By Sunny Ikhioya
THE beauty of Nigeria’s unity and diversity, if allowed to flourish for the benefit of all, cannot be quantified. We saw a bit of this during the presidential primaries of the two major parties. But then, will the centrifugal forces allow it to be? That is the challenge that we face as we approach another election year in 2023.
The results of the primaries from the two political parties were not unexpected; the ones with the resources came out tops: meaning the best candidates did not necessarily win, maybe, due to primordial factors. It also showed that rotational presidency, according to zones, has been discarded as the contests were thrown open to all and sundry.
So, going further in Nigeria, it will be a free for all competition, no zoning. For the next presidency, people have narrowed it down to former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, and Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Like or hate him, Tinubu has become an enigma; you cannot ignore him.
He has managed to triumph in all of his political battles; never lost any election despite perceived obstacles. One had thought that the All Progressives Congress, APC, would find it difficult to conduct a free, fair and democratic primaries; we must give it to them: they pulled it off and that was the focus of Tinubu’s victory speech, when he said that people had already prepared coffins for the APC.
For Atiku, it is generally believed that he is a man with deep pockets, very generous and with very extensive connections. He knew that if the primary for the PDP is thrown open, he will be favoured. It will not be the first time: he knows how to win primaries and the PDP is banking on him, this time, to clinch the presidency for them.
So, it is between Atiku and Tinubu. In saner climes, none of these two will win the party tickets because of their perceived frailties and baggage. But in Nigeria, anything is possible. Let us then do the analysis with the Nigerian situation in mind.
It is expected that the South-East will react to the presentation of Atiku as the presidential candidate of the PDP and not vote for him massively as they did in the past. Will this affect his chances in the overall election? Also, Tinubu is also regarded in the South-East as someone who hijacked their mandate given the feeling it’s their turn to present a presidential candidate.
So, for them, the choice of Atiku represents a betrayal. In fact, both Okorocha and Nnamani did allude to the injustice that had been done to the South-East when Bola Tinubu visited them. Will the South-East vote for Tinubu? That is another question that we will get to know the answer in February 2023.
The North has always voted as one during elections, but recent dynamics has made their position in 2023 to be unpredictable. This is due to the perceived excesses of the Fulanis in the North; some are saying that with a Fulani man back in power as president, the atrocities being committed by armed herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers will continue. Therefore, they see it as safer to go with a Southern candidate.
Will the Middle Belt states of Benue, Plateau, Kwara, Kogi, Nassarawa be ready for a change? If Tinubu can do his politicking very well, he could gain grounds in these areas, but that only work if the whole North decides not to come out as one in favour of Atiku, who has built solid structures along that belt. In fact, it was men from this region that facilitated his emergence as a candidate, talking about the party chairman Iyorcha Ayu and others.
The South-West will surely go for Tinubu and the South-South will likely be shared between the two of them. So, the man that can successfully clinch the Middle Belt will win the election. That is, assuming that the core North vote for Atiku.
But will this be possible? Will the core North be trusted to vote en masse for a Southern candidate like they did for Abiola in 1993? Will the nine Northern governors that stood for Tinubu in the APC primaries: Babagana Zulum of Borno State, Simon Lalong of Plateau State, Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, Aminu Masari of Katsina State, Abubakar Bello of Niger State, Abdurahman Abdulrazaq of Kwara State, Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State and Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State, stick out their neck for Tinubu in 2023?
Are we not going to experience betrayals? There is a school of thought that claims that when the time comes they will abandon Tinubu and pitch tent with their brother, Atiku. That is: they may do a “Tambuwal” on him when the chips are down. The answer will be known in due time.
In the midst of all of these projections, there is a third force creeping in. At firs it appeared like a dot with no consequential impact; but it is gradually gaining momentum. They claim that it is a movement with volunteers, that it is not about money but ideas and ability to deliver performance. They are tired of the existing structures and decay inherent in the system; they want a radical change. It is for the youths and when the youths act in unison, they are unstoppable, like a wave. Will the wave succeed in blasting through? We will see.
It is seen as the Peter Obi factor. Since he moved to the Labour Party, his popularity seems to be gaining more grounds. If you take a poll of who will win the 2023 presidential election based on the social media, Peter Obi will readily come out tops. But can this translate into reality?
If it is driven by the youths across the nation, will they unite to vote for him? Some claim that he does not have a structure to see him through this mission. Rather, he has come with the simplicity of a Mahatma Ghandi: with no airs; like a messiah asking the people to take heed, not about money, but with concrete ideas to take this country out of the woods; to take Nigeria from a consuming nation to a saving and producing one, to remove the shame of our overbloated ego of being Africa’s most populous and most endowed nation with nothing to show for it.
That is the promise that Peter Obi brings to the nation and he is trending all over. Already, there is a strong rumour that Musa Kwankwaso’s New Nigeria’s Peoples Party, NNPP, is in a merger talk with Obi’s Labour Party. If this turns out to be true, the major parties must then get ready for a very stiff challenge. The INEC PVC registration centres are jam-packed by people eager to vote for him. Good for him, the registration deadline has been extended to August.
Will the Peter Obi movement take over the politics of this country? We wait and see.
Ikhioya wrote viawww.southsouthecho.com