By Abdul Kareem
There is no gain denying the fact that the coming 2023 presidential election in Nigeria will turn out to be one of the most momentous events since the return of democracy in 1999.
Nigerians have in the last 23 years witnessed six general elections that produced five presidents. Each edition of the general elections came with its dynamics and drama.
In 2015, Nigerians were all on the edge as the country’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was set to announce the results of a presidential election that pitched a powerful incumbent of the then-ruling PDP, Goodluck Jonathan against a largely favored populist candidate of the then newly formed merger opposition party, APC, General Muhammadu Buhari.
The situation in the country was so ominous especially with the former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, making several ‘predictions’ in 2011 and August of 2014 that the country will not survive beyond 2015!
The incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan’s party, PDP, staged a fierce and one of the most expensive election campaign against the then frenzy of the moment, Buhari’s APC.
The latter eventually won to end the PDP’s 16 years of a stranglehold on the corridors of power.
Come February 2023, Nigerian electorates would again file out to elect yet another president in a contest that will no longer be the usual two-horse race.
The race is certainly going to be amongst four horses that are currently flying the flags of APC, PDP, LP and NNPP. Each candidate of this crowd-pulling political parties, more than ever before, comes with their unique electoral weaknesses and advantages.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the flag bearer of the ruling APC won the ticket of his party with a landslide in fulfilment of the ruling party’s wish to zone the presidency to the southern region.
Similarly, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar also clinched the PDP Presidential ticket in a keenly contested primary that left his opponents kicking over the party’s decision to jettison the agreement to field a non-northern candidate.
Peter Obi, a former governor, and 2019 vice presidential candidate the PDP, picked the Labor Party ticket on a platter of gold after he defected from his party.
Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Kano’s most popular politician and a crowd puller of the north, was rewarded with the presidential ticket of the NNPP, a party he single-handedly formed and remains its national leader.
Except for Kwankwaso and Obi who had no issues in the selection of their running mates, both Atiku and Tinubu had to continue to deal with controversies trailing the selection of their vice presidential candidates.
While Tinubu has not yet recovered from the wild reactions that trailed his quest to win the 2023 presidency on a same-faith ticket; Atiku too is faced with a sharply slashed party, as his choice of Delta stage Governor Ifeanyi Okowa from south-south, continues to threaten his last chance of winning the country’s number one seat.
In another breath, both Messrs Atiku and Tinubu’s share the same threat to their ambition by the candidacy of Mr Obi, whom many favors as the best politician to actualize the coveted dream of Igbo presidency in respect to the equity of the zoning arrangement.
Mr Obi is the sensation of the moment. He could as well be named the most popular face of social media. He enjoys a massive support base that is fuelled by both tribal and religious sentiments as well angered youth. His younger age also serves as a plus for him. He is, for now, the most aggressive candidate given his social media popularity. Obi has made the southeast a no-go area for the other three candidates.
Senator Kwankwaso is at a point adjudged as the new Buhari of northern Nigeria. His red-cap revolution sweeps across most parts of the 19 northern states. He enjoys the massive support of the Hausa in all parts of the states. But his base remains Kano where it is almost a done deal that his party may clinch the governorship. His major challenge is the influence of the light weight personalities flying his party’s flags in all the states of Nigeria.
Both Kwankwaso and Obi’s choices of running mate have little or no added value to their winning chances. While Obi settled for a relatively unpopular one time senator Datti, Kwankwaso picked a Bishop who is an obscured personality when it comes to politics.
Both Messrs Atiku and Tinubu are still contending with internal revolt against their candidacy. For Atiku, his campaign is yet to fully feather because, the party’s biggest financier and money bag governor, Nyesom Wike is leading a group of G-5 governors who did not hide their resentment for his emergence as the flagbearer.
Similarly, Tinubu is being traduced and dragged by some elders from amongst his Yoruba kin who had openly rejected his candidacy and openly favor the candidate of LP, Obi in the advancement of fairness and equity.
Tinubu’s running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima, has uniquely brought style, color and more life into the Tinubu/Shettima 2023 campaign council. His impressive outings has cast more shine on the APC team even as his eloquence and engaging brilliant debates has since began to cast some chill over many of the critics of Mr Tinubu.
Be it as it may, the four presidential candidates have made their choices and the die has been cast for them. It is now left for the Nigerian voters to decide and for the candidates to work on their winning strategies.
Their Strengths And Weaknesses
Given the prevailing analysis of the situation, the APC, being an incumbent party has about 85% chance of winning its 16 assigned states based on voting patterns, tribal sentiments, religious sentiments and party structure, according to a October 2022 poll.
Based on tribal sentiment and voting patterns, Tinubu stands a chance of winning states Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Kwara, Ondo and Lagos.
Atiku will sweep PDP’s assigned states of Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa and Taraba based on voting patterns, and tribal and religious sentiments.
Obi will have 85 the support of his kinsmen in Anambra Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo and Anambra on tribal sentiment and religion.
Kwankwaso will have a substantial win in Kano alone based on tribal and religious sentiments, but his win may not be up to 85 per cent of the most populous state for obvious reasons.
Based on the voting pattern, Atiku and Obi stand a strong chance of winning larger votes for their parties in FCT, Plateau, Benue, Cross Rivers and Rivers based on historical
voting pattern or religious sentiment
In Governor El-rufai’s Kaduna, the Christians will surely vote for LP while the APC will garner many votes because of the Governor’s influence and party structure.
In Kebbi, Zamfara, Jigawa, Borno, Yobe, Niger and Kogi, the APC will comfortably depend on the party structure to sweep votes for Tinubu.
In Bauchi state where a PDP governor sits as the incumbent, the votes may not go for Atiku because Governor Bala Mohammed has not identified with the former vice president’s candidacy, and the opposition APC still waxes strong in the state, which means Tinubu might get a big win there.
Certainly, the 2023 presidential election presents four formidable candidates for the contest, but it remains only a two-horse race at the finish line. This is because the question of candidates garnering 25 per cent of total votes in 24 states remains a big issue, which may be easier for both APC and PDP.
After all, both APC and PDP have House of Reps members and senators that will do everything to return their party; but neither Obi’s LP nor Kwankwaso’s NNPP has elected any public office holder in any of the 36 states and the FCT.
In the final analysis , APC still has this election to lose, and Tinubu still towers above others in the winning chances, because his party has 16 assigned states, while Atiku has six states, and Obi has five states. Of the nine swing states, APC has the chances of yanking a larger chunk of votes in four – which are Kaduna, Gombe, Nasarawa and Edo; while PDP and LP will take lion’s shares in FCT, Plateau, Benue, Cross River and Rivers.
The Humanitarian Times hopes at the end of the day the winner will work for Nigerians as a president for all and sundry.