OCHEREOME

AT the beginning of 2022, the old notion that only the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and All Progressives Congress, APC, could win elections held sway. But on March 29, 2022, Rabiu Kwankwaso left the PDP and joined the New Nigerian People’s Party, NNPP. He became its leader.

Things got even more exciting when, on April 24, 2022, Peter Obi left the PDP and joined the Labour Party, LP. It looked like a four-horse race. But, acting on the perception that LP and NNPP could not go it alone, they went into merger talks. Ego became the biggest obstacle. Kwankwaso refused to be Obi’s running mate, and vice versa.

When the talks collapsed, Kwankwaso granted interviews to Arise TV and Channels TV, which basically knocked him off as a serious contender. He spewed ethnic and regional filth against Obi and the South-East. He failed to say a thing about his plans to rescue Nigeria. Instead, he pledged to support Bola Ahmed Tinubu if his own aspiration failed. Kwankwaso looked like a candidate for the highest bidder. He has since disappeared from the limelight.

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We now have three serious presidential tickets on display. These are: Atiku Abubakar/Ifeanyi Okowa of the PDP, the Muslim-Muslim ticket of Ahmed Tinubu/Kashim Shettima of the APC, and Peter Obi/Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed of the LP. The narrative has changed. The race to 2023 is now between the old order and the new. PDP and APC, which have ruled for the past 23 years are the old order. The LP is the adopted party of the #EndSARS/Soro Soke (speak-up) youth movement born on October 20, 2020 at the Lekki Toll Gate, Lagos. What are these candidates’ advantages and burdens?

Atiku is banking heavily on the upper North’s votes. He hopes to reap from voters who believe in the continuation of the North in power after President Muhammadu Buhari’s eight years. However, Kwankwaso might still trump him and Tinubu in his Kano base. Atiku is promising “restructuring”, but will he be true to his word if he becomes president? Or will he be like Buhari who promised a progressive government only to take Nigeria back to the dark ages. 

The question is germane. Atiku is betoken to Northern Islamic extremists. He has kept mute on the armed herdsmen’s attacks to conquer indigenous people and take their lands. Won’t he continue the Fulani land grab agenda that Buhari is pursuing? Atiku deleted a tweet he posted condemning the lynching of Deborah Samuel because Muslim extremists threatened not to vote for him.

Atiku calls himself the “unifier”, yet he has failed to unify his party after its presidential primaries. His offish attitude to Governor Nyesom Wike’s “rebellion” is shocking and a foretaste of how he might respond to crises as president. Atiku runs to Dubai after every election. He has not done enough to show he has solutions to our problems or that he cares about the people.

Tinubu entered the presidential race with overwhelming advantages. He holds the ticket of the ruling APC which has 22 governors, the majority of Senators, House of Representatives members and the largest number of local governments. Money is not his problem, and he hopes Buhari will loan him incumbency factors such as the military, police and the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Peter Obi has no elected or appointed political officeholder on his side. These are the people who organise and fund elections at the grassroots. In promoting their own ambitions, they vicariously promote those of their presidential candidates. This is the “structure” that the presidential candidate of a big party depends upon for victory. Obi does not have that.

But he has the youth, the largest voting bloc, behind him. These armies of volunteers are called The Obidients. They are sprouting everywhere with their sweat, money and fervent energy. They are meeting and mobilising. They are in the markets and homes preaching Obi. This is the first time in our history that the same youth who were paid pittances by politicians to rig elections are now self-funding and working for the success of a politician. They are on the social media fighting Obi’s battles while the latter continues meeting people to win them over.

Of the top three, Obi is the only candidate who inspires Nigerians with an agenda to fix the country’s problems leveraging his understanding of how things work in other successful countries. He says he wants to change Nigeria from a consuming to producing nation. Tinubu and Atiku just want to be presidents. It is their lifelong ambitions. Tinubu calls it emi l’okan. It is his turn, so he claims.

Tinubu promises to continue from where Buhari will stop. Festus Keyamo, his campaign spokesman, arrogantly rubbed it in, in his first television interview. Pride goes before a fall. The APC is unrepentant for its serial failures under Buhari. It has chosen to embark on the 2023 race with a seriously burdened candidate, hoping to bamboozle its way with money, propaganda and “incumbency”.

With six weeks to the start of the open campaigns, it is too early to say who might win. The choice will be between old Nigeria and new Nigeria. 

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