No fewer than 45 candidates out of the 72 presidential candidates billed to contest today’s election have abandoned their ambitions to rule Nigeria and adopted either President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress or former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, has learnt.
Saturday PUNCH correspondent, who spoke with the candidates and party chairmen on Friday, learnt that most of them lacked the funds and membership to carry out a nationwide campaign and thus decided to support the bigger parties.
It was learnt that about 15 of them had endorsed Buhari while 30 had agreed to work for Atiku.
Those working for Buhari include Shitu Kabir (Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance), Edozie Madu (Independent Democrats); Danjuma Mohammed (Movement for Restoration and Defence of Democracy); Yusuf Dantalle (Allied Peoples Movement); Ahmed Buhari (Sustainable National Party) and Isah Dansarki (Mass Movement of Nigeria).
Others are Ikechukwu Nwokeafor (Advance Congress of Democrats); Alista Soyode (Yes Party); Charles Ogbali (Advanced Nigeria Democratic Party); Kenneth Kalu (United Peoples Congress); Isiyaka Femili (Nigeria Element Progressive Party) and Robinson Akpu of the National Democratic Liberty Party.
Other candidates supporting Buhari are Inwa Sakil (Unity Party of Nigeria); Babatunde Ositelu (Accord), the Africa Peoples Alliance, which has also endorsed the President although its candidate, Ibrahim Hassan, says he is still in the contest.
While the presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, has stepped down and did not endorse anyone, her former running mate, Galadima Oseni, who is also the national chairman of the party, had endorsed Buhari.
For Atiku, about 30 parties and presidential candidates have stepped down.
The parties, it was learnt, were members of the Coalition of United Political Parties.
On Wednesday, Eunice Atuejide (National Interest Party) stepped down for Atiku.
Similarly, the African Democratic Congress has adopted Atiku while its Presidential candidate, Obadiah Mailafia, has yet to make any public statement on the matter.
The National Chairman of ADC, Chief Okey Nwosu, told one of our correspondents that Atiku had been adopted by the party, adding that it did so in line with the CUPP’s arrangement.
“Our candidate did not have enough funds to execute a nationwide campaign. However, we will be participating in all other elections from National Assembly, governorship to state Houses of Assembly,” he said.
The presidential candidate of the All Grassroots Alliance, Nwachukwu Nwabuikwu, has also endorsed Atiku.
Dr. Nicolas Felix, the candidate of the Peoples Coalition Party also endorsed the PDP candidate earlier in the week just as Action Alliance dropped its candidate, Abdulrashid Baba, and adopted the PDP candidate.
The National Chairman of the Advanced Allied Party, Salihu Butu, told one of our correspondents on the telephone on Friday that his party had adopted Atiku.
Muhammed Zaki (Labour Party) also stepped down for the PDP candidate, according to the LP Chairman, Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, while Dr Olufunmilayo Adesanya-Davies of the Mass Action Joint Alliance also stepped down for him.
Mark Audu of the United Patriots has also endorsed Atiku, according to its acting National Chairman, Chukwudi Ezeobika, while Nsehe Nseobong of the Restoration Party of Nigeria said that he had also stepped down for the former Vice-President.
The presidential candidate of the Progressive Peoples Alliance, Peter Ameh, said he had endorsed Atiku while Major Hamza Al Mustafa (Peoples Party of Nigeria) also stepped down for the former vice-president.
However, 27 other candidates will be slugging it out with Buhari and Atiku on Saturday(today).
They are Mr Fela Durotoye (Alliance for New Nigeria), Omoyele Sowore (African Action Congress), Donald Duke (Social Democratic Party), Rev. Chris Okotie (FRESH), Prof. Kingsley Moghalu (Young Progressive Party), and Adesina Fagbenro-Byron (KOWA).
Others are John Gbor (All Progressive Grand Alliance), Tope Fasua (Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party), Tanko Yunusa (National Conscience Party), Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim (People’s Trust), Yabagi Yusuf (Action Democratic Party), Shipi Godia (All Blending Party) and Peter Nwangwu of (We The People Nigeria).
Ayo Dasilva (Save Nigeria Congress), Chukwudi Osuala (Rebuild Nigeria Party) and Victor Okhai (Providence Peoples Congress) have also decided to test their strength at the polls.