Profiles Of Nigeria’s Top Three Presidential Candidates 2023

Michael Antonorsi


April 1, 2023

Atiku Abubakar candidate for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)

Atiku Abubakar is the oldest presidential candidate of the top three. Abubakar has been involved in all elections since the return to democracy in 1999. He was vice president to Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999-2007. He ran for president in 2007 and contested the PDP’s presidential primaries in 2011. He then joined the APC and ran in the presidential primaries losing to Buhari. He then rejoined the PDP and ran for president in 2019, losing to Buhari again. Prior to entering politics Abubakar began buying real estate to rent out as income, then venturing into many other business ventures in Yola. Abubakar was sworn in as vice president in 1999 where he was chairman of the National Economic Council and head of National Council on Privatisation. These positions have brought him great controversy such as directing public funds to himself and cronies or selling off public assets to his inner circle. Abubakar’s political journey has brought him into all of Nigeria’s major political parties illustrating his ability to find common ground and flexibility in attaining a desired outcome. His detractors say this is because he has no core principles in which to fight for except his personal gain. 

Bola Tinubu candidate for the All Progressives Congress (APC)

Bola Tinubu aged 70, known as “Jagaban”, by his supporters held the governorship of Lagos State for eight years from 1999-2007. In 2013 Tinubu and several other politicians led a political effort to unite the opposition parties into a mega-party capable of winning the presidential election. This new coalition became the APC and with Buhari as their candidate won the presidential election in 2015. This was the first time an opposition party won an election in Nigeria. Tinubu has campaigned on his successes as governor of Lagos State and big dreams about developing Nigeria into a country that brings opportunity to all its citizens. In June 2022, Buhari addressed APC members and said, “E mi lokan”, its my turn. This set the tone for his campaign. Tinubu’s shrewd political manoeuvring has made him a ‘king-maker’ within the APC and takes credit for Buhari’s presidential victories. He believes it is his turn to run Nigeria after all he has contributed through politics. Like the other candidates he is not without controversy. One being his political effectiveness. His successes as governor in Lagos are not so clear. He still holds a tight grip on Lagos’ policy making and is referred to by some as ‘governor emeritus’ whereas the elected governor is derogatorily referred to as ‘the other governor’. His detractors therefore attribute blame on him for Lagos’ inability to sustainably grow with the population. His status as political godfather may be his undoing in the presidential race as Nigeria faces more acute economic and social struggles after Buhari’s presidency. His health status is also of concern as he has avoided public debates and travelled to London more often in recent years for health treatments.

Peter Obi candidate for the Labor Party (LP)

Peter Obi is the youngest of the top three presidential candidates at 61 years of age. He was governor of Anambra State from 2006-2014. After Obi held other appointed government positions until May 2015. He is running as a third-party candidate, a first for Nigeria, the APC and PDP have dominated Nigerian politics since the end of military rule in 1999. His early success in garnering supporters is due to his social media penetration and frustration with ‘old guard’ political class. His success as governor in Anambra State according to his supporters is his timeliness in paying government employees and large investments in education. Obi left a large surplus in public coffers at the end of his governorship, a point of pride for him as being responsible with public funds. This has also been a point of attack from his opponents and Anambra constituents who question his tight budget mindset in the face of hunger and lack of public facilities.

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