2023 Presidential Poll: A Battle of Wills
Campaigns for the 2023 general elections have started, paving the way for Nigerians to elect who will govern them. In terms of popularity, the All Progressives Congress, the Labour Party and the Peoples Democratic Party are much of a muchness, and not many are sure which party will get there. Efforts made so far by Nigerians concerning voter registration are impressive. Those who had lost faith in Nigeria’s elections have now regained hope, keen to see their votes count in 2023. Never in the history of Nigeria’s electoral system have motivation reached such a fever pitch and huge numbers of voters been witnessed.
Without doubt, the emergence of Peter Obi of the Labour Party and the bitter lessons learnt by Nigerians under the APC’s years are responsible for the unprecedented proliferation of voters. It is a fact that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the APC and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP wield enormous influence as far as politics and politicking in Nigeria are concerned. Similarly, when one considers the ideology of Peter Obi and the regiment of converts he’s won, one won’t downplay a possible win by the party. The 2023 presidential election is complex in character and a battle of wills in which the will of the masses will be brazenly subverted. The electorate, unfortunately, will contribute to the subversion.
The parties will win and lose in that they have magic wands and underbellies. Thus, claims about winning being propagated by each party shouldn’t be translated as victory, because politics in Nigeria is a game that is as unpredictable as the Nigerian electorate. The only predictable phenomenon in the Nigeria’s polling system is rigging. For any of the three parties to fare well in the battle, it should participate in an intense debate about how it will tackle Nigeria’s problems. This is to avoid a repeat of the APC government, which, despite having started well in 2015, has floundered hopelessly, leading people to lose faith in the government as its tenure slowly winds down. Let’s examine how the parties stand.
The APC has intimidating structure; excess funds; a 422-man Campaign Committee (still counting), headed by a sitting president; a Committee with upwards of 940 women headed by the First Lady of Nigeria. The arrangement will put the party at a definite advantage since it was purposely drawn up to respond to the rising fame of the LP and any likely threat from the PDP. But can the APC’s years of misgovernment be erased from the memories of Nigerians in just four months? Moreover, how so inclined the relatives of those killed by terrorists in Nigeria feel to vote the same APC in 2023? Will its desperate choice of a Muslim-Muslim ticket, which doesn’t inspire many Nigerians attract votes from non-Muslims? Can INEC and the Judiciary be vouched for under the APC’s supervision? Can experts predict what follows if the APC government removes the fuel subsidy next year? These are facts to be squarely dealt with.
The LP takes its battle to social media, and it is yielding results. Obi and his vice, Datti, have toured different parts of Nigeria, promising a better deal. The supporters of the LP are predominantly youths, the largest percentage of Nigeria’s population. Christians, artisans, traders and Igbo youths find in the LP hope. The living Igbo victims and witnesses of civil war will have their tears staunched by Obi and the agitators for the Igbo sovereign nation find freedom. For long, the Igbos have waited patiently for the presidency.
However, the party will face the challenge posed by the voting strength of the North even if we agree that the population of the North is not a threat. To an extent, its political architecture has worn a different look: Governor Ganduje of Kano State has had his influence whittled away; northern youths are fleeing from the carnage in the North whilst foreigners are coming in; there will be vote sharing due to the emergence of Atiku, Shettima and Datti who are northerners. Notwithstanding the change, the LP has a big battle in hand, because when the population of and states in ‘Igbo’, South-South, ‘Yoruba’, and the Niger Delta are added together, they are behind the North. Besides, Anambra State wasn’t a paradise when Obi was the governor. Obi needs substantial votes from the North and the South, and God will save Obi from ‘inconclusive results’ next year.
The PDP relies on experience, solid structure, deep pockets and Atiku’s popularity to win the 2023 election. That people want the party back in power is not surprising. Atiku wouldn’t have been in the race if the ticket hadn’t been thrown open and Wike, if he’d clinched the ticket, is not that popular with the northerners to become president unless Atiku and his allies back him. You could call Wike a troublemaker but can’t ignore him as a resuscitator, game changer and a lover of justice. Equity, otherwise termed fairness, is a social reality that conduces to the peaceful existence of any nation. Gov. Wike is calling for fairness and inclusive government.
Unfortunately, the party’s preparation for the election is greeted with an internal crisis as allegations of grafts surface. Within the same house, Gov. Wike received deep ‘cuts’ from those he calls his friends, ‘cuts’ so deep as to make William Shakespeare and Julius Caeser leave their graves to testify to ‘the most unkindest cut of all’ if the case is taken to court. Atiku’s ambition, stoked by northern heavyweights, can affect the party’s chance of winning if the crisis is not quickly resolved. Standing aloof at the moment, Wike and some of his PDP governors are implying there’s no more safety in numbers, as they demand fairplay. But who takes the blame if, after Ayu happens to leave and the South-South is appeased, things don’t go as planned by the party in February 2023? What happens to Rivers State if Atiku emerges president in 2023 without the support of Wike and his camp?
To round off, I assert that Nigerians need God and the right people in Aso Rock; they don’t need anyone from any of the major parties for Nigeria to get back on track. The PDP and the APC are Tweedledum and Tweedledee differentiated only by their flags. They have disappointed. Atiku is a northerner and so is Shettima (vice) of the APC. As the campaigns kick off, parties will make promises: pay rise, cuts in fuel price, free healthcare delivery, cuts in public spending, continuation of the fuel subsidy, StudentMoni, GraduateMoni, renovation of refineries, etc. that make Nigerians forget their woes instantly. But mind the smiling salespeople you see in a shop.
Sola wrote from Port Harcourt.