The race towards the Nigerian Presidential election in 2023 has already started to gather momentum. While there are several political parties that would be fielding different candidates for the presidential election, there are four main contenders based on the general public perception – Atiku Abubakar, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Rabiu Kwankwanso and Peter Obi.
Dogged, determined, and persistent. Those words clearly describe the person of Atiku Abubakar, former vice president and one of the frontline contenders for the seat of the presidency come next year.
Next year’s attempt at the presidency will be the sixth time the former vice president has taken a shot at the presidency. He contested in 1993, 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2019, and one wonders what exactly informs the persistence. Is this informed by a desire to enter the history books as one of Nigeria’s presidents, or is it simply for personal aggrandisement?
Well… we probably may never know until he gets up there and, from all indications, he appears determined to clinch it this time around.
Having lost to President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 with a vote difference of 3.9 million, he certainly feels he has what it takes to secure victory in what promises to be a keenly contested presidential election.
One thing that probably stands Atiku out is his entrepreneurial side. Although questions about how he got his wealth are continuously whispered, he nevertheless has a number of successful ventures under his belt, which testifies to his business acumen.
To his credit, he is arguably one of the highest employers of labour among all the contestants who have lined up for the 2023 presidential election.
Atiku is the owner of businesses such as Rico Gardo and Rico Gado Nutrition, a livestock feed company which is said to produce 20 tonnes per hour of balanced and locally sourced quality fodder for a wide range of livestock, which includes poultry, horses, cattle, and goats. It is also reported to have reduced instances of herdsmen/farmers clashes in the north by providing a modern approach to the business of livestock farming and a microfinance bank that has reportedly moved about 45,000 families out of poverty.
He is also the owner of the American University of Nigeria, Yola, the first American-style private university to be established in Sub-Saharan Africa with faculty from 40 countries.
His entrepreneurial strides followed his time as one of the highest-ranking officials of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), where he rose to become the Deputy Director, the second highest position in the service then.
He retired in April 1989 after twenty years in the Nigerian Customs Service, after which he went into business and politics.
At its 50th anniversary in 2011, the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) honoured him with the Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award, saying there was virtually no private businessman in Africa who had worked hard for democracy and contributed to the progress of higher education as much as Atiku.
Atiku Abubakar was the head of the National Council of Privatisation while he served as Nigeria’s Vice President under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. It was under his watch that GSM licences were issued and the GSM revolution was born. This period saw Nigeria go from a total of about 50,000 lines to over 100 million. This brought a season of big boost to the Nigerian economy and attracted about $27bn to the nation’s GDP.
While Nigerians have been divided over Atiku’s publicly stated intention to privatise and sell off more of the government’s owned establishments to private hands (many of which might end up being his close associates by the way), he posits that this is the way to go in order to turn around the fortunes of these institutions.
But, with the benefit of hindsight, we now know that not all of such moves will end up with an easy success story. This is clearly seen in the case of Nigeria’s former National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), now known as PHCN, whose various parts were unbundled and sold to private institutions, but despite this, the nation’s power sector has continued to be bedevilled with a series of challenges, with the nation’s total power output regularly fluctuating, leading to epilectic power supply across the entire country.
Atiku credits himself with the banking consolidation process, which, according to him, he played a crucial role in giving political backing for. Many people, according to him then, were of the opinion that the status quo be maintained in the sector, but the government, which he played an important role in as Vice President, decided to go ahead with it for the good of the nation.
Today, banks within the Nigerian banking sector are better and more solid and better able to withstand shocks.
While reacting to questions on his achievements on social media a while ago, he stated that he has been responsible for creating over 50,000 direct jobs and 250,000 indirect ones in his home state of Adamawa. He thus notes that his companies are about the largest private employer of labour in the state, second only to the state government.
He also says he has a record of bringing on board young and unknown professionals into service. He said,
“I have a proven record of bringing young, unknown professionals into service. Many of the professionals and ministers I brought in were in their 30s and early 40s. Some of those young leaders have become governors in their states. I went to the World Bank and met a bright lady, convinced her to come back home, and she became a star in our government. To show you we had effective leadership, the same lady could not replicate her exploits under a different government.”
Indeed, he was instrumental in having the likes of Oby Ezekwesili, El Rufai (present governor of Kaduna state), and Ngozi Okonjo Iweala (now DG WTO), AFDB President, Professor Akinwunmi Adesina, all young professionals into the Obasanjo administration.
He was also a major player in the privatisation of several enterprises by the Bureau of Public Enterprises while he was Vice President.
Regardless of the above, however, Atiku will be walking into the electioneering period with quite a baggage of alleged corrupt practices and involvement, although there haven’t been so many convictions at the law courts.
During his time in the Nigerian Customs Service, he has been accused of engaging in business while still a civil servant who had a supervisory role.
The company he set up in partnership with Gabrielle Volpi, an Italian, Nigeria Container Service (NICOTES), which was into logistics operating within the port, was done while he was still in the employ of the NCS. NICOTES later went on to be known as Intels Nigeria Limited and has continued to generate so much controversy. Atiku’s Intels Nigeria Limited, now an oil servicing business with operations across Nigeria, is known to have been a huge cash cow for Atiku.
Atiku has denied any wrongdoing in the setup of the company, as he claims his involvement was only limited to the ownership of shares, which is permitted by law. The company has consistently featured prominently in accusations of money laundering by the U.S.
Another case of corruption which has trailed the former Vice President is that levelled against him by the Bayo Ojo-led Administrative Panel of Enquiry setup by his boss, as well as his indictment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over the management of the Petroleum Technology Development Funds (PTDF) while he held sway.
It is important to note that his travails with EFCC and the administrative panel of enquiry while still serving as Vice President might not have been unconnected with his principal’s (President Olusegun Obasanjo) anger with him after he Atiku tried to position himself as the preferred presidential candidate after Obasanjo’s first term.
Atiku’s confidence largely sprung out of the fact that he was the one in charge and controlling the Yar’adua political machinery, the political caucus left behind by Late Gen Musa Yaradua (elder brother of President Yar’adua), which was as of then the key nucleus of the PDP.
Regardless, of this fact, Obasanjo was the sitting president and, for all that it was worth, he was the leader of the party and the C-in-C and this Obasanjo practically spelt out to the rather ambitious Atiku. Atiku’s travails and his fall out with his principal are clear indications of this.
If Atiku fell out of favour with Obasanjo, it probably is because Obasanjo indeed had reasons to. In fact, Obasanjo minced no words about Atiku in his book, giving an insight into the character he knew closely.
In his book, My Watch, Obasanjo painted Atiku as a shameless liar and a highly disloyal being, one who had a knack for wanting to buy his way out of every situation and believed so much in marabouts that he plotted rather sneakily to replace Obasanjo as President simply because he had been told that it would happen.
In pages 31 -32 of the Volume 2 of the book, Obasanjo wrote of Atiku saying, “What I did not know, which came out glaringly later, was his parental background which was somewhat shadowy, his propensity to corruption, his tendency to disloyalty, his inability to say and stick to the truth all the time,a propensity for poor judgement, his belief and reliance on marabouts , his lack of transparency, his trust in money to buy his way out on all issues and his readiness to sacrifice morality, integrity, propriety truth and national interest for self and selfish interest”
In December 2006, he was chosen as the presidential flag bearer of the Action Congress (AC) after decamping from the Peoples Democratic Party due to a disagreement between him and his boss, Olusegun Obasanjo. However, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) excluded him from the final list of aspirants for the April 2007 presidential election. The electoral body then said this was due to the fact that Atiku’s name is on a list of people indicted for corruption by a panel set up by the government.
Indeed, Atiku, who at the time was still the Vice President, had been indicted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and an Administrative Panel of Inquiry setup by the Federal Government over the management of the Petroleum Technology Development Funds (PTDF).
However, Atiku would go on to contest the exclusion, and on March 16, 2007, his disqualification was overturned by the Supreme Court in a unanimous ruling, which held that INEC had no such power to disqualify candidates.
It is instructive to note that, despite the allegations of corruption and personal enrichment while in office, Atiku has consistently remained unscathed as he has successfully peeled off several of these allegations against him through the law courts. As such, until he is probably found guilty by the law courts, he remains innocent of these charges.
It was once widely held that he was wanted in the U.S. to answer allegations bordering on money laundering and bribery and had been banned from the country. However, he pulled off a smooth one just before the 2019 elections by visiting the US on January 17 and 18, 2019 after 12 years. This was in a bid to debunk the widely held belief that he had not been banned from the country.
However, it was later revealed that Atiku’s ban was lifted because the United States saw little benefit in creating bad blood with the man who could have been the next president of the country back then.
The United States ban is said to have been as a result of his role in the bribery scandal of which a former U.S. representative William Jefferson was involved during Atiku’s time as Vice President between 1999 and 2007.
Jefferson had been tried in the U.S. and was convicted in 2009 and sentenced to 13 years in prison for demanding bribes to help Siemens expand to Nigeria. Atiku featured prominently in the case. He was accused of demanding a bribe of $500,000 to facilitate the award of contracts to two American telecommunication firms in Nigeria.
U.S. Senate investigators are said to have alleged that one of Atiku’s four wives helped him transfer more than $40 million in what were termed ‘suspect funds’ into the United States from offshore shell companies. It is alleged that about $1.7 million of that money was bribe money paid by Siemens, the German technology company, in a bid to get approval.
Atiku’s Proposed Policy
In a recently released policy document titled ‘My Covenant With Nigerians’ an updated version of his 2019 policy document titled ‘The Atiku Plan’, Atiku once again articulated his policy direction if elected president.
The policy direction is hinged on a 5-point development agenda which seeks to restore Nigeria’s unity through equity, social justice, as well as cooperation and consensus amongst our heterogeneous people.
Secondly, establish a strong and effective democratic government that guarantees the safety and security of life and property. Thirdly, build a strong, resilient, and prosperous economy that creates jobs and wealth and lifts the poor out of poverty.
Fourth, promote a true federal system which will provide for a strong federal government to guarantee national unity while allowing the federating units to set their own priorities and improve and strengthen the education system to equip its recipients with the education and skills required to be competitive in the new global order, which is driven by innovation, science, and to lead healthy, productive, meaningful lives’.
According to the blueprint, his 5-point agenda is: To return to unity in diversity, ensure the safety of life and property, build a dynamic economy for prosperity, restructure the polity to foster unity and stability, and provide qualitative education.
This 5-point agenda, the presidential hopeful says, will be guided by some principles and beliefs through which they will be actualised. These include:
The belief that private sector participation is critical in the place of development while repositioning the public sector to focus on its core responsibility of facilitation and enabling the appropriate legal and regulatory framework for rapid economic and social development.
A drive to break government monopolies in all infrastructure sectors, including the refineries, rail transportation, and power transmission, and give private investors a larger role in funding and managing the sectors, thus emulating the benefits accrued in the oil & gas and telecoms sectors.
A move to allow the market greater leverage in determining prices. If this is done, he says the persistent price distortions occasioned by the current interventionist exchange rate management policy will be eliminated. Government intervention, according to him, will only be done where absolutely necessary, and this will be done responsibly and judiciously.
Despite how laudable Atiku’s plan seems, many Nigerians, however, fear that Atiku may just be all out to sell the nation’s resources to friends, colleagues, and associates.
And it is in this light that he trudges on into the 2023 presidential race, for the sixth time, in a bid to clinch the prize. It remains to be seen, however, if Nigerians will make this dream of his come through.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu
The former Lagos state governor and third republic Senator representing Lagos West senatorial district has had his eyes on the number one position in the land for quite some time. He himself has just recently revealed that it has been his life-long ambition to become the president of Nigeria one day.
However, one thing that appears to set Ahmed Tinubu apart is the way he was able to mask his ambition. For many months and even years prior to January 2022, when he went in to meet President Muhammadu Buhari to finally make known his desire to contest for the All Progressives Congress presidential ticket, it had been a long period of suspense and bated breath for Nigerians. This is because while it was believed that the man had the desire, he nevertheless concealed it so much that many at one point felt this probably was not going to be.
While his foot soldiers went about continually drumming up support across the country, the man at the centre of it all kept mum, waiting for the right time to break the silence and let the entire world know his true intention. And true to form, it came.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu has had a rather storied and eventful journey up to this moment.
He has been a national leader of the All Progressives Congress since the party was formed in 2013. He previously served as the Governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007 and was a Senator representing Lagos West during the short-lived Third Republic.
Tinubu played a frontline role in the campaign for the return of democracy after the late General Sani Abacha dissolved the Senate in 1993 through the National Democratic Coalition movement (NADECO). Even though he was forced into exile in 1994, he, along with others like Dele Momodu and co, nevertheless continued campaigning from outside the country. Abacha would later die in 1998 and this led to events leading to the restoration of democratic government, which was effected by General Abdulsalami Abubakar, leading to the Fourth Republic.
For his shot at the presidency come 2023, Tinubu has had a long line of struggles. He has had to weather many storms, chief of which is the issue of his being a Yoruba Muslim, a categorisation which has not helped when it comes to political arrangements and considerations given the multi-ethnic religious makeup of Nigeria.
He lost a chance to be President Muhammadu Buhari’s running mate in 2015 as this was opposed as not being an ideal setup for the country given Nigeria’s multi-ethnic configuration since this would mean that both the President and Vice-President would be Muslim. For this, he nominated Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, the Lagos state Attorney-General during his time as governor, who fit the requirement of being a Christian.
With all things set, and now that he has been able to scale the hurdles and pent-up suspense leading up to the ruling party’s primary, with many things not looking in his favour, the road to the grand contest now appears clear as he is set to battle with the other major contenders as well as other less formidable candidates for the number one position in the land.
The question now is this; how well is Tinubu positioned and what are his chances of winning the forthcoming presidential election?
For many, his records as the Lagos state governor are sterling and proof enough that he has what it takes to steer the ship of the country in the right direction. And this is true to an extent when one looks at his achievements as governor, some of which we will review here.
Upon assumption of office, Tinubu developed a 24-year development blueprint for the state which his successors, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Akinwunmi Ambode, and Babajide Sanwo Olu, have continued to build upon.
With a team of accomplished technocrats, Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration also drew up a Ten-Point Agenda which it began to implement gradually for the growth of the state.
During his tenure as governor, Tinubu is noted to have made huge investments in the education sector of the state and also reduced the number of schools in the state by returning quite a number of them to their previous missionary owners. He initiated the construction of new roads in a bid to meet up with the mega urban nature of the state and a fast-growing population.
He was also able to shore up the internally generated revenue of Lagos state during his time.
He is reported to have increased the state’s internally generated revenue from about N600 million monthly to about N51 billion.
The story of how he was able to run the state for months while the state’s federal allocation was withheld by the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo, continues to be told with relish. As a result of the state’s desire to create new local government authorities, Tinubu was involved in a struggle with the Olusegun Obasanjo-led federal government (with both men belonging to two different parties).
While Tinubu held that the state had the statutory right to carry out the delineation, the Obasanjo led federal government objected to this, claiming the new local council development areas (LCDAs) were not backed by law and, as such, null and void. This led the federal government to seize funds meant for local councils in the state.
Tinubu, along with his cabinet at the time, weathered the storm and sorted other revenue generating areas and was able to generate revenue, so much so that governance continued all through the period the funds were seized.
In the area of education, Tinubu is famous for activating the provision of free education in all public primary and secondary schools, and this included the payment of WAEC/NECO fees for final year students.
In the area of business landscape achievements, Tinubu is noted to have spearheaded the drive to make the state a commercially viable one as well as make it a state where entrepreneurs thrived.
Following his eight years as governor, Lagos is noted to have become financially viable and autonomous of the federal government, along with an aggressively modernised public infrastructure, with Lagos attracting new investments in multiple sectors on a daily basis.
One of the claims, however, that has been disputed is his supposed involvement in bringing Econet, the South African-based mobile network company owned by billionaire businessman Strive Masiyiwa into the country.
During his screening by the ruling party’s presidential screening committee led by the party’s former chairman, John Oyegun, Tinubu claimed responsibility for bringing mobile telephony company, Econet into Nigeria. However, this has been debunked as being untrue.
Interestingly, the state’s involvement in the sale of shares of Econet had been a subject of an investigation conducted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in 2008/2009 of which he, along with two other governors, James Ibori of Delta State and Obong Victor Attah of Akwa Ibom State had been charged with conspiracy, money laundering, abuse of office, and official corruption in the sale of the then V-mobile network shares in 2004.
They were, however, cleared, and Tinubu himself has maintained that the deal, from which the state made a profit, was a straightforward one in which no individual benefited.
In the health sector, Tinubu is noted to have introduced a free health policy for children below age 18 and adults above 65 years.
The drugs provided under this scheme were heavily subsidised. The state also provided eye screening and correction for millions under its Blindness Prevention Programme. Free eyeglasses, popularly referred to as “Jigi Bola,” were given to patients free of charge.
The administration also initiated a ‘Roll Back Malaria’ programme, which complemented the Eko Free Malaria Treatment programme.
For infrastructural development, Tinubu is credited as having spearheaded the Bus Rapid Transport and the state’s integrated transport system, which integrates land, water, and rail transport systems, which successive governments after him have continued in its different phases of implementation. According to records, in about five years, Tinubu had awarded contracts for 422 road projects, and 308 were completed.
Controversies, allegations of corrupt enrichment, and drug trafficking
Despite his seemingly above-average performance as governor of Lagos state, for which he has been repeatedly credited, the maverick politician is not without allegations of corruption trialling him. In fact, he has a long list of them.
The ChicagoGate scandal
Bola Tinubu has been repeatedly dogged by the Chicago gate scandal. Tinubu has been accused severally of certificate forgery. Details have it that Tinubu had allegedly sworn on oath according to the contents of form F001, of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that he attended St. Paul’s School, Aroloya, Lagos, which is said not to have ever existed.
Tinubu is noted to have also claimed that he attended Government College, Ibadan, between 1965 and 1968, but the Old Boys Association of the College claims this is false.
Also, according to the INEC form, Tinubu claimed to have attended Richard Daley College, Chicago, between 1969 and 1971, but this is alleged to be false. He is also noted to have claimed he attended the University of Chicago in the U.S. between 1972 and 1976 and obtained a B.Sc degree in Economics from the university.
Of all, probably the most notable is that of the University of Chicago. The claim that these submissions by Bola Tinubu are false has earned him several lawsuits. From individuals who have prayed the court to compel an investigation into the claims. The late Gani Fawehinmi instituted a lawsuit against him in 1999, and recently, a group in the All Progressives Congress also dragged him to court once again.
But in a rather interesting twist, the University of Chicago recently revealed that, indeed, Bola Ahmed Tinubu attended the school.
In an earlier letter dated August 20, 1999 and signed by then Registrar Lois Davis, the university stated that Tinubu was its student between 1977 and 1979.
Another major controversy that has trialled Tinubu is that of his alleged involvement in drug trafficking.
According to SaharaReporters, a Verified Complaint for the Forfeiture of Funds in 6 accounts in First Heritage Bank and another 3 accounts domiciled with Citibank traced to Bola Tinubu showed that the accounts bearing his name were alleged to be proceeds of narcotics trafficking or money involved in financial transactions that violated U.S. laws.
However, Tinubu is noted to have defended his ownership of the funds, saying that the funds belonged to himself, his wife, K.O Tinubu and his surrogate mother, Alhaja Mogaji and that he had exclusive right and title to the funds.
Tinubu has also been accused of using his position to corruptly enrich himself and those close to him in positions of power. For instance, he is accused of being the god-father of Lagos politics and has single-handedly decided who will become Lagos state governor since he left power. By enthroning his associates as governor, he has also allegedly held on to the finances of the state, and this is seen through the activities of the private company, AlphaBetta, that has been solely responsible for the collection of tax for years now.
He is alleged to be the owner of the company, a claim he has not denied even though he appears to have perfected this as it is managed by a number of individuals used as fronts.
His wife who was the former first lady of Lagos state while he was governor between May 1999 – May 2007, has been the Senator representing Lagos Central since May 2011 till date. His daughter was crowned as the Iyaloja of Lagos (a titular position overseeing all markets in Lagos) in 2014 and has remained so till date while his son is alleged to be primed as possible Lagos State governor.
Also, there are serious concerns about how old Tinubu really is and his health. For example, Tinubu’s daughter, according to Wikipedia is 62 years old and Tinubu has consistently held that he is 69. This inadvertently means Tinubu was just 7 years old when he gave birth to her. There has also been several edits to Tinubu’s age on Wikipedia all in a bid to apparently tidy up the calculation.
The issue of his age also comes up when the issue of how fit and healthy he is for the rigours of the position he is aspiring to.
All these possibly gives Tinubu away as a man with so much baggage but he appears undaunted but rather has his eyes set on the goal.
Policy Direction for 2023
In a policy document recently released, Bola Tinubu detailed his policy direction if elected president.
According to him, his vision for the country includes a country that is transformed into greatness, the pride of Africa, a role model for all black people worldwide, and 1 respected among all other countries.
A vibrant and thriving democracy and a prosperous nation with a fast-growing industrial base, capable of producing the most basic needs of the people and exporting to other countries of the world.
A country with a robust economy, where prosperity is broadly shared by all, irrespective of class, region, and religion.
A nation where its people enjoy all the basic needs, including a safe and secure environment, abundant food, affordable shelter, health care, and quality primary education for all.
A nation founded on justice, peace, and prosperity for all.
To achieve these, he says five major sectors will form the major crust of his re-building agenda: the economy; agriculture and food security; infrastructure with the theme ‘Build A New Nigeria (BANN)’, Oil, Gas, and solid minerals; education; and healthcare.
Other areas to be focused on include: tackling poverty; support for micro and small businesses; housing; keeping Nigerians safe; federal government reform; budget, fiscal policy, and revenue generation. The structure and size of government, the rule of law, and the judiciary will
According to Tinubu, the centrepiece of his fiscal and economic policy will be to optimise economic growth and employment.
He says job creation will be a top priority of his as President and will invest heavily in infrastructure development and value-adding manufacturing and agriculture. His aim, he says, will be to build an efficient, fast-growing, and well-diversified emerging economy that will average real GDP growth of 12% annually for the next four years.
To put this in context, according to Trade Economics, Nigeria’s GDP Annual Growth Rate has averaged 2.64 percent from 2011 until 2022. It reached an all-time high of 6.88 percent in the first quarter of 2011 and a record low of-6.10 percent in the second quarter of 2020.
Quite an ambitious goal, you’d say. It remains to be seen how well this will be executed and how much of it will be realised should he get the opportunity come 2023.
With all the notable achievements of the former Lagos state governor, he appears capable and well suited for the job at hand. However, issues around his health, age, and perceived ill-health are all matters that will really tell how far he goes and whether Nigerians will really elect him as Nigeria’s next president. Time will tell how this goes.
When the story of the gladiators within Nigeria’s political arena is written, one name that will feature prominently among those who have succeeded in disrupting the status quo with the help of the courts is that of Mr. Peter Gregory OBI, former governor of Anambra state, a position he has been fortunate to occupy and re-occupy even when the Nigerian political system seemed to work against him.
Mr. Peter Obi (CON) is one of the top contenders vying for the number one position in the land in the forthcoming general elections which will be held next year. So far, the intrigues have been nothing short of entertaining in the days leading up to the convention of the Peoples Democratic Party, on which Peter Obi had hoped to fly its flag as its standard flag bearer for the 2023 presidential election.
On May 25,2022, Peter Obi announced he was dumping the Peoples Democratic Party due to what he described as a gang up against him leading to the PDP primary which was eventually held on Saturday 28th May, 2022.
A few days after announcing his quitting of the PDP, he announced that he had moved to the Labour Party, and on May 30th, he emerged as the Labour Party’s presidential flag bearer at the party’s national convention and presidential primary, which were held in Asaba, the capital of Delta State.
Peter Obi’s Political Struggle
Of the many political gladiators within the Nigerian political system who believe they were robbed of their mandate and have gone to the courts seeking legal redress to get their mandate retrieved and handed over back to them, Peter Obi definitely stands tall among them.
The reason for this isn’t too farfetched. Peter Obi is one politician who has had legal tussles announced in his favour not once, not twice, but three times. Legal tussles running up to the Supreme court and he has won all three times. The first arose shortly after the Anambra gubernatorial election of 2023, where he contested as the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) gubernatorial candidate.
His opponent, Chris Ngige of the PDP, had been announced as the winner of the election. Obi challenged this, and three years later, on March 15, 2006, the Court of Appeal declared Obi as the rightful winner of the election. Obi was sworn in on March 17, 2006.
He was back in the court to challenge his wrongful impeachment about seven months later when the state assembly impeached him. He was subsequently reinstated by the court as governor on February 9, 2007 by the Court of Appeal.
For the third time, Obi approached the court shortly after he had to hand over power on May 29th, after the gubernatorial election, which he faulted as he maintained he was yet to complete his tenure as governor.
Again, on June 14, 2007, the Supreme Court upheld Obi’s argument and returned him back to office, bringing to an abrupt end the tenure of his successor, Andy Uba. The court held that his tenure ought to run continuously till March 2010.
Peter Obi best personifies the struggle of the downtrodden and the oppressed for justice.
The question being examined here, however, is this: how well does Peter Obi stack up against the other contenders, and what are his antecedents in the business environment, entrepreneurship, and competitive markets?
His antecedents in business and entrepreneurship
Coming from a corporate background, he appears to have brought this experience to bear during his tenure as governor. His prudent management of state resources and forthrightness have been documented and retold years after he left office as governor.
He had previously worked with establishments such as Next International Nigeria Ltd, Guardian Express Mortgage Bank Ltd, where he was the Chairman and director, Guardian Express Bank Plc, Future View Securities Ltd, Paymaster Nigeria Ltd, Chams Nigeria Ltd, Data Corp Ltd, Fidelity Bank Plc, and Card Centre Ltd. As at his time in Fidelity Bank, he rose through the ranks to become the youngest chairman of the bank.
He is a member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) a private sector-led think-tank and policy advocacy group. He is also a member of the Nigerian Chartered Institute of Bankers. He was on President Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential economic team.
Peter Obi is noted to have handled the finances of Anambra in a very prudent and forthright manner. The state is recorded as one of the very few states that was able to weather the economic downturn of the time. Leakages in government spending through means such as contract inflation and unnecessary spending were blocked.
It is recorded that during his time as governor, Anambra was one of the few states that were able to pay workers’ salaries. About 27 states were said to be unable to pay workers’ salaries, but Anambra stood out as one of the very few that not only paid workers’ salaries but also increased the same.
He is said to have shut down the Anambra State Government Lodges in Abuja and other states in the country since they were rarely used and were gulping so much in maintenance costs. He also pruned down his own traveling entourage from thirty to a few, cut down the number of vehicles in his convoy, and always insisted on travelling light, thus saving the state millions in trips.
An example of this is the renovation of the Governor’s Lodge in Anambra, which was awarded by the previous administration for an exorbitant sum but was re-awarded by his administration for about a quarter of the previous amount.
In the areas of education, infrastructure, and urban development, Anambra also witnessed a huge turnaround during his time. The state recorded an impressive leap in its NECO and WAEC results. In the last three months of his administration, Anambra moved up from its previous 26th position among the 36 states of the Federation to come first in NECO and WAEC examinations.
The state’s students also emerged as the best overall candidates in both examinations. Not long after, Loretto Special Science School, Adazi-Nnukwu, won the award as Best Improved Secondary School in the entire country. The State was also adjudged as the best improved school in the country in the area of infrastructure.
These achievements are apparently indicative of the investment and commitment the Peter Obi administration gave to the educational sector.
Apart from investments in capital projects, it is recorded that the Obi administration donated buses, laboratory equipment, transformers, as well as power generators, sports gears, dispensary consumables, computers, and other ICT equipment.
The administration also procured and distributed personal computers to secondary schools along with the employment of professional ICT instructors, internet connectivity, and power generators. The administration also set-up Microsoft Academies in some designated schools, the first to do so across the entire country.
Peter Obi’s postulation, backed by his highlighted antecedent above, surely puts him in good stead among the frontline contenders for the office of president come 2023. For Obi, there is a compelling need for Nigeria to depart from a consumer orientation to become a productive and producing economy.
According to him, Nigeria is on the edge and seriously needs unusual measures in order to prevent it from tipping over. He recently said, “Our country is now going through a difficult time. I am not desperate to be a President; I am desperate to see a better Nigeria.”
However, he recently said that he’ll rather lose honourably than engage in wrongdoing.
Speaking at the 2016 edition of The Platform, Peter Obi had this to say of the use of wasteful spending of public resources in government and pointed to areas Nigeria ought to be looking at in order to boost its economy:
“It costs an average of N2 billion to run the office of the First Lady in every state in Nigeria. Multiply by 36. Nigeria can still function on its income if only we learn how to cut costs.
“We need to cut the cost of governance. No governor needs a house in Abuja; governors don’t live in Abuja.
“Government house is not a restaurant, I told my cook to cook for only one person.”
On the issue of Nigeria’s rising debt, Obi has continually countered the federal government on the issue of continuous piling up of debts.
“You are borrowing money and the issues that it is supposed to affect are not coming down. In 2017 unemployment moved from 14.8 per cent a high rate which means more people have lost their jobs; the economy is shrinking.” he said.
Peter Obi sure stands out as a voice among the contenders and is probably a voice from the norm.
As Nigeria inches closer to the 2023 general election with each passing day, one of the critical players who will play a determining factor as to who will win the presidential election is Rabiu Kwankwaso, former two-term governor of Kano state.
The former Kano state governor, who until recently had been a Peoples Democratic Party strongman, recently moved to the New Nigerian Peoples Party.
Kwankwaso was Kano state governor from 1999 to 2003 and was subsequently re-elected for a second term in 2011.
After he lost his initial re-election bid in 2003, he was appointed as the Minister of Defence by President Olusegun Obasanjo despite his lack of prior military background, and he served as Minister from 2003 to 2007.
On March 29th, 2022, Kwankwaso announced his defection from the PDP following a protracted power tussle with the PDP over the leadership of the North-west zone of the party. He subsequently announced he was joining the New Nigerian People Party (NNPP) under whose umbrella he intends to contest for the 2023 presidency. He is also currently the national leader of the party.
Kwankwaso’s Might and Influence in the North
Kwankwaso is no doubt an influential politician in the north, so much so that he has an entire political movement known as the Kwankwasiyya movement, made up of young and vibrant northern youths who are solidly behind him and only waiting for his word to do anything.
Kwankwanso enjoys widespread support in Kano, in particular, and the entire north-western Nigeria in general, where he is viewed as a charismatic populist.
His influence in the north has since been a subject of discussion among the political gladiators and how it might impact calculations and how the votes may swing. This is due to the fact that Atiku Abubakar, who is now the presidential flag bearer of the PDP (which Kwankwaso dumped for the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP), may end up having his votes split in the north, where he ought to enjoy strong dominance if he and the PDP hope to make a mark in the 2023 presidential elections and come out on top.
As it stands, with another major PDP strong man, Peter Obi, now also flying the Labour Party’s flag for the 2023 presidential election, the PDP, it appears, may be in for a losing streak as votes will be split both in the north, between Atiku and Kwankwanso, and then in the south, where Peter Obi hails from and is expected to also get a good level of support from his kinsmen.
That is how influential Kwankwaso is. But how did he come by his influence and what were his achievements while he held sway as governor? Let’s take a look at this phenomenon.
Kwankwanso’s Achievements and Reasons for His Influence In The North
Records have it that Rabiu Kwankwanso, during his time as governor, is recorded to have impacted positively on the lives of Kano residents, so much so that he is still remembered even years after.
He is noted to have, within a short span of time and with scant resources at his disposal as the executive governor of Kano state, gone ahead to fulfil his electoral promises and established a record that stands even to this date.
Issues such as infrastructure collapse and decay of facilities, along with a largely uninspired civil service, were at the top of his agenda as governor.
He is said to have cancelled the security vote in order to block leakages and improve revenue generation from N400 million to 1.8 billion monthly. He also went ahead to cut back on recurrent expenditure, including the salaries of the Governor and his deputy, as well as those of top government functionaries, and by doing so, saved the government as much as N500 million monthly.
He went ahead to increase capital expenditure and instituted transparency and accountability in governance by making public government expenditures.
By doing this, the payment of salaries was made more efficient. The Kano state workforce was also modernised by the introduction of biometrics and data capture, and this ensured that the issue of ghost workers was eliminated. With this, salaries were deposited promptly on the 25th of every month.
As governor, he was also able to record landmark achievements in critical sectors such as education, infrastructure, healthcare, and agriculture.
In the education sector, some of the achievements include: the provision of free primary, secondary, tertiary and university education to all bonafide indigenes in Kano state; the construction of over 1000 class rooms tagged “Kwankwasiyya block”, the provision of free feeding for all primary school pupils, and free school uniform to primary one students.
It was during his first tenure that the Kano University of Science and Technology, located in Wudil, was established. This was the first and only state university in Kano at the time. Again, during his second tenure, the North West University, Kano, was established as the second state university in the state. He went on to establish about 26 academic and manpower development training institutes across the state.
Through these institutes, about 360,000 young men and women have been trained and empowered. He is noted as the first governor to introduce free school feeding and the provision of uniforms to primary school pupils. This act led to a boost in enrollment from 1 million in 2011 to over 3 million by the time he left office in 2015.
Some of his achievements in the area of business empowerment include the establishment of microfinance banks within the 44 local governments of the state; the construction of public toilets at major markets and villages; the donation of over 1000 transformers across the state; the construction of an independent power project at Tiga Dam; the construction of overhead bridges in different parts of the state; and the donation of the Kwankwasiyya tricycle ambulance.
The state has continued to enjoy the Independent Power Project, which was spearheaded by the Kwankwanso administration, and it continues to play a major role in the provision of electricity across the state and serves as a power source for the state’s street lightning project, which runs through the entire length and breadth of the ancient city and also powers its water turbines.
Records have it that it was during his time that Northern Nigeria had three flyovers constructed for the first time. Also, five kilometres of dual-carriage lighted roads were constructed in each of the state’s 44 local government areas, with two underpass bridges being constructed. Kwankwanso also initiated the construction of drainages complete with interlocking tiles in the state, and this included the covering of the Jakara River with a dualised road, and this helped improve sanitary and environmental conditions across the entire city.
Also, three modern cities, namely Kwankwasiyya, Amana, and Bandirawo, were initiated and built, with about 3000 housing units of various capacities put up for sale to the general public.
Kwankwanso, during his tenure, also championed legislation against street begging by the young and old in order to emphasize human dignity. He also introduced a rehabilitation programme to aid drug addicts in a bid to reduce the number of individuals on the streets of Kano.
The impact and importance of these programmes can only be understood when one considers the fact that Kano, along with other northern states of the country, has a high rate of child beggars who are usually not cared for by their families and end up roaming the streets and constituting a nuisance.
During his 2014 campaign for the presidency, which he lost and came second with 974 votes behind Muhammadu Buhari, who scored 3,430 votes at the APC primaries, he had promised to replicate his achievements in Kano across the country.
With the 2023 elections approaching, it remains to be seen how well Kwankwanso will fare, but one thing is certain: he remains a candidate to beat, especially in the north where he hails from.
All is certainly set for the race to the presidency, and Nigeria’s political scene is supercharged like never before. For the ruling All Progressives Congress, this is going to be a big challenge to them as they race to retain power.
For the Peoples Democratic Party, it will be looking to wrestle power back from the ruling party, which it says has done nothing but erode the gains it achieved within the 15 years it was previously in power. Although truth be told, many Nigerians contend with this claim by the former ruling party. Unfortunately, the performance of Muhammadu Buhari within the past 8 years, wherein he served two terms, has apparently brought the bar very low, so much so that the PDP can now lay claim to having done so much when it was in power.
A good way to put this into context is the value of the naira and the nose dive the economy has suffered in the last eight years.
The naira, for instance, exchanged for between N170 and N190 to a dollar as at the time Jonathan handed over power to Buhari, but quite unfortunately, it now presently exchanges for N600 to a dollar.
Nigerians have also complained about the issue of farmers/herder’s clashes caused largely by the old nomadic way the Fulanis still use in rearing their cows. An issue that the Buhari presidency has maintained a complicit silence on, apparently because they are his people.
The issue of insecurity across the country has also been one that the Buhari presidency has scored abysmally low on, as insurgents and terrorists continue to maim and kill innocent Nigerians, especially across the north. For context, President Buhari had vowed to crush Boko Haram within three months and recover all the territories it had seized.
Indeed, the Global Terrorism Index (2019) ranked Nigeria as the third-worst nation prone to terrorism and this has had no improvement since 2017.
A soaring unemployment rate while about 90 million Nigerians are living in extreme poverty, continued kidnapping and killing of innocent Nigerians; a soaring inflation rate; wrong and inconsistent policy direction as regards the naira; a huge and growing debt profile, which many analysts and even international financial organisations have severally warned is piling up more than we can manage in the coming years; are just some of the issues the Buhari government has failed on.
Many Nigerians contend that President Buhari rode on three cardinal promises to get the mandate to lead the nation, which are: a promise to tackle and nip insecurity in the bud; fight corruption; and improve the economy. However, his administration appears to have failed on all three. He has, as such, brought the bar of what is expected of the ruling party as well as the sitting president so low.
Another issue Nigerians most probably will be looking at in choosing the next president of the country, is the issue of the personal health and fitness of the various contenders.
President Buhari has spent a considerable amount of time meant to be used for overseeing the nation travelling around the world, particularly on medical tourism to the UK. He has travelled to over 40 countries so far as president, with little to nothing in terms of benefits to the country.
As the campaigns commence, it will be interesting to see what the All Progressives Congress flag bearer will hinge his campaign upon, and it will be equally interesting to see how the major oppositions counter these promises, and at the end of the day, see which side Nigerians will tilt.
The coming months are most certainly going to be interesting.