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Chatham House Visits and Race To Succeed Buhari: When three of four horses came to town 

By Tunde Oyedoyin, London
22 January 2023   |   4:02 am
With just a little over a month to go before Nigerians elect the successor to President Muhammadu Buhari, three of the names in the apparently obvious four-horse race battle have mounted the podium at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, popularly known as Chatham House

With just a little over a month to go before Nigerians elect the successor to President Muhammadu Buhari, three of the names in the apparently obvious four-horse race battle have mounted the podium at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, popularly known as Chatham House, to talk about their plans and agenda for Africa’s most populous nation.

With the exception of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP’s Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who is yet to honour the invite, the Labour Party’s Peter Obi and New Nigeria’s Peoples Party, NNPP’s Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, and The All Progressive Congress, APC’s Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had made use of the space given to them to advance their bids.

Do their visits offer any takeaways about the identity of the man who would be king? Irrespective of whether the answer is a “yes” or “no,” here’s how it all panned out there. Perhaps, as already mentioned, it might provide some takeaways.

When, on the first Monday of the very last month of last year, the APC candidate, Tinubu blazed the trail and came to town, not since the visit of the inaugural candidate – then candidate Buhari – of his party in 2015, has the vicinity of the Royal Institute witnessed such flow of human traffic and buzz for an event, as was the case on that day, December 5.

Irrespective of your projections and hate him or love, Asiwaju pulled the crowd and seems to weigh more than that of a typical heavyweight politician.

Interestingly, it wasn’t just Tinubu’s loyalists or APC members who found their way to the venue on that day. His adversaries too showed up, hoping to rain on his parade and that of the party. They came with placards and made an impressive showing, but were outnumbered and outmuscled by the might of the ruling party’s faithful who boxed them to submission. The APC lot sang the now familiar anthem “on your mandate we shall stand, on your mandate we shall stand, Bola, on your mandate, on your mandate…”

Like candidate Buhari in 2015, governors too, including those of Lagos, Kaduna and Cross River, were in Tinubu’s entourage. Party officials were in attendance as well, just as was the case eight years ago when the likes of their chairman, Chief John Oyegun led from the front with an impressive presence. To replicate the same atmosphere eight years later was no child’s play.

On December 5, the organisers and APC team even had to deploy the services of the Metropolitan Police to not just control the crowd, but to ensure the Mecca-like vicinity of the St James’s Square location of the event did not descend into chaos.

Tickets for the event itself were not available on the day and Chatham House staff just didn’t want anyone shoving their face in theirs if they didn’t already own an e-ticket to their name.

It was no different ball game for the visit of Obi. When it was the turn of Senator Kwankwaso, on Wednesday, all hopes were not lost for gatecrashers. “We’ll see if we can sort something out,” was their response to a party faithful whose name was not on those registered to attend.

The vicinity itself was very serene like another day in the office at Chatham House. Aside a gathering of about 20 of his people trying to get cleared to enter the building, you couldn’t know a Nigerian presidential candidate was scheduled to speak there. With Obi, you could sense something was going on. The hall was packed and though the services of the Met Police were not required for crowd control outside, he had about 50 loyalists and a handful of APC people who were there for intelligence reasons.

But despite the contrasting numbers and vibes that accompanied them, you can’t write off a dark horse, especially if they delivered a well articulated address like that of Kwanwaso.

Obi’s outing too was no far glamorous than that of the Asiwaju. However, any Goliath shouldn’t underrate the chances of a David as well. Having said that, if there’s any obvious takeaways from the coming to town of these three horses, APC seems to be on the road to a hat-trick of victories at the presidential polls.

As for PDP’s Atiku’s no show, that looks like an unforced error. The Guardian was there in Chatham House when Atiku came to use their podium to make his case against his then boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo. Let’s hope the Waziri of Adamawa fancies the invite that is still live and make the trip back to Saint James’s Square.