The next presidential election will hold on Saturday, February 18, 2023. Although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised to publish the time-table after the Anambra State governorship elections in November, this year, it is safe to assume that, by the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 which commands parties to submit the list of their candidates 60 days to the election, the All Progressives Congress must submit the name of its candidate by Monday, December 19, 2022.
For the candidate to emerge, Article 20 of the APC Constitution prescribes two options: democratically conducted election at the respective national conventions or congress or a consensus provided that the choice undergoes ratification to avoid imposition and promote harmony. The latest date that the law gives the APC to hold that convention is Saturday, December 10, 2022. This is about 19 months, almost 580 days to go.
Who will not fly the flag? Although the 1999 Constitution gives every Nigerian above 40 years the right to aspire to be president, the principle of federal character, enshrined in Section 14 (3) mandates democratic institutions to conduct and constitutional processes to be conducted „in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or other sectional groups in that government or any of its agencies“,
This provision informs the zoning arrangement adopted by parties in presenting the candidates depending on the spatial circumstances. For the presidency and given historical precedent and political evolution, a North/South template that recognizes the ongoing eight-year presidency of President Muhammadu Buhari as representing the North implies that APC is not expected to field a presidential candidate from the North.
Who does the cap fit in the South? Demographics are key to mapping the trajectories to the presidential choice from the South. The South is populated by over 100 ethnic nationalities but the populous nations with significant electoral capacity, that is, the ability to deliver votes are the Yoruba and the Igbo. The World Population Review puts Nigeria‘s live population as of June 10, 2021, at 211,112,388. Not less than 21 per cent, (44.3 million) is Yoruba and 18 per cent (38 million) is Igbo.
For successful prognosis, ethnic identity must be measured against party affiliation and apathy. It is sufficient for our purpose to state that affiliation with the APC is low among the Igbo compared to the Yoruba, a situation that recent defections of influential politicians from the East seek to correct. Although two states, Imo and Ebonyi, have turned APC and there are prospects of more decamps before the presidential convention, the factors of ethnic identity and party affiliation favour the Yoruba presidential contenders in the party than their Igbo counterparts.
In this regard, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s contributions towards building a formidable opposition and constructing the APC as a platform for contesting power and administering government must be considered. This process began with his movement from the Alliance for Democracy in 2006 due to irreconcilable differences with the Afenifere, the influential faction of the party. The 2007 general elections in Lagos State retired the old guards electorally and proclaimed the newly-formed Action Congress as the new kids on the block. The party won the governorship, House of Assembly and National Assembly elections in Lagos State. In 2008, it recorded massive landslides in the local government elections.
These electoral victories were the people’s rewards for the progressive accomplishments of the Tinubu administration in eight years of governing Lagos State.
Between 2007 and 2014, the Action Congress of Nigeria took control of five states, a testimony to Tinubu’s forensic tactics and strategic sagacity. Without these antecedents, the idea of a merger with the Congress for Progressive Change, whose 12 million votes at the presidential polls, translated to a single mandate for the governor of Nasarawa State could not have happened.
Indeed, the fact that the CPC which had partnered with the Afenifere and Save Nigeria Group failed to mobilise voters in the South West to enable General Buhari to win the presidency pointed to the hold of the Action Congress and its electoral status as the party that any presidential aspirant truly willing to contest and win must do business with.
Coincidentally, the Action Congress of Nigeria was also seeking to expand its reach to the North. The merger of the CPC and the ACN was therefore fortuitous because both needed each other in their bid to capture the presidency. However, the CPC, whose presidential hopeful had attempted the race thrice, made the CPC the strategic partner to take the ticket first. This was truly a sympathetic concession because the ACN with five governors to the CPC‘s one governor was in a better position to run. The logic of equity, therefore, recommends that, after eight years, the Action Congress of Nigeria as a partner should have unfettered access to the APC‘s presidential ticket.
Considering his contributions to the formation and victory of the party, Tinubu‘s stoic must rank as one of Dalai Lama‘s case studies in self-purgation. From the rival factions in the party, Tinubu wooed combatants into solid electoral machinery that gave him the landslide victory at the party primaries and the Senator elected with the highest number of votes in senatorial elections held July 4, 1992.
It will do well for active politicians from the North to support the natural choice from the South and resist the temptation of repeating the 1999 ignoble succession plot that sank the country into a quandary.
– Ebitigha, a political analyst and human rights activist, sent this piece from Lagos