified candidate would be Professor Yemi Osinbajo. The Vice-President has been a quintessential Deputy: competent, experienced, learned, patriotic, loyal and devoid of inordinate ambition. In the last seven years, Osinbajo has acquitted himself creditably whenever called upon to stand in for the President.
Yet, he is bound by law to contest and win before he can step into his boss’ shoes. As expected, a few days ago, the Vice President declared his intention to contest for Nigeria’s number one political office.
“In the past seven years, I have served as Vice President under a true Nigerian patriot, a servant of the nation in war and peace, and a man of integrity, President Muhammadu Buhari,” Osinbajo said in his declaration speech. “As stipulated by the Nigerian constitution, our tenure will end next year.
“In this period of seven years, I have served the government in several capacities, and have, at the direction of Mr. President, represented our country in sensitive high-level international engagements. I have been to practically all local governments in Nigeria. I have been in markets, factories, and farms. I have been in agricultural, mining and oil producing communities; in the Delta, in Kebbi, Enugu, Borno; Rivers, Plateau and Ondo; and in all other States of the federation, listening to the diverse experiences and yearnings of our people.”
He said the reason why the Almighty God gave him these experiences, these insights, and these opportunities, is that they must be put to the use of the country and it’s great peoples. “Which is why I am today, with utmost humility, formally declaring my intention to run for the Office of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, on the platform of our great party, the All Progressives Congress.
As a loyal Deputy, the Vice-President promised Nigerians continuity of the policy direction of the Buhari administration. “If by the grace of God and the will of the people, I am given the opportunity, then I believe that first, we must complete what we have started.” He listed these to include, among others:
*radically transforming the country’s security and intelligence architecture,
*completing the reform of the justice system focusing on adequate remuneration and welfare of judicial personnel,
*ensuring justice for all and the observance of rule of law,
*rapidly advancing the country’s infrastructure development, especially power, roads, railways and broadband connectivity,
*providing an excellent environment for businesses to thrive,
“Above all,” he promised, “front and centre of our efforts will be the provision of jobs and opportunities for our young people.”
Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo was born on March 8, 1957 in Lagos. He is a professor of law and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). He is married to Oludolapo Osinbajo (nee Soyode), grand daughter of the late sage and statesman, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. They are blessed with three children.
Osinbajo’s early years in primary school were spent at Corona School Lagos. Between 1969-1975, he attended Igbobi College, Yaba, where he was the winner of the State Merit Award (1971); the School Prize for English Oratory (1972); Adeoba Prize for English Oratory (1972-1975); Elias Prize for Best Performance in History (WASC, 1973); School Prize for Literature (HSC, 1975); and African Statesman Intercollegiate Best Speaker’s Prize (1974).
Thereafter, he studied for his undergraduate degree at the University of Lagos between 1975-1978 when he obtained a Second-Class Upper Degree in Law. Here, he also won the Graham-Douglas Prize for Commercial Law.
In 1979, he completed the mandatory one-year professional training at the Nigerian Law School and was admitted to practice as a Barrister and Solicitor of Nigeria’s Supreme Court. In 1980, he attended the London School of Economics & Political Science, where he obtained a Master of Laws degree. An accomplished scholar, teacher, lawyer and administrator, Osinbajo is one of the nation’s leading experts on the Law of Evidence, National and Regional Corporate Commercial Laws and Public Law.
From 1979 to 1980, Osinbajo served the compulsory one-year youth service as a legal officer with Bendel Development and Planning Authority (BDPA), Bendel State.
In 1981, he was employed as a law lecturer at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. From 1983 to 1986, he was a Senior Lecturer of Law at the University of Lagos. He was an Adviser (legal advice and litigation) to the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Bola Ajibola, from 1988 to 1992. Osinbajo began lecturing at the age of 23. From 1997 to 1999 he was made professor of law and head of Department of Public Law, University of Lagos. Osinbajo was a Member of Cabinet, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, also Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, from 1999 to 2007,
In 2007, he was made Senior Partner at Simmons Cooper Partners (Barristers and Solicitors), Nigeria. From 2007 to 2013 Osinbajo was once again employed as a Professor of Law, Department of Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos. He was also a Senior lecturer at Lagos State University.
His other past roles include: Staff Member, United Nations Operations in Somalia, Justice Division, UNOSOM II; Member, United Nations Secretary General’s Committee of Experts on Conduct and Discipline of UN, Peacekeeping Personnel around the globe, Member, 2006; and Partner in the law firm of Osinbajo, Kukoyi & Adokpaye.
Osinbajo is the Pastor in charge of the Lagos Province 48 (Olive Tree provincial headquarters) of the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
After the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2013, Osinbajo was tasked with other notable Nigerians to design and produce a manifesto for the new political party. This culminated in the presentation of the “Roadmap to a New Nigeria,” a document published by APC as its manifesto if elected to power.
On December 17, 2014, the presidential candidate of APC, Muhammadu Buhari, announced Osinbajo as his running mate for the 2015 general elections. During the campaigns, Osinbajo held numerous town hall meetings across the country as against the popular rallies that many Nigerians and their politicians were used to. One of his campaign promises, which he has recently reiterated, was the plan to feed a school child a meal per day. Beyond feeding the school children, he has recently emphasized that this plan will create jobs (another campaign promise) for those who will make it happen.
On March 31, 2015, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) confirmed APC as the winner of the presidential elections. Thus, Buhari and Osinbajo became the President-elect and Vice President-elect of Nigeria, respectively. They were both sworn in on 29 May 2015.
As the Vice-President, Osinbajo is assigned the responsibility of overseeing the economic planning team and report as well as make recommendations to the president who takes the final decision.
President Buhari wrote a written declaration on May 9, 2017 to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives on his decision to embark on a medical trip abroad, thus making Vice-President Osinbajo the Acting President.
On August7, 2018, Osinbajo fired the State Security Service boss, Lawal Daura for illegal invasion of National Assembly by armed and masked operatives of the department. Daura was replaced with Matthew Seiyefa. On May 29, 2019, Professor Yemi Osinbajo took the oath of office to begin his second term as Vice-President.
Generally, Vice-President Osinbajo is regarded as a clean and decent man of integrity. He is one of the most decorated public officers in Nigeria today. He is a recipient of one of the highest National Honours award of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) the highest legal practitioners’ award of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), a Professor of Law and a Pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). The lists of his awards, publications, membership of professional bodies and references are intimidating.
Throughout his service years, there have been no proven cases of corruption cases of corruption against him. The Emir of Daura, Faruk Umar, testified to the vice president’s integrity, describing Osinbajo as “the most trustworthy Vice-President of Nigeria.” He confered on him the chieftaincy title of Danmadamin Daura, the highest traditional title in the emirate.
It would amount to stating the obvious to say that Osinbajo who has served as Vice-President of Nigeria for seven years is a top political player at the national stage. Prominent Nigerian leaders across the country have given enviable testimonials about him. During the 2022 annual lecture of Sir Ahmadu Bello Foundation, former Governor of Niger State and a chieftain of the opposition PDP was reported to have said: “Mr Vice President, do you know you are the best candidate in your party?” he said, describing Osinbajo as the only candidate that knows the country and has the acceptance of everyone across the country regardless of tribe and religion. The Emir of Lafia Justice Sidi Bage (Rtd) openly declared his support and that of Nasarawa people for the vice president when he said, Mr Vice President, “wherever you go, we will follow”.
A former military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, had this to say about the vice president: “Osinbajo has a great passion for Nigeria, he is one that can communicate with the country and inspire people among other qualities; he is the best person to lead Nigeria in 2023. I know the Vice-President very well; he is a good man; a man who has conviction about Nigeria; a man who can communicate with the country and inspire people. Such a man is a worthy person to work with; we need a good man to lead Nigeria; a man who has a passion for this country’s economy,” he concluded.
Osinbajo’s declaration has been greeted with an overwhelming approvalacross the country. By any standards, Prof. Osinbajo has one of the best chances to succeed his boss as Nigeria’s President next year. He is, therefore, named among The Top10 Magazine’s top 10 most electable presidential hopefuls for 2023.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu: Kingmaker who wants to be king
Apart from the living former Presidents and Vice-Presidents of Nigeria, specifically, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, no Nigerian politician, arguably, is better equipped than Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to contest and win election as Nigeria’s President in 2023.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential aspirant for next year’s election has, since the early 1990s, built himself into a one-man political institution that was instrumental to the birth of three formidable national political parties which provided him solid platforms to dominate Lagos State and national politics. He was elected Senator in 1992 on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the centre-left party created by the military President, General Ibrahim Babangida; became Lagos state Governor between 1999 and 2007 under Alliance for Democracy (AD) and Action Congress (AC) and National Leader of APC from 2013 to date. During this period, he has built massive political structures across the country, acquired stupendous wealth and groomed many of his loyalists and associates across the country,, especially in his immediate constituencies of Lagos and Southwest, to occupy powerful offices at state and Federal levels, including governors, legislators, ministers, Vice-President, special advisers and head of Federal agencies. Apparently, he did all these to fortify his amoury for the fight to achieve his “life-time” ambition of becoming the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Next year, 2023, by his strategic calculation, is the time to realize that ambition; the year the renowned Nigerian political Kingmaker extraordinaire would, himself, want to become King. And from his obvious zeal and determination (some call it desperation), any opponent or institution that stands on his way or underates the potency of his well-oiled political machinery directed towards the 2023 presidency does so at his own peril.
Personal accomplishments/Governmental experience
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was born in Lagos, Nigeria to the illustrious Tinubu Family of Lagos State. He attended Richard Daley College, Chicago Illinois, where he earned himself a place in the honours list of the College. He subsequently proceeded to the Chicago State University, Illinois, where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (Accounting and Management).
During his undergraduate years, he was honored with the Outstanding Student’s Award, The University Scholar’s Award and the Certificate of Merit in Accounting and Finance. With his successful academic profile, young Bola contested and won his first political election as the President of the Accounting Society of the institution in his final year at the University.
Upon graduation with honours and several awards, Bola Tinubu cut his professional teeth at the American-based Arthur Anderson, Deloitte Haskins and Sells (now called Deloitte Haskins and Touche) and GTE Service Corporation – the largest Communication and Utility Company in the United States of America.
On his return to Nigeria and with his international experience in Financial Management, young Bola joined Mobil Producing Nigeria as a Senior Auditor before he retired as the company’s Treasurer.
As pragmatic, charitable, grassroots’ person, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu saw communal service as a veritable tool for social development. He never hesitated to serve his community spearheading several financial contributions and fund-raising for community development programmes in Lagos State. He led Primrose Group, a political action organization pushing for fundamental changes in the politics of Lagos State.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu opted for full time public service in exchange for his lucrative job at Mobil. His first foray into active politics was as a founding member of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). In 1992, he was elected as a Senator to represent Lagos West Senatorial District. At the National Assembly, he distinguished himself as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Finance, Appropriation and Currency – a foremost committee of the Senate.
With the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Nigerian Presidential Election and the consequent fresh militarization of the Nigerian politics, Tinubu became a founding member of the famous pro-democracy group, the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) which, for several years, engaged the military for the very soul of Nigeria. Subsequently, Tinubu suffered many arrests and detention, harassments and constant threats to his life forcing him to flee Nigeria for his personal safety. He, however, did not give up the struggle as he joined NADECO abroad to continue the agitation for the restoration of democratic governance and civil rule in the country.
In 1998, Tinubu returned to Nigeria to heed a call for all Nigerians to join in the National Reconciliation and Development. A year later, he began his two-term public service as an elected Executive Governor of Lagos State on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD).
Accounts of Bola Tinubu’s political antecedents can fill a book of many volumes. Suffice it to say that, in the last three decades, he has bestridden the Nigerian political landscape like a Colossus, transforming himself into one of the most powerful politicians in Nigeria’s contemporary political history. Any politician from Lagos state who became somebody during this period – governor, Deputy Governor, minister, Senator, amongst others, did so on the back, reputation and goodwill of the maverick former governor. Similarly, those who fell from political grace to grass owed their misfortune to their impudence to challenge Tinubu or failure to reckon with him. Tinubu’s sphere of absolute political influence, till date, extends to other southwestern states of Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti where he determines the fate of state governors and other politicians – who gets elected or reelected and who does not. In many other parts of Nigeria, he has created a sort of cult followership among all the strata of the political elite on account of his astute political craftsmanship and his winning strategies.
Tinubu has a way of building or rebuilding highly successful alliances and political parties. As an astute political strategist, Tinubu, as AD Governor, survived the massive incursion of the ruling PDP to the South Western States of Nigeria as the lone re-elected Governor of the party in 2023. He was actively involved in the creation of the Action Congress (AC), (later Action Congress of Nigeria) as a recourse to the decimated AD. Rallying like-minds across the country, he sold sound ideals and programmes on this fresh and new political platform. Within a few months, he transformed this new party into the credible opposition to the PDP in the country.
Following the victory by PDP in the April 2007 elections, Tinubu was active in negotiations to bring together the fragmented opposition parties into a “mega-party” capable of challenging the PDP in 2011. In July 2009, he called for implementation of electoral reforms spelled out in the Uwais report to ensure that the 2011 elections would be as free and fair as the elections of 1993 had been. This move resulted in the formation of APC by Tinubu alongside Muhammadu Buhari in 2013. The goal was to build a stronger party to get rid of the ruling party, the PDP.
In 2015 Tinubu’s objective was achieved as APC won the presidential elections and most of the polls across the country.
It has been widely reported that Tinubu took his first concrete steps to actualize his “life-time” presidential ambition with the formation of APC. According to reports, APC at birth was a union of political forces loyal to President Buhari and Tinubu, a sort of equal partnership in which the party’s National Executive positions were shared between the two leaders. Tinubu reportedly conceded the party’s first presidential slot of two terms (eight years) to Buhari while he hekd the Honorary title of National Leader. The history of scuffles and instability in the national leadership of APC is generally believed to be the story of Tinubu’s Presidential bid: he seeks to dominate the party’s structure and hierarchy which he could deploy to his advantage in the forthcoming presidential election. The removal of Adams Oshiomhole, Tinubu’s arch-loyalist, as APC National Chairman last year has been interpreted in Tinubu’s camp as a calculated attempt by his opponents to scuttle his presidential ambition by removing his henchmen from the party leadership. The crisis created by Oshiomhole’s removal has left the party without elected leadership at all levels in the last one year.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s score on this account is a mixed bag. It is in the nature of the murky waters of Nigerian politics that no one plays at the level Tinubu did and for the length of time he did without accumulating both accolades and scum, deserved or otherwise. Both the credit and debit sides of the APC National Leader’s political balance sheet in the last three decades are highly loaded with positives and negatives. The debit entries centre on the questionable status of personal records of his parentage, his age, university attended, health status and source of his famed wealth (he reportedly claimed to be richer than the Osun State Government).
On the political front, the man who built his political career on the foundation of pro-democracy struggle is accused of undemocratic tendencies. These usually manifest in his intolerance of dissent and politically bruising brushes with his Deputies (Kofo Akerele-Bucknor and Femi Pedro), political godsons and associates (Akinwumi Ambode). He is also charged with ideological contradictions reflected in the mismatch between rhetoric and actions. For instance, the National Leader of APC is accused of failure to use his party to restructure Nigeria, a position he advocated fiercely before APC won power in 2015.
Some credit entries in Tinubu’s political balance sheet include his capacity to design and deploy winning strategies to achieve political objectives and his outspokenness on any cause he believes in. He is also credited with being a successful Governor of Lagos State with a knack for identifying and installing suitable successors who have kept the touch of performance glowing in Lagos State. He is regarded as a benevolent leader and godfather who grooms and nurtures his associates to great heights in politics and other endeavours.
For his excellent performance as the Executive Governor of Lagos State (1999 – 2007), Tinubu received several awards, including the Best Governor in Nigeria for Year 2000 by the Nigerian-Belgian Chamber of Commerce; 2002 Best Practices Prize in improving the living environment, awarded by the Federal Ministry of Works and the UN Habitat Group; Year 2000 Best Computerized Government in Nigeria Award by the Computer Association of Nigeria. Tinubu was conferred with the Honorary Doctor of Law Degree by the Abia State University in recognition of his immense contribution to democracy, good governance and development of Nigeria. He is the proud recipient of numerous other chieftaincy titles and a patron of many professional and social organizations.
Although his political kingdom is the Southwestern Nigeria, Tinubu’s political tentacles stretch across the entire country, particularly the North and the South-South. He started building his network of powerful political allies as far back as his NADECO days in the 1990s and consolidated same during his time as Senator and Governor of Lagos State. This network helped him in the formation and transformation of APC into a national election winning party and entrenched him firmly as its National Leader and one of the strongest contenders for the 2023 presidency. Tinubu is credited with the effort of ensuring that Muhammadu Buhari became the President of Nigeria in 2015. It is logical to expect the Kingmaker to use the same capacity to make himself king.
Femi Akintunde-Johnson, a public affairs commentator, said that apart from President Buhari, perhaps, “there is no Nigerian political figure (other than Tinubu), arguably, with the span of influence, vociferous cultic hero-worshipping, undisguised adulation of vaunted personal attributes, and groundswell of passionate admirers and cynical traducers, almost in equal proportion and favour.”
Wherever Tinubu’s name is mentioned, especially as it concerns Nigerian presidential politics, according to Akintunde-Johnson, there immediately arouses two opposite but bitterly divergent chasms – and there’s no prisoners kept: one side is vehement in vitriol and the other passionate in praise. No middle of the road.
Whichever way it goes, Tinubu is a born fighter who commands all the arsenal, resources and the wherewithal to overwhelm his opponents or charm his admirers on his way to the 2023 presidency. There can be no doubt, therefore, that he remains one of the leading contestants in the 2023 presidential race. He has, therefore, made the list of The Top10 Magazine’s top 10 most electable presidential hopefuls for 2023.
Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim: Core political insider guns for the ultimate prize
Senator Anyim Pius Anyim was one of the early birds in the race to become Nigeria’s president in 2023. He hit the ground running before most of the other contestants. Today, he is undoubtedly one of the most visible Presidential aspirants on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Southern Nigeria. And, if he eventually gets elected as Nigerian’s president in the forthcoming general election, it would not come as a big suprise. It would be a classical case of opportunity meeting preparedness to produce success.
The big opportunity or advantage that Anyim has is that he hails from Southeastern Nigeria, the geopolitical zone favoured by popular political sentiment, emerging political tradition and the constitution of his party, the PDP. The incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, who will serve out his maximum two terms of office next year, hails from Northern Nigeria and is expected to be succeeded by someone from the South. Southeast, dominated by PDP, is the only one out of the three geopolitical zones in Southern Nigeria that has not produced a Nigerian President since the return of unbroken civil rule to Nigeria in 1999. Southeast is, therefore, favoured to produce the next President, a prospect Anyim hopes to take advantage of. He told Premium Times, a Nigerian online news platform in a recent interview that he was optimistic that his party would zone the position of Nigeria’s president in 2023 to the Southeast. He said: “Yes, because if you zone, it will go to the South-east, so I am comfortable. If you don’t zone, which means everybody can run, I’m still qualified to run. So, you cannot zone it to the North, you can only zone it to the South or you don’t zone. Whichever way, I’m comfortable.”
And, why not? Anyim, from all indications, is prepared. He has been in the corridors of political power in Nigeria for decades and occupied two of the topmost offices in the Legislative and Executive arms of government – Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly, and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), respectively. For him, the next logical target is the ultimate prize – President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Speaking at a South-East briefing and consultation session in Enugu recently, Anyim stated “I have been privileged to understand our national problems and appreciate their enormity and peculiarities in the last 21 years from my vantage positions in both the legislative and executive arms of government; therefore, I have a clear view of the task ahead as well as the solutions needed to advance the cause of our country.”
Anyim, 61, has remained a loyal member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from inception. His commitment through good and bad times has seen him remain a member of the Party’s Board of Trustees (BOT), National Caucus and the National Executive Committee (NEC). He has also served as a member of the PDP’s Reconciliation Committee and had once declared his interest to become the Chairman of the Party. He ran a principled campaign and enjoyed the support and endorsements of party members across the country. However, a consensus agreement reached to zone the chairmanship to another state in the South East zone (other than his), prevented him from clinching the party’s top job.
Senator Anyim believes in building strong institutions rather than personal pursuits of power or position. As Senate President he inherited a crisis-ridden and factionalized Senate but with the solid support of other Senators, he restored the dignity and integrity of the legislature as the bastion of democracy. Analysts say the Senate, under Anyim’s watch, was focused, cohesive and productive and that, by the end of his tenure as President, the Senate was reestablished as a fierce defender of democracy and a catalyst for good governance.
Anyim Pius Anyim was born on February 19, 1961 at Ishiagu community, Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, Nigeria. He had his early education at Ishiagu High School and Federal School of Arts and Science, Aba. After his secondary education, he studied law at Imo State University, Uturu, Okigwe, then in Imo State. Upon graduation in 1987, he did his National Youth Service Corps programme with the then Directorate for Social Mobilization (MAMSER) as the Co-coordinator, Youth Mobilization Programme in Sokoto State. After his youth service, he was employed by MAMSER where he served from 1989 through to 1992, as Social Justice Coordinator, and later, Legal Adviser. From 1992 to 1997, he was Head of Protection Department, National Commission for Refugees. He supervised the refugee eligibility process of the Commission, liaised with local and international organizations on all matters concerning refugees’ human rights, general protection and the creation of awareness on refugee matters in addition to advising the Chief Executive on the implementation of conventions on refugees.
He joined politics in 1998, contested and won election into the Senate under the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP). When that election was cancelled, resulting in a new transition, Anyim joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a foundation member, successfully contested and won election to the Senate in 1999. After he took office as a senator, he was elected the President of the Senate in August 2000, following the impeachment of Senator Chuba Okadigbo as Senate President..
In May 2011, Senator Anyim was appointed Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) by President Goodluck Jonathan and became the first non-career civil servant and first Igbo of South East geo-political zone to serve in that capacity. As SGF, he employed his deep experience in managing inter-governmental affairs and wide contacts in the legislative arm to forge a strong working relationship between the Executive and the Legislature which engendered trust and a rancour-free partnership that delivered good governance and effective service delivery by the government. Senator Anyim superintended many critical and landmark programmes of the federal government that helped to define the Goodluck Jonathan Administration.
Senator Anyim, a man of humble beginnings himself, is at home with ordinary Nigerians whose experiences and daily struggles he easily relates with. This consciousness greatly influenced his founding and establishing the “Chioma Anyim Foundation” in 2008. Through the auspices of the Foundation, Senator Anyim provides funds for various needs ranging from educational needs (scholarships) and other needs (philanthropic funds) as ways of rendering assistance to as many people as he can. The funds are also earmarked to support start-ups, housing & health needs and the up-keep of the old and the aged. Since its establishment, the foundation has recorded about 300 beneficiaries per year, from every part of the country.
It is not common to see many top Government functionaries in Nigeria, especially those that served in powerful and sensitive positions without being charged or tried for corruption. Senator Anyim served as Senate President/Chairman of the National Assembly during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo. He also served as Secretary to the Government of President Goodluck Jonathan, yet, Anyim was never charged for corruption. Asked by Premium Times about his reported detention by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegations of corruption in the Centenary Project, the former SGF said: ” I don’t have any case with the EFCC. There are times you people (media) abuse this whole thing. That the EFCC invited you, does that put a case on you? If they have a case against you, they charge you to court. I don’t have any charges with any anti-corruption agency or any court.”
Senator Anyim holds the second highest national honour in Nigeria – Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON).
Senator Anyim is a political insider and national player to the core. Having served at the highest levels of the Federal Government – as Senate President and SGF – and contested for the office of PDP National Chairman, Nigeria’s biggest party which ruled the country for 16 years, there can be no questions about his national reach. It is not surprising, therefore, that since he joined the presidential race, many political groups have sprouted across the country to canvass support for him, with some going further to endorse his aspiratiion.
For instance, a coalition if civil society groups under the name Arewa Concerned Civil Society Organisations of Nigeria (ACCSON) which addressed newsmen in Kaduna recently, described Senator Anyim as the best man to occupy the number one political office in the country come 2023. Apart from being favoured by zoning, the coalition,led by their spokesman, Abdulsalam Mohammed Kazeem, said, amongst other things: “As an accomplished statesman, a legal professional, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and former President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly, we hereby present Sen Anyim Pius Anyim to the entire youths of Northern extraction as our candidate for 2023 presidency.”
Some of the organisations supporting Anyim’s presidential ambition include Arewa Youth Assembly for sustainable growth, Arewa Youth and Students Forum, Concerned Northern Forum, North East Peace Movement, Arewa Youth Council of Nigeria, Northern Youth Assembly for Tranquility, Northern Women Initiative Forum, North East Development Council.
Others are North Central Grassroots Foundation Arewa Female Youth Ambassadors Peace Initiative, Initiative of Youth Advocate on Humanitarian Affairs, Arewa Youth Movement of Nigeria, Tiv Youth Initiative for Peace, Unity and Development, Middlebelt Vanguard and Northern Youth Network For Good Governance.
Another political movement called Nigerians Ask for Anyim, NA4A, has also endorsed Anyim whom they consider to be the best person for the office of President in 2023.
Considering all electable variables, Anyim undoubtedly is one of the leading presidential materials to look up to in the 2023 presidential race. He has therefore, made the list of The Top10 Magazine’s top 10 most electable presidential hopefuls for 2023.
Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi: Serial victor back in the ring
Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, minister of transportation, has enjoyed a seamless rise in his political career. Since winning a seat in the Rivers State House of Assembly in 1999, he has never contested for any public office and lost. He won reelection to the House in 2003 and became Speaker. In 2007, he contested election for state Governor and won, then got reelected in 2011. And, as soon as he ended his constitutionally allowed maximum two terms in 2015, Amaechi was appointed minister of transport. Thus, since the beginning of this dispensation, Amaechi has become a permanent fixture in the corridors of power at all the three levels of government.
“I have been in the political arena for 23 years,” he said recently when he declared his intention to run for the office of President of Nigeria on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). “I have served at every level of government – local, state, and federal. I have served both as a political appointee and an elected official. I have served both as an executive – as Governor of Rivers State and as a legislator – as Speaker of the State House of Assembly.”
He said he was contesting because he believes it is his moral duty to give what he can in the service of his country. “To sustain and intensify present efforts at solving our national problems, our democracy must ensure the emergence of a leadership that is equipped with broad experience in governance to ensure stability and continuity…No matter the darts and arrows that come my way, I will remain steadfast because the stakes are too high. We cannot afford to fail. We cannot afford to veer off-course…The road ahead will be long and arduous. But we go forward with faith.”
Amaechi is not a stranger on the arduous political road. In fact, his staying power on the political turf thus far owes a lot to his ability to fight and conquer on the hard road. For instance, he fought President Olusegun Obasanjo and Celestine Omeihia up to the Supreme Court to emerge Governor in 2007. As Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), he also waged a fierce battle with President Goodluck Jonathan’s government when they tried to stop him from seeking re-election as the NGF Chairman but he defied them and defeated Jonah Jang, Governor of plateau state, 19 to 16 votes, to secure his second term
A public affairs analyst has said, and tightly so, that Rotimi Amaechi’s political career is about fighting and winning. “He 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 seven long years as the most visible southern face on president Buhari’s cabinet.”
Now back in the ring, it can be expected, going by his personal records, that Amaechi, the figher, may just emerge victorious again in the 2023 presidential slugfest.
Amaechi was born in Ubima, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State and was raised in Diobu, a densely populated neighbourhood in Port Harcourt.
He had his early education at St Theresa’s Primary School from 1970 to 1976. He earned his West African Senior School Certificate in 1982 after attending Government Secondary School Okolobiri. Amaechi received a Bachelor of Arts degree (Honours) in English Studies and Literature from the University of Port Harcourt in 1987, where he was the President of the National Union of Rivers State Students (NURSS).
He completed the mandatory National Youth Service Corps in 1988, and thereafter joined Pamo Clinics and Hospitals Limited owned by Peter Odili, where he worked until 1992. He was a director of several companies, including West Africa Glass Industry Limited and Risonpalm Nigeria Limited.
Amaechi holds the national honour of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON). He is married to Judith Amaechi and they have three boys. He is a Catholic and a Knight of the order of Saint John (KSJ).
During the transition to Nigeria’s Third Republic, Amaechi was Secretary of the National Republican Convention in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State. Between 1992 and 1994, he was Special Assistant to the Deputy Governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili who believed in Amaechi as a young man with potential in politics, and brought him under his wing. In 1996, he was the Rivers State’s Secretary of the Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) caretaker committee during the transition programme of General Sani Abacha.
In 1999, he contested and won a seat to become a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly and was subsequently elected as the Speaker of the House of Assembly. Amaechi was elected the Chairman of Nigeria’s Conference of Speakers of State Assemblies. In May 2003, he was re-elected as the Speaker. In 2003, when the National Assembly moved to hijack the legislative functions of the State House of Assembly as enshrined in the constitution, he and his colleagues took the matter to Supreme Court and won.
As speaker, Amaechi used his close working relationship with Governor Peter Odili to increase the harmonious relationship between the Executive and Legislative arms of government. But later, Amaechi launched a campaign against the State Government and the Governor in an effort to succeed Odili as governor in 2007.
Amaechi contested and won the PDP primary for Rivers State Governor in 2007. His name was substituted by the party, an action which he challenged in court. The case eventually got to the Supreme Court. He became governor on October 26, 2007, after the Supreme Court ruled that he was the rightful candidate of the PDP and winner of the Governorship election in Rivers State.
His administration invested in infrastructure development, construction of roads and bridges, sticking to the vision of connecting all parts of the state by road. The governor was also committed to urban renewal and modernization of transportation services. His administration began building a monorail to provide mass transportation within the city of Port Harcourt.Some power plant projects (Afam, Trans Amadi, Onne) were also built to improve power supply in the State.
He was re-elected for a second term in 2011. However, in August 2013, Amaechi was amongst seven serving governors who formed the G-7 faction within the PDP. In November 2013, Amaechi alongside five members of the G-7 defected to the new opposition party, the APC, and became Director-General of Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential campaign.
In 2015, following Buhari’s election, Amaechi was appointed to his cabinet as Federal Minister of Transportation, a position he holds to date following his reappointment in 2019. His achievements in Rivers State, especially in the works and transportation sector, must have recommended him for this appointment. As expected, Amaechi put his best foot forward and this has yielded in a number of landmark projects. The 156km Lagos-Ibadan railway line officially began passenger operations in January this year, under the supervision of Amaechi. the Abuja-Kaduna rail line project is one of the first standard gauge railway modernisation projects (SGRMP) undertaken in Nigeria.
Under his watch, the maritime industry has witnessed a major change, which has increased its growth. The achievements recorded in the sector are screaming testimonies to his successes as a minister..
Since leaving office in 2015, Amaechi has been the subject of corruption allegations by his successor, Governor Nyesom Wike. He is accused of using state funds to finance President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign during the 2015 presidential election through the sale of Rivers state-owned oil and gas assets and fraudulently misappropriating the proceeds of the sale amounting to US$309 million. Amaechi has persistently denied the allegations against him. He has not been prosecuted or convicted of any crime, thus leaving his integrity intact, at least legally.
Amaechi has been playing politics at the national stage since his days as Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly when he was Chairman of the Conference of Speakers of state Assemblies. As Governor for eight years he built a network of political allies among his colleagues and other politicians across the country. He has strengthened that network in the last seven years as Transportation minister. During this period also, he has deepened his knowledge of the geography, people and culture of Nigeria in the course of supervising rail and water transportation projects across the country.
Amaechi is said to be one of the most powerful ministers from southern Nigeria in the Buhari administration. He is also said to be very close to the president. This closeness coupled with the conferment of the award of the honorific chieftaincy title of Dan Amanan Daura by the Emir of Daura, the Emirate where the President hails from, have sparked speculations that Buhari had endorsed Amaechi as his successor.
A social commentator, Chijioke Nwachukwu, said: “The turbaning is an endorsement – a loud and eloquent statement on where the current ruling northern establishment stands as far as the 2023 presidential election is concerned.”
Everything considered, Rotimi Amaechi stands among the leading contenders in the Presidential race. He is, accordingly, selected as one of The Top10 Magazine’s top 10 most electable presidential hopefuls for 2023.
Udom Emmanuel: An underdog, but Highly Favoured
Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State has joined the presidential race perceived in many quarters s an underdog, not in the sense of being a political neophyte, but because, until a few weeks ago when he joined the fray, nobody looked in his direction as one that could be interested in succeeding President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023. The belief everywhere, including his own state, was that he was too focused on anchoring his Completion Agenda safely in the last of his eight-year tenure to be concerned about tenancy of Aso Rock in the next dispensation. His image of an underdog is re-enforced by the fact of his not having held any political office at the national level, either in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of which he is a member or in government.
It is worthy of mention as well that even when he threw his heart into the ring, Udom ( as he is popularly called) did not do so with the fanfare and celebration you would expect to accompany the formal announcement of an aspirant’s entry into the presidential race. The first time Nigerians heard he was going to join the race was when a group of radio listeners in faraway Abuja announced it was buying him the expression of interest and nomination forms. It was a subtle announcement of an important step taken by the gentle looking governor – by someone else. The image of an underdog may contribute to the surprise Udom could spring when PDP delegates gather on May 28 and 29 to elect the party’s flagbearer in the 2023 presidential election.
Udom is, by nature, a very quiet man, though richly endowed with the gift of oratory which he displays whenever he chooses to speak. He reminds one of the great Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, an unassuming orator who could hold an audience spellbound with his mastery of English. The quiet mien of the Akwa Ibom State governor is one of the reasons many were surprised when the news hit the airwaves that listeners and fans of the popular Abuja-based Brekete Radio/TV show had purchased the party’s N40 million expression of interest and nomination form for the presidential primary for him.
If any doubt existed concerning Udom’s participation in the presidential race, such doubt evaporated when he publicly accepted the form and formally announced his entrance into the race. “I appreciate this gesture”, he said. “Be rest assured that I have accepted the form. All Nigerians cannot come together to give me something and I will refuse”.
Sources close to the Akwa Ibom State Governor said the buying of expression of interest and nomination forms by the Brekete Family for Udom may be a case of the hand being that of Esau, while the voice is that of Jacob. There is a belief in many quarters that Brekete represents a wider interest in the northern part of the country that is behind Udom’s aspiration. This belief must be considered against the background of the fact that the aspirant is a last-minute entrant into the presidential race, whose emergence on the field raised quite a number of eyebrows.
Despite the presence of PDP presidential aspirants from the northern part of the country in the race – Atiku, Bala Mohhammed, Aminu Tambuwal, Mohammed Hayatudyn and Bukola Saraki from the Middle Belt – the feeling among some political elites and power brokers in the North is that for the sake of equity and fair play, the presidency should go to the South after Buhari’s eight-year tenure.
Among the five aspirants on the PDP platform in the South, namely, Udom, Wike, Peter Obi, Pius Anyim and Sam Ohuabunwa, the Akwa Ibom State Governor is considered by some northern elements as being more level-headed, trustworthy and predictable for the job of president of Nigeria. Sources say Udom’s entry into the race was actually at the prodding of these elements. This suggests they are willing and ready to back him all the way. It may be the reason his consultations are devoid of the noise that attends the same exercise by others, which itself is suggestive of a man that is confident of victory at the primary.
Udom has a lot to show in terms of performance as Governor of Akwa Ibom in the last seven years. A private sector player all his working life until 2013 when he was appointed Secretary to the State Government by then Governor Godswill Akpabio, he came into office determined to change the narrative of Akwa Ibom as a civil service state and create an economy that would be private sector-driven. He has the vision to make the state an economic and industrial hub not just in Nigeria, but the West African sub-region.
Before he came into government, Udom was an executive director at Zenith Bank Plc, one of Nigeria’s leading Tier-1 financial institutions. It was a position that enabled him to help drive the establishment and growth of businesses. Little wonder, he was able to set up 16 functional industries under three years in his first term, a feat that has not been equaled anywhere in the country, not even by the Federal Government.
Udom has been able to shatter the myth of government enterprises not succeeding – a belief that arose from the litany of failures which government-owned businesses recorded in the past. He set up Ibom Air, the first airline to be owned by a state government in Africa, on June 9, 2019. The airline has, under three years, grown from one aircraft to seven in its fleet, including two Airbus A220 series, one of the latest in the world.
The airline currently operates from Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, to Abuja, Lagos, Calabar and Enugu, with plans to commence international flights to Ghana, Cameroun, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea once construction of the international terminal of the Victor Attah International Airport is completed. The outstanding success of the airline in its short history, which is run strictly as a business and not a government parastatal, has proved that government enterprises can be success stories if entrusted in competent hands.
Udom has opened up Akwa Ibom by creating an enabling environment to make businesses thrive. He restored peace to a state that was contending with incessant cases of kidnapping, cultism and banditry when he assumed office by enacting an anti-cultism law and offering amnesty to cultists who agreed to turn in their arms. Today, the state is arguably one of the most relatively peaceful and safest in the country. It is the reason it is fast becoming an attractive destination for investors.
In September, 2021, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo commissioned the 21-storey Dakkada smart towers in Uyo as part of the 34th anniversary celebrations of the creation of Akwa Ibom State. The building, the tallest structure in the South South and South East geo-political zones, is designed to provide a suitable office accommodation for international businesses operating in the state.
The reason for the purchase of expression of interest and nomination forms by the Brekete Family sums up public perception of Udom’s performance as Governor of Akwa Ibom. While presenting the forms to Udom, Innocent Orji, leader of the delegation of Brekete family, said they decided to support him for the presidential race after visiting Akwa Ibom to ascertain the veracity of what he told the public during a television interview. “After that programme, the Brekete Family sent a delegation to Akwa Ibom State”, Orji said. “They spent about three days there and sent in a report. And in that report, they said what they found on ground was more than what you told them during the live TV programme. For that reason, a decision was taken by Brekete Family that when the times comes we will contribute money to purchase the form for you to contest the position”.
Udom is expected to apply his knowledge of the economy, industrialization and and job creation capabilities in solving the country’s economic challenges if he finds is way into Aso Rock on May 29, 2023.
Gabriel Suswam, former Benue State governor and chairman of Udom’s Presidential Campaign Council, told media practitioners in Lagos why his principal is the best man for the job of running Nigeria at this critical moment of its history.
“His Excellency’s campaign will revolve around revamping the economy of this country that is in a shambles. It will revolve around infrastructure – the need to improve the power situation in the country; roads and rail travel and generally fix the infrastructure deficit in the country”.
Said Suswam: “We are talking about a man who has done a lot to improve the economy of his state. Whereas Nigeria as a country does not have a national carrier, Akwa Ibom today has a functional airline that is first class in terms of operation and management. He creates money by the kinds of projects he does”
Udom has promised to provide solutions to Nigeria’s myriad or problems if he becomes president. “I am a bridge builder; I have the capacity; I understand the issues; I know the problems and I have the solutions. Anywhere in the world, the economy is preeminent. As a trained, tried and tested economist, I know what to do”.
In the last seven years of his tenure as governor of Akwa Ibom, Udom has demonstrated leadership qualities that have won for him the admiration and commendation of people of all callings, ranging from political to religious and traditional leaders, as well as diplomats. He has succeeded in uniting the various sub-ethnic groups in the state, ensuring amenities, development projects and political offices are evenly shared, to give every part of the state a sense of belonging.
The belief in his leadership qualities has manifested in the mass endorsement that has trailed Umo Eno, his choice of successor, since he announced the choice on January, 30, 2022. In an action that is unprecedented in the state, Eno has been endorsed by the state’s traditional and religious institutions, the state assembly, Udom’s cabinet and political leaders in various parts of the state. This has been possible because Udom is generally seen as a man of peace whose stewardship has shown that he means well for the state.
He is expected to be a unifier capable of uniting a country that is currently divided very deeply along ethnic and religious lines, if he scales the hurdle of party primary to get elected president of Nigeria.
As a member of the Executive Management Committee of Zenith Bank, Udom saw Nigeria as his constituency. His position was not that of a branch manager whose activities were limited to a small geographical area. He was as concerned and involved in developments in Sokoto as he was about developments in Maiduguri, Ilorin, Lagos, Calabar, Enugu, Port Harcourt and outside the country. Many years of dealing with Nigeria has enabled him to understand the different parts of the country, their peculiarities, problems, aspirations and needs. He therefore understands that the country’s problems are more socio-economic than political, that is, outside security.
Long before he got involved in the presidential race Udom had demonstrated concern about the situation in the country, knowing full well that no part of the country is safe, secure and doing well socio-economically if one part is ravaged by challenges of any kind. He reflects this concern in virtually all his speeches and statements, whether laying the foundation or commissioning a project in his state, or speaking on national issues in Abuja or any part of the country. He is a nationalist.
Udom has demonstrated in the last seven years as Governor of Akwa Ibom that he is a man that can be trusted to deliver on his promises. On assumption of office in 2015, he promised to move the state from public sector to private sector-led economy. Though still work in progress, there has been a remarkable transformation of the state’s economic landscape. He promised to restore peace that had eluded the state for some time. Today, the state enjoys a reasonable degree of peace.
Everyone knows where he is coming from when he says he understands the problems of Nigeria and has the answers to them. If no one in his state can recall a lie told the people, then Nigerians can believe that he is a man whose word is his bond.
There is a clamour for the younger generation to assume leadership of Nigeria, based on the belief that the older generation political class has given its best and has nothing more to offer. In fact, many Nigerians believe those that are commonly referred to as recycled politicians have been responsible for the woes that have brought the country to its present sorry state.
The call for younger leaders finds favour with Udom. At 55, he fits perfectly into the class of leader Nigerians want. He is seen as urbane, cosmopolitan and very knowledgeable about national and world affairs. He exudes an air of friendliness that endears him to any one meeting him for the first time, the reason he is well liked, even by his colleagues.
Udom was born on July 11, 1966 in ONNA Local Government Area. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Lagos, and has attended the Advanced Management Programme at INSEAD, France. He is a Fellow of Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management and an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria.
He worked variously as audit manager at PriceWaterhouse Coopers; pioneer manager of the Lagos Central branch of Diamond Bank; manager in charge of Telecoms sector, Income Optimization, as well as Financial and Strategic Planning Group of Zenith Bank before being appointed Executive Director, his last position in the private sector.
In view of his high electability credentials, Gov. Udom is listed by The Top10 Magazine as one of the top 10 presidential hopefuls for 2023.
Peter Obi: ‘Mr. Clean’ takes a shot at the Presidency
If the outcome of the forthcoming Nigeria’s presidential election were to be decided purely on the basis of the quality of the service records of the contestants, Peter Obi would win it hands down. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) aspirant has earned a rare reputation for stainless and outstanding performance in his private sector career as well as during his public service stint as Governor of Anambra State for eight years.
Most of the honours and recognitions awarded him since then derive from this reputation. Take the roll: Man of the Year, The Sun Newspaper, 2007; Most Prudent Governor in Nigeria, Thisday Newspaper, 2009; Nigeria’s Most Trustworthy Governor, Champion Newspaper, 2009; Governor of the Year, West Africa ICT Development Award, 2010; Zik Leadership Prize, 2011; Best Performing Governor on Immunization in South-East Nigeria, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2012; Leadership and Good Governance Award, Ezeife Leadership Foundation, 2012; Golden Award on Prudence, Methodist Church of Nigeria, 2012; Man of the Year, Business Hallmark Newspaper, 2012; Man of the Year, Silverbird, 2013; Award for Outstanding Example in Leadership and Governance, The Voice Newspaper, 2014; Most Outstanding Igbo Man of the Decade, Champion Newspaper, 2014; and the Golden Merit Award, Nigerian Library Association, 2014.
Obi’s stainless credentials became an issue when he was nominated as a Presidential running mate in the 2019 general elections. His critics accused him of desperation for a well-adjusted and seemingly pristine person like him to accept the role of a running mate to an individual who was notorious for his baggage.
Peter Obi, fondly called “Okwute” meaning “Rock,” was born on 19th July 1961 at Onitsha. He had his secondary school education at Christ the King College, Onitsha. In 1980, Obi proceeded to University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he graduated with a B.A (Hons) in Philosophy in 1984.
Afterwards, his love for academic pursuit took him outside the shores of Nigeria to Ivy League and Oxbridge schools. He is an alumnus of Harvard Business School, Boston, USA; London School of Economics where he studied Financial Management/Business Policy; Columbia Business School, New York, USA (Marketing Management); Institute for Management and Development, Switzerland; Kellogg Graduate School of Management, USA, Oxford University and Cambridge.
Before his adventure into politics, Peter Obi was already a successful businessman. He held high profile positions in several establishments. Some of the companies he served include: Next International Nigeria Ltd; Guardian Express Mortgage Bank Ltd; Guardian Express Bank Plc; Future View Securities Ltd; Paymaster Nigeria Ltd; Chams Nigeria Ltd; Corp Ltd and Card Centre Ltd. He was the youngest chairman of Fidelity Bank Plc
In addition to the aforementioned, he was appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan as the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Peter Obi is also a member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, and the British Institute of Directors (IOD).
Obi tied the knot with Margaret Brownson Usen in 1992 and they are blessed with two children: Gabriella Nwamaka Frances Obi and Gregory Peter Oseloka Obi.
Obi began his political career in 2003 when he contested for Anambra State governorship election under the platform of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared his opponent, Dr. Chris Ngige, of PDP winner but Obi challenged the result in court for almost three years. Eventually, Ngige’s victory was overturned by the court of appeal on 15 March, 2006. Obi then took over on 17 March, 2006. After seven months in office, the State House of Assembly, dominated by the hostile opposition party in the state, impeached him. Mrs. Virginia Etiaba, his Deputy, was sworn-in in his place, making her the first female governor in Nigeria’s history.
But Obi challenged his impeachment in the court of appeal and won and on February 9, 2007, was re-instated as the Governor
Again, Obi left the governorship position on May 29, 2007 after the general elections, which Andy Uba won. As a determined elite, Obi contested Uba’s election in court, arguing that he did not complete his four-year tenure and that his tenure started running when he took office in March 2006.
After Obi’s first term, he contested again in the 2010 gubernatorial election and defeated his opponent, Professor Charles Soludo, the former CBN governor. He remained the governor of Anambra for another four-year term before handing over to Willie Obiano in 2014.
During the 2019 Presidential elections, Peter Obi was named the running mate to Atiku Abubakar, PDP’s Presidential candidate on October 12, 2018. Unfortunately, they lost to the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari.
As stated earlier, Peter Obi’s unique selling point in the presidential race is his integrity and credibility. This is reflected in the number and title of the awards given by various organizations over the years as listed above. Femi Akintunde-Johnson, a public affairs commentator, says “…Obi appears like one of the brightest persons that should lead these disparate nations blithely called Nigeria into the next decade: well educated, well trained, well prepared; he comported himself above average in governance; and remarkably prudent in the management of state resources.”
Peter Obi has a network of friends, associates and supporters across the country, built over the years during his service in the private and public sectors. That network was boosted when he crisscrossed the country on a campaign stump as the presidential running mate to Alhaji Abubakar Atiku of PDP in 2019. Although PDP lost that election both at the polls and in the courts, not a few of its members still believe the results were manipulated to the advantage of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Now that Obi is back in the presidential race on his own ticket, he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the frontline contenders. Considering all electable variables, Obi undoubtedly is one of the leading presidential materials to look up to in the 2023 presidential race and hereby makes the list of The Top10 Magazine’s top 10 most electable presidential hopefuls for 2023.
Atiku Abubakar: Looking to be 6th time lucky
Apart from Chief Obafemi Awolowo of blessed memory, perhaps, no Nigerian politician has developed a stronger ambition to be the country’s President than Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. In terms of number of attempts – and failures – Abubakar beats them all. On March 23, 2022, the former Vice-President of Nigeria threw his hat into the ring as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential contender in the 2023 election. This makes it the 6th time he would be contesting for the President of Nigeria.
The 75-year-old Abubakar had unsuccessfully contested five times for the Office of President of Nigeria in 1993, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. In 1993, he contested the Social Democratic Party presidential primaries, losing to Moshood Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe.
He was a presidential candidate of the Action Congress in the 2007 presidential election. He contested the presidential primaries of the People’s Democratic Party for the 2011 presidential election losing to President Goodluck Jonathan. He joined the All Progressives Congress ahead of the 2015 presidential election, contested and lost the presidential primaries to Muhammadu Buhari. He returned to PDP and was the party’s presidential candidate during the 2019 presidential election, again losing to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
In his recent declaration speech, the perennial presidential contestant alluded to his previous failed attempts: “I have contested for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria a couple of times in the past. My enduring persistence is borne out of my passion to rekindle the Nigerian dream that I was privileged to live.” He said his return to the presidential race this time was in response to the yearnings of Nigerians: “Since our last fight in the court, challenging the 2019 election results, I have received several calls and encouragements from you to contest again. I have listened to your brave voices. Beyond the words coming out of your mouths, I could imagine your frustrations, yet you are hopeful. I admire you greatly for choosing hope over despair.
“I know why you are doing this. You are doing this because deeply you believe something good is possible and is coming to Nigeria.”
Born on November 25, 1946, in a small village, Jada, in Adamawa State, Atiku Abubakar is the only surviving child of his parents, Garba Abubakar, a Fulani trader, and Aisha Kande.
Abubakar did not start his education until he was eight years old because his father strongly opposed western education. When the government discovered that he was not attending mandatory schooling, his father was jailed for a few days until his mother paid a fine. He was subsequently enrolled in Jada Primary School before proceeding to Adamawa Provincial Secondary School in Yola where he excelled in English Language and Literature.
Upon his graduation in 1965, he studied briefly at the Nigeria Police College in Kaduna but left when he was unable to produce an O-level Mathematics result. In 1966, he gained admission to the school of Hygiene in Kano after working as a Tax Officer in the regional Ministry of Finance. In his new school, he served as an interim Student Union President and graduated with a diploma in 1967. With a regional scholarship, he enrolled for a Law Diploma at the Ahmadu Bello University in the same year and completed the programme in 1969. He went on to work for the Nigeria Customs Service during the Nigerian Civil War where he worked for twenty years. He rose to the position of Deputy Director, the second highest position in the Service before his retirement in April 1989. Upon retirement, he took up full time business and politics.
He ventured into business while serving as a Customs Officer. In 1974 he applied for and received a 31,000 Naira loan to build his first house in Yola, which he put up for rent. From proceeds of the rent he purchased another plot, and built a second house. He continued this way, building a sizeable portfolio of property in Yola. He veered into agriculture in 1981 by acquiring 2,500 hectares of land near Yola to start a maize and cotton farm. The business eventually packed up in 1986.
Dogged in his ways, he ventured into trading, buying and selling truckloads of rice, flour and sugar but his most important business venture was when Gabrielle Volpi, an Italian businessman in Nigeria, invited him to set up Nigeria Container Services (NICOTES), a logistics company operating within the Ports. NICOTES would go on to provide immense wealth for Abubakar. Conflict of interest accusations has since trailed him on account of his involvement in business while a civil servant, who exercised supervisory authority.
Abubakar’s journey into the world of politics began in the early 1980s when he worked behind-the-scenes on the governorship campaign of Bamanga Tukur. Towards the end of his Customs career, he became acquainted with Shehu Musa Yar’Adua who had been second-in-command of the military government that ruled Nigeria between 1976 and 1979. In 1989, Abubakar was elected a National Vice-Chairman of the Peoples Front of Nigeria, the political association led by Yar’Adua, to participate in the transition programme initiated by the military President, Ibrahim Babangida. Abubakar won a seat to represent his constituency at the 1989 Constituent Assembly, set up to decide a new constitution for Nigeria. The People’s Front was eventually denied registration by the government (none of the groups that applied was registered) and found a place within the Social Democratic Party, SDP, one of the two parties decreed into existence by the regime.
He ran for the office of governor in Gongola State (now Adamawa and Taraba States) in 1991, and for the Presidency in 1993, placing third after MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe in the SDP primaries. In 1998, he was elected Governor of Adamawa State and it was while he was still Governor-Elect that the PDP presidential candidate, Olusegun Obasanjo, selected him as his running mate. The duo went on to win elections in February 1999, and Abubakar was sworn in as Nigeria’s second democratically elected vice president on May 29, 1999.
In 2006, Abubakar was involved in a bitter public battle with his boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, ostensibly arising from the latter’s bid to amend certain provisions of the constitution to take another shot at the presidency (for the third consecutive time). Abubakar’s stormy relationship with Obasanjo and his bid to succeed the latter met with stiff opposition. It took a judgment of the Supreme Court to allow Abubakar contest after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) initially disqualified him because he had been indicted for financial misconduct by an investigating panel set up at Obasanjo’s behest. The Supreme Court ordered the electoral commission to restore Abubakar’s name onto the presidential ballot.
Abubakar left PDP and ran on the platform of the Action Congress because of his issues with Obasanjo. He lost, however, when he placed third after Umaru Yar’Adua and Muhammadu Buhari.
Not one to quit, he later returned to PDP where he contested for the presidential ticket in 2007 alongside former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GEJ, and Sarah Jubril but lost to GEJ. His bitter political feud with Obasanjo continued all the way into 2014 when a Northern forum delegated members to visit Obasanjo in his home at Ota in a quest for reconciliation and forgiveness.
Abubakar was PDP’s presidential candidate in the 2019 elections.
Ahead of that election, Abubakar had launched the True Federalism campaign in 2017. He delivered speeches all over the country inspiring Nigerians on the need to restructure the country. He received massive endorsement for his stand on True Federalism.
“Political decentralization will also help to deepen and strengthen our democracy as it will encourage more accountability. Citizens are more likely to demand accountability when governments spend their tax money rather than rent collected from an impersonal source.”
He also said: “True Federalism will encourage states to compete and to attract investments and skilled workers rather than merely waiting for monthly revenue allocation from Abuja”
A lot of allegations of corruption have been levelled against Abubakar. While most of them emanated from unproven media reports, most were orchestrated by his erstwhile boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo, with whom he engaged in political running battles during their time in office. But, to date, the former two-term Vice-President has never been convicted of corruption either in Nigeria or abroad. This has led to conclusions that the perception of corruption was foisted on him by suspicions of the source of his humongous wealth and political bad blood. In spite of his battered reputation, Abubakar remains a critical fixture in Nigerian politics with millions of supporters all over the country.
Abubakar’s claim to national reach began in early 1990s when he inherited the Gen. Shehu Yar’Adua’s political structures. Since then, he has been consolidating his national political network in every presidential election cycle as a contestant and as a two-term Vice-President. Today, his network of fanatical supporters run into millons, organized into numerous support groups.
From all indications, according to analysts, Atiku remains a formidable consensus choice of an overwhelming number of PDP faithful across the board, especially from the South, irrespective of a pocket of opposition to his possible candidacy, within the party.
This critical support base insists that the former Vice President possesses the attributes of a unifier. He is also regarded as a remarkable wealth creator and broad-minded leader that is at home with the ever-changing socio-economic dynamics, which they reason would be an asset, should he become a president. He is, accordingly, named among The Top10 Magazine’s top 10 most electable presidential hopefuls for 2023.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa: Boardroom Octopus with an eye on the Presidential Suite
Nigerians looking to recruit a Presidential material who scores highly on every electability variables such as personal integrity, tall credentials, diversified leadership experience, knowledge of Nigeria and clarity of vision for the country, must look in the direction of Mazi Samuel Iheanyichukwu Ohuabunwa.
The pharmacist who gained national attention and prominence in the 1990s as an industrialist and Managing Director/Chief Executive of Pfizer Products (later, Neimeth International Pharmaceutical Products) Plc, rose progressively to become a boardroom octopus and policy advocacy, formulation and execution guru, philanthropist, elder statesman and now a presidential aspirant on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The 72-year-old native of Arochukwu in Abia state is an all-rounder by training, experience, vocation, induction and appointment. He is a bundle of talent, multi-skilled, proven servant leader, entrepreneur, lay minister, social worker, nation builder, writer and author. The diversity of his leadership experience at the topmost level in business and government has expanded his exposure to and knowledge of the needs and challenges of the Nigerian society, thereby placing him at a vantage position to deal with them as the President of the country.
The test of an individual’s leadership capability and capacity begins from his ability to manage his life, family, business and other private affairs. Mazi Ohuabunwa’s presidential aspiratiion could benefit immensely from the admirable way in which he managed his educational, working and business career. He read Pharmacy at the University of Ife, Ile-Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) graduating in 1976. He had his post-graduate education in Organizational & Corporate Management at Columbia University, New York, USA and in Executive Business Management at the Lagos Business School, Lagos, Nigeria. He received an honorary Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) Degree from Gregory University Uturu
Mazi Ohuabunwa joined Pfizer Products Plc in 1978 as a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative and rose to become Chairman/CEO of the company and Regional Manager for Pfizer West Africa in 1993. In 1997, Ohuabunwa led the Management Buy-out (MBO) of Pfizer Inc shares in Pfizer Products Plc, transforming the resultant company – Neimeth International Pharmaceutical Products Plc into a medium-sized Research & Development based healthcare company. He voluntarily retired from the company in 2011 after 33 years in the industry, 18 years of which were at the CEO level.
At the home front, he has built a happy and stable family with his wife, Lady Stella Omude Ohuabunwa, five children and many grandchildren.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa is an entrepreneur and investor who has been involved in founding and managing several businesses, in many of which he still serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors. He has been exceptionally involved in economic advocacy for several years. He was Chairman of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), President of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), President of the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce (NACC), Chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and Chairman of the Organized Private Sector (OPS). Ohuabunwa is the Immediate Past President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), and the current President of the Association of Corporate Governance Professionals of Nigeria (ACGPN) and the Convener of the NEW NIGERIA GROUP (NNG). He was actively involved in fashioning out VISION 2010 and VISION 2020 strategic documents.
Although he has not been very visible in the partisan political front, Mazi Ohuabunwa has been a loyal card-carrying member and financier of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). And, despite his extensive involvement in private sector leadership and corporate management, he has also gathered a lot of experience in the Public and Governmental Sector, both at the State and Federal levels. He was Chairman of Abia Polytechnic Governing Council, Chairman of Abia State University Teaching Hospital Board and currently serves as the Chairman of the Abia Public-Private Partnership and Investment Promotion Council. At the Federal level, he had served on the boards of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), National Manpower Board (NMB) National Institute for Social & Economic Research (NISER) and the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI). Currently, he serves on the Boards of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) and the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD).
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa has served on many Presidential Committees and Taskforces, the prominent ones being the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC), Presidential Steering Committee on Global Economic Crisis (PSCGES), and the Presidential Committee on Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Program (SURE-P). He was a member of the National Political Reform Conference of 2005.
At the Community Level, Mazi Ohuabunwa is a Christian, Knight of St Christopher, National Director of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International, Past President General of Nzuko Arochukwu, Chairman of Business Development and Investment Committee of the Alaigbo Development Foundation, and member of the Ime-Obi of Ohaneze Ndigbo.
Even though Mazi Ohuabunwa’s name may not ring a bell on the national political frontline, he has built a solid network of contacts, associates and like-minds across the country capable of supporting and sustaining his presidential aspiration. This network was built over the years through his leadership of various organizations in corporate Nigeria and agencies of government where he worked hand-in-hand with leaders from other parts of the country. These organizations and agencies included MAN where he served as Chairman and NECA of which he was President. He was also the President of the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce (NACC), Chairman of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and Chairman of the Organized Private Sector (OPS). Ohuabunwa is the Immediate Past President of PSN, and the current President of ACGPN and the Convener of the NEW NIGERIA GROUP (NNG). He was actively involved in fashioning out VISION 2010 and VISION 2020 strategic documents.
The services Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa rendered on many Presidential Committees and Taskforces, including the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC), Presidential Steering Committee on Global Economic Crisis (PSCGES), and the Presidential Committee on Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Program (SURE-P), and the National Political Reform Conference of 2005 also boosted his political network nationwide. But, more specifically, the nationwide consultations which he embarked on in the wake of his presidential aspiration has cemented his national outlook preparatory to presidential elections.
The credibility of an individual or leader, past, serving or prospective, can be measured in terms of recognitions, honours and acknowledgements he receives from his professional colleagues, credible institutions community and country. On this count, Mazi Ohuabunwa’s credibility is as spartan as that of any other person in the presidential race. His roll of honour is so long it cannot be reproduced here. Some of his recognitions and honours: Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria( FPSN), Fellow of the West African Post-graduate College of Pharmacists (FPCPharm), Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Pharmacy (FNAPharm), Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management (FNIM), Fellow of the National Institute of Marketing in Nigeria (FNIMN), Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (FNIPR), Fellow of the Association of Corporate Governance Professionals of Nigeria (FCGP) and Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants (FIMC).
For his sacrifices and services to his Community, Profession and the Nation he has been variously honoured, particularly being one of the few living Nigerians to receive three National Honours – Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) in 2001, Officer of the order of Federal Republic (OFR) in 2011 and the National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) award in 2018. Mazi Sam credits all his achievements to the Grace of God as he prepares to do more for God and Country.
From the foregoing, it’s clear that Mazi Ohuabunwa will be one of the most preferred choices for 2023 and has, therefore made the list of the Top10 Magazine’s top 10 most electable presidential hopefuls for 2023.
Gov. Nyesom Wike: ‘Defender of Democracy’ in battle for the Villa
If the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is looking for a Presidential candidate capable of challenging opponents’ word for word, action for action, guts for guts and Naira for Naira, then Mr. Nyesom Wike would be one of their best bet. In the last few years, the Rivers State Governor has proven to be the ruthless political Wrestlemaniac and defender-in-chief of the interests of PDP. He shoots straight with any available weapon – words, money, law courts – at any body or object that threatens the party anywhere in the country.
When PDP was tottering on the verge of crisis under the National Chairmanship of Uche Secondus, Wike stepped in. Secondus was flushed out through the law courts and the party was stabilized. Wike has cut the image of a restless leader, always on the road, rallying fellow Governors to resolve crises and unite the party. He has been instrumental to the resolution of multiple leadership tussles at the national and state levels of the party since he became Governor in 2015, the same year the party descended into opposition. As one analyst put it, “Gov. Wike literally fought for the soul of PDP and what we enjoy today as a party. ..Wike has remained instrumental to PDP’s relevance as a valid Opposition in the country. He has gone out of his way numerous times to raise his voice against unpopular decisions of the Federal Government, even on issues that affect other state governments. This action of his earned him the ‘Defender of Democracy’ title.”
Now the PDP and democracy defender is seeking the flag of his party to run for Nigeria’s Presidency. “To remove APC from power, I’m the person who can tell them enough is enough. We must take this power and I’m ready to take it for PDP,” he told Benue State stakeholders in Makurdi recently when he officially declared his presidential ambition.
Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike was born on December 13, 1963, at Rumuepirikom, Obio-Akpor, Rivers State. He attended Government Secondary School Eneka in Obiakpor, Rivers State, where he sat for his O’level exams. From there, he proceeded to the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUT), where he obtained a degree in Law. He attended Nigeria Law School and completed his studies in 1997. Governor Wike also holds a Masters degree in Political and Administrative Studies from the same university.
Wike is a wealthy man. He reportedly has an estimated net worth of a staggering $550 million and is believed to be the second richest Governor in Nigeria. He is married to a beautiful wife, Eberechi, and the marriage is blessed with three children: Jordan, Joaquin, and Jazmyne.
After graduation, Wike briefly went into private legal practice before venturing into politics. He was elected as the Executive Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area for two terms, from 1999 to 2007. He distinguished himself as one of the best performing chairpersons of the council. While serving as Local Government Chairman, Wike was elected Deputy President, Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in 2004 and was later elected the President of ALGON. He was also an African representative in the Commonwealth Local Governments Forum.
At the end of his tenure as Local Government Chairman, he got appointed as the Chief of staff to Governor Chibuike Amaechi. He was also appointed General Manager of the campaign team during Governor Amaechi’s re-election campaign. On July 14, 2011, he was appointed Minister of State for Education, and later as Acting Minister of Education. However, he resigned voluntarily to vie for Governorship of Rivers State on the PDP ticket. On December 8, 2014, he won the Rivers State PDP Governorship primaries and subsequently won the general elections in April the following year. On April 3, 2019, he was re-elected as the Governor of Rivers State in the 2019 general elections.
Wike contributed significantly to the development of various government systems. During his tenure as the Minister of State for Education, he made a remarkable impact in the sub-sector of basic education. He spearheaded a nationwide reform of the nation’s education system. Some of the notable programmes he championed were: enabling access to quality education for about nine million Almajiri children in Northern Nigeria; He pushed the programme through by constructing dedicated schools in affected states; construction of basic education vocational training schools for out-of-school children in Southern Nigeria; construction of Special Girl-Education Schools for less privileged girls in 16 states of the country. He championed the free distribution of books across the nation, and between 2011 and end of his tenure as education minister, over 60 million textbooks and library resource materials were distributed. In acknowledgement of his dedicated efforts to improve the quality of life of his people in Nigeria, he was conferred with two awards. They include: The Nigeria National award of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) and The Sun Newspapers’ Governor of the Year Award 2017.
To date, Wike has served at the three tiers of Government at different times. At the Local Government level, he was the Executive Chairman. He was a minister at the Federal level and is now the Chief Executive of Rivers State, one of the four richest states in Nigeria. These are positions that have exposed many occupants to temptation and corruption. Yet, in the more than a decade in these offices, Wike has not been indicted for corruption. This is in spite of the fact that he frequently exposes himself to attacks by stepping on toes in the course of defending his people, state and party.
The awards of the Nigeria National award of the Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) and The Sun Newspapers’ Governor of the Year Award 2017 are also attest to Wike’s credibility and integrity.
Although Wike began his political career from the grassroots as Local Government Council Chairman, he has since assumed the status of a national figure since becoming a federal minister. The educational programmes of the Federal Government which he executed nationwide exposed him politically to all parts of the country, an exposure that would come in handy in pursuing his Presidential ambition. But, perhaps, his greatest asset is the network of party members and leaders across the country, especially PDP Governors, that he has had to work with in the course of building and sustaining the party since it lost power at the federal level in 2015.
From the foregoing, it is clear that Governor Wike is one of the front runners in Nigeria’s 2023 presidential race. He has, therefore, made the list of The Top10 Magazine’s top 10 most electable presidential hopefuls for 2023.
Senator Bukola Saraki: A step away from the Presidency
Senator Bukola Saraki is a chip off the old block. His father, Dr. Olusola Saraki, a medical doctor and successful entrepreneur, became one of the most powerful Nigerian politicians of his time. He was an outstanding Senate Leader, a Presidential aspirant who later became the Godfather and Kingmaker of Kwara state politics.
Senator Bukola, also a medical doctor and successful business man, may not have attained his father’s larger-than-life image yet, but he has already surpassed his father in order of protocols at the state and Federal levels: He was a two-term Governor of Kwara State, two-term Senator and President of the Senate for four years. He would be climbing one step higher than his father if he becomes Nigeria’s President next year – and he is almost there. The junior Saraki has joined the presidential race for the 2023 elections, the second time in four years. During his first outing in 2019 on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Saraki came third in the party primaries, losing the ticket to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Saraki is building his aspiratiion on the foundation of his “strong record” of performance. “As we prepare for the journey ahead,” he said in a four-paragraph declaration message on Facebook, “I hope we can all join hands to get the ticket of our great party, PDP, and build a nation that works for all of us.
“Join me to make our communities safer and provide real opportunities for you and your families. I have a strong record of delivering and experience in making tough decisions.
“Let’s build a new Nigeria that works for EVERYONE!”
A former Minister of State for Power and Steel, Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher, described Dr. Bukola Saraki as the best person that would unify and develop the country if given opportunity to become President. Hagher who is the Chairman of the Saraki Contact and Advocacy Council (SCAC) said: “Bukola Saraki is the candidate that is beyond zoning. He is the candidate for all. Nigeria is not about Saraki; it is about the kind of president that Nigeria needs when the APC leaves the scene because of its very poor performance.”
Saraki was born in 1962 to the family of former Senate Leader Olusola Saraki and Florence Saraki. He attended King’s College, Lagos from 1973 to 1978 and then Cheltenham College in the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1981, he obtained his M.B.B.S(London) from the London Hospital Medical College of the University of London from 1982 to 1987. He worked in the United Kingdom in a number of hospitals in London and surrounding counties for two years before returning to Nigeria to commence a career that spans over two decades.
In the 80’s, Dr. Saraki built a successful property development company that serviced a number of reputable international companies, especially in the oil and gas sector, due to the quality of their designs, architecture and engineering.
His companies are also leaders in trading in commodities like sugar, rice, fertilizer and much more. Saraki also owns a manufacturing company in the food and sector.
Prior to his entry into public service, Dr. Saraki was appointed to the board of Society Generale Bank of Nigeria. Shortly thereafter he was appointed as Executive Director. Under his leadership, the bank was the first in all of West Africa to introduce the use of Automated Teller Machine (ATM).
Saraki is married to Toyin Saraki (née Ojora), they have four children together.
Saraki’s journey into politics began when he was appointed by President Olusegun Obasanjo to serve as a Special Assistant on Budget in 2000. He was responsible for preparing the 2000/2001 National Budget and equally initiated the Fiscal Responsibility Bill while also serving on the Economic Policy Coordination Committee where he was responsible for the formulation and implementation of key economic policies.
On completion of his service as Special Assistant, Saraki contested and won the Kwara State gubernatorial election in 2003 on the platform of PDP. As Governor, he garnered national and international acclaim for his innovative approaches to agriculture, health, education, fiscal policy and environmental reforms. His spirit of teamwork endeared him to his colleagues, and he was appointed as Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum. He championed a peer review mechanism among the Governors of Nigerian states and also used the platform to create a harmonious working relationship between the executive and the legislative arms of government at the national level.
In 2011, he contested for the position of Senator for Kwara Central Senatorial District and won. In his first term as Senator, he served as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Ecology and was a member of the Senate Committees on Capital Markets and Finance.
In 2012, he was appointed into the Leadership council of the Global Alliance for Clean cookstoves, an initiative of the United Nations Foundation that aims to use public-private partnerships to create a thriving global market for clean cookstoves and fuels for over 100 million people by 2020.
Senator Saraki promoted the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency Amendment (NOSDRA) Bill to ensure that oil companies pay appropriate levels of compensation to communities affected by oil spills. He also spearheaded the issue of Lead Poisoning in the mining areas of Zamfara State as well the initiative for the Great Green Wall to combat desertification and climate change.
Following his re-election in 2015 on the platform of APC, Senator Saraki was elected unopposed as President of the Senate by an across-the-party alliance comprising PDP and APC Senators. Saraki had faced stiff opposition from Senator Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan who was the preferred candidate by a group of senators-elect within the APC. His deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu (PDP), emerged after a tightly contested election. During his presidency, the Senate under his leadership, surpassed all previous Senate Assemblies in Nigeria’s history, passing 201 bills and clearing 138 public petitions.
Saraki defected from APC on July 31, 2018, some days after 14 Senators defected to the opposition PDP. He blamed his defection on intolerance of the influential persons of his former party. Saraki declared his presidential campaign for the PDP presidential ticket in the 2019 election but lost the primaries to Atiku Abubakar.
He was subsequently announced as the director general of Atiku Abubakar’s presidential campaign for the 2019 presidential election which he lost to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. In the 2019 election Saraki recontesed but lost his Kwara Senatorial seat to APC’s Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe.
Of all his contemporaries, Saraki is, perhaps, one of the most investigated and charged to court or tribunal on allegations of corruption or improper declaration of assets. But he has consistently fought and rejected all claims of corruption against his person, and has won a series of court cases to that effect. He has described the allegations as political vendetta and “witch-hunt.” Unlike most of his political contemporaries, Saraki was significantly wealthy, being born with the proverbial silver spoon and having earned a sizeable fortune from successful business ventures before joining politics in 2000.
Saraki has a long list of honours to his credit. He was made the Turaki of the Fulani emirate of Ilorin during his tenure as governor. Years later, the Emir of Ilorin elevated him to the position of Waziri (or Prime Minister) of Ilorin. The title had previously been held by his father.
Saraki was the first serving Nigerian governor to be awarded the National Honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) in 2010. He was appointed onto the leadership council of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, an initiative led by the United Nations Foundation. Saraki was appointed the “Ambassador-at-Large” of the International Human Rights Commission (IHRC).
Saraki has been a permanent fixture on the national political stage since his days as Kwara state Governor in 2003. In 2007, he became Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. As chairman, Saraki increased his national influence and he led efforts for a more reformed and unified relationship with other states governors. The scope of his national exposure widened even further when he became the Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly. That position made him the head of the country’s legislative community which boosted his nationwide political network. His experience during his presidential aspiratiion in 2019 and his position as Director-General of the Atiku-Obi Presidential Campaign Organization in the last general election has made the national campaign ground a familiar turf for him.
Considering his antecedents, Saraki is as well placed as any other aspirant to clinch his party’s presidential ticket and win the election. He has, therefore, earned himself a place among The Top10 Magazine’s top 10 most electable presidential hopefuls for 2023.
Kayode Fayemi: Highly favoured by a powerful political block
From his youth through his professional and political career, John Olukayode Fayemi has been a loyalist of notable Yoruba political leaders: Obafemi Awolowo, Moshood Abiola, Olusegun Obasanjo and Bola Ahmed Tinubu. In return, his own flourishing political career has profited generously from his loyalty. For instance, his election to the position of Governor of Ekiti State twice and his appointment as a federal minister is widely attributed to the mentorship of Senator Bola Tinubu, former Lagos State Governor and National Leader of the All progressives Congress (APC).
But Dr. Fayemi is no longer a political pupil; the young has grown and is now his own master, fully ready to lead Nigeria at the highest level: The presidency. The Ekiti State Governor is in the race to become Nigeria’s president next year on the platform of APC, a contest that brings him into direct confrontation with his erstwhile political godfather, Tinubu, who is also vying for the same office on the same party platform. This battle line between political godfather and his godson has elicited controversy in which Fayemi is cast by Tinubu’s supporters as an ingrate or betrayer – one that has decided to bite the finger that fed him.
But Fayemi’s supporters have retorted, saying the godfather has had his time and should yield way to his “children” to grow. One of them, Hon. Karounwi Oladapo, a former Deputy Speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly and Caretaker Zonal Publicity Secretary of APC in the South-West, said: “Our national leader, highly respected Senator Ahmed Tinubu, I love him because he has paid his due but the fact remains that by 2023 he will be above 70 years of age… Dr Kayode Fayemi that I am advocating for is 55 years of age, a senior youth within the bracket of the ‘sorosoke’ generation’s request.”
Another reason why Fayemi decided to enter the race against his mentor, according to Oladapo, is that Tinubu is virtually disqualified on religious grounds. He explains: “When you look at the presidential arrangement of Nigeria, whether by design or default or coincidence, If you look at it from 1999, you will see that we had Obasanjo, a Christian President by religion from the South. After Obasanjo, power shifted to Yar’Adua, a Muslim from the North; and power again shifted to a Christian Jonathan from the South before power again moved to Buhari, a northern Muslim. By reasoning, one would naturally want to deduce that the next President should be a Christian southerner.
Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a Muslim and that is No No. Muslims have not succeeded themselves by the analysis I made of the Nigerian history. Fayemi is a Christian from the South and the crown fits him… Fayemi, on account of age, is qualified and it is the turn of Christians.”
One factor that also counts for the Governor is his state of origin, Ekiti, which is considered by his camp as the least represented politically at the federal level.
“When you look at the prominent positions occupied by South-West states at the national level over the years,” says Oladapo, “it is only Ekiti that history has nothing to record for.”
Ogun has produced President, Vice President, presidential candidate and vice presidential candidate, Oyo has produced leader of Senate, Lagos has the current Speaker of the House of Representatives, Osun produced the National Chairman of AD, AC, ACN and APC while Ondo produced the presidential candidate of AD/APP; “it is only Ekiti State that is left behind and I must say that our state is not an appendage of any other state. This time we are ready to make a mark.”
In his presidential aspiratiion declaration speech, May 4, 2022, Fayemi said: ” After a careful consideration of where we are as a nation and the many perspectives which are emerging about the challenges, old and new, which we must gird our loins to tackle and transcend, I am convinced that my entry into the race to bear the standard of the APC will offer our members and Nigerians the opportunity to examine competing visions for national rebirth in the best interest of our country. And it is on the foundation of a clear vision accompanied by a carefully thought out programme of action that I present my candidature. I do so fully convinced on the basis of what I have experienced, heard, and seen about the demands of the times and the aspirations of our people that the agenda that I am proposing for our country is one which will find favour with APC members and win resounding traction with the generality of Nigerians..Let the work begin. I am ready. “
Dr. Fayemi was born on February 9, 1965, a native of Isan-Ekiti in Oye Local Government Area of Ekiti State.
Fayemi attended Christ’s School, Ado Ekiti, from 1975 to 1980. He later went on to receive degrees in History, Politics and International Relations from the University of Lagos and University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University).
From 1989 to 1992, he did a Doctorate programme in War Studies from King’s College London, specializing in civil-military relations.
From 1985 to 1986, he was a Lecturer at the Nigeria Police Training College in Sokoto and a Research Officer at Development & Management Consultants in Ikeja between 1987 and 1989. From 1991 to 1993 he was a Research Officer at the African Research and Information Bureau in London and in 1992 was a Tutorial Fellow at the War Studies Department at Kings College, London.
From 1993 to 1995, Fayemi was the Strategy Development Adviser of Deptford City Challenge in London. From 1995 to 1997, he was the Secretary General of the Media Empowerment for Africa (The Radio Foundation) in London. He was also a journalist with The Guardian and City Tempo; and the Editor of Nigeria-Now, a political monthly magazine.
In 1997, Fayemi returned to Nigeria where he established the Centre for Democracy & Development, a research and training institution dedicated to the study and promotion of democratic development, peace-building and human security in Africa, where he served as Director from 1997 to 2006.
Kayode Fayemi has lectured in Africa, Europe, the Americas and Asia. He has also served as an adviser on transitional justice, regional integration, constitutionalism, security sector reform and civil-military relations issues to various governments, inter-governmental institutions and development agencies.
He was the main technical adviser to Nigeria’s The Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission (Oputa Panel), which investigated past abuses and served on the Presidential Implementation Committees on Security Sector Reform, NEPAD and the Millennium Development Goals. He was technical expert to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on small arms and light weapons and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa on governance issues.
At other times he has served as a consultant to the OECD on Security Sector Reform and chaired the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative’s Committee of Experts on developing guiding principles and mechanisms of constitution making in Commonwealth Africa.
Governor Fayemi is a Fellow and member of numerous national and international organizations, has served on many boards and authored many books.
In 2007, Fayemi made his entry into politics by contesting for Governor of Ekiti State. After three and a half years fighting through the legal system, the appeal court sitting in Kwara state, on October 15, 2010 declared Fayemi the duly elected Governor of Ekiti State.
In April 2014, Fayemi was endorsed as the governorship candidate of the APC in the state’s gubernatorial elections in which he was defeated at the polls on June 21, 2014 by a previous governor, Ayodele Fayose.
Fayemi recontested for second term as Ekiti state governor under the platform of APC in the July, 2018 governorship election after resigning as the Minister of Solid Minerals Development. He was officially declared as the winner of the Governorship election in Ekiti state by the Independent National Electoral Commission on July 15, 2018 and was sworn in in October 2018, as Ekiti State governor for the second time. Fayemi was elected Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum which he led till 2021.
Although Fayemi’s tenure as Governor of Ekiti State from 2010 to 2014 was investigated by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) in 2016 for alleged misappropriation of funds and, in July 2020, was accused of “financial impropriety” relating to the Ajaokuta Steel Mill during his tenure as Minister of Solid Minerals Development, nothing indicting was found against him in both cases. “Even on account of capacity, integrity, strength of character, this is a young man who, for ten years, has been in public eye as governor, minister and now as governor.. he has never been indicted in any part of the world,” Oladapo said. “This is a guy that at the age of 28 under the military regime, no one could talk any longer, the press had been muscled but he coordinated the establishment of Radio Kudirat that provided the voice for Nigerians to speak to the international community.”
Fayemi’s national political outlook was broadened by the roles he played at the national stage as Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum and minister of Solid Minerals Development. He has built a strong international network of development partners across the world. He has been tested with the chairmanship of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. He brought glamour into the Nigeria Governors Forum and earned respect and love of all governors across party line. He helped most of the governors to attract international development partners and showed them through peer review how to get international grants to drive development in their states.
As one analyst put it, “Fayemi, from available records is a dynamic national leader exceptionally good at painting a clear vision that inspires and motivates the populace.
“Secondly, he is among the few politicians and public office holders in Nigeria that have demonstrated a passion for their purpose and practiced their core values..”
Based on the advantages he enjoys in his southwestern geopolitical zone, and the high rating he enjoys in the presidential race generally, Governor Fayemi has earned a place on the list of top 10 presidential hopefuls selected for this revised edition of the Top10 magazine.
Ahmad Lawan: New counterforce in the race
Three statements of fact can be made about Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan’s political career without fear of contradiction. First, he is one of the longest serving federal lawmakers in Nigeria. Second, he is one of the most loyal party men in an environment where cross-carpeting is the rule rather than the exception. Third, he is that rare Nigerian politician who hates to ruffle feathers.
Lawan, 63, President of the Nigerian Senate, has been a federal legislator since the beginning of the current political dispensation. He served two terms as member, House of Representatives between 1999 and 2007 and moved up to the Upper Chambers, the Senate, where he is serving a third term. Lawan has remained faithful to the All Progressives Congress (APC) right from its legacy parties – All People’s Party (APP) All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) – through the entire 16 years of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rule, in spite of the allure of (and pressure to defect to) the then ruling party.
Even in his position as Senate Minority Leader, Lawan refrained from antagonistic politics, preferring instead to play politics of constructive engagement with the ruling party. And since becoming Senate President in 2019, he has perfected politics of accommodation across partisan divides and between the executive and legislative arns of government. His election and reelection by his constituents every four years, or six consecutive times, in his 23 years in the National Assembly is ample evidence of his acceptability by his people and stature in Nigeria’s national politics. He certainly belongs in the same class as the legendary American legislators who become presidential materials, contest and eventually get elected as U.S Presidents.
With Lawan’s legislative pedigree, governance experience, national outlook and constituents’ multi-year endorsements, it was becoming a surprise that the Professor of Geography did not throw his hat into the presidential ring for the 2023 elections until recently. The explanation may be found in his undiluted loyalty to his party, APC, which has zoned its Presidential ticket for the 2023 elections to Southern Nigeria. The Senate President is from Yobe State in Northeastern Nigeria.
But it appears Lawan has, for once, pushed party loyalty aside and joined the presidential race at the 11th hour. Lawan said though he was joining the race very late because the field is saturated with aspirants, he assured Nigerians that he would play the game by the rules.
“I will play the games by the rule. I will not circumvent any rule. I will not go against our party rules. I place my trust fully in the Almighty God on this journey,” he said while receiving the Presidential Expression of Interest and Nomination forms purchased for him by a political group, National Stability Project, led by Chief Sam Nkire.
Born in 1959, Senator Lawan completed his primary education at Sabon Gari Primary School, Gashua in 1974 and then enrolled at Government Secondary School, Gashua where he obtained his O’Level certificate in 1979.
From there, he proceeded to University of Maiduguri where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Geography in 1984. Same year, he moved to Benue State, North Central Nigeria, to do his one-year compulsory service in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme.
He later enrolled and had his Masters degree in Remote Sensing from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and a Doctorate degree in Remote Sensing/GIS from Cranfield University, UK, in 1990 and 1996, respectively.
Before venturing into politics, Mr Lawan had had experience in civil service and the academia. Between 1985 and 1986, he worked in the Yobe state civil service as an Education Officer in the Ministry of Education. From there he moved to the University of Maiduguri where he lectured for 10 years from 1987 to 1997. He was employed as Assistant Lecturer 1 in 1986.
Senator Lawan began his lawmaking career at the House of Representatives in 1999 when he won election to represent Bade/Jakusko Federal Constituency of Yobe State. The lawmaker was elected under the platform of All People’s Party (APP), a party he pioneered as Vice Chairman of Yobe State Chapter. He remained a member until his re-election on the platform of same party in 2003, Lawan was made the chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture in same year and held the position till 2005.
From Agriculture, he was appointed to head the Education Committee in 2005 and held this position till the expiration of the 5th House of Reps. In 2007, Lawan contested and was elected a Senator to represent Yobe North Senatorial District. This time, his party had transmuted to the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP).
In 2009, as chairman of the Senate committee on Public Accounts, he initiated and sponsored the Desertification Control Commission Bill.
Still on the platform of ANPP in 2011, Lawan ran successfully for a second term as Senator.. His party later merged with others to form the now ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014.
During the 2015 general elections, Lawan, now with the ticket of APC, again, contested for and won the Yobe North Senatorial seat. One of the events Senator Lawan would be remembered for is his experience in the race for Senate presidency in 2015. He had emerged as the favoured candidate of the APC for the position of Senate President; and with a majority in the Senate, he was expected to carry the day. But this was not to be.
On June 8, 2015, the day the formal election for senate president was to be held, while majority of APC senators, about 50, were waiting for President Muhammadu Buhari who had invited them to a meeting with him at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, his rival, Senator Saraki, and other “rebel” Senators of the APC moved into the National Assembly complex, where the police had thrown a cordon to prevent workers and reporters from entering, for the “election” of principal officers.
A total of 57 senators loyal to Saraki, most of them PDP members, unanimously “elected” him after he was nominated by Senators Dino Melaye and Sanni Yerima. That was how Senator Lawan lost out. Two weeks after the defeat to Saraki, Lawan again lost a bid to become Senate Leader despite the backing of APC.
Instead of him, the APC senate caucus from the north-east nominated and elected Ali Ndume as Senate Majority Leader and Bala Na’ Allah (Kebbi South) as Deputy Majority Leader.
But Ndume would soon fall out with the power brokers. He was removed as Senate Leader in January 2017 and, following recommendation by the APC caucus, was replaced by Lawan who held the position until the end of the 8th Senate.
Just like in 2015, Senator Lawan again emerged as party favourite for the position of Senate President in 2019. At first, he was poised to contest against two of his colleagues; Ali Ndume and Danjuma Goje, but Goje withdrew a week before the election day.
On the D-Day, 109 Senators-elect voted and Lawan emerged as Senate President with 79 votes to defeat Ali Ndume, his closest rival. In the last three years the Ninth Assembly under Lawan has built a cordial working relationship with the other arms of government, more noticeably the Executive. But this has been achieved without compromising the independence of Parliament or the doctrine of Separation of Powers.
Understandably, people who prefer hostility to amity between the two elected arms of government do not like this. They have thus malligned him relentlessly and derided the ninth Assembly as a rubber stamp. But Lawan has proudly declared that “the ninth senate has done what we need to do to make Nigeria great… We can achieve more when we are united. Nigeria is designed by the grace of God to be a nation of many people of different orientations, different sentiments but we must be a people with a common purpose and common destiny and this is what we are trying to achieve.”
Senator Lawan does not compromise his principles. For him, politics is not an art of deception. “I don’t believe politics is about deception. I prefer to call a spade a spade,” Lawan once said while addressing his constituents in his country home, Gashua in Yobe State. His fidelity to that principle has won and cost him a few friends. But it has also underpinned the trust of his constituents, helping him to become one of the longest serving federal lawmakers in Nigeria.
Those who have worked with him will readily attest to the fact that you cannot persuade Lawan to act contrary to his conviction. Some see this as rigidity. But, to him, it is a compliment, in as much as he believes that he stands for the common good.
He once narrated the huge pressure he and his colleagues faced in 2006 to support the aborted Third Term Agenda of President Olusegun Obasanjo. As member of House of Representatives then, Lawan was lobbied intensively to support the removal of a pillar of democratic stability. But he bluntly refused, even at the face of a threat to deny him a return ticket to the National Assembly. However, the same Lawan also played a significant role in calming down his colleagues in the House every time they angrily attempted to impeach President Obasanjo over what they perceived as impeachable offences by the then president.
More recently, as Senate President, he came under pressure from some very powerful stakeholders in the oil industry who were against the passage of the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Act amendment Bill. Lawan rebuffed the pressure because he was convinced that the benefit of the amended bill is huge for the Nigerian economy. A similar pressure was mounted on him when the Ninth Assembly confronted the jinx of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). But Lawan again stood his ground and the two decades old jinx was broken – the bill was passed into law.
Expectedly, after the passage of the PIB in August 2021, Lawan and other legislators were accused of receiving bribes to guarantee the legislation’s advancement despite significant public opposition to parts of the text. Several legislators expressed anger, not that the House Soeaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, and Lawan allegedly took bribes but (wait for it) that the bribes were not shared equally among the legislators! Gbajabiamila, Lawan, and others all initially declined to comment on the report. But everal days after the story broke, Lawan denied it, stating that the report was “unwarranted, unproven, and false” before warning Nigerians to “always think positive about their leaders and their governments” and advising that “if they have issues they feel very strongly about, let them speak the truth and we are prepared to take corrections that we feel should be taken to make us do better.”
Nothing can provide better evidence of Senator Lawan’s national political outlook than his longevity at the National Assembly. Serving as national legislator for 23 years at a stretch, rising from a “Sophomore” Reps member to become Senate Minority and Majority Leader as well as President and Chairman of the National Assembly is no mean opportunity for Lawan to build a viable national political network required to win a presidential ticket and election. Apparently, he seized the opportunity, hence the confidence he exuded when he eventually decided to contest. He said that in deciding to join the race, he had listened to various calls countrywide asking him to contest the office of the president and that he was ready to commit himself to the calls.
“I want to commit myself to this call from all walks of life. This is not my journey. This is our journey because every hand must be on deck to take the country to the next level,” he said.
In deciding to run at the 11th hour against the zoning direction of his party, Senator Lawan apparently weighed in his comparative advantage in the politics of nothern Nigeria, particularly that of his Northeastern geopolitical zone. Analysts say he waited until the rival party, PDP, threw its presidential ticket open to all comers, apparently to take advantage of the huge northern votes. It is projected that Atiku Abubakar, one of the frontline aspirants from Adamawa state of the northeast could pick the party’s ticket and profit from the block northern muslim votes. According to analysts, the late entry into the race by Senator Lawan, a fellow Muslim who hails from neighbouring Yobe state in the same zone is to position himself to benefit from any last minute decision by his party, APC, to counter PDP and Abubakar’s seeming advantage by picking its flagbearer from the north.
Based on this prospect and Lawan’s other credentials, he has been considered among the top 10 presidential aspirants that could become Nigeria’s next president, going by the latest assessment by the Top10 magazine’s board of selectors.