Campaigns for the 2023 elections will kickstart on Wednesday, September 28th with at least four credible contestants vying for Nigeria’s topmost political office.
In what has become a perennial show, the Presidential race has again taken centre stage. This time, the race is closer, the factors are more unpredictable and fire being stoked is burning brightly. Neutrality in the face of Nigeria’s increasing problems has become a sin, and non-participation is dubbed a lack of patriotism.
Unlike the preachings of the tenets of democracy, some partisanship and where they lean have also been deemed selfish and self-serving. The importance of next year’s election cannot be understated, yet, its kind is not all new in the Nigerian political terrain.
For a people who have attached the fingerprints of hope to candidates in the past and have placed messianic tendencies on the shoulders of men far from perfect, the 2023 Presidential election and its vagaries should not be deemed new.
In Nigeria’s democratic history, two elections have been as important to Nigerians as next year’s polls. On the basis of expectations, and the bullishness that comes with absolute support, they are the 1993 and 2015 elections. Others, to great degrees have been electoral ceremonies – not as great in terms of impact and almost decided in terms of direction.
As the campaigns open on Wednesday, parties have set machinery in place to outwit, outthink, outmaneuver and outman one another.
The candidates will be tested for their stability, stamina and soundness. The people will have their choices perused through again, and emotions like ever, will be let loose. Choices will be questioned, and the embers of verbal violence may be fanned. The 2023 election serves a stew that’s piquant for neutrals, yet can be poisonous to the passionate Nigerian, who has attached a great value of hope to it.
It is especially a clash between seasons, between ideologies, tribal politics and the realpolitik of a people whose main problem is where their greatest hope also lies.
From Wednesday (today), the race will be a marathon and pushing and shoving may be the order of the day, but did this day come today? Not really. It’s served in time.
The Fingerprints of Hope ‘93
When Chief M.K.O Abiola vied to become President in 1993, his party, Social Democratic Party (SDP) had an Atiku Abubakar as one of the aspirants. Atiku was compelled to resign his ambition for the more popular MKO as he had a better national appeal. Hope 93 indeed was probably the only time Nigerians, regardless of clans, tribes, or religion came together to vote a candidate and share a common hope.
What became of that national unity for the emergence of that candidate, the pages of history can better tell.
In Abiola’s camp was a young Lagos Senator at the time, his name, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Atiku and Tinubu have long known each other and have worked together, either directly for indirectly on a number of occasions. While Atiku’s ambition to become President has seen him traverse parties and political ideologies, finding what fits his desire best at every period, Tinubu has stuck to his version of democracy, unpopular amongst many who see him as the kingpin of godfatherism, but also stayed the course long enough to demand a level of loyalty.
The year 2023 gives both men their last chance at achieving their ambitions but despite a perceived sense of entitlement coming from their words, they won’t have it near easy. Many Nigerians witnessed 1993 and how hope was stolen from the people, but not many particularly remember either Atiku or Tinubu as heroes of democracy or being great legs of that run. They’ll work their socks off to achieve their ambitions and perhaps truly have a higher chance of emergence. Their chances, however are not without their hiccups.
Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket offers a thinking that may be deemed politically initiated, as expected. The idea from his camp is he has settled for what will be of benefit to his ambition. On the basis of national appeal and the understanding of Nigeria’s diversity and complex arrangements, Tinubu has simply chosen ambition over nationhood.
In Atiku’s case where he has corrected Tinubu’s perceived errors by choosing a Southern Christian candidate, his choice may be deemed his greatest weakness also. Ifeanyi Okowa is brilliant, but in a season of political gladiators, his choice doesn’t ring a bell across the country. Whom many thought Atiku should have perhaps gone for, Nyesom Wike is no man to be trusted in a power bloc.
Wike is a growing specimen of how wealth and state resources can help fuel political grit, hence the threat of choosing him as a running mate. Everything he can become is in the face of the PDP and on one hand, they may be happy with their choice of not settling for Wike but on the other hand rue it, as he holds a great degree of prominence.
The Elements of Surprise
Last week, former Kano State Governor and one of the most-followed politicians in Nigeria, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso rolled out his achievements, especially at developing human capital indices. While some people admitted his presence in their growth, some of his rollouts were denied. In either cases, it’s established that Kwankwaso has had a measurable level of impact in the past. If that will be enough for his current ambition is a totally different ball game.
His Kwankwasiya movement is one of the most massive in the country and it will not be surprising if he’s being convinced to collapse his structure by other candidates. Kwankwaso is politically savvy and has always had an established interest in the Presidency. His biggest undoing until now is his less popularity in the Southern parts of the country. In fact, many don’t think he is strong enough outside Kano where he also has Ganduje and Shekarau to contend with.
Kwankwaso’s element of surprise lies in the bonds he’s able to build in the coming days. While his candidacy may most likely not lead to electoral victory, he has an army of followers and foot soldiers whose presence may be very significant to the emergence of others. From whatever angle one may choose to look at it, Kwankwaso may be the beautiful bride in the race but the bride has so far shown a desire to go alone.
Peter Obi is at the moment the most popular candidate amongst Nigerian youths. Frustrated by the way the country is run and is moving, young Nigerians have sought a hope outside the common structure. Massive in numbers, and relentless in desire, their presence makes the 2023 election delicately poised and if there ever was an inkling of a stroll-in-the-park for any candidate, the large support the former Anambra State Governor is gaining is worth a first look and will change such ideas.
Nigerians are passionate people. They show it in every capacity and level, and especially when young. Quick to ascribe messianic potential to their favoured candidates, they will set machinery and mechanisms to ensure victory. How far that can go is a question of forces yet to be known.
The youths, this time, building social structures from the social media are pushing for a Peter Obi Presidency. Along that line, they’re united, regardless of tribal leanings or ethnoreligious sentiments. What began as a potential that can be waved off is turning an ambition given a second look. When parties and political groups set out to assassinate candidate’s character, he is already deemed a threat.
Obi’s ambition, although energising as it offers a shift away from the popular, is also a last-ditch attempt to revive a sinking ship. The youths have placed the responsibility of representation on his shoulders and aligning along old structures may be disappointing, yet necessary.
His presence to a great degree offers a new breath of air, similar to what Nigerians typically demand after every round of perennial political failure. He’s spotless in the eyes of many at the moment or even if deemed stained to any extent, he offers the attenuated version of Nigeria’s political weaponry and that’s the opinion of many young Nigerians.
Obi’s presence is a part of the growth of generations, that established political structures are ever afraid of. They fight it headlong, throw oppositions at it, and fight it with money, fame and power but young voices hardly ever give up.
What opens this race up is the absence of a sitting leader on the ballot. And with President Muhammadu Buhari not particularly looking to donate his structure and his ever-loyal group of supporters to any of the candidates, it’s fight to finish, and it starts from now.
May the man best for Nigeria, win.
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