Nigeria 2023: Five Presidential Aspirants to Know

On February 25, 2023, Nigeria will hold presidential elections. Current President Muhammadu Buhari (elected 2015, re-elected 2019) is term-limited and cannot run. The open presidential race will have major implications for the future of Nigeria and for West Africa and beyond.

Major politicians are starting to declare or at least strongly telegraph their candidacies, especially in advance of the presidential primary election for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), slated to be held on May 30-31 of this year, and the primary election for the former ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on May 28-29. The APC is expected to “zone” its candidate to southern Nigeria, as a power rotation after eight years of a northerner in the presidency.

Here are five names to know, including both APC and PDP candidates:

  1. Bola Tinubu: The Governor of Lagos State from 1999-2007, Tinubu has played a central role as a powerbroker in southwestern Nigeria and in national politics. He is widely considered the leading architect of the 2013 inter-party merger that created the present ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Tinubu declared on January 10: “I have the confidence, vision and capacity to rule, build on the foundation of Mr. President, and turn Nigeria better. I’ve done that before in Lagos State. You’ve seen that experience and the capacity to turn things around and that is what we are doing.”
  2. Yemi Osinbajo: Nigeria’s sitting Vice President since 2015, Osinbajo also hails from Lagos, where he was Tinubu’s Attorney General from 1999-2007. As Vice President, Osinbajo has often been particularly visible at moments when Buhari has been on extended medical leaves and my impression has been the Osinbajo travels internally within Nigeria more than Buhari does. Osinbajo announced his intention to run for president on April 11. He presented himself as a voice for ordinary Nigerians: “I’ve stood where you stand and sat where you sit. I know and I understand our hopes, aspirations and fears from a place of relatable proximity; and I believe that in those hopes and aspirations are the seeds for the great Nigeria that we all desire.” For whatever it’s worth, Tinubu is Muslim while Osinbajo is Christian; both belong to the APC.
  3. Rotimi Amaechi: Current Minister of Transportation and former Governor of Rivers State (2007-2015) in the Niger Delta, Amaechi is yet another APC aspirant for president. Announcing on April 9, Amaechi highlighted his long experience in elected and appointed positions. He said: “I pledge my heart, mind and soul to the task of building a Nigeria in which every child can go to school, every young person can find work or support to start a business, every citizen can travel safely around the country and sleep at night knowing that law and order prevails and every Nigerian feels included, heard, and respected.”
  4. Atiku Abubakar: Former Vice President (1999-2007) and runner-up in the 2019 presidential election, Abubakar is from Adamawa State in the northeast. He declared his candidacy on March 23, outlining a five-point agenda that emphasizes national unity, security, economic development, education, and the devolution of power to the states and local governments. As in 2019, Abubakar seeks to contest on the PDP ticket.
  5. Bukola Saraki: Member of a major political dynasty from Kwara State, Saraki served as Governor (2003-2011), Senator (2011-2019), and Senate President (2015-2019). The political landscape is shifting fast in advance of the PDP primary, but Saraki has recently been part of a four-candidate alliance advocating for a PDP unity candidate; the other members of the alliance are Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal (elected 2015, re-elected 2019), Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed (elected 2019), and the investment banker Mohammed Hayatu-Deen. Notably, many of the PDP’s top candidates are from the north, as is outgoing President Buhari.

BBC Pidgin has a list of the major APC aspirants and a separate list of the major PDP aspirants; both lists include a number of governors and former governors not mentioned above for reasons of concision.

2 thoughts on “Nigeria 2023: Five Presidential Aspirants to Know

  1. Thank you Sir for this post. 2023 will perhaps be the most unpredictable election in Nigeria’s contemporary democratic politics. The poor performance of Muhammadu Buhari has killed public hope about the elections, and these candidates, who have politically prostituted from PDP and other parties to APC and now eyeing for the top seat do not largely bring any optimism to the common man. And together with their PDP counterparts, they are just seen as birds of the same feather who are just flocking together in search of their pecuniary desires. Buhari rode on the mantra of integrity, incorruptibility and determination to decisively fight corruption, but here he is, now an institutional backer and emnacipater of corrupt convicts, a man
    highly detached from the plight of his subjects. Nigerians are tired of the PDP and APC but it seems they have limited choices. Since Buhari has so underperformed this way, any candidate with whatever record and credentials can secure the seat and Nigerians will have nothing but to minimize their expecations. The country is so engrossed in regional, religious and ethnic politics so much so that politicians always have ready-made factors to perpetuate their political industries. When sharing the national cake at the centre, they hardly remember their constituencies nor do they distinguish themsleves from others coming from rival ethnic, regional or religious backgrounds, but when they reach out to the poor to canvass for support, they chant the slogans of their membership in these affiliations and present themselves as cultural champions of their people. Nigeria may need a recolonization before it slids into a completely failed state.
    I pray Sir the next article will take a look at other candidates from outside the APC and PDP.

    • “when they reach out to the poor to canvass for support, they chant the slogans of their membership in these affiliations and present themselves as cultural champions of their people.” This is very well said, along with all the other points you make in the comment. I have assumed that the ultimate victor will come from one of these two parties – but this is a great suggestion to do another post looking at other candidates. I’ll try to do that in the coming weeks in sha Allah.

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