In the aftermath of major political parties concluding their presidential primaries and presenting their candidates for the top job, Daily Trust on Sunday takes a look at how the epic battle between a former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, vying on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and a leader of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, will be won come 2023, especially with two political juggernauts in the persons of Rabiu Kwankwaso and Peter Obi also in the reckoning for the presidency.
With a former governor, Kano State, Engr Rabiu Kwankwaso flying the ticket of the presumed ‘beautiful bride,’ the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi that of the Labour Party (LP), it is believed that the 2023 presidential contest would not just be the fiercest, it would be the most unpredictable and intriguing election in the democratic history of Nigeria.
Kwankwaso, the game-changer in North
As a two-term governor of the populous Kano State, former minister of defence and a senator, Kwankwaso, who will be counting on his massive, cult-like followership in Kano, parts of Jigawa and Katsina, will be a deciding factor in who wins the 2023 presidential election.
Barring any future alliance with any of the main contestants for the presidency, Kwankwaso will be polling most of the Kano votes, especially as Senator Ibrahim Shekarau, himself a former governor of Kano, has pitched tent with him.
Also, the gale of defections of key politicians, mainly from the ruling APC, to Kwankwaso’s NNPP, will greatly impact on the fortunes of both Atiku and Tinubu in the northwestern states, which are famed to churn out the highest votes in national elections.
As it stands, the fate of the PDP and APC is not certain in Kano due to the nerve- wrecking incursions the NNPP has made in the political landscape of the state.
The ranks of the ‘new bride’ were bolstered over a month ago when crisis hit the APC following the alleged marginalisation of some members, whose disgruntlement eventually made them dump the ruling party for the new one.
The crisis split the party into two factions after it conducted parallel congresses for the officials at the ward, local government and state levels.
While one of the factions was loyal to the state governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, the other was led by a former governor of the state, now a senator representing Kano Central, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau.
The lawmakers that defected to the NNPP were Abdullahi Iliyasu Yaryasa, member, representing Tudun Wada constituency; Muhd Bello Butu Butu, member representing Tofa/Rimin Gado constituency and Kabiru Yusuf Ismail, member representing Madobi constituency.
A week earlier, 10 lawmakers of the PDP in the same state House of Assembly had defected to the NNPP.
The lawmakers were Isyaku Ali Danja of Gezawa constituency; Umar Musa Gama of Nassarawa constituency; Aminu Sa’adu Ungogo of Ungogo constituency; Lawan Hussain Chediyar ‘Yan Gurasa of Dala constituency and Tukur Muhammad of Fagge constituency.
Analysts believe that though Kwankwaso’s party does not have the national spread and political structure to clinch the presidency, it will give the APC and the PDP a run for their money, at least in some parts of the North West. So it is believed that whoever he decides to pull his weight behind, between Atiku and Tinubu, he would carry the day.
Will Obi’s social media rave have impact?
Peter Obi, the Labour Party (LP) candidate who left the PDP few days to the party’s presidential primary in which Atiku emerged the candidate, is currently a social media sensation. The youth in their thousands are raving about his candidature on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other platforms, but there are concerns that that may not translate into votes during the 2023 elections as most of them do not have voter’s cards.
Though Obi is a former two term governor of Anambra State and was the vice presidential candidate for Atiku in 2019, it is believed that his lack of political influence beyond his home state would be his greatest undoing in the election. Besides, his party platform, the LP, being devoid of national presence, will be an anathema to many voters willing to help his ambition to become the first Igbo man to ascend the presidency of the country.
But for his eloquence and ability to communicate explicitly, his plans on how to tackle insecurity, the economy and youth unemployment, as well as his relatively ‘young age’, largely regarded as representing the new order, compared to Atiku and Tinubu, who are perceived as belonging to the old political stock, Obi is bound to get swing votes from citizens who are shorn of religious, regional and ethnic sentiments that becloud Nigerian politics and define voting patterns.
Buttressing this point of view, the director-general of the Peter Obi Presidential Campaign Organisation, Dr Doyin Okupe, in interviews to media houses, stressed that his team would raise about 30 million voters for Obi to emerge victorious at the presidential poll.
Okupe, who ditched his presidential ambition for Obi, was dispelling assertions in some quarters that the former Anambra governor does not have the political structure to win a presidential election.
The former special assistant on media and publicity to President Olusegun Obasanjo was full of optimism that the LP candidate would become the next president of Nigeria because he was the best and brightest among the quartet vying for the top job.
“We have a saleable candidate. We have a candidate that is adjudged to be the best in Nigeria currently. We have a currency that is comparable to none. Peter Obi, in terms of currency, is the sure bet that’s available politically in Nigeria today. It is impossible for any political party to produce any candidate that can match him in terms of performance and integrity. He has over-proven that he is a man that has integrity. In terms of antecedents, what he did in Anambra State is classic and exemplary,” he added.
Analysts give damning verdict
A political analyst, Mr Jackson Lekan Ojo, says the contest for the presidency is between Atiku and Tinubu. He, however, said that the Kwankwaso and Obi candidacies would have tremendous impact on who comes out top of the 2023 presidential election.
He said the North’s unifying factor, religion and ethnicity would be decisive in the historical contest.
“People from the North are always united by religion and ethnicity, and their voting pattern will be along those lines. So, I strongly believe that at the end of the day, Kwankwaso will be donating his votes to Atiku,” he said.
He said the monolithic North, defined by Islam and Hausa/Fulani ethnicity, do not see Tinubu as a pure Muslim, so they would be voting massively for Atiku.
He, however, said Tinubu would win Kano and Borno because of his formidable alliances with the Kano State governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and a former Borno governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima.
Speaking further, he said the choice of Tinubu’s running mate might give him more votes in the North.
Lekan-Ojo also said Tinubu would find it difficult to get block votes from his turf, the South West, because of his long standing disagreement with the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere and some Yoruba elders.
On the part of Obi, he said categorically that he would struggle to win a local government in the South East, claiming that Igbo politicians will channel their votes to where they will bargain for political positions and leave Obi in limbo.
Also speaking, an analyst and Dean, Faculty of Management Sciences at the Kogi State-owned Prince Abubakar Audu University, Anyigba, Prof John Alabi, said the emergence of Obi and Kwakwanso would encourage a healthy competition.
He however argued that notwithstanding the influence of the duo of Kwankwaso and Obi, they lack the spread and all it takes to spring any surprise in the 2023 election.
He said: “The two major political parties are entrenched and have larger political followers which are along ethnic and religious lines, and it is so because we don’t have ideologies.
“However, can they (Obi and Kwankwaso) spring any surprise? I don’t think so; they are local champions in these areas; they don’t have the spread that these other traditional parties have, particularly the duo of Atiku and Tinubu. They (Tinubu and Atiku) are both strategists; they have been long in this trade; they have followers across the 36 states of this federation.
“In terms of structure and resources, they have them; they are heavily loaded and they are ready to spend. Obi and Kwankwaso will only bring to the fore, the dilution of the votes in the North West and South East but I don’t see them springing any surprise. Nigeria politics has not grown beyond the primordial sentiments of money, ethnicity and religion.”
On his part, a Professor of Economic History, Yakubu Ochefu said of the duo, he sees Obi as having the competitive edge in terms of reach to the Nigerian electorates especially the youths’ population.
Ahead of the deadline for candidates to submit their running mates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday, Tinubu dropped the name of Alhaji Kabir Ibrahim Masari. Daily Trust on Sunday understands that Tinubu dropped his name as a place holder ahead of INEC’s deadline for parties to submit the names of their candidates for the 2023 elections.
Sources in the camp of Tinubu and Masari confirmed this to Daily Trust on Sunday Thursday evening.
Alhaji Kabir hails from Masari, a village in Kafur Local Government Area of Katsina State
The kinsman of Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State served as national welfare secretary of the ruling party during the tenure of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as national chairman.
With the different permutations heralding the emergence of Atiku, Tinubu, Kwankwaso and Obi as prominent presidential candidates in the 2023 elections, it is a long shot from now to say with any iota of certainty, who would emerge victorious in the contest. Perhaps what is certain is that it will be the most fascinating presidential election in Nigeria’s wobbling democracy.