I hope to maintain a ringside view in the unfolding politics of 2023 in Nigeria. Being someone who had taken a dip in the fray, and having seen just how complicated things could get, it is surely going to be interesting times. It occurred to me to do a brief synopsis of Nigerians who have expressed their interest in the Number 1 position for 2023, and weigh their chances. It makes for good commentary. I believe too that anyone who would want to seriously run in 2023, should have started real work already. This is April 2021. Even in my attempt – howbeit feeble not for want of trying but because of the reality of running campaigns in Nigeria – I started early. It is also more enjoyable that way. For the 2019 elections, I moved for the formation of a fresh political party, ANRP, in December 2016. The party was finally approved in December 2017. Before the approval we kept building a base and signing on members (many of whom petered out in the face of the political and economic firepower of the big two. No fault of theirs really). We had the whole of 2017 and 2018 and then some, to build structures and run primaries and campaigns and get known. Even if one intends to run on any of the big parties, such a person ought to have started expressing serious interest and visibility by now.
The following gentlemen are the only ones I have seen who have directly or remotely expressed intention to run for president in 2023:
1. ATIKU ABUBAKAR – Almost every Nigerian knows that Atiku will never give up his ambition. He has also maintained visibility especially by criticizing some of the policies of the current government (EndSARS, Cryptocurrency and so on). Many people believe he stands in pole position with the PDP, who may feel obliged to give him another chance having tried for a number of times. Atiku has name recognition across the country even though he has spent much time in Dubai than building more visibility with the grassroots in Nigeria. If he wins the PDP ticket, he will rely on the core northern votes and also liberal southerners (east and west). This will work if ethnic politics does not get in the way.
2. BOLA AHMED TINUBU – Another man will much visibility and a thousand mythical stories surrounding him. You can love or hate Bola Tinubu but you cannot ignore him. Among many liberal south westerners, Tinubu is despised. But he is loved up north. Tinubu has somehow built a fanatical following among many politicians in the core north who can make his work easier. He will also rely on at least the South West Muslim votes, up to Kwara State. Many Easterners do not care about him. Word on the streets is that he intends to adopt a Muslim-Muslim ticket by running with some strong person from up north, replicating the Abiola-Kingibe feat. This may work for him and he could achieve a decisive even if hotly contested advantage over say an Atiku. Running on APC, the party with the majority everywhere in Nigeria, also means he will have a bigger war-chest to play with – if he wins nomination that is. He is known as a good fisher of men and his notoriety is the kind of stuff that easily make presidents. His economics is also out-of-the-box but patriotic – if he actually means the things he says
3. YEMI OSINBAJO – Urbane, extremely intelligent and loyal Vice President. He is loved by many northerners because of that loyalty. If he gets serious backing to throw his hat in the ring and he wins nomination, he should count on northern votes which he can split almost evenly even with an Atiku. Many young people in the south west and south east however say funny things about him – many of which I believe are unjustified. Osinbajo maintains a sterling personality. My psychoanalysis of him though is that he will demur to fight against a Tinubu no matter the prodding. He is not that hungry for power. ‘Farabale’ is his watchword – what will come will come. No need to break skulls over ambition. If by any stroke of luck he becomes APC nominee he will have a hard fight on his hands against Atiku (who has some sentiments from the South East and South South. The south west may just be nonchalant.
4. PETER OBI – My sentiment is that the two big parties cede their tickets to candidates from the south east. I have pushed for that in the past – before I threw my hat in the ring for 2019. Peter Obi is one of the best representatives from the East and even though he hasn’t said he will run, he is one of those many believe can run this country like a business (at least for the most part). Young and intelligent people love him. He may not stand a chance (number-wise) against a northern candidate or a Bola Tinubu though. Unfortunately too, many people in the south east don’t like him. They say he is stingy, and I ask whether it is not a frugal person we now need in this country. I will keep my eyes on Obi. He owes me one though. In the build-up to the 2019 elections and before Atiku picked Obi, I met him on a flight to Lagos and gave him my beautiful and power-packed manifesto booklet. He acknowledged after leafing through that it was great, picked my call once thereafter and then never returned or picked again. I just felt a bit duped.
5. KINGSLEY MOGHALU – Kingsley is my personal friend and someone I respect a lot. He is one of those who have maintained visibility the way it should be, especially in intellectual circles. He is a great speaker, writer and intellectual. He ran on the platform of YPP in 2019 but since parted ways with that party. If he is able to find a strong platform to run on, then great. He will surely do much better this time around even though the name recognition may not be as much as the Atikus and Tinubus of this world. When we ran campaigns pre 2019 one thing that was clear was that the vast illiterate population of Nigeria just needs things broken down into bits and pieces for them. They don’t understand good ideas unfortunately. They don’t even know what and who is good for them. This is a big challenge for articulate Moghalu whose appeal is among the tech-savvy and enlightened. He has some reservations about joining any of the two big ‘uns though. He doesn’t want to be smeared by their grime. Tough.
6. ROCHAS OKOROCHA – He has been in the news of late for his wahala with Hope Uzodinma, the Imo magic Governor of APC fame. Okorocha has always been someone who dared. When he lost the presidential ticket about 10 years ago, he went and became a governor instead and from there transited into being a senator. He is a great talker and has this project for orphans around the country which is great PR for him. Okorocha speaks Hausa (lived there), so if by any chance he emerges in any of the big two, watch out for him. He is rugged as a politician but may believe he lacks on the integrity angle and his Imo record is dismal.
7. TONY ELUMELU – This is just my fun addition. This sharp man and former boss of mine has not indicated that he wants to run for president but he has been visible and some people had fantasised about him running. He recently showed us a bit about himself in the viral video with his elder daughter. But over the years, Tony has shown that he is a great family man and he has also touched thousands of youths by helping them set up in business – all across Africa. If he decides to throw his hat in the ring, he might make a buzz. However, in the murky waters of Nigerian politics, if he doesn’t act fast and show political savvy, they will mess him around.
8. YAHAYA BELLO – This man is the Kogi State governor and is one of the few who have openly expressed interest. Many people have laughed at his ambition on social media but Yahaya is not a product of social media. He exudes the confidence of an accomplished pugilist and is always showing off his muscles perhaps to intimidate opponents. When he declared I had the idea that he envied young people like me who ran for president in 2019 and said to himself ‘why not?’, after all he has more financial firepower than most young people today and he is reputed to be a brutally efficient politician – not necessarily in the area of infrastructure building. He may be running in order to get a purchase as a minister. With the way he has locked down his state though, a senatorial seat is waiting for him to pick.
9. KAYODE FAYEMI – Amidst denials and appearances which help him garner visibility, it seems certain that Fayemi wants to run. People are not sure whether as president or VP. As Chairman of Governors Forum he has of late been leveraging his political capital and showing a lot of visibility. He is showing that he is someone to reckon with no matter how things swing. He has the advantage of being close to young Turks in the north – notably Nasir El Rufai. His camp is reputed to be diametrically opposed to Tinubu’s, and so is his economics. If he emerges as APC candidate, most people in the south west may vote for him even though most do not know him well enough. He will also make a mark in the north. In the east and south, many will vote for his relative youth.
10. NASIR EL-RUFAI – Brutally efficient and highly ambitious. El-Rufai is that guy that kneels down for his elders but if they cross him, his tongue is sharper than razor. His elder sons too aren’t much better. They cause storms on twitter very easily with their caustic tongues… or thoughts. But I hear El-Rufai has performed magic in Kaduna. Because of all the snafus relating to travel, one is unable to go and confirm but I can imagine. He is all about precision. No, he is not a democrat. He is a dictator. But many believe a dictator (benevolent one) is what we need. If he competes with Tinubu for the ticket he will shake Tinubu by tapping into the more youthful segment among APC governors and their delegates. If he wins, he will easily sweep northern votes, and get some sentimental votes from the west, east and south from people who have heard about his brutal efficiency. He may not have the reach of an Atiku as yet though.
11. OMOYELE SOWORE – The last man standing from among the young Turks of 2019, Yele has continued his activism not minding whose ox is gored. He is easily the most rugged of the lot, but one wonders if his forte is simply activism or if he is bent on obtaining political office – especially as the president. If he is able to rescue the party he formed from the guys who surprisingly hijacked it from him, it is highly likely that Sowore will run again. However, except something drastic happens, it will be tough to reach all those illiterates everywhere in Nigeria who cannot tell who loves them from who hates them and who cannot analyse policy ideas. The required logistics to get to every village in Nigeria, and go there many times before your name and face and ideas register, is simply killing. Call it impossible.
12. DOYIN OKUPE – I still saw a reportage about him bragging today that he will defeat Tinubu or something of that sort. Yes, that is how politicians should speak. This dyed-in-the-wool politician and medical doctor has been around for a bit – at least prominently since the Obasanjo days. He knows people in the political scene, but not many take him serious as a proper politician who can run around for campaigns and convince 15 million people. He got a baptism recently when he tweeted that hausa have not forgiven igbos over the killings of prominent leaders in the first republic and so igbos should forget being president for now. Oh my! Wrong take. The Igbos came for him and he had to apologise. Still one must commend his braveness for stepping out
13. DICKSON IROEGBU – I always felt – and still do – that 2019 was the best chance for guys in their 40s to have stepped out and try to shake the system. Another best time may come sometime in the near future, but I don’t think that time will be 2023. Why? APC has sent INEC to go after the young political parties and shamelessly and heartlessly – I will add stupidly and criminally – smothering those little infant parties even as they slept in their tiny little cots. However this chap here whom I’ve met a number of times, has declared that he wants to run in 2023. On what political party I don’t know. This brings up the question of the other 16 parties apart from PDP and APC. What are their chances? Or like the 74, they will all be deregistered right after the next elections? Most Nigerians are forgetting ideology to align with parties that can win. INEC believes it has a mandate to obliterate opposition in Nigeria and only work for parties who are paying their salaries and appointing them to work, or which have done so in the past. Still, I comment Dickson Iroegbu for stepping out. Na who try fit win jare.
14. ENDSARS- One is hoping that the anger of EndSARS will translate into candidacy – not only at presidential level but at other levels too. That will be the real deal and will allow Nigerian youths to at least begin testing their political mettle. It will be great if the youths could support one of theirs but that has always been a wishful proposal. Still we wait. The youths should not let their anger just fizzle out. Some of us advised during endsars that it was important to get involved politically.
15. YOUNG TURKS – Among the young Turks of 2019, and apart from Sowore, some guys will still step out. One of the guys I’ve seen so far is Victor Anilaju, who aspired in 2019. He wasn’t that strong then so maybe he has rejigged himself for 2023. Even though the platforms are much fewer now and may even be fewer just before 2023 – except the Supreme Court orders INEC to relist the 74 illegally deregistered parties, and/or INEC announces and registers the 150 odd new parties some of whom have been waiting to be recognized since two years, the space for political engagement for young Turks has shrunk to nothingness. 2023 may just be the year where we all return to being spectators. I hope people like Yabagi Sani (ADP Chairman and candidate and very strong speaker and politician) comes back. Also I am looking out for Donald Duke who flew the flag of the SDP.
I searched and searched and couldn’t find a single woman who has expressed intention to run for presidency yet. Not even with their body language or visibility. The space is still open, though closing fast. We hope some of our women will step into the ring. Na all of us own Naija. I hope to continue updating this list. Some of the rhetoric might also change. Na my personal list. Dassol.