The Alternative Candidates


Except for any last-minute review of options, the All Progressives Congress may have settled for President Muhammadu Buhari as its standard bearer in next year’s presidential poll. He has been given the right of first refusal. It took the president a while before he eventually decided to seek re-election and one of the reasons his decision was allegedly delayed was to wait and see who the opposition may field. The opposition too has kept its cards very close to its chest, thus forcing Buhari to first throw his hat in the ring for a second term. In spite of increasing misgivings about the record of his administration, the president has carried on as if there is no credible alternative to him in a country of almost 200 million people – this seeming chimera seems to excite the APC too. The illusion, however, is being gradually deflated by a legion of aspirants now stomping the political yard in the build-up to the 2019 presidential election, Olawale Olaleye writes


With the kind of confidence considered not consistent with the reality on the ground, a majority of President Muhammadu Buhari’s supporters savours the impression that as far as 2019 is concerned, there will be no stopping the president from being re-elected. This, they have hinged on the assumption that there is no credible alternative to him. That may be further from reality. Much of the northern elements believe Buhari’s re-election is sure-fire based on the zoning factor seemingly endorsed by major political parties ceding the presidency to the north. Meanwhile, a majority of President Buhari’s supporters from the South are goading him on because they cannot afford a president of northern extraction to stay beyond another four years after Buhari.

This thinking is informed by the assumption that should another northern candidate apart from Buhari wins the 2019 presidential poll, it will be another eight years for the north, which would have kept the south out of power for 12 years. It is no wonder, therefore, that most of those backing Buhari’s re-election from the south are those who clandestinely have their eyes on the nation’s number one seat.  Can Buhari be the only real deal for Nigeria? As of the last count, no fewer than 23 persons across different political parties have indicated interest in being Nigeria’s president come 2019. Although a majority of them are southerners, the deluge of aspirants has not only opened up the space but setting new parameters for the election of a new Nigerian president.

Who are these candidates?

Bukola Saraki

The current Senate President, Bukola Saraki, was Kwara State governor for eight years between 2003 and 2011. As governor, he was also the chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, at a time the body was at its peak of political and economic relevance.

Although he emerged Senate President in 2015 against the will of some power brokers within his party, the APC, he has since carried on in the office as one of the best ever to preside over the Senate.

President Muhammadu Buhari had once described him as one of the most influential politicians of modern Nigeria. He is about the most visible and has effectively deployed the goodwill of his office to build consensus.

Saraki has always had his eyes on the number one seat, even when he has yet to run in any presidential election. To pursue his ambition, he is expected to defect to another party. If he does, he stands a good chance with the auspicious Supreme Court ruling that cleared him of allegations of corruption. Much as he has another matter pending with the police over a recent robbery in Offa, Kwara State, the alleged conspiracy to nail him has hardly given way.

Atiku Abubakar

Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar is generally considered the most experienced and most prepared for the office of the president – an ambition he has nursed since 1990s. Although for the first time in 2011, he was on the ballot, he lost to former President Goodluck Jonathan.

As vice-president under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Atiku was literally in charge of the economy and was believed to have held down the nation’s economy with the same approach he has held his many thriving businesses, both at home and away.

Unfortunately, like Saraki, he has since battled the stigma of corruption – no thanks to Obasanjo – even though no competent court of law has found him guilty of any of the allegations. It is believed that the only barrier standing between Atiku and the 2019 presidency is Obasanjo, hence the recent pressure on Obasanjo to let him be and give him a chance, more so that Obasanjo has gone on the offensive against Buhari.

Rabiu Kwankwaso

Former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso, is the current senator representing Kano Central, after eight years as governor. The senator is one Kano politician with a cult followership, the type that can only compete with Buhari’s relevance in the North West.

Besides, he prides himself as the only politician from that part of the country with strong ties with the three Ks (Katsina, Kano and Kaduna), the same as Buhari. He is presently in a supremacy battle with his successor, Abdullahi Ganduje, a man he had walked with as an ally for years.

Thus, his 2019 battle is in two parts. The first is for Kano, where he has vowed to ensure Ganduje does not return and the other for the presidency. Although there is speculation that he is fanatical by disposition, it is one allegation no one has been able to prove apart from being mere speculation.

The fact that he also came second during the 2014 primary of the APC equally puts him in good stead as one character to watch out for in the 2019 power contest.

Aminu Tambuwal

Incumbent Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal, was Speaker of the House of Representatives between 2011 and 2015, a position he clinched against then existing political formation and understanding. The development, like the case of Saraki, pitted him against the Jonathan presidency but brought him into prominence as he was seen as having fought for the independence of the legislature.

In the lead up to the 2015 elections, he attempted a shot at the presidency, when he bought his expression of interest form for the presidential race. He was later prevailed upon to shelve the idea, to make the race easier for Buhari.

He is again seeking to contest in 2019, a desire believed to have been made possible by Buhari’s leadership style. Although a majority still feels he is better off continuing as the Sokoto State governor especially that age is on his side, it is not certain whether or not he will concede to such prodding this time.

Sule Lamido

Sixty-nine-year-old Sule Lamido was governor of Jigawa State for eight years under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Indeed, one of those who had long expressed interest in the nation’s top job, shortly after Buhari assumed office.

Experience is certainly not an issue for Lamido – having been governor and minister – combined with his maturity in power, however, he has corruption cases hanging around his neck as he was jailed briefly having stood trial alongside his two sons in 2015 for allegedly embezzling state funds. He typically blamed his enemies as being behind his travails and none of such would stifle him from running for the presidency. He is in the race for real.

Ahmed Makarfi

Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi was governor of Kaduna State from 1999 to 2007, and moved on to be elected Senator for Kaduna North in 2007. An active member of the PDP, he was the national caretaker chairman of the PDP in the period the party was in turmoil before driving the process that produced the current leadership of the party.

At 61, Makarfi boasts the kind of experience required to steer the ship of the country, after being governor and senator.

It is not certain whether or not he stands a good chance in the power struggle in the party despite having been at the party’s helm of affair. He is a potential alternative candidate that can effectively address Nigeria’s problems.

Ibrahim Shekarau

A highly cerebral former governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, formally declared his interest to contest for the presidency some weeks ago, on the platform of the PDP. It is however not his first time in the race and also not the first time against Buhari. Indeed, in the 2011 presidential debate, Shekarau stood out from the lot. He explained that his decision to seek PDP’s presidential ticket was informed by the clarion calls from Nigerians.

“As you may be aware, for quite some time now, since after the 2015 general election, there have been various calls made by individuals and groups from many quarters, nationwide, urging my humble candidature for the contest of the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the next general elections, due in 2019.  Naturally, experience comes to play for Shekarau, complemented by capacity to get things done. His joining the race is largely seen by observers as another factor that would complicate the situation in the state as two former governors might be in opposition against the incumbent. But in terms of disposition, Shekarau is believed to stand a good chance, not just as an alternative candidate, but more as an individual who has what it takes to deliver.

Taminu Turaki

Taminu Turaki, a former minister of Special Duties under former President Goodluck Jonathan, recently joined the 2019 presidential race on the platform of the PDP. A prominent politician from Kebbi State, his billboards and posters already flood Birnin-Kebbi, the state capital.

The chairman of PDP in the state, Haruna Saidu, recently said it was a welcome development “as he is the first from the state to declare his intention”.

There is a certain disposition towards him, because a majority of active players sees him as a distinct breakaway from the familiar faces on the turf. Also considered cosmopolitan and educated, he is believed to stand a good chance in the presidential run, both as an alternative and capable hand.

Peter Ayodele Fayose

The controversial Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, was one of the early risers to the presidential race. Fayose, who was impeached as governor in his first term in 2006, returned to office in 2014, and has remained one of those who spotted alleged ineptitude of President Buhari early, a development believed to have spurred his intention to run.

Although Fayose has been generally dismissed as looking for grounds for negotiating his relevance post-office as governor, that he is from South-west may have knocked him out effectively. But at least, by indicating interest in the job defeats the argument that there is no alternative to Buhari in 2019, even though debate about capacity and credibility is relative as far as Fayose is concerned.

Donald Duke

Former Cross River State governor, Donald Duke is one Nigerian politician a majority of the people sees as wearing the image of a former United States President, Barack Obama. In terms of education, carriage, articulation and capacity, which he displayed as governor, Duke always comes to mind a good presidential material with good understanding of what the issues are.

Although a certain speculation still subsists on how he narrowly missed being the running mate to former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on account of alleged arrogance that he was a better material, that story has not be officially confirmed.

But take that away, Duke is believed to have all it takes to take the country to the Eldorado, having proven to be an ideal alternative in every sense of the word. The fact that he is from the southern part of the country may, however, stand against him except of course something unintended gives way.

Kingsley Moghalu

A political economist, lawyer and former United Nations official, Kingsley Moghalu is Professor of Practice in International Business and Public Policy at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Founder, Sogato Strategies LLC, an emerging markets risk, strategy and macroeconomic advisory firm, he was also a Senior Adviser of the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF).

In 2016, Moghalu founded the Institute for Governance and Economic Transformation (IGET), a think tank focused on the achievement of inclusive economic growth and effective public policy in developing countries. He served as Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria from 2009 to 2014, where he led the implementation of far-reaching reforms in Nigeria’s banking sector.

His joining the race has been largely welcomed given his experience and background especially that he is seen as boasting the capacity for the job. He is however from the Southern part of the country and that may count against him. But talk about alternative candidate, he is more than qualified to change the Nigerian story.

Fela Durotoye

Adetokunbo Oluwafeolami Durotoye was born in Ibadan, Oyo State some 47 years ago. A business consultant, leadership expert, and motivational speaker, he is the president of the GEMSTONE Nation Builders Foundation, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation targeted at training youths towards transformational leadership and social change.

His interest in the presidential race was believed to have been stimulated by the not-too-young to run bill, even though he has gone past the age of restriction clauses. Although one minus for him is that he is from the South, he is believed to have so far articulated sufficient points to earn him the admiration of voters if he sustains the tempo. He is a worthy alternative too.

Funmilayo Adesanya-Davies

An educational consultant and associate professor of linguistics with specialisation in applied linguistics and communication, Funmilayo Adesanya-Davies  is a former director of the Centre for Vocational Skills, Entrepreneurial and General Studies, Rivers State University of Education, Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

Also, a poet, communication expert, advocacy and activist, she holds a Doctor of Divinity (D.D) Degree and Professor of Divinity (Honoris Causa) Award of Northwestern Christian University, Florida, US. She is an Academic of note and has decided to take the political dive on the strength of the fact that there is nothing esoteric about good governance.

She is from the Southern extraction and would have a long way to go to realising her dream, not because she is not qualified or hands-on, but because the political turf has been structured with a bias for the opposite sex.

Remi Sonaiya

Oluremi Comfort Sonaiya is a politician, educationalist and writer. She was Nigeria’s only female presidential candidate in the 2015 general election on the platform of the KOWA Party.

In 1982, she was employed as an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Foreign Languages, Obafemi Awolowo University before she rose to the position of Professor of French Language and Applied Linguistics in 2004. She is a fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, where she went on to be appointed the body’s Ambassador Scientist from 2008 to 2014.

She retired from her position at Obafemi Awolowo University in 2010 and became politically active, joining the KOWA Party, where she was voted its National Public Relations Officer, and went on to be the party’s candidate for the 2015 Presidential election. At the election, Sonaiya received 13,076 votes and finished in 12th place.

She is back again in the trenches, and this time, more determined to go all out. She is believed to be credible and has the capacity for the office. She is a southern candidate, a factor that could inhibit her chances.

Thomas-Wilson Ikubese

Thomas-Wilson Ikubese, a medical doctor, is an indigene of Delta State, born in Lagos some 48 years ago. As a student, he distinguished himself as a visionary of repute. He was an honourable congressman, later the Speaker of congress, and chairman of caretaker committee of the University of Benin Medical Student Association (UBEMSA).

He was to be elected unanimously as the president of the association before it was plunged into crisis by a faction of the association. He recently left his party, National Conscience Party (NCP) on the account that it had deviated from its goals. He is believed to lack the requisite experience for a job as tough as Nigeria’s president. Besides, he is also a southerner, two critical factors that are imposing on his way.

Omoyele Sowore

Born 47 years ago, Omoyele Sowore is a Nigerian human rights activist, pro-democracy campaigner and founder of an online news agency, Sahara Reporters. An indigene of Ondo State, he was however born in the Niger Delta region of the country, where he was raised. Although not a trained journalist, his passion and desire for reporting was allegedly propelled by military rule in Nigeria.

A graduate of Geography and planning at the University of Lagos, he was the President of the University of Lagos Student Union Government, which encouraged his involvement in anti-cultism and anti-corruption advocacy. He holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Columbia.

His interest in the presidency is said to have been stoked by the need to get governance right. Sadly, he too is from the Southern part of the country but that has not however stifled him from forging ahead. Many believe he is credible, even though experience and capacity are not conceded to him yet.

Enyinnaya Nnaemeka Nwosu

Forty-one-year-old Enyinnaya Nnaemeka Nwosu was born in Olokoro, Umuahia, Abia State, to the family of Elder Peter Onyema Nwosu and the late Mrs. Edna Onyedinma Nwosu, both renowned educationists.

He began his career with the law firm, Ikechukwu Ezechuckwu & Co in 2007. He later travelled to the United Kingdom in 2010 where he obtained a master’s in International Information Technology Law from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen in 2011.

He lectured briefly at the West George College, Glasgow, Scotland before joining Royal Bank of Scotland from where he relocated to Newcastle in England and joined the SERCO GROUP but later joined the Justice Department and worked with the Legal Aid Agency, which prompted his secondment to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals from where he decided to come back to Nigeria and run for the office of the President.

Though his southern origin may stand against him, his experience is also being dismissed as inadequate for the office of the president particularly his understanding of what the Nigerian issues are.

Ahmed Buhari

Perhaps, one of the youngest in the race, 40-year-old Lagos-based businessman, Ahmed Buhari, has also swelled the ranks of those itching to wrest power from Buhari. He recently vowed to do all it takes to wrest power from the president in 2019.

An indigene of Kontagora in Niger State, Buhari said his decision to contest the presidency in 2019 was “to take Nigeria out of the quagmire to a destination that will benefit all Nigerians.”

He claimed to be tired of complaining about how things were being done in Nigeria, saying he had decided to come out of his comfort zone to contest, and that he was “ready to slug it out with President Muhammadu Buhari and other candidates in 2019.”

“I am still consulting on which platform to use in contesting but, for now, I am of the view that most of the major political parties do not share ideologies that conform to mine and that of my numerous followers,” he stated.

A northerner with age on his side, experience may be the only factor to count against him. But the fact that he is willing to take the plunge makes the 2019 race one of the most interesting in history.

Adesanya Fegbenro-Bryon

Adesanya Fegbenro-Bryon is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Mothergold Limited and Chief Responsibility Officer for Mothergold Consulting. He has two degrees from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University, respectively.

A former regional coordinator for the Department for International Development little is known about Fegbenro-Bryon, even though that does not limit his chances in any way for as long as capacity and competence are established.

Curiously, too, he is a southerner and getting through with the presidential run might be a little tough, albeit not impossible. But he has also helped to dismiss the illusion that there are no alternatives to Buhari.

Charles Udeogaranya

A former Lagos State chairman of the defunct African Renaissance Party and now a chieftain of the APC, Charles Udeogaranya is also aspiring to succeed Buhari in 2019. A Nigerian from the South-east zone of the country, Udeogaranya’s tall dream of succeeding Buhari may be long in coming as the APC might have closed the doors against everyone.

Apart from commenting regularly on issues in the country, he is hardly known as a formidable challenge to Buhari, thus, questions of capacity and credibility are hardly raised for or against him.

Mathias Tsado

Mathias Tsado was born 41 years ago in Gusadi, Gbako Local Government Area of Niger State. He worked briefly with Eco Bank Nig Plc and Intercontinental Bank Plc. He is currently the CEO of Matstrutt Nigeria Ltd.

A member of the Institute for National Transformation and the institute for service excellence and good governance (ISEGG), he is the convener of Hope Platform Initiative, a group committed to good governance in Nigeria.

A graduate of Mechanical Engineering from The Federal University of Technology Minna, he was the Financial Secretary of National Association of Nupe Students and the Assistant Secretary General National of the Association of Niger State Students (NANISS) during his undergraduate days.

He is at advantage by virtue of his ethnic background but would have to contend with experience and capacity in the battle to succeed Buhari.

Eniola Ojajuni

Ojajuni Eniola Joseph is a 40-year old presidential aspirant from the royal family of Ojajuni Karaki, in Ugbo Kingdom, Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State.  After his first degree in law at the Lagos State University, he proceeded to Ghana Business School to gain knowledge in Business Administration. He has since been to different business schools across African countries and Europe.

Now a consultant to Vega Foods, Singapore on Africa investment as well as Delta State Investment Agency on Direct Investment, he has successfully written over 200 proposals to investors including over 25 governors, past and present in Nigeria.

His desire to run for the presidency was borne out of the need to change the development focus of the leadership. His challenges however stemmed from the part of the country he hails from to the issues of capacity, experience and competence especially that he is hardly known.

Olu James Omosule

A father of two, Olu James Omosule was born in Owo, Ondo State, on September 3, 1969. A board member, Scope America Outreach, he claimed as a concerned Nigerian loyal to progressive democratic ideals, those ideals are currently being threatened.

In a sense to show that he understands the Nigerian problems, he contended that the Nigerian elites have been fighting a culture war, but reckoned that the main battlefield is the brain.

Another Yoruba man for the presidency does not sound like an idea whose time has come in 2019. Even as the debate on capacity and credibility may not yet sit well with it, his decision to run for the presidency is a welcome development, which encourages an expanded space.

Tope Fasua

A Nigerian businessman, economist and writer, Tope Kolade Fasua was born on September 11, 1971. Founder and CEO, Global Analytics Consulting Limited, an international consulting firm with headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, Fasua is a political reformer, who founded the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) and was elected to serve as the National Chairman of the Party.

Fasua became a qualified accountant in 1996 after attending the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria to obtain Associate Chartered Accountant. Between his movements from his long banking practice to starting his Consulting Firm, he attended London Metropolitan University to gain master’s degree in Financial Markets and Derivatives with distinction in 2006.

Currently a fellow academic with his PhD, Public Policy and Administration in view at the Walden University, Fasua has definitely paid his dues.

With his ANRP boasting a membership base of about 50000, Fasua, at the ANRP National Executive Committee on May 17, 2018, announced his intention to join the race for presidency. He literally ticks all the boxes except that he is from the South-west. Even then, nothing can be taken for granted.