The expectation in the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP is that its candidate for the 2023 presidential election may come from the north, however the reality will be clearer after the national convention of the party which is expected to hold in October. This is because a lot other party leaders are of the opinion that for the interest of equity and justice, the South-East should produce the presidential candidate of the party, being the only major ethnic zone yet to occupy Aso Rock since the present dispensation. Another school of thought also thinks that the North East should be allowed to produce the candidate. This is because no other zone in the North can boast of more membership of the PDP than the zone. It also has an added advantage of being a zone three out of six state governors.
Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner was the last president from the PDP to have occupied the presidency and the Northern elements in PDP are strongly contending that the zoning should be in their favour. This is not withstanding the fact that the present occupant, President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner is on his second lap of eight year tenure.
PDP has however said that for the party to have any chances of retrieving power soonest, it will not be restricting the candidacy to any zone and that it is throwing open the contest to all zones of the federation.
By tradition of the party, the national chairman of the PDP and its presidential candidate should follow the North/South understanding of power equation. The implication is that if for instance, the PDP elects a national chairman from the South, the North will be expected to produce the party’s presidential candidate, and vice-versa. It is however safe to assume that the permutation on the zoning will have a clearer perspective after the October convention.
But not withstanding the contestation and debates, a good number of aspirants have already shown more than cursory interest towards the exalted office. Though as usual, there will certainly be contenders and pretenders but at least about five top contenders have so far emerged. Among them are Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Bukola Saraki and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal; the North. And from the South are former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim and Enugu state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed came into prominence in 2007 with his election into the Senate to represent the Bauchi South senatorial district. He was a leader of the Unity Forum, a group of senators that mobilised support for the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan during the protracted infirmity of late President Umaru Yar’Adua. The Bala group had mounted a support campaign for Jonathan against the backdrop of opposition perceived to have been inspired by a cabal within Yar ‘Adua’s kitchen cabinet. Jonathan eventually became President after Yar ‘Adua’s death in 2010. He appointed Bala Mohammed as Minster of the Federal Capital Territory.
As a minister of the Federal Capital Territory under Jonathan administration, Bala had gained tremendous experience as an consummate administrator who was exposed to international politics as the Mayor of Abuja whose duty also included welcoming all diplomatic corps and personalities and in which most cases he personally honoured some of them with diplomatic citizenship.
After a four-year break, he contested for the governorship in 2019 on the platform of the PDP and won the election. He also the PDP committee charged with a responsibility to review the factors that led to the party’s loss in the 2019 election and to make recommendations for the way forward.
In his early 60s, Bala’s ambition is gaining traction, but the governor has not confirmed or denied rumours in the media space linking him to the 2023 race but a Bala presidency is certainly one project that will fly should he throw his hat into the ring.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is one Nigerian who has shown his thirst for the presidency since the inception of the present dispensation. Atiku played key roles in the enthronement of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 whom he served as his vice. Efforts by Atiku to climb into Aso Rock as substantive leader have repeatedly failed.
First he contested under the AC ticket in 2007 but lost to the late Umaru Yar’Adua who ran on the platform of the PDP. Atiku returned to the PDP shortly after Yar ‘Adua’s death and struggled in vain for the party’s presidential ticket in 2011. Jonathan picked the PDP ticket and went ahead to win the election. In 2013, he joined many other prominent PDP bigwigs to dump the PDP for the then newly formed mega opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). He lost the party ticket in 2015 to Muhammadu Buhari. He returned to PDP, though he picked the party’s ticket but he lost again to Buhari in the 2019 general election.
Though, he had been away from Nigeria for what he claimed was for academic reasons but he has since returned and is seen playing host to his numerous supporters, visiting states and participating in most party activities lately. Born November 25, 1946, Atiku will be 77 in 2023, a factor that may militate against his presidential ambition. Though he has not made his political intentions public, but it is believed that with his huge political capital and financial war-chest, Atiku will definitely attempt for the ‘last’ time to hit the bull at the eyes.
Aminu Tambuwal, the Sokoto State Governor may turn out to be one of the strongest contenders in the race for the party ticket. He has been able to maintain a relatively baggage free outlook in his political career so far. His conciliatory approach to politics has continued to endear him to many stakeholders in the opposition party.
Widely perceived to be temperate and level headed, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives has continued to build political bridges across the six geopolitical zone right from his days in the federal legislature. Seen by his colleagues in the PDP Governors Forum as a team player, the 55 years old Tambuwal’s contribution to the relative stability in the PDP may count for him when the chips are down.
As chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Tambuwal, who is currently serving his second and final term as governor, is seen by many of his compatriots as a stickler for objectivity in all situations. Under his leadership, the PDP Governors Forum has become a force to reckon with in tackling the ruling APC over its obvious poor performance and the administration’s abysmal failure to tame the hydra headed security challenges ravaging the land. He has also played a key role in steadying the turbulent wave of crisis in the PDP, a situation which is currently threatening the ones famous umbrella.
Tambuwal started his political career as a member of the House of Representatives elected on the platform of the PDP before he emerged as Speaker in 2011. He was a member of a group of disgruntled chieftains that formed the “rebel” nPDP that defected to the APC in 2013. He got elected governor in 2015 on the platform of the APC but dumped the ruling party and returned to the PDP in 2018 alongside a few others who defected to the APC about the same time. He joined the race for the presidential ticket of the PDP in 2018, but came second, losing the slot to Atiku. He sought re-election as governor in 2019 and got re-elected for a second term. Should he become a candidate of the party in 2023, he will certainly be a huge thorn in the flesh of other opposition parties.
Bukola Saraki was a two term governor of Kwara State and was elected the President of the Senate in 2015. Very influential politicians having been tutored by his father Olusola Saraki, a second Republic Senate leader.
His political influence was however dented during the 2019 general election where his political leadership in the state was challenged. He lost election to the APC, a party he once funded after he joined other political rebels in 2013 in PDP to form nPDP.
However, Saraki is from North Central, another zone yet to taste the presidency since 1999. In 2019, Saraki also contested for the presidential ticket in PDP but lost to Atiku. He has remained a visible force in the party and is currently charing various reconciliatory committees in PDP. His eyes are nevertheless still on the ball. He will likely attempt to seek the ticket to vie for the presidency.
Another potential candidate for the PDP presidential ticket is Peter Obi, the former Anambra state governor who was the PDP’s Vice presidential candidate in the 2019 general election. Along with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who was the candidate of the PDP, Obi showed his classy touch in governance particularly as it concerns the solutions to the economic quagmire, Nigeria has been grappling with in the recent.
Born in 1961, Obi graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1980 with a degree in Philosophy. He spent better parts of his life in the board rooms of many companies and conglomerates. He was elected governor of Anambra State under the Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu led-All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) where he spent eight years and seven months as the governor. He was sworn in as governor of Anambra State on 17 March 2006.
However, on 2 November 2006, he was impeached after seven months in office. He took the matter to court, he won and was reinstated on 9 February 2007.
Another election took place in 2007, that brought in Andy Uba. Obi went to court to argue that he didn’t complete his four-year tenure, the court agreed with him and said his tenure ought to end on March 2010. After his dramatic first term, Obi contested for the position of governorship again and won a second term in office, which ended on 7th of March 2014. He left APGA for the PDP but not after he had succefully worked for the emergence of Willy Obiano as his successor in Anambra.
He was later appointed the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission by former President Goodluck Jonathan in April 2015. He remained very influential and probably the best ever presidential material from the South East. He is reputed to be the only governor in the history of Nigeria that left billions of naira in the coffers of the government, and without putting the state into debt. He ran a frugal administration and built a reputation for himself as a politician who would rather work for his people than engage in primitive acquisition of wealth for which most of his colleagues have been accused of. It was that quality that endered him to Atiku in 2019 and the qualities will certainly speak for him should the presidency be zoned to the South East.
Enugu state governor, Hon. Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (popularly known as “Gburugburu”) was born 20 March 1964. He was first elected to the House of Representatives of Nigeria in 2003 where he served as Chairman, House Committee on Marine Transport. A third term Reps, who later contested and won the governorship election in 2015 under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He is currently in his second term in office.
Under his leadership, Enugu state has achieved tremendous transformation in the area of rural development where he commissioned several landmarks and legacy projects- projects that impact directly on the people. Never before in the history had the state witnessed so much tranquility, a situation where all political actors had to subsume their interests all for the greater good of the state.
Because Enugu city still holds the honour of being capital of the South East zone, the governor has however continued to play prominent roles in the South-East politics where he is incidentally not just a unifying decimal but also played the chief host in several meetings where the issues concerning the zone are decided.
This calm, resourceful, humane, agile, dynamic and development driven governor most often prefered not to be seen or heard but most assuredly has proved to be factor in the quest for a united Ndigbo. In spite of the political and ideological differences of most governors and leaders in the state, Ugwuanyi has continued to exhibit a unique personality as someone who appears not politically ambitious or hungry for power. He is also seen in quaters as not being flamboyant, and as a colourless politician, however, it appears that these qualities are turning out to be his strengths on which it is being speculated that he could be the best presidential material from the South East. Like every other possible aspirants, Governor Ugwuanyi has not made any pronouncement on his future ambition but when he eventually does, he will certainly be a strong contender and will certainly not lack support from the South-East.
Former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim was born on February 19, 1961 and after his law degree, he became the Head of Protection Department at the National Commission for Refugees, Abuja, in 1992, a job that included the provision of legal services and political protection for refugees. In this capacity he traveled to various parts of the world.
As the political impulse flowered, in 1998, he joined the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) and won a Senate election. However, the death of General Sani Abacha on June 8 of that year nullified the result. During the transitional regime of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, he joined the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and again ran successfully for election to the Senate in 1999. Anyim took office in the Senate in May 1999, and was elected President of the Senate in August 2000, after Chuba Okadigbo was impeached. He creditably held the office until May 2003.
With remarkable foresight, he did not seek reelection in 2003 – correctly reading the political barometer at the period. He was appointed by former President, Goodluck Jonathan to head the Centenary celebration of the proclamation of Nigeria as a nation by colonial Britain. In January 2010, he led a delegation of 41 eminent Nigerians that called on President Umaru Yar’Adua to urgently transmit a letter of his incapacitation to the National Assembly to salvage the nation’s democracy from danger. This willy-nilly led to the Senate passing a resolution on February 9, 2010, to make Vice President Goodluck Jonathan Acting President. In May 2011, he was appointed as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) by President Jonathan.
Though Anyim left the scene after Jonathan left office in 2015 but he has continued to play an elder statesman’s role for the common good and sustainable development of Ndigbo and Nigeria as a whole. He is no less a child of providence, wielding influence with alluring humility and exemplary focus. He has spoken and continues to speak to both regional and national uncertainties and fears, with courage and conviction. It is also rumoured that he harbours presidential ambition.