Leading presidential aspirants in Nigeria’s ruling party

Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party holds its primary election on Tuesday to choose a candidate for next year’s presidential election to replace Muhammadu Buhari.

The winner will face former vice president Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) among other candidates in February 2023, when Buhari steps down after reaching his constitutional limit of two terms in office.

The PDP held its own convention last week where 75-year-old Abubakar, an influential and wealthy Muslim politician from the north who has contested five times for the top job, emerged as flagbearer.

More than 20 aspirants are vying for the APC ticket and leading the pack are:

Yemi Osinbajo

The 65-year-old Osinbajo has been Nigeria’s vice president since 2015. 

A university professor and lawyer, Osinbajo is a Christian from the southwest and has promised to continue with Buhari’s policies if he is given the ticket and wins next year’s poll. 

He was an ally of ex-Lagos governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, another contender from the region, though the two men are now competing in the primary.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu

A national leader of the APC and two-term former governor of Lagos state, Tinubu is a popular politician with a network of supporters across Nigeria.

He is credited with having contributed to the rapid transformation of Lagos as Nigeria’s main commercial hub. 

The 70-year-old former senator from southwest Nigeria was instrumental to Buhari’s victory in 2015, after three unsuccessful bids. That landmark win against an incumbent president was the first opposition victory in Nigeria’s history.

A wealthy Muslim, Tinubu was accused of corruption after leaving office, but he was later cleared.

He has said that becoming Nigeria’s president was his life-long ambition. 

Rotimi Amaechi

A two-term governor of southern oil-rich Rivers state, Amaechi recently resigned as Buhari’s transport minister to run for the APC ticket. 

The 57-year-old Christian has also been speaker of the state parliament.

With a wide network of contacts and supporters across Nigeria, Amaechi is considered an influential and serious contender.

He is credited with modernising Nigeria’s railways and constructing new tracks linking the nation’s regions. 

Ahmad Lawan

Lawan, a long-serving legislator and current senate president, is a Muslim from the northeastern state of Yobe. He is the main contender from the region for the APC ticket. 

The 63-year-old is a Buhari loyalist who has been an instrumental ally in parliament for the president. 

His entry has changed the dynamics of the race since it was assumed that after the tenure of Buhari, also a Muslim northerner, the APC would pick a candidate from the mainly Christian south.

Two other aspirants who may spring a surprise as underdogs at the primaries are Governor Kayode Fayemi of southwest Ekiti state, and Dave Umahi, governor of southeastern Ebonyi state. Both are Christians.

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