The 2023 electioneering has peaked in Nigeria and candidates at various levels are going for the jugular, soliciting the support of the electorate. As expected, all eyes are on the presidential race, described as a four-horse race going by the strength and popularity of the four leading candidates.
The candidates include Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (All Progressives Congress, APC), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar (Peoples Democratic Party, PDP), Mr Peter Obi (Labour Party, LP) and Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian Peoples’ Party (NNPP).
With the lifting of ban on political campaigns by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the candidates have started a tour of states, holding a series of town hall meetings with different stakeholders to sell their candidatures.
However, of critical importance in the electioneering is how wives of leading candidates have equally taken the front seats in driving support for their husbands as the 2023 elections approach.
Leading in this is the wife of the APC presidential candidate, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, who is not new in the political terrain. She was First Lady between 1999 and 2007 when her husband was the governor of Lagos State. She has also been in the Senate in the last 11 years, representing the Lagos Central district.
Certainly, she is not new to the politics of Nigeria, its intrigues and the dynamics, and having relinquished the senatorial ticket, being the First Lady of Nigeria would definitely be her ultimate target and the icing on the cake in her political journey.
This is why she has been on the forefront of mobilising support for her husband’s ambition, especially from the womenfolk.
With the support of the First Lady of Nigeria, Mrs Aisha Buhari, who chairs the women campaign team of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Mrs Tinubu, alongside the wife of the running mate, Hajiya Nana Kashim Shettima, has been visiting many states to campaign.
Senator Tinubu and her team were in Benue last week to commiserate with victims of the recent flood disaster, where she also announced a donation of N10million to ameliorate the plight of the victims.
She also donated relief materials worth several millions of naira to the displaced victims.
Tinubu said that out of the N10m donated, N50,000 would be given to each of the 200 profiled flood victims in Benue State.
Although she said her visit in the state was not to campaign for her husband or anyone but to commiserate with the victims of the flood disaster, observers said the visit, coming at the peak of electioneering, was most strategic, more so when Benue is not an APC state.
From Benue, Tinubu and her team also visited Bayelsa, where more people were displaced by flood. She also announced a donation of N50m to victims.
Also, Senator Tinubu, on Wednesday received members of the League of Yoruba Imams in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and a delegation from the FCT Yoruba Community as part of consultation with critical stakeholders ahead of the election.
Similarly, the wife of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Titi, has continued to rally women across the country in support of her husband’s ambition.
She has attended several for a, including the inauguration of the Atiku-Okowa Vanguard Nigeria recently in Abuja, where she assured that her husband had the magic wand to turn around the fortunes of Nigeria.
She appealed to Nigerian women and youths for support, saying that her husband was well prepared to rescue the country and bring it back to working ways.
“If my husband is elected, I will do more for Nigerian children and women. Atiku has promised women and youths 40 per cent in the cabinet. He is a man of his words and he will do it, but it is you alone that can make it happen.
“I am appealing to you, our women and youths not to sell your conscience and your tomorrow but rather to stand for the right thing and your tomorrow will be better because Atiku will bring back Nigeria’s lost glory,” she stated.
Mrs Abubakar also recently launched the SHE campaign in Abuja, which she described as an all-inclusive good governance initiative, which prioritises security, health and education to address gender, age and inequalities in the country.
“The SHE Campaign, through its future projects and current maiden initiative (S.H.E 2 Grow Nigeria) seeks to establish inclusive development programmes based on good governance principles that activate, advocate and allocate the security, health care and education sectors as priority intervention areas to address gender, age and ability based inequalities in Nigeria,” she said.
Also, the wife of Peter Obi, Margaret, has been visible around her husband as the campaign progresses.
Analysts said that considering the role women play in providing support for their husbands, many Nigerians expect to see husbands of candidates going side by side with their husbands.
Besides, women tend to appeal more to their counterparts who constitute the largest voting bloc when they join their husbands in campaign or go out soliciting support for their husbands.
Figures from the World Bank indicate that women make up 49.32 per cent of Nigeria’s population, and so, they actively participate in choosing representatives at different levels, and the 2023 elections would not be an exception.
This is why the wives of presidential candidates are currently appealing to the womenfolk to support their candidates.
Weighing in on the role of women, political scientists say women cannot be divorced from the ongoing electioneering at all levels more so when wives of candidates aspire to be First Lady, either at the state or national level.
An associate professor of Political Science, University of Lagos, Kayode Esuola said, “I think it is a good development for the wives of the presidential aspirants to be actively involved in the campaigns of their husbands.
“One, it shows that the person is in control of his own home. Being an African worldview, we need to know that the home is not divided for us to be able to trust you. In fact, being married is part of what we consider as bring responsible in this part of the world. To that extent, it is a good thing.
“Two, on the logic that the voice of the woman appeals to fellow women more, a woman would be able to, during interaction with other women, tap into their sentiment, identify their needs, seek their yearnings and aspirations; and data from there can assist the husband in policy formulation and suggestion. So it is a good one.”
He also said that despite the fear about politics being a dirty game, it still does not preclude women who are wives of the candidates from playing their roles.
“The slogan that politics is a dirty game is not cast in iron. It is not a finality of opinion. It is dirty to the extent that the politician can go to any extent to be able to achieve power. But that does not mean that it should not be played by any gender. Dirty as politics is, wives of presidential aspirants should be very actively involved in passing the messages of their husbands to the public. That does not portend any negative implication to me; perhaps it can only make it better,” he added.
Another political scientist, Professor Gbade Ojo, said the fact that a woman becomes the first lady when her husband is elected as either president or governor is enough reason for her to be deeply involved in the electioneering.
She said, “Ordinarily, when the man is elected, the wife becomes first lady. So it is normal for the women to work hard supporting their husbands.
“Women constitute a large chunk of the electorate, and they have the patience to wait at polling units to cast their ballots, even under inclement weather. The wives are critical stakeholders that can mobilise the womenfolk in support of their aspiring husbands.”
But analysts said each wife of presidential candidates had a lot of work to do in winning the heart of women, who are said to be at the receiving end of the high rate of poverty in the country, worsened by inflation and high cost of food items.
As the electioneering takes shape, it is obvious that the wives of the presidential candidates would be more visible in campaigning for their husbands. Nigerians are anxious to see who becomes the next First Lady among them as the 2023 presidential election inches nearer.