The Sunday nomination of former Vice-President Abubakar Atiku as the candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has left little doubt that Nigeria's 2019 presidential election will be a two-horse race between him and the incumbent Muhammadu Buhari.
There is also a woman in the mix, but many doubt that Ms Oby Ezekwesili, of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, is in the league of the two veteran gladiators.
Mr Donald Duke, a former governor of Cross River State in the South South, has picked the ticket for the relatively new Social Democratic Party (SDP). Many consider him to be merely adding the numbers of the contestants and giving the Nigeria democracy more credibility.
Atiku, the Fulani-born Waziri of Adamawa, a businessman and politician, beat 11 other contestants to enter the race against a fellow tribesman Buhari, who also got the nod of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) earlier the same day.
Office of governor
The 71-year-old Atiku, a native of Jada village in Adamawa, served as the second elected vice-president of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007, on the PDP platform, with President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He earlier worked in the Nigeria Customs Service for 20 years, rising to become the deputy director before he retired in April 1989 to go into politics.
Atiku ran for the office of governor in the Gongola State (now Adamawa and Taraba states) in 1991, and for the presidency in 1993, placing third after MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe in the Social Democratic Party (SDP) primaries.
In 1998, he was elected Governor of Adamawa State, and while still governor-elect, Atiku was tapped by the PDP presidential candidate, Gen (Rtd) Obasanjo, as his running mate.
The duo went on to win elections in February 1999, and Atiku was sworn-in as Nigeria’s second democratically elected vice-president on May 29, 1999.
However, his second term as vice-president was marked by a stormy relationship with President Obasanjo.
Not to be put down, Atiku ran for presidency on the platform of the Action Congress, having quit the PDP on account of his issues with President Obasanjo.
He lost the election, placing third after Umaru Yar’Adua and Gen Buhari of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
The former VP would later join the ruling APC, whose ticket he sought in 2014, but lost to Gen Buhari at the primary held in Lagos.
Atiku defected again from APC in May to PDP where he on Sunday clinched the ticket to tackle President Buhari in the 2019 election.
In his acceptance speech, Atiku praised the conduct of the primary and described it as the best since the enthronement of democracy in 1999.,
He urged the PDP rank and file to join hands to wrestle power back from APC. PDP, he said, had since identified the challenges facing the nation and it was time to address them.
The man who takes pride in his polygamous status and large family, is also known for philanthropy. He is credited with the creation of the American University of Nigeria in 2005.
In 2012, Atiku donated $750,000 to the National Peace Corps Association in the US, "to fund a new initiative featuring global leaders who will discuss Peace Corps's impact". It was the largest ever individual donation in the association's history.
President Buhari had earlier on Sunday, accepted his nomination and assured APC members and Nigerians that he would not disappoint them if re-elected.
He gave the assurance after being declared the APC candidate at the party’s National Presidential Convention which ended in the early hours of Sunday at the Abuja Eagle Square.
President Buhari has earlier garnered 14,842,072 votes at the APC primaries held across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as announced by Dr Kayode Fayemi, the Ekiti State governor-elect.
“Ladies and gentlemen, members of APC. I thank you deeply for your support and confidence in me. I will not let you or the people of Nigeria down.
“Fellow party members, it is with a deep sense of humility that I stand before you today to accept the nomination of our party, the APC to be its candidate and flag-bearer in the 2019 presidential elections.
“As I stand today before you, there is no honour greater than the confidence given to me by all of you when you affirmed my nomination," he said
President Buhari, however, noted that the result of the APC primaries were different this time, because he was the only candidate.
The president, while recalling the achievements of the APC-led Federal Government, said the party was proud of its records from 2015 to date, adding that it had arrested and checked the slide to anarchy on the security and economic fronts.
He added that the Boko Haram insurgents, had under the government, been reduced to attacks on soft targets as normalcy had returned to much of north-east and north-west states.
The president also noted that the country’s currency had stabilised while its reserves were now $44 billion, a lot higher than in 2015 when the APC government came into power.
“Power generation capacity has reached 8,000 megawatts as against less than 4,600 when we came into office.
“As we invest in new power generation infrastructure, we are strenuously working to address the legacy deficiencies and challenges of transmission and distribution networks across the country,” the president said.
He further added that the country now produces 80 per cent of its rice requirements as many farmers who nearly lost hope were now millionaires.
The APC-led Federal Government, President Buhari went on, had also introduced primary school feeding programmes to encourage attendance and enrollment.