The New Humanitarian Annual Report 2021

Nigeria votes: Presidential Election - Who's who

The following are brief snapshots of some of the leading candidates in the 19 April presidential elections in Nigeria.


Nigeria's current president and a former military ruler, 66-year-old Olusegun Obasanjo is tipped by local newspaper opinion polls to win the presidential election. He is the only Nigerian military ruler to have voluntarily relinquished power to elected civilians, which he did in 1979. An internationally respected statesman, Obasanjo along with the presidents of South Africa, Algeria and Senegal initiated the New Partnership for Africa's Development, a blueprint for the rapid development of the world's poorest continent. He is supported by his People's Democratic Party and two other groups. 


Muhammadu Buhari was minister for petroleum in Obasanjo's military government in the 1970s, but in December 1983 he overthrew the civilian administration to which Obasanjo had transferred power. He ruled for 20 months and was in turn toppled in a military coup. Aged 60, he is the strongest challenger to Obasanjo. Buhari is backed by the main opposition All Nigeria People's Party, which has a strong base in the predominantly Muslim north. During his brief reign he established a reputation as a disciplinarian, with sometimes draconian tendencies, especially when he passed a decree with retroactive effect on the basis of which three drug pushers were publicly executed. 


Better known as Emeka Ojukwu [Emeka is the shortened form of his first name], he is the presidential candidate of the All Progessive Grand Alliance party. A history graduate of Oxford University and son of one of Nigeria's earliest millionaires, Ojukwu as a young colonel in the army declared the secession of the southeast as the Republic of Biafra. After Biafra was defeated at the end of three years of civil war in 1970, Ojukwu went into exile in Cote d'Ivoire. He returned after he was granted a state pardon in 1981 and rejoined the mainstream of Nigerian politics. He is 69 years old. 


Born in 1940, Ike Nwachukwu is a retired major-general of the army who served as foreign minister in a military government in the late 1980s. In 1999 he was elected a senator for the ruling People's Democratic Party. Late last year he quit the party and joined the National Democratic Party, a newly registered political group, which chose him as its presidential candidate. 


Renowned lawyer and human rights activist, Fawehinmi was born in 1940. He is the presidential candidate of the newly registered National Conscience Party. During nearly four decades Fawehinmi established a reputation as an irrepressible critic and opponent of abuses by a succession of military and civilian rulers. During that period he was arrested and detained more than 40 times. He has been an unrelenting critic of economic policies of the type advocated by the Bretton Woods institutions, including privatisation, devaluation and removal of subsidies, and has pledged to reverse such policies implemented by previous governments if elected. 


Agbakoba, a 50-year-old lawyer and human rights activist is the presidential candidate of the Green Party. He was a co-founder in 1987 of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Nigeria's pioneer human rights group. As leader of the CLO, Agbakoba, together with campaigners from other human rights groups, was at the forefront of pro-democracy activism against repressive military rulers in the 1990s. 


45-year-old Okotie first made a name for himself in the early 1980s as a pop singer while a law student. He subsequently became a pentecostal preacher and has run his Household of God Church in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital for more than 15 years. Last year he announced that God had promised him that he would become the president of Nigeria to turn around decades of misrule and corruption. He first sought to be the flagbearer of the National Democratic Party and lost. Okotie then switched to the Justice Party which selected him as its presidential candidate. 


Aged 69, M.D. Yusuf, as he is best known, is the presidential candidate of the Movement for Democracy and Justice. Yusuf, a former Inspector General of the Nigeria Police Force, set up Nigeria's intelligence services in the early 1960s. Over time he established a reputation as a strong pan-Africanist, especially after he played a prominent role in the mid-1970s in shaping Nigeria's foreign policy in favour of the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid movements in Angola, Mozambique and South Africa. His campaign has stressed the need for a strong Nigeria not distracted from its potential by ethnic and regional friction, which he blames on unscrupulous politicans using divide-and-rule tactics.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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