Although Engineer Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso and Mr Peter Obi have varying sectional and ethno-religious backgrounds with the former being a Northern Muslim and Hausa-Fulani and the latter a Southern Christian and Igbo, the two politicians still have some common identities which have continued to define their political attitudes and aspirations. Kwankwaso and Obi are former governors of Anambra and Kano States respectively, who have consistently been forward-looking and fully dogged in the struggle for the actualization of their political dreams.
The two are already giant political figures whose eyes are on the presidency, because, by their own calculations, that is the only position that remains for them to occupy. They, moreover, have a history of contest as while Kwankwaso was a presidential aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015 and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2019, Obi was a presidential running mate to Atiku Abubakar on the platform of the PDP in 2019, all of which are foundations on which they can continue to build their political projects
Even with the fact that the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidates of the APC and the PDP respectively, has naturally become the most engaging political issue in the country, the nomination of Kwankwaso as a presidential flag bearer of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and Obi as the candidate of the Labour Party (LP) is yet another political reality that has already generated tremendous interest. Their current participation in the race will definitely, in one way or another, influence a lot of possibilities that have already begun to characterize the on-going politicking as much as it will determine the outcome of the forthcoming 2023 elections.
Although both the Kwankwaso’s NNPP and the Obi’s LP are not given any reasonable consideration as reliable instruments that can be deployed to capture power, the enormous political weight of the two candidates is a factor that continuously necessitates a constant evaluation of their styles with a view to predicting the quantity of the influence that their contest will have over the entire process. While it is easy for a lot of people to rule out Kwankwaso and/or Obi as the winners of the presidential election, it looks completely impossible to just conclude that their contest is not a matter of concern to the APC and the PDP.
The issues around each one of them are, depending on the context in which they are analyzed, either specifically an advantage or otherwise to them as individual contestants. Just like all the other politicians, Kwankwaso and Obi are champions of some interests and are, in their own case, even agents of some sentiments that are anything but features or ingredients of national politics.
The two of them are most unlikely to be unaware of the absolute dismissal of their ambitions as unrealizable by a lot of Nigerians; an argument that is built on the real and perceived weaknesses of the platforms on which they are contesting and some dominant negative perceptions about each one them and which are being regularly re-enforced by some unpopular tendencies that they manifest in the course of their political interactions. NNPP’s rate of spread in even those areas or states where Kwankwaso considers as his support base and the LP’s opportunities in the South-East which is Obi’s original home and from where the party is expected to generate huge strength that it can use to penetrate other places are far less than what was imagined.
Additionally, both of them are, by a certain judgement, provincial politicians whose respective visions are not broad enough to accommodate even the basic aspirations of the peoples of places other than the ones from where they have hailed. Kwankwaso is as strange in the South-East or even the whole of the South as Obi is in the North, which means that neither of them can pull any reasonable votes from areas other than his, which precisely means that each is, more or less, a regional political hero whose influence is evidently limited.
Kwankwaso, having founded the Kwankwasiyya Movement which he continuously sustains and uses to intimidate his opponents, comes across as a gladiator whose capacity for the manipulation of the political process in his immediate environment is immense. His unrivalled popularity in Kano State which is Nigeria’s most populous geo-political entity and strong presence in some other Northern States are realities that have made him a prominent politician who visibly enjoys tremendous respect of some critical segments of the Northern political class.
But most of those factors that have constituted the basis of his popularity and prominence in some parts of the North are the reason for the extreme attack to which he is subjected in the Obi’s South-East and other parts of the South. Kwankwaso is to, for example, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPoB) an agent of the alleged Northern hegemony to which the group is vehemently opposed and therefore a bad news that should not be tolerated by all Igbos and, by extension, Southerners.
The story is same about Obi in the North as he is, certainly not without some good reasons, tagged as one of the chief promoters of all the divisive and the anti-North sentiments that are the basis of the IPoB’s agitation. The unarguably dominant perception that the activities of IPoB to which Obi is fully associated are practical expressions of the Igbo’s design to antagonize and cripple the North and its peoples has already made Obi a very hard sale in the region.
All these are the basic issues about Kwankwaso and Obi that will continue to constitute a hindrance to any proposal or recommendation for a merger or alliance between them for the purpose of the contest for the presidency. It is yet to be seen how Kwankwaso and Obi, even as bearers of the same flag, can be helpful to each other, considering the fact that they represent conflicting sentiments and interests.
This explains the apparent collapse of almost all the efforts towards the concretization of the merger or collaboration idea with each one of them now weighing other options that can be beneficial to him. The Kwankwaso’s outright dismissal of the proposal that he should agree to be Obi’s presidential running mate and the latter’s clear determination to hold on to his ticket are an evidence that each will continue to run for the presidency Independent of the other, thereby validating the argument that each one of them can be only a spoiler of other people’s chances and not winner of election.