by Joseph Ode
Nigerians will turn out in their millions to elect a new President and members of the National Assembly on February 25. The election is the first of the two legs of the country’s 2023 general elections. The second leg in which state Governors and members of the state legislature will be elected will follow two weeks later on March 11.
There are 18 candidates sponsored by 18 political parties cleared by the country’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to contest in the Presidential election. (Independent candidacy is not allowed by the Nigerian electoral laws.)
Of the 18, it is almost certain that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, one out of the following four will be sworn-in as President on May 29. They are Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP) and Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian People’s Party (NNPP).
With just about few weeks to the election, Atiku, Tinubu, Obi, and Kwankwaso have been consistently rated as the front runners. Apart from dominating the media space, they are the ones traversing the length and breadth of the country on the campaign stump, holding rallies from state to state and meeting with different groups of electorate and stakeholders.
But, beyond these, all the pre-election polls and projections so far have consistently rated them as the Top Four, the only difference being the order in which they are ranked by each of the polling or projecting organizations. Most of the polls’ results and projections were released before commencement of formal open campaigns by the political parties and their candidates in October.
The first two published polls on the 2023 general elections were by ANAP Foundation and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
The ANAP Foundation’s poll, which was conducted by NOI Poll, predicted that Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, would win the presidential election.
The poll gave him a 21 percent chance of winning against Atiku and Tinubu, who each got a 13 percent chance of victory. Kwankwaso got only 3 percent chance of winning the election. It went further to predict that Peter Obi would get 4 percent of the presidential election votes in the north east, 16 percent in the north central, 8 percent in North West, 68 percent in south east, 46 percent in south-south, and 12 percent in south west.
The NOI/ANAP poll said Atiku would get 28 percent in north east, 9 percent in north central, 20 percent in north west, 1 percent in south east, 4 percent in south west and 6 percent in south-south.
A caveat on the above ANAP Poll results was that, at the time of the survey, 32 percent of the respondents were still undecided voters while 15 percent did not reveal their candidates, which means the poll could still shift in any candidate’s favour.
On its part the prediction by EIU, the research and analysis division of the Economist Group, said that Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of APC would win the 2023 presidential election. This prediction indicated that Tinubu’s controversial Muslim-Muslim ticket would be inconsequential in determining his victory in the election.
The firm has one of the largest and most experienced analysts in the world with over 190 full-time country experts.
To arrive at its decision, EIU anchored its prediction on the internal wrangling in PDP and Obi’s emergence, which would eat into PDP and, by extension, Atiku’s strongholds in the south east and south-south.
Another poll by Bloomberg on Nigeria’s presidential election gave Peter Obi a clear lead of 72 percent chances of winning the 2023 election, ahead of Tinubu who garnered 16 percent while Atiku Abubakar of PDP received 9 percent votes.
The Bloomberg Poll cited factors such as economy and jobs, corruption, national security and food prices as the factors that influenced the decisions of the respondents. Topmost on the minds of the respondents in the Bloomberg Poll were the economy and jobs which were selected by 41 percent of the respondents. 31 percent selected corruption; 16 percent selected national security; 7 percent chose food prices while 3 percent chose crime as the factors that influenced the choices.
In October, a Fitch Solutions and Country Risk Research Report poll indicated that Bola Tinubu of APC would win the Nigerian presidency if the elections were to hold then.
In a similar vein, a hitherto unknown group, We2Geda Foundation, reportedly conducted a poll among registered voters and predicted that Peter Obi of the Labour Party would score a 51 percent lead over his fellow contestants.
ThisDay, one of Nigeria’s leading daily newspapers, projected that the elections may be decided in a runoff between Atiku and Tinubu since neither of them was likely to score 25 percent of voters in two thirds of the states of the federation. By the ThisDay projection, Atiku will lead the pack in 23 states followed by Tinubu in 22 states. Obi is projected to come third with barely 25 percent score in 16 states.
Taking a poll of the six polls and projections presented above, it would appear on the surface that Obi is rated mumber 1 winning in three out of the six polls. Obi ranked first in the NOI/ANAP and Bloomberg ane We2geda polls while Tinubu came top in the EIU and Fitch polls. Atiku clinced first position only in the ThisDay projection. Again, while Tinubu, Obi and Atiku got some fair rating or mention in all the six polls and projections, Kwankwaso failed to clinch the top spot in any one of them; in fact he took the rear in all the polls and projections.
Although the polls were supposed to gauge the disposition and predict the voting preferences of the electorate and outcome of the February 25 Presidential election, they have raised more questions than answers. While supporters rejoiced and celebrated over the polls that favoured them, they berated those that did not. But, generally, these polls and projections have been mired in controversy and questions about their motives, methodology, partisanship, credibility, antecedents, authenticity, reliability, amongst many other issues.
For instance, reacting to the NOI/ANAP poll which predicted victory for Obi, the APC Presidential Campaign Council said the flag-bearer of the party, Tinubu, was unperturbed. Bayo Onanuga, its director, media and publicity, in a statement, described the poll as “dubious, unrealistic and inconsistent.” Onanuga said that the NOI Polls made wild and incredible permutations on the presidential elections.
Also, speaking on Channels Television Programme, Politics Today, the spokesperson of the Atiku Abubakar presidential campaign, Daniel Bwala, “questioned the techniques deployed for the exercise, claiming Obi is basking in the euphoria of hallucination”. Bwala insisted that a “normal poll that will attract credibility will be a poll that will clearly release the sample size and the margin of error as the report is being released because the sample size and the margin of error will help in identifying whether the polling was actually carried out correctly or not.”
The Rabiu Kwankwaso Campaign Council also reacted by describing the poll result by NOI/ANAP Foundation and its projections as “self-seeking, self-serving, misleading, inaccurate and laced with partisanship.” In a media statement, the spokesperson of the council, Ladipo Johnson, questioned the sampling methods of the data collection.
Chidi Amuta, a public affairs analyst, also gave hard knocks to “Mr. Atedo Peterside’s ANAP Polls and, of course, the speculative projection by ThisDay newspapers.” He said the NOI/ANAP poll could have been left to defend itself with its less than transparent parameters. “But typically, the organizing and overriding intelligence in this enterprise would seem to be the political slant and interests of Mr. Atedo Peterside, banking and finance oligarch. He has been most reluctant to distance his personal partisanship perspectives from ANAP polls and their findings. Following the release of the latest of his contentious polls, he was on Channels Television to rationalize the veracity of the polls and its conclusions.
“Quite worrisomely, the credibility of the ANAP poll is not helped by its previous doubtful outings. In the run up to the 2015 elections, ANAP predicted a slim victory for Mr. Goodluck Jonathan against Mr. Buhari which ended up being the reverse. Similarly, ANAP predicted a narrow margin of victory for Buhari against Atiku which was wide off the mark.
“Ordinarily, the chances of credibility for ANAP’s poll predictions could probably have improved but for Mr. Peterside’s frequent personal editorial interventions either as a defender or explainer of the rationale for these dodgy polls.”
Amuta said the fact that the ThisDay projection had grated rather adversely on the political perceptions of even the newspaper’s most ardent readers must concern the authors of that troubling projection.
But, “thankfully,” he said, “the ThisDay projection makes no pretensions to being an opinion poll by any stretch of the imagination. It lays no claims to the familiar known polling parameters as guideposts.”
The analyst argued that, as a national newspaper, ThisDay can justifiably lay claims to a certain familiarity with the national political terrain to be able to project on possible outcomes in the forthcoming presidential elections. “But to proceed from a free ranging speculative projection to allocate percentages of votes to different geo political zones is a bit worrisome and presumptuous.
“A projection like ThisDay’s seems rooted in a certain fixation with Nigeria’s known political indices: religion, region, ethnicity, etc. However, a projection like this also fails to capture the national landscape in its dynamic and vastly altered state. Nigerians now live and vote everywhere in the nation irrespective of their ethnicity. There are hardly any pure ethnicities in the country. We are all mixed up and interspersed now. Religion has become a political determinant only in so far as a prevailing political order has weaponised it to make it a factor in the choices that voters have to make in 2023. Other critical indices of political choice have emerged.”
Waziri Adio, another public affairs commentator, however, has a more accommodating view of the opinion polls. Although he admits that the polls could be predicated on ulterior, self-serving motives, flawed in methodology, partisan and biased in predictions, they nonetheless serve very useful purposes. He argues that results of election opinion polls are not cast in stone and that they provide an avenue to appraise the sentiments of the electorate which politicians and other stakeholders could utilise to change political sentiments in their favour by gaining more ground in opposition’s strongholds.
Hear him: “For those who celebrate these pre-election polls, Mr. Obi’s consistent lead aptly captures the current mood in the country and is proof-positive that Nigeria is certainly headed for a historic, third-party electoral upset early (this) year.
“But there are others who strongly disagree with these polls, querying not just their accuracy as measures of the political reality of the country or as predictors of voting patterns (this) year but also questioning the methods and the motives of the pollsters.
“Both sides cannot be right. However, we will not know which side is right for sure until the votes are cast and counted in February.”
Ahead of the clarity that the February 25 Presidential election will provide, Adio offers some caveats that some of the pollsters and the partisans are not obliging the public.
The first, he says, is that there is nothing wrong in being a partisan pollster, contrary to accusations by a side of the divide. “Most of the professional pollsters in the United States of America have political leanings. This does not detract from the rigour of their methods or of the robustness of their findings.
“In any case, all serious parties and candidates will have their internal polls which they use in making critical decisions about where to allocate time and resources so as to either maintain their lead or give themselves a fighting chance in the race.”
However, when a poll is meant for public consumption, according to Adio, the political leaning or preference of the pollster should be clearly disclosed. “This does not necessarily take anything away from the poll itself but it affords the end users the opportunity to know what discounts to apply.”
The second caveat is that even the most accurate pre-election polls are time-bound: they only attempt to approximate voters’ expressed preference if the elections were held that day. But things can change quickly in politics.
He explains: “Even a poll undertaken a few days before the election may not align with the outcome of the election. And this may not necessarily be because the pollster’s methodology or motive is suspect or because the election is manipulated. It may just be because a day is a long time in politics. Some voters change their minds often, some voters don’t decide until late in the day, and some consequential event may swing a sizeable portion of the electorate.”
This is good news for the presidential candidates who were not favoured by the results of the polls but a danger signal to those who topped the polls. The current presidential election campaigns provide the opportunity for opinion poll winners to consolidate their positions at the top and for losers to turn things around.
What all this boils down to is that while the polls made a loud statement on the public preferences about the presidential candidates, the final statement will come from the entire Nigerian electorate when they troop out to vote on February 25.
Until then, nobody can say for sure who will be voted the next president of Nigeria. What is certain, however, using the polls, media presence and campaign activities as guides, and barring any extraordinary developments, one of the Top Four presidential candidates – Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi and Rabiu Kwankwaso – will become Nigeria’s next President.
But who are these gentlemen?
Turn to the following pages for the answer
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 Atiku Abubakar, 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 the February 25 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. This 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 held 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 in 2021 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 left the party without elected leadership at all levels for more than 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 fervour.”
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, in spite of his much derided Muslim-Muslim ticket and frequent dementia at public functions,he remains one of the Top Four contestants in the 2023 presidential race.
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 latest 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 spirited opposition to his candidacy by a group of aggrieved five (G-5) Governors within his party.
Among the current Top Four contenders, Atiku runs one of the most robust and coordinated campaigns in the build up to February 25, and stands a good chance of upsetting the polls that put Tinubu and Obi ahead of him.
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 Labour Party candidate 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 state 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 Atiku Abubakar 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. Obi may not command the campaign war chest that fellow contenders Tinubu and Atiku do; he may not have the political structures in the mould of APC and PDP; but the Labour Party candidate can count on a huge population of youths and non-partisan adults, two significant demographic groups, that are yearning for a change in status quo. His opponents know that his top rating by the various polls and projections is not a fluke. That is why they are investing so much time and other resources directing their campaign arrows at him.
Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso: The underdog with the potentials of the lion
By his own count, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Presidential candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), has spent 30 years on Nigeria’s political scene. This compares very favourably with any of his co-travellers on the 2023 Nigerian presidential train.
And, apart from Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), none of the current front runners for election as the President of Nigeria has contested for the office more times than Kwankwaso. It is these experiences combined with his personal pedigree and other antecedents, perhaps, explain why the former two-time Governor of Kano state, former defence minister and Senator, has pushed his way up into reckoning as one of the leading contenders in Nigeria’s presidential election slated for February 25. Indeed, most pre-election opinion polls rate him the number four top contender.
Kwankwaso was the Governor of Kano state from 1999 to 2003 and 2011 to 2015. After he lost his re-election in 2003, he was appointed the first Minister of Defence of the Fourth Republic with no prior military background from 2003 to 2007, under the administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo. He was later elected to the Senate in 2015, serving one term under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) representing Kano Central Senatorial District.
He is currently the national leader of the New Nigeria Peoples Party. Kwankwaso enjoys widespread support in Kano and north-western Nigeria; he has been viewed as a charismatic populist. In 2011, he was re-elected Governor of the state and went on to join APC in 2014 and, in 2015, unsuccessfully contested the presidential primaries nomination under the party but lost to Muhammad Buhari. In 2018, he returned to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and contested the presidential primaries losing out to Atiku Abubakar.
Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso was born on 21 October 1956 in Kano, to a Sunni Fulani Family of the Genawa Fulani Clan. His father held the position of the village head of Kwankwaso with the title of Sarkin Fulani Dagacin Kwankwaso before being elevated to the position of the District Head of Madobi with the title of Majidadin Kano, Hakimin Madobi.
He attended Kwankwaso Primary School, Gwarzo Boarding Senior Primary School, Wudil Craft School and Kano Technical College before proceeding to Kaduna Polytechnic where he did both his National Diploma, and Higher National Diploma. Kwankwaso was an active student leader during his school days and was an elected official of the Kano State Students Association. He also did his postgraduate studies in the United Kingdom from 1982 to 1983 at the Middlesex Polytechnic; and Loughborough University of Technology where he received a master’s degree in water engineering in 1985. He also bagged his PhD in Water Engineering at Sharda University India, in 2022.
Kwankwaso joined the Kano State Water Resources and Engineering Construction Agency in 1975. He served there for seventeen years in various capacities and rose through the ranks to become the Principal Water Engineer.
Kwankwaso made his entry into politics in 1992 on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
The same year, Kwankwaso was elected as a member of the House of Representatives representing Madobi Federal Constituency. His subsequent election as Deputy Speaker in the House brought him to the limelight of national politics. During the 1995 Constitutional Conference, Kwankwaso was elected as one of the delegates from Kano, as a member of the People’s Democratic Movement led by Yar’adua. He later joined the Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) in the political transition program of General Sani Abacha.
Kwankwaso joined the PDP in 1998 under the platform of People’s Democratic Movement in Kano led by Mallam Musa Gwadabe, Senator Hamisu Musa and Alhaji Abdullahi Aliyu Sumaila. In 1999, he contested the PDP primaries alongside Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, Mukthari Zimit, Alhaji Kabiru Rabiu. The Santsi/P.S.P were behind the candidature of Abdullahi Umar Ganduje but they lost to Kwankwaso in the primaries.
Kwankwaso was elected and served his first term as the Governor of Kano State from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2003. His first tenure as the Governor of Kano State was very eventful because of several other groups who were opposed to his high-handed governorship and his attempt at supporting Yoruba President Olusegun Obasanjo. In 2003, he lost re-election to his rival Malam Ibrahim Shekarau.
Kwankwaso was re-elected as Governor of Kano State for the second time from May 29, 2011 to May 29, 2015. During this time, he set out to rejig the political structure of Kwankwassiya: building roads, hospitals and schools and sending residents to study abroad. In August 2013, Kwankwaso was amongst seven serving Governors who formed the G-7 faction within the PDP. In November 2013, Kwankwaso, alongside five members of the G-7, defected to the new opposition party, APC.
In October 2014, Kwankwaso used his large political following in Kano to contest the APC presidential primaries held in Lagos with the results: Muhammadu Buhari, 3,430; votes, Kwankwaso, 974; Atiku Abubakar, 954; Rochas Okorocha, 400; and Sam Nda-Isiah, 10 votes. Coming in second, Kwankwaso endorsed the winner Muhammadu Buhari.
Earlier, from 2003 to 2007, Kwankwaso was appointed as Minister of Defence in President Olusegun Obasanjo’s second cabinet, replacing General Theophilus Danjuma.
In 2007, Kwankwaso resigned his ministerial position to contest the Kano State governorship election but he lost because he had been indicted by a Government White Paper. Alhaji Ahmed Garba Bichi later replaced him as the governorship candidate of the party. After losing the bid from his party to contest the 2007 elections, he was appointed as the Special Envoy to Somalia and Darfur by President Olusegun Obasanjo; and was later appointed by President Umaru Yar’Adua as a Board Member of the Niger Delta Development Commission, a position he resigned from in 2010.
Kwankwaso represented Kano Central Senatorial District at the Senate of Nigeria for one term from May 2015 to May 2019.
In July 2018, Kwankwaso alongside fourteen serving senators of the APC defected to PDP and in October 2018, he contested the PDP presidential primaries. At the presidential primaries held in Rivers state, amongst twelve presidential aspirants, Kwankwaso came in fourth behind Atiku Abubakar with 1,532 votes, Aminu Tambuwal with 693 votes, Bukola Saraki with 317 votes and Kwankwaso with 158 votes. Kwankwaso later endorsed the winner, Atiku Abubakar, and refused to seek re-election into the senate, with Ibrahim Shekarau replacing him. Kwankwaso campaigned heavily for his son-in-law, Abba Kabir Yusuf, to emerge as the Governor in Kano State. The election was later declared inconclusive with the incumbent, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, winning after the rerun.
On February 22, 2022, Kwankwaso set up the National Movement as a political movement against the staying power of the two major political parties, APC and PDP. He co-opted the New Nigeria Peoples Party as the political wing of the movement and became the national leader of the party on March 30, 2022.
Kwankwaso’s time in office produced a number of notable achievements. During his first tenure in office as Governor (1999 to 2003), he established the Kano University of Science and Technology in Wudil, the first and only state university in Kano at the time. During his second tenure (2011 to 2015), Kwankwaso established the North West University, Kano, the second state University in Kano. He also established 26 academic and manpower development training institutes and through these institutes over 360,000 youth and women were trained and empowered. He was the first Governor in Nigeria to introduce free school feeding and uniforms for primary school pupils. This exponentially increased the school enrolment figures from 1 million in 2011 to over 3 million in 2015 when he left office.
His passion for education saw to the introduction of free education at all levels in the state and saw to the adequate provision of teaching and learning materials. He established 230 secondary schools of which there are 47 technical colleges, 44 schools of Islamic studies, a Chinese college, a French college, and the first boarding girls’ college as well as a boys’ college in Damagaran and Niamey jointly with the Government of Niger Republic. In his four years as the Governor of Kano State, he awarded over 2,600 postgraduate and undergraduate foreign scholarships in 14 countries across the world. This is in addition to the local private university scholarship in Nigeria.
In the area of infrastructure, for the first time in the history of Northern Nigeria, three flyover bridges were constructed, 5 km dual-carriage lighted roads were being constructed in each of the 44 Local Government Areas of Kano, and two underpass bridges were constructed. Kwankwaso also initiated the covering of drainages with interlocking tiles in the state, including the covering of the Jakara River which cuts across the city of Kano with a dualised road, which greatly improved the environmental and sanitary condition of the entire city of Kano. Kwankwaso also built many houses and estates in both his first and second tenure in office. Three modern cities, Kwankwasiyya, Amana and Bandirawo were built with about 3,000 housing units of various capacities put up for sale to the general public. About 1,500 houses were constructed and donated free to rural poor communities and victims of flood disasters.
After leaving office as Governor, Kwankwaso launched the Kwankwasiyya Development Foundation (KDF), an initiative designed to help the people of Kano state and across Nigeria. Through the foundation, Kwankwaso supported many young people to further their education with continued financial assistance. The first batch of 370 beneficiaries of the foundation’s overseas scholarship returned to Nigeria in 2021 after successfully completing their degrees. Upon completion of their studies, many of the scholars secured jobs with various national and international organisations such as Dangote and Bua, which was facilitated through the Kwankwasiyya Development Foundation.
Through the KDF, Kwankwaso also secured the release of 170 inmates in various prisons across Nigeria by paying their fines and providing transport to enable them get to their destinations and reunite with their families. Kwankwaso has also donated sports kits and cash worth over 150 million naira to amateur football clubs across states in Nigeria. This is part of his effort to support the growth and development of local sports in Nigeria, an area that provides young people with opportunities across the globe. The foundation also donated cash and food items to the poor and needy, including widows, people with disabilities, and orphans, in an effort to alleviate poverty, especially among women in Nigeria.
On his 64th birthday in 2020, Kwankwaso inaugurated a 300-pupil capacity school which he built in Rano Local Government Area. The school is solar-powered and has a block housing six classrooms. The school was built through KDF in line with Kwankwaso’s vision and mission to support education.
Like many Nigerian politicians that have played at the level and for the time span that he did, Kwankwaso has not been able to escape corruption allegations and indictments.
For instance, a six-member commission of inquiry which was headed by Hon. Justice Ahmed Badamasi as chairman to inquire into the activities of Kwankwaso found him culpable. A white paper on the report issued by the government in November 2004 indicted Kwankwaso.
Also, at the end of his second tenure as Governor in 2015, Kwankwaso was investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged misappropriation of N10 billion pensions funds.
However, later in 2016, EFCC denied and refuted claims of any pending corruption case and prosecution against Kwankwaso. He strongly denied and rejected any corruption allegations against him, describing it as mere political blackmail, mischievous and sponsored by his enemies and political rivals to tarnish his image and reputation.
Kwankwaso took his politics outside his Kano base as far back as the early 1990s.
In 1992, he was a member of the People’s Front faction of the SDP, led by General Shehu Yar’adua. His association with Yar’Adua who was then a Presidential contender gave Kwankwaso a headstart in cross-country politics as it brought him into contact with other popular politicians such as his former boss Senator Magaji Abdullahi, Babagana Kingibe, Atiku Abubakar, Bola Tinubu, Tony Anenih, Chuba Okadigbo, Abdullahi Aliyu Sumaila, Abubakar Koko and Lamidi Adedibu, amongst others.
His election as a member of the House of Representatives representing Madobi Federal Constituency the same year marked his formal arrival at the national political stage. His stay at the Federal Capital was further cemented when he was subsequently elected as Deputy Speaker in the House. During the 1995 Constitutional Conference, Kwankwaso was elected as one of the delegates from Kano, as a member of the People’s Democratic Movement led by Yar’adua. For him, there was no going back as a national political player as he, at various times subsequently, became a senator, a minister and presidential aspirant. All these helped him to build contacts and structures nationwide on which he is now seeking to climb to the ultimate political position in the country – the presidency.
However, in spite of his large national political stature, Kwankwaso is running on the platform of a party, NNPP, that is relatively unknown in many parts of the country. This has given him the image of a presidential candidate that can boast of winning only in his home state. But the significance of that image is massive when that one state is Kano, the state whose voter population is the highest in the country. As a matter of fact, in recent presidential elections, Kano was able to deliver votes larger than those of many states put together. Thus, if Kwankwaso, the “home boy” is able to snap the Kano state votes, some from neighbouring northwestern states and springs surprises elsewhere, who knows.
It is apparently on the basis of this calculation that many polls and projections tag him along with Tinubu, Atiku and Obi and placing him at the rear of the Top Four. In fact, in the February 25 Presidential election, Kwankwaso is like the underdog with the potentials of a lion.