The hustle for a benefitting president for Nigerians come 2023 has become very intense.
Many stakeholders are yet to declare support for aspiring notable candidates. However, Nigerians have begun to throw support at various promising candidates.
The interview by former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) on Arise Television where he said younger individuals should be the focus of Nigerians as potential presidential candidates in 2023 resonated well with many people in the country especially with the youths who are tired of the older and are yearning for a new breed of leaders.
Political analysts believe that politicians who fall into the category at the moment are the Vice- President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; Gov. Yahaya Bello; Bukola Saraki; former Senate President; Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state; Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Transport; Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Works and Housing; Senator Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun state and Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, a former presidential candidate who just defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo
If there is any candidate in the current leadership qualified to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023, then it could be Osinbajo, a loyal, sound legal expert with versed knowledge of economic matters. Many youths in the country are rooting for Osinbajo because of his age (he will be 66 in 2023). Others also believe that having understudied the president in the last six years, he has a clear vision of the programs of the administration and will continue with it if he becomes president.
However, two factors militating against Osinbajo is the fact that he has no political base. But for the controversy over a Muslim-Muslim ticket in APC in 2015, he couldn’t have been considered as Buhari’s running mate then. With the likelihood of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, his benefactor running in 2023, Osinbajo stands no chance at all because it is likely that the Presidency may not endorse him. Analysts believe that the cabals are yet to forgive him for ‘taking the shine off the President when he acted on his behalf. It is also believed that he is yet to be forgiven for sacking the Director-General of the Department of State Service (DSS), Lawal Daura in 2018 following the invasion of the National Assembly.
Governor Yahaya Bello
The governor of Kogi State, His Excellency Gov. Yahaya Adoza Bello has no doubt become a significant figure in Nigerian politics.
If age should become a yardstick as suggested by IBB, then governor Bello is the perfect fit for the top political job in Nigeria because he is the youngest governor and among those reported to be aspiring to become the president.
Aside from that, Yahaya Bello has become an icon of security combatant in Nigeria as he became popular through his swift response to insecurity in Kogi state at the beginning of his administration. The Nigeria security system keeps deteriorating and someone like Bello can have it fixed. He is also known for religious tolerance and gender sensitivity in governance.
Another of Bello’s major selling points is that he comes from a marginalized region, the North Central/Middle Belt zone. The easterners who are demanding for the presidential slot see him as a major threat through Ohaneze, and have tried to make remarks on his candidature.
Albeit, the young leader appears courageous and determined and could be the one to make the people of north-central have a share of the presidency in Nigeria.
He has gained massive support across Nigeria and even the southeast, through some youth-driven organizations that have personalized his course
Highly charismatic, brilliant with a vast network in Nigeria and beyond, Saraki, a former two-time governor of Kwara state and former Senate President also fits IBB’s description perfectly. He has huge followership of youths as shown on his social media handles and many of them have been clamoring for him to run as president in 2023. His leadership of the 8th National Assembly between 2015 and 2019 is still a reference point among many Nigerians today who see the current 9th Assembly as ‘rubber stamp’ lawmakers. Many Nigerians see him as a bold and courageous leader who stood firm and served out his term as Senate President when many had thought he won’t last up to six months in the position.
Analysts say, unlike Osinbajo, Saraki has a strong political base especially in his home state of Kwara and across the country. His position as a former Senate President and former chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) also gave him an edge as many of his colleagues, both former and serving still hold him in high esteem across the country.
Another advantage Saraki has is that he has no baggage hanging around his neck. The Supreme Court in 2018 discharged and acquitted him of all criminal charges brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Many Nigerians, including elder statesman, Tanko Yakassai were indignant a fortnight ago when the anti-graft invited him and later turned around to claimed he was detained, ostensibly to paint a bad image of him. Yakassai bluntly said the EFCC was targeting him because of the 2023 presidential election.
However, one factor militating against Saraki is the issue of an identity crisis. Even though he is from the North-Central state of Kwara, many people don’t see him as a core northerner while some believe he is more of South-West. His loyalists however believed that it is an added advantage for him in the 2023 political calculations. Saraki will be 60 in 2023.
Fayemi is another leader who can lead the country in 2023. The Ekiti state governor who is serving out his second term also has huge followership among Nigerian youths. When he lost his reelection in 2014, he was handed the task of conducting the presidential primary of the APC where he served as the Chairman of the APC National Convention Committee. He received accolades over the seamless manner in which the primary which produced President Muhammadu Buhari as the candidate was conducted. The President later appointed him as Minister of Mines and Steel Development, a position he resigned from in 2018 to contest for the Ekiti governorship election.
However, some of Fayemi’s critics especially in the APC believed that his position as the current chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum has gotten into his head, making him challenge some leaders of the party who made him who he is today. Also, he is facing a herculean task of reconciling the APC factions in his home state of Ekiti, many of whom are plotting to stop him from installing a successor in next year’s governorship election.
Analysts believe that Amaechi, a former two-time Speaker, two-time governor, and current Minister of Transport is another force to reckon with when looking for likely presidential materials in 2023. Others also believe that Amaechi, a former chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum also has the needed experience to continue from where President Buhari will stop in 2023, especially on his achievements in the rail sector, a critical program the current administration has pursued vigorously.
However, being a blunt and fearless politician who says his mind without caring whose ox is gored, others believe he lacks the temperament needed of a leader of a country like Nigeria.
The current Minister of Works and Housing is also another potential presidential material. Well-read, articulate and broad-minded, Fashola, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria shone brilliantly during his tenure as governor of Lagos state between 2007 to 2015. It was believed that President Buhari desired him as a running mate in 2015 but since that was not possible due to the Muslim-Muslim ticket controversy; he made him the most important minister in his cabinet with three portfolios as Minister of Power, Works, and Housing. The President only removed the Power ministry from him because many believed the challenges in the power sector alone are enormous for one man to handle.
Fashola’s weakness, like Osinbajo, is that he has no political base. His approval ratings also dropped drastically as many youths who were hitherto his fans also felt betrayed over his role in the Lekki Tollgate incident where he discovered a hidden camera. Also, nobody is rooting for him as Asiwaju’s ambition has beclouded that of other politicians in the Lagos APC. Fashola will be 60 years in 2023.
Former two-time governor of Ogun state, Amosun who currently represents Ogun Central in the National Assembly enjoys the privilege of being the closest to President Muhammadu Buhari in the South- West. This has however pitched him against his colleagues in the Senate and former governors who believe that he is too aloof. His failure to install a successor in his home state is another albatross as Governor Dapo Abiodun also controls the APC structure in the state as witnessed in the just concluded local government elections in the state. Amosun will clock 65 years in 2023.
Olawepo-Hashim was the presidential candidate of the Peoples Trust in the 2019 presidential election. Highly cerebral with huge youth followership, he recently defected to the ruling APC where he hopes to contest the 2023 presidential election.