Ahead of 2019 presidential elections, party candidates, besides those of ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and major opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are positioning to take over the top seat, ORJIME MOSES writes.
Conclusion of presidential primaries of most political parties, signalled that battle for the presidency, next year, is taking a definite shape.
Unlike past presidential polls, 2019 election will be battle of egg-heads, technocrats, IT-czars, business men and tested politicians. On virtual political landscape, battles would be fought on social media while, for entrenched parties, the tussle for votes is likely to result in geo-political upsets.
Interestingly there are, so far, over 79 presidential candidates, highest ever in history of presidential polls in Nigeria. In 1959 parliamentary election, wherein the party that won highest number of parliamentary seats produced prime minister, there were four major parties, four minor parties and two independents totaling, 10 contestants. Their names are National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, (NCNC); Action group, (AG); Northern Elements Progressive Union, (NEPU); Niger Delta Congress, (NDC); Mabolaje Grand Alliance, (MGA); Igala Union; and Igbira Union.
For the other presidential elections, the number of candidates were as follows: 1979 (5), 1983 (6), 1993 (2), 1999 (2), 2003 (20), 2007 (27), 2011 (20) and 2015 (14).
There were few female candidates then as well unlike in 2019, where out of the 79 presidential candidates are women namely, former minister of education, Mrs Obi Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, (ACPN) and Mrs. Eunice Atuejide of the National Interest Party, (NIP), and former governorship aspirant in Delta State, Alliance for a United Nigeria (AUN), Princess Onwodi Modupe Nana. This however is still a far cry from 11 as expected to meet the 35 percent gender Affirmative Action.
For some pundits, fewer number of women, even in this dispensation, shows little improvements in response of stakeholders on need to do more to boost women empowerment and participation in politics. For others, measurable progress has been made.
Women were not on political radar in 1999, when only two candidates, Gen Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) of PDP and Chief Olu Falae, the compromise candidate of Alliance for Democracy, (AD) and defunct, All Peoples Party, (APP), battled for presidency.
Female candidate got on ballot for first time, in this republic, in 2003 presidential election which so far remains their best attempt at occupying Aso Villa. Of the 20 presidential candidates, two were women – Mrs Sarah Jubril of the Progressive Action Congress, (PAC), and Major Mojisola Adekunle Obasanjo, (retd) of the Masses Movement of Nigeria, (MMN).
While Major Obasanjo polled 3,757 votes at that election, Mrs Jubril scored 157,560 votes, highest any woman has got in a presidential election in Nigeria. Ever since, the fortunes of women have not fared well at presidential polls.
In a poll of 27 candidates in 2007, there was only one woman – Major Obasanjo, who garnered 4,309 votes. In 2011, with 63 political parties and 20 presidential candidates, only one woman, Ebiti Ndok of the United National Party for Development, (UNPD) featured on the ballot. She polled 21, 2017 votes. Mrs. Sarah Jubril’s efforts to be on the presidential ballot did not materialise that year. She managed one vote at the PDP presidential primary.
In 2015, the poor run of women continued. Prof Oluremi Sonaiya, was the only female in a crowd of 14 presidential standard bearers and she garnered 13,076 votes, despite winning hearts of electorates with her passionate narratives and easy confidence. In 2019, hopes of increase in level of awareness and strategic engagement by female candidates will be pivotal to better performance of women-folk.
In this political dispensation, only 89 of the 91 political parties, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), will be contesting the presidential election.
Apart from President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, (APC); Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP; Pastor Chris Okotie of the Fresh Democratic Party, (FDP); and Alhaji Yahaya Ndu of the African Renaissance Party, (ARP) that can be dubbed veteran presidential candidates, there are replete fresh but known faces aspiring for Nigeria’s topmost job in 2019.
The new faces, who are expected to add bite and color to the presidential election include; former deputy governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), and United Nations consultant, Prof Kingsley Moghalu; erudite economist and former deputy governor of CBN, Dr. Obadiah Mailafia.
Others are, Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Mr. Omoyele Sowore; former Minister of Education during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and World Bank Vice President, Dr Oby Ezekwesili; former Chief Security officer, CSO to late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, retd; and business man and former National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim.
Most of these new entrants in the presidential race have a network of foreign and local connections and have been projecting paradigm shifts on how to address the myriad of Nigeria’s socio-economic, political and developmental challenges. Some of them have traversed the length and breadth of the country wooing the electorate. Whether any of them will wear the crown is a question of time.
The new faces are: Mr. Donald Duke, Social Democratic Party, (SDP); Mr Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, Alliance for New Nigeria, (ANN); Mr. Omoyele Sowore, African Action Congress, (AAC); Mrs Obi Ezekwesili, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, (ACPN);
Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, African Democratic Congress, (ADC);
Prof Kingsley Moghalu, Young Progressive Party, (YPP); Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, (retd) Peoples Party of Nigeria, (PPN); Hon. Habib Mohammed Gajo, Young Democratic Party, (YDP); Major General John Gbor, All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA); Ali Soyode, (YES Party).
Others are Dr. Davidson Isibor Akhimien, Grassroots Development Party of Nigeria, (GDPN); Ike Keke, New Nigerian Peoples Party, (NNPP); Apostle Sunday Chukwu-Eguzolugo, Justice Must Prevail Party, (JMPP); Mrs. Eunice Atuejide, National Interest Party, (NIP); Hamisu Santuraki, Mega Party of Nigeria, (MPN); Hon. Edozie Madu, Independent Democrat Party, (IDP); Prof. Peter Nwangwu, We the People of Nigeria Party, (WPNP); Mr. Ahmed Bee Buhari, Sustainable National Party, (SNP); Mr. Tope Fasua, Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party, (ANRP); Mr. Ade Fagbenro Bryon, Kowa Party; Moses Shipi, All Blending Party, (ABP); Alhaji Yahaya Ndu, African Renaissance Party, (ARP).
There is also Mr. Chuks Nwachukwu, All Grassroots Alliance (AGA); Pastor Habu Aminchi, Peoples Democratic Movement, (PDM); Yabagi Yusuf Sani, Action democratic Party, (ADP); Mr. Babatunde Ademola, Nigeria Community Movement Party, (NCMP); Mr. Martin Onovo, Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, (CNPP).
Some pundits point to the groundswell call for youth involvement in politics in this dispensation as spurring some new entrants in the presidental race.
Others aver that failure of past and present leaders to meet expectation of the people remains the trigger. Still, while some candidates are perceived as scheming to bask on the angst and widespread demands for change of leadership to sail politically, others are driven by genuine desire to provoke the political waters through altering political traditions.
But the hurdles before these new candidates are instructive. Besides contesting on the platform of perceived smaller parties, there seems to be an unwritten rule between the two major parties, APC and PDP, that the presidency should alternate, typically, every eight years between the north and the south.
It is currently the north’s turn, and candidates of both major parties are from there. As such minor party candidates with southern candidates are seen to be running against the tide.
What’s more, new presidential candidates face daunting challenges of financial warchest and national spread, which APC and PDP have.
But it would seem the candidates are undettered. They press on against odds, hoping against hope that they can clinch the top job or at best, cause a significant shift in the political firmament.
Their campaign narratives and messaging, as the presidential campaigns official flag off, hints of no fear.
Presidential candidate of Young Progressive Party (YPP) Prof Kingsley Moghalu, said the party would work with others and persuade Nigerians to vote out Buhari in 2019.
The former CBN deputy governor, said , “I am in the race for the presidency based on a vision I have for my country , which is one of nation – building to create a united country that works for all of us . I want to provide leadership that is beyond mere politics , establish an educational system fit for purpose in the 21st century for our kids.
“Nigerian security outfits are protecting regimes and not Nigerians . This government is very subversive and has no respect for the rule of law . This is an invitation to anarchy. Buhari must go and Nigerians will reject him through the ballot .”
Similarly, Oby Ezekwesili, advances her populist approach as means to raise money to fund her campaign. She added that it was time women took more active role in governance at national level.
She noted that as an academic , she had understudied the country and had solutions to its challenges.
Many people, according to her, have shown support for her aspirations and she believes she can galvanise more Nigerians to actualise her aspiration of serving as Nigeria’s next president.
“Absolutely, I know it is possible for me to beat President Muhammadu Buhari because Nigerians are tired of his government and they are fed up with the empty promises that they made that they will bring a change,” she said.
“It is time to effect the real change , different from what the APC is doing. It is time we had a woman as the president of this country ; we need serious change,’ she added.
The SDP candidate and former Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, said if he gets the number one job, he will take the nation to the next level. He believes that victory is at hand, in spite of the dominance of the two political parties.
He said , “The reality is that it is not easy to dislodge an incumbent president , especially given the larger than life image and resources available to the party in power.
“It is not confidence but hard fact. The country wants a younger person as President in 2019.
“Some people say they are more popular, but the question I want to ask is that if they are popular why do they rig elections ? My answer is that they rig because they are not popular. They rig because they know they cannot win in a free and fair election.
“Those who raise hundreds of billions for elections should be asked how they got the money. It is the money for education , health and other facilities for the masses that they are stealing. We need to put an end to that,” he said.
Meanwhile, presidential candidate of the National Action Council, Dr. Olapade Agoro, recently at party’s national convention, expressed confidence of defeating the incumbent president.
He said , “I draw the confidence to send Buhari out next year from what I can do as a leader . Buhari is sitting on a cankerworm of corruption . Until we address the issue of corruption properly , we cannot address the issue of poverty . What our youths are doing is far smaller than what they are capable of doing . Politics is for service and not a way of amassing huge wealth .
“It is not everybody that claims to be in leadership position that knows what it entails . My purpose is to bring real change into the affairs of this country and that is why we are going to win .”
The presidential candidate of KOWA Party , Dr. Adesina Fagbenro -Byron , boasted that he was in the contest to win and that he did not need to raise too much money.
“Goodluck Jonathan had more access to funds than Buhari in 2015 but money could not save him ,” he added .
Fagbenro – Byron , who is a development expert and former regional coordinator of United Kingdom ’s Department for International Development , said he would win because he meant serious business .
He said , “Yes , I ’m in the contest to win and I have confidence that I will win. One of the issues we have is security and it is the failure in governance that has led to the current state of insecurity , which is why we need to change the current government .”
When asked whether he jumped on the offer to get popular, given the dominance of popular parties, he said , “If you know my history, you would know I don ’t need the popularity . If I wanted to be popular, I would go into the studio and record an album with Falz . I am 59 and what I ’m doing is not for frivolous reasons , having been in the business of governance and development for over 25 years .”
In his own response , the candidate of African Action Congress , Mr . Omoyele Sowore , said with the phenomenal progress his campaign had made , he is confident he would win the election.
Speaking on his strategy to win the race , Sowore , said , “I convened the largest political movement this nation has ever seen , called the ‘Take it Back Movement’ , which now has chapters across all continents , Nigeria ’s states and local government areas . We have held town hall meetings to engage Nigerians both within the country and in the Diaspora. I make bold to say that no one has worked as hard as we have done to engage with Nigerians and spread our message of transformation and progress .”
Candidate of AUN, Nana, said she will win “because Nigerians want something New and fresh. The young want young people like them. Fresh Ideas are in digital age and the analog can catch up with the times. The newly registered over 14 Million voters will not settle for the Old order and are ready to take their Place.”
As an example, she expressed her belief in restructuring of Nigeria. “I have a re-orientation programme that will be Unit based. I also have a theory to boom the economy using the young, feminine and diabled Nigerians to accomplish it. I have a theory to improve foreign Relations to the benefit of all Nigerians.
“My other major focus will be on food security. I will improve workers productivity, salaries, general welfare healthcare and set up a retirement package. I have job creation as part of my development paradigm. Ideas will not only be explored but implemented.
“Citizens rights will be enforced as well as Justice for all. Youngsters and senior citizens will have a special place in my administration. Qualifications and efficiency will supersede gender, tribe, class, religion or last name . There will be appropriate fine for law breakers,” Nana concluded.
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