One of the major hallmarks of a columnist is getting his calculations or analysis right. And without meaning to be boastful, it is to the credit of this column that it has gotten all its calculations, as far as our politics is concerned, completely correct. It predicted with precision, for example, that Atiku and Tinubu were going to win the primary elections of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Comgress (APC), respectively. And all that happened well before the elections.
It dismissed, with all due respect to the man, the Prof. Yemi Osinbajo aspiration as a non-starter, at a time his supporters were all over the social media rooting very strongly for his aspiration to win the APC presidential ticket. This column also predicted that APC was going to be faced with real crisis about choice of a running mate with Tinubu’s victory, because, though he is a Muslim from the South, we predicted he was likely to look beyond northern Christians and pick from among northern Muslims, which has come to pass.
There are people who still liken the supporters of former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, to those of Vice-President Osinbajo, concluding that, when the chips are down, these supporters have no substance, as not all of them have voter’s card. Perhaps not many Nigerians have come to terms with the fact that Peter Obi’s supporters are vociferous and well determined to make him the next occupant of the Presidential Villa for at least four years from May next year.
Whether the man is going to succeed as President is another matter altogether. All that matters to his supporters is that he is different from the other contestants, all of who are alleged to have one baggage or the other that Obi does not seem to have.
I cannot at this stage call myself a supporter of Peter Obi. On a personal level, I am still weighing my options. I am not inclined towards any of the candidates, yet. But there are at least six reasons why Peter Obi could well win the presidential election of next year and become Nigeria’s President.
Firstly, both APC and PDP erroneously think it is their exclusive right to win the next election, and that anyone contesting on other platforms is deceiving himself. This connotes a tendency to look down on an opponent, which has been proven to always be costly in any battle or contest.
The reality is that both APC and PDP have at one time or the other relied on rigging to get to different political offices. Which means their political prowess could well have been built on quicksand. At present, there are at least two APC governors that are in office illegally because they did not in reality win the election. They relied on technicalities to win in the courts of law, but certainly not in the court of public opinion.
This is not likely to happen in 2023., with the modified Electoral Act of 2022 that is going to make it pretty difficult for any of the major or minor political parties to rig the election in their favour. Which means the power of the people is almost certain to be the determinant of who wins any future political contest. We have seen that happen very recently in Ekiti and Osun, especially the latter, where a popular candidate defeated an incumbent governor seeking a second term of office.
And this brings us to the power of the people, second reason why Peter Obi could handsomely defeat both Tinubu and Atiku and emerge successor to President Muhammadu Buhari. Though it is not in doubt that support for Obi is more pronounced among Christian and southern groups, the fact remains the man is fast gaining acceptance even in the far North with overwhelming Muslim population.
There are large segments of northern voters who are disappointed in the Buhari administration and feel that if their support for a fellow Muslim northerner means their losing out practically on all fronts, then they have no need relying on such indices to support who should be the next President. In other words, these northerners, and they are growing in number, feel that if a northern Muslim could not make life better for them, then there is no need relying on primordial sentiments to determine who they vote for in next year’s election.
An analysis of eligible voters done by Channels TV, in concert with YIAGA Africa, put Nigerians between the ages of 18 to 40 as representing 70 per cent of eligible voters. Of course, this is not surprising, given that Nigeria has always had an active population, with our high birth rate. But it is shocking to me personally that the powers that be, that is, the lords of APC and PDP, still delude themselves thinking the youths of Nigeria will forget easily how they keep wasting their future and placing it all in serious jeopardy.
Between both parties, they wasted several years of these youths through endless strikes by ASUU, on account of nonchalant attitude of our respective governments. To add insult to a painful injury, the APC made someone seen as a contributor to the current strike by ASUU as its main spokesman for the presidential election. Does it mean they do not care that students in public universities and their parents and relations, numbering in millions, could feel offended by this and vote against the party?
The National Bureau of Statistics places the present rate of unemployment at 33 per cent. Remember this was produced by an agency of government, meaning that the figure is the minimum, and in reality it could well be twice that number. We see, daily on our roads and nooks and crannies, how graduates look for menial jobs to survive, and even these jobs are difficult to come by. Almost all drivers of online taxi-hailing platforms are graduates, some with master’s and other degrees. And these are even the lucky ones, but life has been turned to one hell of an experience for them.
But since the lords of the APC and PDP do not drive in ordinary buses or taxis or even Keke Napep, they are totally detached from the reality of everyday life in Nigeria. Though they are the lucky ones, even civil servants at the federal level hardly fare better. A childhood friend of mine still earns a salary of around one hundred thousand naira monthly. And he is at the managerial level in a federal parastatal. Only those working in CBN, NNPC and a few other federal organisations are faring better, or those who have been exposed to opportunities to steal from the treasury. Salaries of civil servants cannot take them home, and it is worse at the state level.
Most of those badly affected by the misrule of APC and, before it, the PDP, are those constituting 70 per cent of eligible voters in next year’s election. Except for a few of them who could allow themselves to be manipulated by religion or ethnicity, a vast majority are either going to stay at home on Election Day, or most likely go there and vote against the two dominant political parties.
A senior media colleague told me jokingly that it is easier to access the Lord than to access either of Tinubu or Atiku these days. Even access to their principal aides is a Herculean task. In their trademark arrogance, both parties feel they are the only options for Nigerians, and they can, therefore, afford to treat us with disdain. And this is coming even before they emerge successful.
But both Peter Obi and Rabi’u Kwankwaso are presently completely accessible. And the major political parties do not know the implication of such to their political fortune. The major parties are made so with the support of Nigerians. To think that the same Nigerians will blindly continue supporting them when none of them was ever mentioned in the Bible or the Qur’an is a joke taken too far. We are all suffering from acts of misgovernance started by the PDP and now continuing with the APC.
And this brings us to the third reason, which is Kwankwaso’s aspiration to be president. Tough at personal level he is my former governor and senator that I admire and support, I do not see Kwankwaso, on his own, emerging successful in the next presidential election. I see him more as a candidate of the future, given his mass appeal among the youths. The difference between him and Obi however, is that whereas both of them enjoy massive support from the youths, Obi’s own has more national appeal than Kwankwaso’s. In other words, whereas there is hardly any support for Kwankwaso in the southeast, for example, there is a lot of increasing support for Obi in the northwest, with many townhall meetings being held by the people and such meetings being funded and attended by the locals in large numbers. In contrast however, very few people could attend a meeting called by Tinubu or Atiku without their palms being greased.
Kwankwaso is definitely a very formidable candidate who could win some states, especially in the far north. But that will translate to a disaster for both Atiku and Tinubu. Kwankwaso’s win in parts of the north will weaken the potential of either of Atiku or Tinubu to win the presidential election at the first ballot. And all this at a time Peter Obi is most likely going to enjoy unanimous support from many parts of the south, especially the south-south and the south-east.
Both Atiku and Tinubu are already at a disadvantage because unless major agitations are squarely addressed before Election Day, they are going to tremendously lose in areas they were hitherto guaranteed of winning. Unless, for example, Atiku is able to iron out his differences with Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike, his chances of winning large segments of the south-south is going to be affected, because there are many potential voters in that part of the country who still feel aggrieved that a northerner, rather than a southerner, is the PDP presidential candidate. The spat with Wike, a governor working hard for his people and immensely loved by them, will badly affect Atiku’s potential to get ninety percent, plus, that PDP has always got in every presidential election since 1999.
Definitely, unless a miracle happens, Atiku is going to lose the southeast to Peter Obi. Since our return to democracy in 1999, the PDP has always enjoyed mass support from the southeast, which it will hardly get this time around. Atiku’s hope will therefore largely be to win large swathes of the north, which a Kwankwaso candidacy is going to significantly affect.
In the case of Tinubu, one of the major reasons Peter Obi has continued to gain more support has to do with the Muslim-Muslim ticket he has adopted. This has continued to rankle majority of Christians, especially in the north, who feel insulted that the APC candidate keeps insisting none of them is competent to be Vice President, given his insistence that he picked Kashim Shettima as running mate because the man is competent.
And with PDP producing governors in two southwestern states, the votes that some people think Tinubu will automatically get in that part of the country is no longer guaranteed.
There is also the factor of religion. Surely Peter Obi has not been showcased as a Christian candidate. But even in the north some people who believe Nigeria can only survive through true integration support him because they feel the presidential slot should go to a southern Christian, after eight years of Muhammadu Buhari, a northern Muslim. Those dismissing religion as a factor in Nigerian politics are only deluding themselves, perhaps enjoying the sounds of their voices.
There are Christian groups and churches that have already asked their adherents to go for Peter Obi, and some of them are the most influential in this country. We have also seen Muslim groups protesting publicly their aversion to same faith presidential ticket. What this means, therefore, given the impact of religion in Nigeria, is that many south westerners will rather support Obi at Tinubu’s expense.
Another major factor is that in their trademark arrogance, the PDP and APC feel they don’t even need some of their strong men and women to win the presidential election. Since visiting his fellow contestants shortly after the APC primaries, for example, Tinubu seems to have placed all of them in the cooler, and only listens to those who originally gave him support.
Even a powerful grassroots politician like Rotimi Amaechi who came second in the primaries has not been left out. In the case of the PDP, Atiku was reported to have said he does not necessarily need Wike or Rivers State to win the presidential election. It does not seem to matter to the PDP candidate that Nyesom Wike came second also in the primaries, and that his influence goes beyond the Rivers State that he governs.