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2023: The truth no one wants to talk about 

By Cyrus Ademola
09 February 2023   |   3:22 am
I’ve read and watched pundits and newsmen analyse and employ different permutations to predict who will emerge the winner of the forthcoming presidential election.

I’ve read and watched pundits and newsmen analyse and employ different permutations to predict who will emerge the winner of the forthcoming presidential election. Some believe their preferred candidate will win because of this factor or that factor, others claim it’s their preferred candidate because of another factor the last opposition analysts and predictors are not taking into cognisance. If you want a juicy and sumptuous conversation, just ask any diverse people whether online or in a newspaper vendor who is most likely to win this election, then sit back and watch your fellow Nigerians engage in fierce and gymnastic verbiage that will leave you more confused than the first time you ask the question. 

Indeed, no one has a crystal ball to predict the future. No one can even tell what will happen tomorrow. The absence of the ostensible knowledge to foretell the future is what makes life both interesting and bewildering. And as the saying goes, twenty-four hours is a long time in politics. Here is why I don’t really pay attention to those whose hubris and blindspots for a particular candidate makes them the wise soothsayer to tell us what the future holds. They just don’t know.

I’ve heard people speculate on how the 2023 election will be between the establishment and the people; the convention and those who dare to defy it. This group of persons claim that their preferred candidate is a defiance to the power-that-be and he identifies more with the agitations and grievances of Nigerians than any of the other candidates. I’m referring to Peter Obi supporters. These folks tagged themselves as the Obedient movements (An ironic name if you ask me. After all, if you claim you’re a defiance to the establishment, shouldn’t you be the disobedient movement? But then again I digress). These acolytes of the new political consciousness fail to realise that election is not defined by euphoria and social hysteria, but by a calculated efforts and coalition of people whose interest are in unison. That’s why it’s called democracy. 

In addition, the belief that Peter Obi is outside of the establishment is laughable, and obviously untrue. Up until last Tuesday, Peter Obi was a card-carrying member of the People Democratic Party—the main opposition party in this race. In fact, we should remind ourselves that he was in fact the vice presidential candidate for the same party in the last election. Hence, whatever attempt to brand Obi as a defiance to the establishment shouldn’t be taken seriously. And I’m glad many Nigerians can see through the thick veil of the hypocrisy. Peter Obi is a conventional politician like Atiku, Tinubu and Kwanwanso. You may argue that he is more competent or has a more immense capacity to lead the country than the rest of them, but that’s not the same as being unconventional. That’s not the same as being an outlier. He is not. 

Another argument puts forward by most people is that the general climate of the political space is that power should shift to the south. They argue that the pendulum swing of power has lingered in the north for the past eight years and it’s time for gravity to take its full course and swirl the power back the south. The adherents of this narrative even go a step further to say if power should move to the south, it should be to the south east because they are yet to produce a president since 1966. Here we find again those who support Obi to be very passionate and optimistic.

However, this belief is in itself an incomplete and narrow one, in fact. It’s true that the last president (Muhammad Buhari) is from the northern part of the country, and it’s also true that he has spent eight years in power. But that’s not the whole story. Since the inception of democracy and the fourth republic in 1999, the south has retained power for about fourteen years, and the north only eight. My point therefore is that there is really no collective agreement among Nigerians that the north will be insincere for them to still seek them highest office in the land. It’s an elitist argument that really doesn’t resonate with most Nigerians who are rural dwellers or spectators of the political space. 

Subsequently, there are those who claim that the All Progressive Congress (APC), the ruling party, has a slight edge over the other two main candidates—Atiku and Peter Obi because they are the ruling party and they have the power of incumbency to swing the votes to their favour. In this argument, I find some merit and I think it’s very compelling and even possible. No one can dismiss the power of incumbency in politics whether it’s in Africa or in advanced world.

The incumbent administration always have the resources, the inside information and the political loyalists who enjoy the largesse the present administration affords them to control things in their favour. APC also has the majority of the northern governors and local government chairmen.  In other words, they can control things in the grassroots, especially in the core northern states when it comes to the election.

Added to this, the APC seems to have a formidable political candidate in the person of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Yesterday, I heard someone said that Tinubu is no longer in the race because of his recent disagreement with Buhari’s legacy policy of the new naira note redesign and deadline.

This fellow remarked that this little fracture between the president and his candidate will affect Tinubu at the poll since Tinubu won’t be having Buhari’s support.

I laugh in Spanish! Tinubu is a political titan who has built a strong political structure over the years, particularly in the north. A little fracture won’t puncture that structure and loyalty. If you ignore Tinubu, you do it to your own peril. Tinubu has more chance to win this election than Peter Obi or Kwanwanso. He has done the groundwork! 

Yet I still think the possibility of Tinubu emerging the winner is far-fetched. Indeed, the disagreement between Tinubu and Buhari over the new naira note policy won’t cause a fallout between the two politicians. But the flaw behind a possibility of a Tinubu presidency is that the northern hegemony is not for him. He might have the support of the northern governors, but that doesn’t translate into gaining the upper hand in the north in terms of votes. Let’s not forget that in 2015, most of the northern governors were in PDP yet Jonathan was voted out of office in a politically dramatic fashion.

There is really no consensus in the north that Tinubu is their preferred candidate over someone like Kwanwanso or the Adamanwa titan, Atiku Abubakar. In fact, if one observes the current political condition, one will quickly realise that the tide is actually turning in Atiku’s favour with key politicians from the north defecting or returning back to PDP to liaise with Atiku. 

Another thing that makes a Tinubu presidency a mirage, rather than a possibility is that even though he has built a strong relationship with the northern caucus, he hasn’t done so much work with the people of the south east, south south and the middle belt. APC as a party can’t really claim they will win any region comfortably apart from the south west. And as one analyst points out, whatever region PDP doesn’t win, it is most likely to come a close second. This is because PDP is a party with a more national outlook than APC or Labour Party. PDP is more likely to win the south south, the north east and even the north central. Because of the Obi factor, they will definitely come second in the south east—with APC coming a very distance third. 

The obvious truth about this election is that while many people are claiming that the south west (Yorubas) are going to vote for Tinubu en masse, and the south east (Igbos) will do the same for Obi, they fail to realise that this ethnic sentiment is also prevalent in the northern part of the country. One can’t claim that Obi will get the Igbo votes and Tinubu the Yoruba votes, but Atiku Abubakar won’t get most of the Hausa/Fulani votes. That is ignoring the obvious. Whatever way one wants to look at it, one will realise that Atiku has a greater edge to win this election than any of the other candidates not only because he’s a northerner, but because he’s a northerner who also has a very strong national appeal to the rest of the country. Therefore, if I’ll be putting my money on anyone to win this election (though I admit it’s a tight race), mine will be on Atiku Abubakar. 
Ademola is a journalist from Lagos
Twitter: CyrusAdemola

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