He completed a master’s degree in international relations at Tufts University, and is still a fellow at the college’s Council of Emerging Market Enterprises.
During a broadcast political discussion called The Platform, Moghalu called on Nigerians to believe in the possibility of sending away the “recycled” politicians. “We have believed so many times and have been disappointed so many times. So we have learned to lower our expectations.”
Moghalu campaigned for gender parity in leadership and youth engagement in Nigerian politics: He picked 37-year-old Umma Getso, a northerner, as his vice presidential candidate. He pledged to recruit and train more police officials to specialize in the security threats facing the country.
Another younger candidate to watch is Obiageli Ezekwesili, a former minister of education. After the 2014 Chibok kidnapping, she pressured the government for the girls’ release. The 55-year-old participated in the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, which continues to organize protests and rallies on the remaining hostages’ behalf.
Last October she announced her decision to run for office under the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria. She kicked off her campaign at a service in Redeemed Christian Church of God, where her husband serves as pastor. Ezekwesili, who is one of the founders of Transparency International and a former vice president of World Bank’s Africa division, presented herself as standing against the system.
During a speech at an Oct. 29 event in Lagos state to mark the World Press Conference, she said the two lead contenders belong to a “political ruling class that has held us bound, manipulated, and diminished us for decades.”
On Jan. 24, Ezekwesili announced her decision to withdraw from the race and focus on building a coalition to stand against the two major parties. But the electoral commission said that option closed on Nov. 17.
Other first-time candidates include Omoyele Sowore, a 47-year-old from southwest Ondo state. Sowore founded U.S.-based Sahara Reporters. As part of his eight-point plan for the country, he promised to tackle insecurity by increased policing and ranching to respond to herdsmen unrest.
His manifesto also called for increased implementation of the country’s antiterrorist campaign and economic revitalization of northern Nigeria to tackle Boko Haram’s insurgency.
Fela Durotoye is also a 47-year-old southwesterner, hailing from Oyo state. The financial analyst and businessman established a foundation to provide work opportunities for the country’s youth. He also founded Eden, a Christian entertainment ministry across some colleges in the country.
Durotoye said his team, if elected, will “degrade and dismantle Boko Haram’s insurgency completely” and resettle internally displaced persons.
Many who support the younger candidates believe they deployed the wrong strategy, and instead should have pooled their resources to form a coalition with enough reach to defeat the top two parties. “Now they’re going to be splitting votes. It’s going to make it very difficult for them to win,” said campaign volunteer Ebere Ayoka, 23.
By running now, those newer candidates could stand a chance in the 2023 presidential election, especially if they avoid the Nigerian trend of assuming “juicy positions” within the ruling party post-election. “If they continue to act as a viable opposition, this could actually change the landscape of politics,” said Olayinka Ajala, an associate lecturer at the U.K.-based University of York.
Another looming challenge for younger contenders to Nigeria’s presidency is how to compete with Western lobbyists employed by leaders Buhari and Abubakar. In the 2015 elections, Buhari’s campaign employed the services of U.S.-based AKPD Message and Media, co-founded by David Axelrod, the campaign strategist and former White House adviser to President Barack Obama.
Abubakar’s PDP employed U.S. lobbyist Ballard Partners Inc. to lead the 2019 presidential campaign. The Florida-based lobbyist also represented the governments of Mali and Turkey, among others, and worked with President Donald Trump’s electoral campaign. The PDP signed a contract paying Ballard at $90,000 per month.
Ajala described it as a trend among emerging democracies, and one that can often get pushed beyond legal lines: “Outsourcing campaigns or hiring forecasters is not illegal, as long as they don’t resort to data manipulation.”
(Update: Nigerian officials postponed the election until Feb. 23 as some states reported not receiving materials they needed to conduct the vote.)