TODAY, Nigeria is conducting the seventh consecutive general election in this Fourth Republic which started in 1999. Expectations are high that the election shall be like none before except for the fact that the three major tribes: Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani have presidential candidates.
Mr Peter Obi, an Igbo and former Governor of Anambra State, is the flag bearer of the resurgent Labour Party, LP. One of the main contenders is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, a Yoruba, who had served for two terms as the Governor of Lagos State. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, another political force in the election is a Fulani like the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari. He is flying the flag of the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
This is reminiscent of the geo-political parallel in the country’s presidential election when Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Igbo) of the Nigerian People’s Party, NPP, squared up against Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Yoruba) of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, and Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Hausa/Fulani of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN; and for the keenly contested 1979 polls which Shagari eventually won.
However, political analysts have talked of a three-horse presidential race with no certainty on who will likely be the country’s next president after the incumbent. But it will be wrong to ignore Senator Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, who is a force and arguably makes it a four-horse race.
Too close to call
While many said the presidential election is too close to call and that the race may go into the second round for the first time, others are excited over the emergence of LP as a ‘Third Force’ alternative to the major political parties, the ruling APC and the PDP.
Novel also, is the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC’s move to step up the application of technology in the electoral process of the 2023 elections to general acclaim.
However, reactionary forces have mounted both open and surreptitious campaigns to discredit the efficacy of INEC’s technology-driven electoral procedures.
Some political actors have been voicing criticisms and objections as others cast doubts on the relevance of INEC’s Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS and the Results Viewing Portal, otherwise known as electronic transmission of election results.
After taking delivery of the BVAS machines for the election, INEC tested them by conducting a mock accreditation of voters on February 4 to ensure their functionality.
Worrisome is the fact that the mock accreditation exercise recorded low turnout of registered voters due to issues of scarcity of Naira notes and inadequate awareness, raising fears of apathy in today’s election.
Casting doubts on the reliability of the BVAS machines for voter and result management, the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal led by Justice Terste Kume, nullified the election of Governor Ademola Adeleke after some weeks at the helm of affairs in the state.
The panel held that the governorship election was not held in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act 2022 as it was characterised by over-voting despite the use of BVAS machines for voter identification.
But sources in INEC said the BVAS machines did not allow over-voting during the last governorship election in the state.
An insider, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard under condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said some politicians in connivance with some staff members may have deliberately bypassed BVAS or fed the wrong results on the result sheet, contrasting what was in the BVAS and the server.
“The BVAS is designed to actually expose those who plan to carry out over-voting on Election Day. So, it could not have created the problem. “If there are any gaps such that there is over-voting with BVAS, then politicians, voters and some presiding officers may have connived to bypass or subvert the voter accreditation process,” the source said.
In the same breath, despite the Federal Government’s efforts to clean up the country’s highly monetised politics and elections through the introduction of the new Naira redesign policy, which among others, seeks to flush out the billions of currencies allegedly hoarded for buying of votes on Election Day, some influential but unscrupulous politicians are having their way.
They had infiltrated the banks and mopped up the redesigned Naira.
Amid a tight deadline just before the elections, the Federal Government may have failed to maroon the billions of naira known to have been stockpiled by politicians, including governors and other state actors, to influence the elections.
This situation has also raised concerns that money may still determine the outcome of today’s presidential election.
Nevertheless, today’s election is still not predictable, contrary to political permutations. For starters, regardless of what the pundits say, this remains one election that can go any way. Partisans are upbeat about their chances, but the facts show no one can be sure of victory in this election.
There were keen contests in the six previous elections since 1999, the power of incumbency or realignment of forces where the factors that foretold how the pendulum would swing. Somehow, things are a little different this year.
Although supporters of the APC and PDP underplay the chances of Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party, yet his raging popularity presents a challenge for both parties.
While Tinubu of the APC and Atiku of the PDP have nursed the ambition to rule Nigeria for a long time, can boast of huge resources, and built alliances around the country that many see as huge advantages the unprecedented entry of a seemingly formidable third force poses a dent, if not a threat, to the two of them. This is what makes the 2023 election different from the recent past elections.
Race between a candidate and his ex-running mate
John Alechenu previews the chances of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Presidential Candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and his former running mate now Presidential hopeful on the ticket of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, in today’s election.
Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, 76, is making his sixth and probably last attempt at becoming Nigeria’s President.
The PDP presidential candidate is a retired Customs officer, businessman turned politician. He is a multimillionaire, with business interests in oil servicing, shipping and education among others.
Atiku, a northern Muslim from the Fulani ethnic group is seeking to take over from a fellow northerner, Muhammadu Buhari whose tenure ends on May 29, 2023.
Opponents argue that his desire to take over from a fellow northern Fulani Muslim runs against the convention of power rotation between the North and South. Supporters counter that the last PDP President was a Southerner hence the argument doesn’t hold water.
He counts on his experience as two-term vice president between 1999 and 2007, when he chaired the economic team that implemented far reaching reforms in the telecommunications, pensions and banking sectors.
His supporters credit him with championing policies which led to job creation and economic growth during this time under review.
His foray into business allowed him handsome experience on what the private sector requires to drive the economy.
Atiku enjoys a large network of friends and business associates at home and abroad. He is also liberal in his approach to governance. His versatility could be a major asset.
The age factor could be a challenge. Nigeria currently has a large youth population, a substantial number of them see this election as the greatest opportunity to make a clean break from the past. He will struggle to capture this demographic.
The crisis within his party-The PDP and his face off with the Governor Nyesom Wike-led G5 governors could eat into his votes in the party’s traditional stronghold states in the South-East and the South-South.
Although he has not been indicted for any crime, his supporters have a challenge assisting him shake off the perception among many that he is corrupt.
He is expected to put up a strong showing in his native Adamawa State, Bauchi, Gombe, Niger, Sokoto, Kano, Kebbi, Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Oyo, Osun, Taraba, Cross River, Kogi and Ondo.
Atiku may struggle for votes with supporters of the Labour Party Candidate, Peter Obi, in Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Edo, Benue, Plateau, parts of Kaduna, Nasarawa, Benue, Lagos, Ogun, and the FCT, Abuja.
The LP Presidential Candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, a Christian and an Igbo man; who prefers to call himself a trader, was a two term governor of Anambra State.
He is well educated and served as chairman of the boards of several banks including Fidelity Bank before his foray into politics. At 61 years old, he is the youngest of the four major contenders for the plum job. He also flaunts a clean public service record with no summon or indictment from any of Nigeria’s anti-graft agencies before, during and after leaving public office.
He has largely succeeded in establishing himself as the anti-establishment candidate, with a strong desire to tap into the votes of angry and frustrated Nigerian voters who are tired of the politics of older generations which they see as corrupt and full of empty and unfulfilled promises.
His message of moving Nigeria from consumption to production and a break from the past resonates with his supporters especially an army of tech survey up and mobile Nigerian youths who cherish the appellation “Obidients”.
Experience garnered as Atiku’s running mate during the 2019 Presidential elections as well as his clean public service record could serve him in good stead.
He has, perhaps more than most of his opponents, enjoyed open endorsements by elder statesmen, groups and associations as well as sitting governors across party lines.
His opponents have capitalized on the agitation and activities of separatist groups such as the Indigenous People of Biafra and MOSSOP to engage in scaremongering.
They accuse him of doing little to dissociate himself from the activities of these groups and that his presidency will encourage the agitators to succeed.
His famed prudence with funds which many mistake for stinginess could be a minus among voters currently at the receiving end of economic hardship. Even members of his party have complained that the largesse others have in their parties are lacking in LP, a development that has seen some quit the party. However, this is seen as credible by those who argue that it’s time Nigeria did away with money in politics.
Recent opinion polls project him to win. However, experience over the years shows that the outcomes of these polls are more often than not a far cry from the reality on ground.
His performance will largely depend on the number of his supporters who turn up to vote on Election Day. Nigeria is notorious for having the worst voter turnout during elections.
Records made public by the INEC show that only 35 per cent of registered voters went to the ballot boxes to cast their ballots in 2019.
Obi is expected to make an impressive showing in his home state of Anambra, as well as the South-eastern States of Enugu, Imo, Abia and Ebonyi.
He is also expected to pull some weight in states such in Benue, Plateau, Edo, Rivers, FCT, Abuja, parts of Kaduna, Nasarawa, Niger and Taraba.
Omeiza Ajayi, Abuja
“It’s a lifelong ambition.” That was the response of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Presidential Candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu on January 10, 2022, after he visited President Muhammadu Buhari to notify the head of state of his ambition to vie for the presidency.
For the past 14 months, Tinubu had reached out to a cross-section of the civil populace, the political class and other stakeholders.
On June 8, 2022, Tinubu became the presidential candidate of his party after a landslide victory at a Special Convention for that purpose.
The intense battle for the choice of a running mate began thereafter. Although he later settled for the former Governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima, that singular decision almost put a nail in the coffin of his ambition as a result of his being of the same faith as Shettima.
Although he has campaigned around the country, and he has not been on the ballot since he left the Alausa Government House in 2007, there are several hurdles against him.
Apart from the issue of same-faith ticket, there is the ethnic spin, with a section of Nigerians advocating that power should shift to the South-East mainly dominated by Igbo.
Then, his opponents have consistently attacked his health status, saying he does not have the presence of mind to assume the responsibilities of the exalted office.
What would have perhaps counted more against him is the Naira Redesign Policy of the Federal Government as well as the lingering fuel scarcity across the country. Interestingly, these seem to have worked in his favour, as many Nigerians have come to sympathize with him, believing that the obstacles were deliberately placed in his way.
Also, his opponents have accused him of going against the Naira Redesign Policy because he has a stockpile of the old notes. This is something he has vehemently denied.
Kaduna state Governor, Nasir El-Rufai alleged of the existence of a cabal in the presidential villa, who are opposed to Tinubu’s ambition. But there’s no evidence of any deliberate plan to stop the Asiwaju of Yorubaland in spite of the alleged seeming lukewarm attitude of President Buhari who has countered that by joining Tinubu in some of his campaigns. Again, nobody has indicated how the said cabal will stop people from voting for Tinubu today.
Tinubu’s antecedents speak volumes. To an appreciable extent, his records as governor of Lagos have added tremendous weight to his Nation Builder toga.
Again, unlike his closest rivals, Tinubu is not an election merchant. This is the first time he would be gunning for the presidency. He had not shown long years of desperation to become Nigeria’s president even as he said it was his lifetime ambition.
His party’s governors, 21 of them, seem to also be on the same page with him unlike Atiku Abubakar’s Peoples Democratic Party, PDP which had since “lost” five of its governors.
In the North, which has a higher voting population than the South, many still see Tinubu as the main human factor that God used to enthrone President Buhari after a series of defeats. Indeed, for them, it is payback time. Tinubu himself has said it is his turn, using the Yoruba expression “Emilokan”. He could well be Nigeria’s next president.
Credit: Vanguard Nigeria