By Kamil Opeyemi and Halimah Olamide
Although, there are 18 candidates who are jostling for Nigerians’ votes as they go to the poll on Saturday February 25, there are no more pretences that the race for country’s number 1 job is among three major contenders.
These are the candidates of the All-Progressive Congress, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a two time Governor of Nigeria’s commercial hub, Lagos; Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, of the Peoples Democratic Party who once served as Vice President and Mr. Peter Obi, former Governor of Anambra who also ran as a vice presidential candidate in the 2019 poll.
Some generous analysts are wont to extend this web of significance to a third candidate, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who is contesting on the platform of the New Nigeria Peoples Party because he has shown some considerable followings in some key states of the Northern Nigeria.
Practical politics however makes analysts believe that Kwankwaso’s rating in the race will only make him a bride to be courted by at least, one of the major three contenders whose spread across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory put them in the line of possible victory. That is, if the need arises.
The constitution requires the winner to score a plurality of the votes and over 25% of the vote in at least 24 of the 36 states of the federation.
TINUBU: The Emilokan Confidence
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu flaunts a confidence that is rare in political gamesmanship. He boasts to have toured and touched all the 36 states of the federation in what serves to also neutralise claims by his opponents that he is medically and physically unfit for the rigorous job of the Presidency.
The former Governor of Lagos banks on his long years of investments in political foot soldiers many of whom have served as Governors, ministers, members of the National Assembly, ambassadors and captains in the corporate sectors. He flaunts a sizeable number of members of the current federal executive council who had served under him at one time or the other.
With massive supports in all states of the South-West, a sizeable support in the North-Central, Rivers and Cross Rivers in the South-South, an appreciable support base in the North-East states of Borno (where his running mate, Kashim Shetimma comes from), Yobe, Bauchi, votes garnered from Adamawa (state of the main challenger, Atiku), Taraba, look good to give Tinubu a good edge.
States such as Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kebbi are too close to call as support base is shared between Tinubu and Atiku here.
Of course, Tinubu is believed to have a massive financial war chest, the very reason many believe that he is being checkmated by some forces within and outside the administration of President Buhari.
Call him a courageous man, Tinubu has demonstrated he does not give in easily, given the hordes of hurdles he has faced in the battle to claim the ticket of the party or in the hair-splitting race to get the final trophy.
Despite contesting on the platform of the ruling party, the odds are stacked against him with the general belief that this is the first time a ruling party will not appear to be putting state apparatus in the service of the ruling party’s candidate for what is called “incumbency factor.”
ATIKU ABUBAKAR: An Old War Horse Comes to Final Race?
Atiku Abubakar began his race for the presidency since 1988. The closest he had moved to his ambition was serving as the Vice President to President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007.
Since then, Atiku had contested three other times making him effectively the biggest veteran for the race this time.
Just as Tinubu, Atiku enjoys mass followings in all the states of the federation.
Even in the South-West which is the backyard of Tinubu, Atiku is sure to have his good harvest as the geo-political zone also parades a sizeable population of PDP stalwarts who had remained Atiku’s agelong political associates. Apart from that, Osun, believed to be Tinubu’s real ancestry home, is currently under the arms of Atiku’s party. With the Governor Ademola Adeleke fighting the battle of his life to be retained by the Tribunal, Adeleke is all out to ensure that Atiku wins, thereby giving all the strength needed to the PDP structure for that victory.
However, while PDP also has controls Oyo, there appears to be a final agreement by the Seyi Makinde led PDP to swing victory in favour of Tinubu.
Though the PDP has good presence in Ondo, Ogun and Lagos, the population is not enough to make Atiku make any appreciable showing.
Atiku, in a way enjoy massive supports from all states of the North. Though states such as Kaduna are under the APC, Atiku is believed to have penetrated the voters. The state of Kano looks well a meat to be shared among Atiku, Tinubu and Kwankwaso, with the candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, making appreciable showing among the non-indigenes resident in the state.
But then, even with the seeming support base in some of those states, Atiku’s campaign messages seem to have made not much of impact on the people who still have memories of the PDP in its 16 years of power before the APC ousted in 2015.
It is the believed failure of the PDP in 16 years plus the alleged failure of the APC in its 8 years that had led many Nigerians to consider a third force that Obi represents.
PETER OBI: Can a Third Force Spring Surprise?
As it is, Obi is not a pushover in politics. Having been Governor of a major Nigerian state, and running for the office of the vice president once, he is not new to politics at its highest level.
Pulling out of the PDP, Obi’s popularity among the young people appears to gel with the conviction that Nigerians want a new order.
Though seen as a major contestant without the required structure, he has managed to push himself to the front-runner status in the 2023 race with all the dreams by his supporters he might win.
However, when the Independent National Electoral Commission released list of agents per candidates for the election, the figures released for the Labour party’s candidate became a source of concern for many members and a further confirmation by his opponents that Obi is just a third force with no real force for electoral victory.
Just on Thursday, many state chairmen of the Labour Party disowned Obi describing him as unprepared for victory.
Chairman of the Gombe State chapter of the party, Sani AbdulSalami, accused Obi of relating only with his “cronies” with no appreciable signs that he is prepared for victory.
Obi has however engaged in some strategic campaign methods that had seen him meeting some critical segments of the society with many of them demonstrating genuine craving for change of the old order.
In some of his outings in many states of the federation, Obi has received appreciable support making him too difficult to dismiss in the race.
His critics however accuse him of being too sectional and religious in his associations.
Just as Atiku holds lots of hopes in the North where he comes from and Tinubu’s hold on the South West is hard to challenge, Obi’s support base in the South-East and many parts of South-South cannot be dismissed.
In less than 48 hours, the coasts are going to be getting clearer who indeed has won the hearts of Nigerians to succeed Buhari as Nigeria’s next president.