The jamboree of the party conventions and primaries are over. The stage is now set for the final lap to the February 2023 when Nigerians will go to the polls to elect their next President.
Apart from the drama and tensions that characterized the processes of nominating the presidential candidates, what stare at Nigerian voters now are the credentials and the manifestoes the candidates are presenting to them.
The three major candidates are Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Bola Tinubu of the All Progr4essives Congress (APC) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP). They have all been around the political arena for well over two decades and might not particularly need personal introductions to the voters. All three had at one time or the other held public executive positions and their records are in the public domain.
Atiku Abubakar, 76
Abubakar, a former Customs officer, who hails from Adamawa State began his political career in 1989 when he was elected into the Constituent Assembly. In the same year that he was elected National Vice-Chairman of Peoples Front of Nigeria founded by the late General Shehu Yar’Adua. In 1990, he indicated interest to run for the governor of the defunct Gongola State, which today comprises Taraba and Adamawa states. He joined the race to become the President of Nigeria since 1993 when he ran against Chief Moshood Abiola in the primary election of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). He lost to Abiola, whose election on June 12, 1993 was annulled by the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida.
In 1999, Atiku suspended his presidential ambition after his party zoned the presidency to southern Nigeria and vied for the governorship of Adamawa State, which he won. But he abandoned the Adamawa governorship to accept the offer of PDP’s presidential candidate, Olusegun Obasanjo to be his running-mate.
So from 1999 to 2007, he served as the Vice-President of Nigeria. While as Vice-President in 2007, he secured the nomination of the opposition Action Congress (AC) to contest the Presidential election. The Supreme Court had ruled that he had the right to contest the election without resigning from office. He lost the election however to the ruling party’s candidate, Umaru Yar’Adua. He returned to PDP and tried to contest again in 2011 but lost the primaries to the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan.
In 2014, he joined the APC ahead of the 2015 presidential election and contested the presidential primaries, losing to Muhammadu Buhari. He returned to PDP before 2019 and ran as the party’s presidential candidate but also lost Buhari. In May 2022, he was nominated the PDP candidate for the 2023 presidential election
While serving in the customs, Abubakar invested in real estate and transportation. He also ventured into agriculture but failed. His most outstanding investment was in Nigeria Container Services (NICOTES), a logistics company, which later on became INTELS Nigeria Limited and provided enormous wealth to Abubakar. He established American University of Nigeria (AUN) in Yola.
What is Abubakar bringing to the table?
He identified five priority areas: Unity, security, economy, education and devolving more powers to the federating units.
“Nigeria is in dire need of visionary leadership. Presently Nigeria is a sinking ship that must be urgently rescued.
“Under my Presidency, I will focus on five key areas; unity, security, economy, education and devolving more powers to the federating units.
“Political decentralization will also help to deepen and strengthen our democracy as it will encourage more accountability.
“True Federalism will encourage states to compete to attract investments and skilled workers rather than merely waiting for monthly revenue allocation from Abuja”
″The steady decline of education in Nigeria is a reflection of our country’s relegation of education to the background of national essentialities. That is where the change must begin.”
Bola Tinubu, 70
Tinubu was trained as an accountant in the United States and worked for Mobil Producing Nigeria Limited Arthur Andersen, Deloitte, Haskins, & Sells, and GTE Services Corporation before venturing into politics. He first ventured into politics in 1992 as a member of the Social Democratic Party and was elected into the Senate to represent Lagos West. In the days following the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election, Tinubu played a major role in NADECO, the organisation that championed the movement for the reactivation of the annulled election. He spent part of the period in exile.
It was the role he played in NADECO that made leaders of the Yoruba political group, Afenifere to ask Funsho Williams of the Alliance for Democracy governorship primary to step down for Tinubu in the 1999 election. Tinubu went on to win the election but soon fell out with Afenifere.
While serving as the governor of Lagos State, he formed the bulwark of the opposition to the PDP federal government of President Obasanjo. His creation of 39 local governments in Lagos State fetched him the sanction of the Federal Government, which denied the state’s local governments their statutory allocations for several years before the Supreme Court restored the allocations.
After he left as governor in 2007, Tinubu maintained his hold on Lagos politics, nominating virtually all the candidates that stood election for his political party. He also had a hand in the election of governors in the Southwest region of Nigeria
His antecedents such as his overbearing mien on successors became too well known that he always interfered with the reelection of the governors of Lagos State that came after him.
During the 2019 election, a bullion van was seen entering Tinubu’s residence in Lagos apparently to spend on the election. When he came under attack for that, he retorted, “I keep money anywhere I want.”
From 2009, Tinubu began to bring together opposition parties into a mega-party to challenge the dominance of the then ruling PDP. That worked out in 2013, Nigeria’s three biggest opposition parties – the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the new PDP (nPDP), a faction of the then ruling People’s Democratic Party merged to form the All Progressives Congress (APC). In the subsequent election in 2015, Tinubu supported former military head of state General Muhammadu Buhari, leader of the CPC faction of the APC to win the presidential election, ending the 16 years PDP rule, making it the first time in Nigeria that an incumbent president lost to an opposition candidate.
Tinubu played a crucial role in stabilizing the Buhari administration and on 8 June 2022, Tinubu won the presidential primary of APC.
What is Tinubu offering?
In a summary of a manifesto that was released by his campaign organisation, Tinubu promised to reserve 25 percent of the annual budget for education and 10 percent for health. He also promised to decentralize the police system, introduce commodity exchange, totally deregulate oil market and building of national storage to sustain supply. He said he will stimulate production and manufacturing for export, target to raise power generation to 15,000MW.
Peter Obi, 61 (Labour Party)
Obi was a boardroom director before 2001 when he ventured into politics. Though he read philosophy at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, he is better known as businessman with special interest in portfolio investments. He has attended countless business studies at Harvard, Oxford and other business schools in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Obi hit the political space like a bolt from the blue when he threw a poser at Anambra State people, ‘Is Anambra State cursed or are we the cause?’ He initially flirted with the PDP before settling down with the All Progressives Grand Alliance after it was formed in 2002. He became the choice governorship candidate of APGA for Anambra State after he was adopted by the late Igbo leader, Chief Emeka Ojukwu, well celebrated for leading the Biafra secession of 1967 – 1970.
He fought through the courts to restore his mandate as governor in 2006 but was impeached six months after he took office. He returned again through the courts in 2007. His faith in the court system got him to complete his shortened tenure after the Nigerian Supreme Court ruled that the April 2007 governorship election, which Andy Uba won was null and void.
His prudence and shoestring approach to government expenditure helped him save a lot of money for Anambra State Government. But he left APGA to join PDP soon after his tenure as governor wound up in 2014. In 2019 presidential elections, he was the running-mate to Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate. The party came second in the election.
After picking the nomination form to fight for the presidential nomination of the PDP, Obi left the party citing a gang-up against his aspiration. He finally joined the Labour Party, which offered him its presidential ticket.
Obi’s aspiration has received unprecedented support from youths and political moderates in Nigeria who see in him a new ray of hope to drive Nigeria out of economic stupor and unto the path of recovery and prosperity. Obi has used his personal lifestyle and antecedents to sell his candidacy. And many Nigerian youths are breaking their political apathy and mobbing voter registration centres across Nigeria to register if only to enable them vote for Peter Obi. His urbane and exemplary lifestyle has always endeared him to them.
What is Obi offering Nigerians?
The thrust of his message has been that he will move Nigeria from a consumption economy to a production economy.
He says, “I know the problems of Nigeria and I know I can fix them easily because I can see them. Hunger takes people to the streets. Job and food will obviously take them out of crimes. That’s my specialty, creating jobs and wealth.
“For people who are asking if Peter Obi has ‘structure’, what structure is bigger and stronger than the collective will of the masses on whose necks the knees of the politicians have been. What structure is greater than the determination of a people who have at last decided to take back their country, their only country?
“We may not have the money to share because we didn’t steal any. We have not come to enslave but to serve.”