In recent months, a handful of renowned figures in Nigeria’s political space have expressed their wish to become the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria after the expiration of Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure.
Among them are Khadijah Okunnu-Lamidi, a media personality and daughter of former Federal Works Commissioner, Lateef Olufemi Okunnu; Orji Uzor Kalu, former Abia State Governor; Atiku Abubakar, former Vice-President of Nigeria; Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former Lagos State Governor and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC); Peter Obi, former Anambra State Governor; and Rotimi Amaechi, former Rivers State Governor and current Minister of Transportation.
Also in the race are Bukola Saraki, former Governor of Kwara State and ex-President of the Nigerian Senate; Nyesom Wike, the current Governor of Rivers State; and Yemi Osinbajo, the current Vice-President of Nigeria.
Their public declarations have led to many debates among political analysts and enthusiasts. There have also been talks about who would enjoy the most support from the electorates, just as zoning remains a bone of contention.
As more aspirants are expected to declare interest in the coming days, below are a few past controversies linked to six of the already-known aspirants.
YEMI OSINBAJO AND N5.8 BILLION NEMA INTERVENTION FUND APPROVAL
In November 2018, the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness indicted the governing board of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, for the illegal approval of a N5.8 billion northeast intervention fund.
This approval was given by Osinbajo while he was acting president in 2017.
The committee explained that the approval for the N5.8 billion did not follow due process, as the money was removed from the Eurobond without the consent of the parliament.
It also added that there was no procurement, no due process, no contract, yet the money was released and expended.
“We also recommended that all government officials involved in the approval, processing, release and diversion of the sum of N5.8 billion for the emergency intervention of food security in the north east, which contravened the provisions of section 80 (2) and 80 (4) of the constitution, infraction of due process for procurement and loss of government revenue, flouting of the terms of the Eurobond loan are hereby indicted and the relevant security agencies should take steps to recover the money from them,” part of the committee’s recommendation read.
Interestingly, it was also stated in the report that all the six states of the northeast denied ever receiving the emergency intervention fund for food security in the region.
In the same month, Osinbajo responded to the committee, denying any wrongdoing in the approval of the funds.
BOLA TINUBU AND ALPHA BETA OPERATIONS
Bola Tinubu, former Lagos State Governor
In January, and after a long period of speculations, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former Lagos State Governor and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), declared his intention to contest for Nigeria’s top seat in 2023.
However, in 2020, Dapo Apara, Tinubu’s former associate and stakeholder at Alpha-Beta, a consulting firm believed to be owned by the former governor, accused him of money laundering, fraud, tax evasion and other corrupt practices.
Apara, who is claiming ownership of 30 percent of the company’s shares, alleged that since 1998, Tinubu had been directing and dictating the affairs of the company by diverting assets to himself.
He also revealed that the company had generated about N1.5 trillion for the Lagos State Government since 2002, out of which Alpha-Beta earned 10 percent.
He accused the company of poor account management and also claimed he had not received his benefits as a stakeholder for 10 years.
In Apala’s writ, Tinubu was also said to have been extorting benefits of between 70 percent or more from all projects ongoing in Lagos State since he became Governor in 1999.
The former associate also claimed to have been warned by the the former governor not to think of exposing him because Ibrahim Magu, the then chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), would always protect him.
ORJI UZOR KALU’S ARREST AND SUBSEQUENT RELEASE
Orji Uzor Kalu, Former Abia State Governor
In January, Orji Uzor Kalu, the Governor of Abia State from 1999 to 2007, declared his ambition to run for president in 2023.
In 2019 however, Kalu was sentenced to 12 years in prison by a Lagos High Court for defrauding the Government of Abia State while serving as governor.
He was accused of using Slok Nigeria Ltd., his company, to perpetrate N7.65 billion fraud. He was detained in Ikoyi Prison in Lagos following a court ruling.
owever, in May 2020, a seven-member panel of the Supreme Court declared Kalu’s conviction null and void, setting aside the 2019 judgement of Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos.
The apex court stated that Justice Idris was already a justice of the Court of Appeal at the time he delivered the judgment sentencing Kalu. A retrial was ordered by the court and Kalu was released from the Nigerian Correctional Service, Kuje, Abuja, on June 3, 2020.
The case took another dramatic turn when in September 2021, a Federal High Court in Abuja stopped the EFCC from retrying Kalu.
BUKOLA SARAKI AND THE EFCC
Bukola Saraki, Former Senate President
In November 2021, Bukola Saraki, a former Governor of Kwara State and ex-president of the Nigerian Senate, informed a gathering of elders and members of the Kwara State Working Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of his intention to contest the presidency in 2023.
However, prior to this declaration, Saraki was invited by the EFCC for questioning.
He was quizzed in connection with an investigation into how a N17 billion bond was spent during his tenure as Governor of Kwara State. He was also grilled on alleged fraudulent diversion of N9 billion by Abdulfatai Ahmed, his successor.
ATIKU ABUBAKAR’S CORRUPTION CHARGES
Atiku Abubakar, Former Vice President Of Nigeria
After first declaring interest to run for the office of the president in 2007, Atiku Abubakar, who was then the Vice-President of Nigeria, was accused by Nigeria’s Senate of diverting more than $100 million (£51 million) in public funds to private interests.
During the period, the Senate also recommended that Atiku be prosecuted for siphoning money to companies he was connected with.
According to the Senate, the former vice president first diverted the funds from government accounts to foreign accounts. The diverted funds were then converted to loans for three companies that were directly connected to him.
While reacting to the allegations however, Atiku claimed the report was a deliberate attempt to stop him from running for president during the period.
He also accused Olusegun Obasanjo, the then president, of orchestrating the allegation after he prevented him from actualising his dreams of amending the constitution, which would have allowed him run for a third term in office.
Atiku has contested for the office of the president four times and has lost on all four occasions. His declaration in March became his fifth attempt to become the President of Nigeria.
PETER OBI AND HIS SECRET BUSINESSES
Peter Obi, Former Anambra State Governor
In March, Peter Obi, former Anambra State Governor, while addressing traditional rulers in Awka, Anambra State, declared interest in the office of the president.
He is famous for speeches and comments that preach transparency and good governance. At forums and during interviews, he would also talk about how accountable he was while he was Governor of Anambra.
However, in October 2021, the Pandora Papers Project, an investigation carried out by a global International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), revealed that Obi had secret business dealings and relationships he kept from the public, even during his time as governor.
According to the leaked files obtained during the project, Obi secretly set up and operated businesses overseas, mostly in countries where business information is treated with utmost confidentiality.
While reacting to the revelation, Obi stated that he did not declare these companies, funds and properties during his asset declaration filings with the Code of Conduct Bureau because he was unaware the law expected him to do so.
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