Our country men and women have been baptised with new names, ahead of the 2023 polls: Not even the major political players could have predicted the outcome of the primaries that produced Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu (APC), Atiku Abubakar (PDP) and Peter Obi (LP) as presidential candidates of Nigeria’s frontline parties.
Even before the emergence of the baptismal names, the Labour Party (LP) candidate, whose popularity soared after he left the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), demonstrated clear intelligence in tackling some of the problems haranguing the country. So far, Obi has shown himself as someone who can turn a new page for a nation suffering poor leadership, made worse by greedy politicians.
Before the primaries, no one envisaged a third contender, outside the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the PDP. Many had predicted that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was the man to beat for the APC presidential ticket, as Tinubu had fallen out of favour with members of the Buhari’s kitchen cabinet when he boasted that he was solely responsible for the former Head of State’s emergence as President in 2015.
In the PDP, it was uncertain who held the four aces. Governor Nyesom Wike, who had stood for the party, looked good to give Atiku a good run for his money. In the case of both Osinbajo and Wike, perception did not turn out to be a reality. Their presidential dreams were scuttled by the old horses that were more experienced in the power game. For the vice president, there was no way he could challenge the conspiracy of power against him without causing a storm in the presidency.
For the Rivers’ helmsman, his defeat in the primary election conducted in Abuja was orchestrated by the National Chairman of the PDP, Dr Iyorchia Ayu. The Chairman, according to Wike, never spared any effort to ensure Atiku emerged winner of the PDP presidential ticket. Till now, the reverberations of the PDP primaries are yet to be resolved, as several meetings to reduce tension are fast becoming a bushfire.
Obi proved himself a wise man when, a few weeks to the PDP primaries, he defected to the Labour Party. Considering the trajectory of past PDP’s primaries that are often decided on the quantum of dollars offered to delegates by aspirants, the former Anambra governor knew he stood no chance against the established order controlled by Atiku and others in possession of bottomless wealth to emerge winner.
In refusing to join the PDP bandwagon and drink the sour waters of defeat, Obi succeeded in creating a platform that is giving both his former party and the ruling APC sleepless nights. How does someone who is a presidential candidate of a party that is not so popular be threatening the two major parties? While some have dismissed the social media status as merely without structures, many marches and solidarity walks in support of Obi in various parts of the country have shown that ignoring the LP candidate can only be at one’s detriment.
The truth is that the LP presidential candidate is a force to be reckoned with and the internal bickering within the folds of both the PDP and the APC is only strengthening the support of the OBIdient forces. The support for Obi is not hinged on any ideological platform, but on protest votes against the old politicians that have ruled and mismanaged the country. A vote for the APC or the PDP, OBIdients insist, is an endorsement for the Old Order to continue throwing citizens into the bottomless pit of hopelessness and despair.
For many analysts before the primaries, Osinbajo stood a chance of continuing the APC’s hold on power after the party wrested power from the PDP in 2015. His defeat in the primaries and the choice of a Muslim-Muslim ticket by Tinubu is fast proving an albatross for the APC that rode to power on the popularity of General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).
Ahead of the 2023 polls, the support base of Tinubu has been tremendously weakened, largely among Northern Christian population over choice of a Muslim as vice presidential candidate. In the heat of the struggle for the nomination of a running mate; it was already a settled matter for a Muslim candidate to be picked, as prominent APC leaders said the choice was based on competence and not religion. For a nation that has enshrined the principles of Federal Character and the need to promote inclusiveness of all groups and sections, the choice of Senator Kashim Shettima as running mate has sparked off debates as key Northern Christian members of the APC fulminated against the Muslim-Muslim ticket. It is not in doubt that Northern Christians have attracted the sympathy of the largely Southern Christian population in trouncing the Tinubu/Shettima ticket.
To some, the election of Tinubu will amount to the continuation of Buhari’s government that is said to have plunged the nation into an irrecoverable hole of both local and foreign debts. The vow by the ‘Jagaban Borgu’ that he was committed to continuing where President Buhari stopped has attracted public revulsion. Considering the footprints of the APC-led government in the last seven and half years, not many are ready to walk on such a path again.
For Atiku, many see him as a symbol for repeating the burden of another eight years by another Northern Muslim of Fulani extraction. Though some are quick to state he is not Fulani; the South and many communities in the North-central region are hard to be convinced that the ‘Wazirin Adamawa’ is not a Fulani. In the heat of massacres unleashed on Benue Communities by herdsmen in the past, Atiku had dismissed the atrocious attacks unleashed on defenceless Benue citizens, stressing that though, a Fulani man; he was detribalised. The question on the lips of many ethnic minorities of the North and Southerners is: Should another Fulani man be trusted to rule for another eight years?
For a party that seeks to wrest power from an incumbent administration, the internal crises rocking the PDP is a distraction that many see may turn out costly. With the pro-Wike camp unwilling to sheathe the sword for peace, Atiku’s last chance in ascending Nigeria’s presidency is not assured.
Out of the three candidates, Obi walks on silent waters, with crises in the other two parties contributing to his rising profile as the man who may likely breast the tape in 2023. However, that depends on so many factors, including the willingness of OBIdients to deploy their PVCs and walk their candidate to the corridors of power.
The order by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) that Igbos observe each day of the week a work-free in many South-east states is a pointer that the region cannot be exhuming the old bones of secession and at the same time seeking to enthrone Igbo Presidency. Though it must be quickly noted here that a region’s total support for a presidential candidate of its extraction may not always be feasible, as was seen in the South-west’s choice of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999; IPOB’s activities, no doubt, rub off negatively on the presidential dream of an Igbo politician.
The rising anger of Nigerian citizens against the choice of Tinubu and Atiku as presidential candidates is inspiring the electorate to embrace the Obi/Datti ticket. The combination of Obi and owner of Baze University, Abuja, Dr Yusuf Datti, obliterates the Achilles’ heel of both the PDP and APC candidates. Obi’s vision resonates with the youth. Some of the politically inspired processions organised by OBIdients in many parts of the country have attracted large turnouts, even when the party does not give ‘shishi”.
Ahead of 2023, Obi has become the star that may upstage the old horses and retire them from politics. How far Obi walks the tight ropes to the presidency will largely depend on how the old horses manage their weaknesses and rebound themselves to relevance in a nation where citizens are resolved to end the blisters of oppression caused by bad governance.
As it stands today, any presidential candidate or their supporters who whimsically ignore Obi’s rising profile only courts defeat. In the protest of Nigerian youths and others against the old order; the LP candidate has found a solid foundation for his presidential dream. The LP as a party may not win 20 seats in the National Assembly; getting the party to enthrone governors in three states may be a tall dream, but those rooting for Obi are not giving up. If eventually, Obi is elected as president, negotiation with other parties will commence for a mutual working relationship with the legislative arm.
For the BATists and Atikulators, the army of OBIdients of no party structures must be dreaded. Nothing is certain for now, but in the womb of time, everything shall be unveiled.