Nigeria - Buhari's Succession Battle Heats Up

Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

At least 35 presidential hopefuls have joined the race to succeed Muhammadu Buhari who will step down in February 2023. DW looks at some of the main contenders to lead the West African country.

The race to succeed Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023 is underway as top contenders make public their intentions to lead the country.

Among those in the running is Buhari's own vice president, Oluyemi "Yemi" Osinbajo.

Earlier his month, the southern Christian formally declared his interest to contest next year's presidential election.

Osinbajo said in a statement that he was Nigeria's surest bet to continue improving security and prioritising Nigeria's economy and infrastructure, as well as reform its justice system and fight poverty.

His supporters in the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) consider him a safe pair of hands to protect the party's power.

Osinbajo to face stiff opposition

But some analysts say he will struggle to secure the APC's ticket for the election.

"I think that he is taking on a very herculean task and risk in the sense that the party he is contesting in the APC which brought him to the vice president [position] is actually an arrangement of political ambitions of two people, General Buhari and Bola Tinubu," Professor Farouk Bibi Farouk from the University of Abuja told DW

Farouk explained that Bola Tinubu is now in the race with him. Perhaps it will be tough for him to compete with his kingmaker.

Osinbajo served as Lagos justice commissioner and attorney general under Tinubu, who governed Lagos between 1999 and 2007.

Tinubu -- a southern Muslim and someone considered a wealthy power broker -- has also declared his intentions to run for president.

The former governor told reporters that his mission was "to seek the collaboration, encouragement and support of my party for my ambition and mission to become the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria."

Osinbajo does not have any ideological base within the APC to help him beat other candidates, according to Farouk.

"It is going to be an interesting contest for the APC," he said.

Nigeria's transport minister and former two-time governor of the oil-producing Rivers state, Rotimi Amaechi, has also declared his intention to join the race to be the APC's presidential candidate.

Nigeria's unwritten rule

Osinbajo will have to contend with Amaechi who was instrumental in the campaign activities of the Buhari-Osinbajo candidacy for the 2015 and 2019 elections. He helped run those elections as campaign director.

Describing Amaechi, Farouk said: "With his visibility, structure and age and her achievement as since 1999 he has always held political office, he is a very good consideration and cannot be ruled out."

President Buhari's administration has been criticized for doing little to fight corruption and deliver a more secure Nigeria, something analysts say Osinbajo would also have to contend with.

Africa's most populous nation has an unwritten deal that sitting presidents must not be succeeded by somebody from the same region. Since Buhari is from the north the next candidate will come from the south, something the ruling APC has agreed on.

For some Nigerians, that unwritten policy could depreive the APC and the country of quality candidates.

Nigerians demand political competence

"We want the best, we are not looking at the tribe, we are not looking at the religion, we want the best, we Nigerians want the best," a resident in Abuja told DW.

The main challengers in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have already emerged and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is one of them. He is considered the opposition forerunner.

Atiku was the PDP's candidate in the 2019 presidential election. He lost to the incumbent -- APC candidate Muhammadu Buhari.

Also among the possible presidential contenders are the governers of Rivers, Bauchi and Sokoto states, as well as former Senate president Bukola Saraki.

Bleak chances for female contenders

Six women are among the 35 people who have so far declared their intention to run for office. Most Nigerians don't consider any of the females capable of winning the presidency -- something that concerns many gender activists.

Professor Farouk told DW that the Nigerian political system is still open to women to contest political offices.

He believes that "women are doing well. If you look at it the country is open to woman as anywhere in the world. There is no law or any legislature restricting women from participating or contesting."

Farouk said it is just a matter of time when women will become successful in winning Nigeria's presidency.

For some Nigerians, the candidates who have so far declared their intentions to run for president are all competent.

"They are all capable of leading Nigeria and Nigerians will chose the best among them," a Nigerian male resident of Abuja told DW.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is expected to monitor the primaries of political parties.

The parties are due to pick presidential candidates by June 3 with official campaigning to begin in September.

Edited by Keith Walker

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