Long walk to 2023 begins

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A growing number of names have been floated as potential presidential aspirants in the 2023 general elections. They range from current and former governors to serving ministers and former presidential candidates. Many of these people are yet to openly declare interest in the race as we speak.

But all things being equal, a good number of them are expected to go public with their ambition in the New Year, 2021, while others will come clean about not having such intentions. But without doubt, the actions and in actions of the following people will have lasting effects on the politics of 2021 with regards to the 2023 presidential race.

 

Bola Tinubu

All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader and former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, is one politician many are touting to put his hat in the ring come 2023 as a presidential contender. To many pundits, there is nothing else left for the Asiwaju of Lagos to do politically other than to try his luck and acceptance in the presidential race. “The presidency is the only belt left for Tinubu to covet. And he is eminently qualified to seek the seat. So, either he contests or not, that is the only thing he should be doing,” Comrade Chekwas Anuku of the Civil Coalition for Democracy (CCD) opined.

A widely acclaimed master strategist who has been credited with numerous electoral victories across the country, especially in Lagos State where he has held sway politically since 1999, his contribution to the formation of the ruling APC and the victories of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 and 2019 are much talked about. Within and outside the ruling party, numerous stakeholders are rooting for him to succeed the President come 2023.

But Tinubu, who is also a former Senator, is yet to declare interest in the race. Few weeks ago, Tinubu, who spoke through his media aide, Tunde Rahman, urged his supporters to join him in supporting Buhari’s administration.

“His Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has not even declared his intention to contest the 2023 presidential election let alone opening a campaign office. He has repeatedly said 2023 is still some years away and that he is at present focused on helping President Buhari to deliver on his mandate as he is doing and coast home to victory. That is his position. But you know also that many of his friends, associates and supporters who feel he is eminently qualified for the presidency and has done excellently well to advance our democracy and want to see him contest for the top job are doing everything on their own to see this happen,” Rahman said.

Few days back, some prominent supporters of the APC national leader formed a presidential campaign council named Southwest Agenda (SWAGA), aimed at garnering support for the national leader of the APC ahead of the 2023 presidential election. The SWAGA team, which includes former senators, other former lawmakers, and prominent politicians from the Southwest states, paid visits to monarchs across the region to lobby for Tinubu’s expected bid for the presidency in 2023.

The debate is still raging over what Tinubu’s political move will be in 2021, but not a few individuals and groups are already gearing up to help actualise his rumoured presidential ambition should he declare interest. The many support groups daily springing up across the country even at a time when some analysts claim happenings in the APC may have watered down his chances, are testimonies of how popular he is across the country.

Atiku Abubakar

Last week, at a news conference in Abuja by its National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, the PDP dismissed the possibility of the party making a pronouncement on its zoning formula soon.

With this move, the main opposition party may have invited presidential aspirants from all parts of the country to struggle for its presidential ticket. With this, the rumoured interest of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar in the 2023 race is kept alive. He was the PDP presidential candidate in the 2019 race, losing to APC’s Buhari.

The clamour for the PDP to zone its presidential ticket to the south remains a big albatross to Atiku’s desire to run on the party’s platform again in 2023. But party sources said he and his team are working very hard to ensure the zoning agitators fail in their bid.

To his advantage, it appears the former Vice President enjoys the loyalty of the current NWC of the party. Last October, the party had said its floor is open for any contender willing to contest for the presidential election in 2023, including Atiku Abubakar. National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, said this while reacting to questions from journalists in Bauchi on whether the party will re-present the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who lost the 2019 presidential election to Muhammadu Buhari. “There is no room for discrimination. Everyone is qualified; both young, old, governors, non-governors are qualified to contest and we have the space for everyone–if you win, you become our candidate. The door is open to everybody,” Secondus had explained.

So, many pundits are optimistic that the Adamawa-born politician will rev his political machinery greatly in 2021 in his bid to outdo other potential PDP aspirants and corner the coveted presidential ticket once again in spite of growing opposition to his ambition within the party.

Not a few frontline chieftains of the party, including serving governors and federal legislators, have openly kicked against Atiku’s return as candidate. But inside sources within his camp said efforts are on to win over many of those currently complaining, including pro-zoning agitators.

Aminu Tambuwal

On Thursday, October 8, Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, denied the report which said he has declared his 2023 presidential ambition. But the PDP chieftain didn’t say he will not be running for the office come 2023. In a statement by his media aide, Muhammad Bello, it was said that the governor’s focus now was on delivering good governance and the dividends of democracy to the people of Sokoto State. Of course, talks about his desire to contest for the PDP presidential ticket refuse to go away.

The apparent refrain by the opposition party to zone its 2023 presidential ticket to the southern bloc of Nigeria has led to the emergence of Tambuwal as one of the leading potential aspirants on the platform of the party. While he hasn’t indicated interest in the ticket openly, it is equally an open secret that he enjoys the backing of many of the party’s chieftains, including governors. His major challenge would be how to convince the growing clan of pro-zoning campaigners within the party.

David Umahi

Although he claimed he didn’t strike any deal with the leaders of the ruling APC about 2023 before joining the party few weeks back, Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, is one man many analysts are touting to slug it out with other contenders for the presidential ticket of the APC come 2023.

Those claiming the governor will contest are pointing to the recent granting of waiver to new comers into the party to seek elective positions, as one of the pointers to what is to come. Also, claims by Umahi that he joined the APC because PDP didn’t zone its ticket to the south, are being interpreted by pundits as subtle declaration of interest.

Should he be desirous of seeking the presidential ticket of the APC, or working for someone else, it is expected that Umahi, being new in the ruling party, will up his game in 2021 with a view to improving his acceptability within and outside the party in preparation for the politics of 2023.

Bukola Saraki

Former Senate President Bukola Saraki is one unlikely player in the 2023 presidential elections. But the former Kwara State governor, according to close associates, will seek to be the candidate of the PDP if the ticket is not zoned to the southern part of the country.

Saraki, who lost his hold on Kwara State politics to the APC in 2019, is reportedly making moves to re-launch his political career ahead of the 2023 contests. “If the presidential ticket of the PDP is thrown open, Oloye will contest. But if not, he will seek something else,’ an aide said.

Saraki still has a strong following in Kwara. Recently, he made a grand entry into the state for the first time after the 2019 defeat. He was welcome by a huge crowd. Pundits claim the event was a test of popularity for the former Senate President. While many observers feel Saraki will not make much impact should he enter the presidential race, as the 2019 loss of a senatorial election to little known Oloriegbe will remain a dent on his popularity, there are others who said the connections he garnered as Senate President will come in very handy for him.

READ ALSO: 2023: Igbo presidency tears southeast leaders apart as ex-SGF Anyim comes under fire

Kayode Fayemi

The Ekiti State chapter of the ruling APC is currently in disarray following a heated disagreement over an alleged endorsement of the state governor, Kayode Fayemi, for presidency in 2023. While the governor is yet to formally declare his intention to run for the office, his supporters are all over the town popularising his ambition.

Last week, the APC caretaker committee under Paul Omotoso, formally endorsed Fayemi for the presidency in 2023. “On the 2023 presidency, time has come for the President to come from Ekiti. That is why we are pleading with you to support Governor Fayemi,” he said.

But a prominent group within the party, the platform of APC Stakeholders Forum, promptly debunked the endorsement, arguing that the governor could not benefit from a zoning arrangement he is well known to be opposed to. A statement by the secretary of the stakeholders’ forum, Bamigboye Adegoroye said “The leaders of APC in Ekiti State are unaware of the idea. Again, we note that Hon. Ade Ajayi’s boss does not even believe that the position should be zoned to the Southwest as expressed on the national platform recently. Adoption of an authentic, qualified, well known, humane and experienced Yoruba man is our goal, and we will play our part in accomplishing that task.”

But in spite of the crisis his alleged ambition is generating in his backyard, it was gathered that the Ekiti State governor has plans to be on the presidential ballot of his party in 2023 either as presidential candidate or the running mate. Expectedly, more facts will emerge about his next political move in 2021.

Peter Obi

Although former Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi, recently distanced himself from a campaign poster of him ahead of the 2023 presidential election, there are indications that he is under pressure to seek the presidential ticket of the PDP ahead of the 2023 general election. Obi was the running mate to Atiku in 2019. In a terse tweet accompanied by the said poster, Obi wrote, “I am not a part of the poster being circulated.”

The Nation gathered that Obi and other politicians from the Southeast may have been warned by prominent groups and associations in the region against accepting to run as running mate to any northerner should the PDP fail to zone the ticket to the south.

This is the former governor’s current dilemma, which, according to some of his aides, may force him to seek the PDP presidential ticket and part ways with Atiku, who is reportedly still interested in running.

Even before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) blows the whistle, many aspirants have been identified in the leading political parties, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC) and the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). The aggressive push of the Young Peoples Party (YPP) in Anambra makes their aspirants important stakeholders to watch just like the aspirants of the older leading parties. Considering that many aspirants are still expected to join the ones already on the stage in the four political parties and the others, it could be said that 2021 promises to be very interesting politically in Anambra State.

The major governorship aspirants that will likely dominate the political scene this year include but not limited to:

Chukwuma Soludo

Even before the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, declared interest to contest in this year’s governorship election in Anambra State on the platform of the ruling All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), his name has been mentioned by many as Governor Willie Obiano’s favourite to succeed him.

Soludo is not entirely new in the politics of Anambra State. In 2009, when he contested to govern the Southeast state, his campaign, especially his pledge to make Anambra State the Dubai and Taiwan of Africa, made him very popular.

Given his stature as an economist and banker of national and international repute, and the alleged support of the incumbent governor, it is certain that Soludo will likely be one of the politicians that will dominate the politics of Anambra State in this election year.

Valentine Ozigbo

Valentine Ozigbo, the immediate past President and Group Chief Executive Officer of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp), is considered by some informed observers of Anambra State politics as one of the most visible governorship aspirants on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the 2021 race.

Since his emergence on the scene, Val has left no one in doubt that he means business, notwithstanding the formidable political structures and the ways of the conservative old lords in Anambra PDP. Insiders said he has so far strengthened his strong academic and corporate experience credentials with the solid grassroots political platform he strategically built in Anambra within 2020.

His use of modern communication platforms and other innovations to market his ambition may have enduring impact on the electorate, especially the youth. Besides his strong presence on print, the internet platforms, television, radio and the billboards, Val’s programmes, like Walk4Health and Walk4Peace, may help to shape the campaign styles of Anambra 2021 governorship election.

Most commentators agree that Val has truly emerged an aspirant to watch. Many say he has done well so far. It remains to see how he will relate with the established political lords in his party and the state to win the ticket and the seat.

Uche Ekwunife

Iyom Uche Ekwunife, fondly called Adadioramma, is the Senator representing Anambra Central.

Considered by her admirers as one of the most visible female politicians in Anambra State, Senator Ekwunife has, before now, contested for the governorship seat twice. She also represented Anaocha/Njikoka/Dunukofia Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives for two terms before moving on to the upper chamber of the federal legislative House.

Given her experience and the followership she reportedly enjoys over the years, observers expect her to participate in this year’s contest.

Tony Nwoye

Another politician that is expected to play a major role in this year’s political contest in Anambra State is Hon. Tony Nwoye.

His exploits during the 2017 governorship election in the state, when he flew All Progressives Congress’ flag, has set him aside as one of the leading grassroots politicians in the state.

Highly experienced in the politics of Anambra State, Tony, a former National President of the National Association of Nigeria Students, was a PDP leader in the state before defecting to APC.

Notwithstanding losing out twice in his bids, both in PDP and in APC to govern Anambra State, Nwoye has remained focused. He continued his political service by representing Anambra East and Anambra West Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives.

So, as the scene for a fresh contest for Anambra State’s governorship seat unfolds again this year, Nwoye is expected to play a major role both in the primaries and in the state contest.

Godwin Ezeemo

Chief Godwin Ezeemo is one of the first politicians to make public their intention to contest this year’s governorship election in Anambra.

Not new in the politics of Anambra State, Ezeemo’s name in the governorship contest in the state dates back to 2009. He has also traversed the political parties in the state, including All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), PPA and PDP.

Observers say Ezeemo is coming to the race with everything in him. That being the case, he is expected to be one of the politicians that will dominate the political scene in the state this year.

Ifeanyi Ubah

Since Senator Ifeanyi Ubah defected to the then little known Young Progressives Party (YPP) and used its platform to win Anambra South Senatorial District election, the party has become an important stakeholder in the politics of the state.

Today, Ubah’s interest in the governorship race is believed to be one of the things that will dominate the politics of Anambra State.

His political interest and weight came to public notice first in 2013, when he contested the governorship on the platform of Labour Party (LP).

Since then, the interest of the Nnewi-born oil magnet in the governorship seat and in the political service to the people had never waned as he traversed other political platforms like the PDP and APGA before defecting to YPP.

The scene is set again. As political parties and politicians set their best foot out, observers are keen to see the role Ubah will play.

George Moghalu

George Moghalu, a chieftain of All Progressives Congress, is not new in both national politics and that of Anambra State.

Having served as party secretary, national auditor, he is rooted both in the politics of APC and in national politics.

Before then, he also contested for the governorship of Anambra State on the platform of All Peoples Party (APP).

So, his associates say Moghalu is fully prepared for the contest this time around. It would be recalled that in the 2017 governorship election in Anambra, Moghalu’s name featured prominently, but he suddenly withdrew from the contest when many observers did not expect him to do so.

Some reports said his withdrawal then was in obedience to the zoning policy.

The scene is set again, and this time, it is believed Moghalu will feature prominently.

And many others

Besides the few aspirants mentioned above, there are many other leading politicians and aspirants that will dominate the politics of the state this year. As we enter the year, events will unveil these major actors and issues.

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