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2023: Who Will Emerge as the Flagbearers?

Among politicians, political analysts, supporters and ordinary citizens, anxiety is at a high level as to who will win the day in the various party primaries particularly in the two major parties, the Peoples’ Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress respectively.
In a few days’ time however all anxiety and conjectures will be laid to rest as reality dawns on the people on the basis of the outcomes from the primaries.
In this piece, we take a peep into the possible outcomes as it concerns the two most important contesting parties and the likely winners of the ticket for the top job i.e the position of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Both parties have a roll-call of powerful personalities with intimidating profiles taking part in this process. However we will attempt to zero in on the most important 4 on each side.
For the APC one could easily list Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Rotimi Amaechi and current President of the Senate Dr. Ahmed Lawan while on the PDP side the top four in my assessment will be Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi, Barrister Nyesom Wike current governor of Rivers State and Hon Aminu Tambuwal current governor of Sokoto State.
As of today there seems to be a groundswell of anti- Tinubu sentiments which centres mainly around the perception that he is physically unfit for the arduous task of running the affairs of state as well as the feeling that he already has his fingers in so many pies in Lagos where he has continued to maintain a strangle hold on the political space and continues to dictate the direction and candidates for so long. In recent times his public gaffes and his frail look have become a source of worry for even some of his most ardent supporters. On the positive side though Tinubu is credited with having laid the building blocks for the phenomenal turnaround of Lagos which has positioned it as the leading state in IGR statistics. His deft maneuvering during his face-off against the Obasanjo regime when some of the state’s funds were withheld by the federal government is another point for which he continues to receive rave reviews. It is believed that this political sagacity and shrewd, economic and creative problem-solving skills stand him in good stead. A lot will however depend very much on the weight that the party delegates put on these streghts vis a vis his weaknesses. In our political setting where money can turn night into day and with a Jagaban that moves cash in bullion vans it might be too hasty to count him out.
Professor Osinbajo the incumbent Vice-President has, first of all, the benefit of incumbency and this can come in handy when the need to pull strings arises. He might not personally possess the kind of financial war chest which Tinubu can boast of but with incumbency there is easy access to funds, at least in our part of the world only a thin line exists between personal and public resources. All it might require may be to provide a few more billions of naira to phantom traders and school children under the Tradermoni and school feeding programmes of the regime. He has grown some substantial fan base especially in the north out of his perceived loyalty to his principal President Muhammadu Buhari even though in the same breath many others vilify him for failing the loyalty test to his long time boss and benefactor Bola Tinubu by running against him. However Osinbajo has the gift of oratory and articulateness and comes across as fairly tech savvy- the quality of which the world’s top leaders are made. It is a mark of his sharp wit and deep understanding of burning issues that he can speak extemporaneously on almost any topic and do so excellently. He has an aura that connects well with people of all cadres-youth, women, poor, rich, high amd mighty and lowly pauper. Some fleeting opportunities have also provided us a glimpse into his will power and capacity to do the right thing no matter whose ox is gored. For many others he has not shown enough courage to speak up on behalf of the Christian populace with all the persecution in recent times. They cite his reticence on such occasions as a sign that he is not man enough to stand up for his religious conviction in spite of his status as a pastor and number two man in the country.. It is true that he does not have a political structure but the seeming support of his boss President Muhammadu Buhari and by implication the boss’ support base, may be more than enough to make the necessary difference. His chances are quite high. Except a dark horse with the support base of the powers-that-be enters the race, Osinbajo may just be unstoppable!
Rotimi Amaechi This candidate might win a few states in the South South region and maybe a handful of votes from grateful hearts in Katsina State where he contributed immensely to the state development with the establishment and location of Maritime University and the helipad or airstrip. Beyond this I do not see why he went into the race. It will be a colossal disaster if the party for any reason fields him! Hate or love him he can lay claim to some contribution to the rail infrastructure that is growing gradually around the country. Perhaps it is on this basis that he wants to try his luck or at least earn the title “also ran”.
Ahmed Lawan the incumbent Senate President, is a late entry into the race and one wonders why it took him so long to make up his mind. Could he be the dark horse introduced into the race for certain strategic reasons? This candidate cannot be underrated because he is the only northerner with reasonable clout in the race, he has been quite supportive of the Executive branch and the Presidency might be all too willing to pay him back with the ticket for his “rubber stamp” dimension of support. He might be the one being considered to short-circuit the chances of a possible Atiku Presidency. Despite his late entry into the race, this man is an aspirant to watch! APC may want to field him to divide the northern votes if Atiku wins the PDP ticket.
It is noteworthy that the APC contest might not necessarily be a fair one where only the best emerges as there is every likelihood that the party might push for a consensus candidate who the party leadership considers “best fit”. This tendency is clearly indicated with the introduction of a voluntary withdrawal form signed alongside the nomination and expression of interest form by all the aspirants. As it stands, all it takes for any aspirant to be out of the race is for the party leadership to flash the respective duly filled and signed withdrawal form to the media and general public. Some of the abrasions from the party convention which was largely consensus-determined are yet to heal and it is hoped that the party will not complicate matters for itself by rail-roading the delegates to a predetermined destination.
On the PDP side, my take is that Atiku, despite some flaws here and there, towers above every other contestant within his party. He is known to have a huge political structure across the country which is comparable only to that of Tinubu. His financial war chest is reportedly formidable in spite of having divested from his former cash cow- Intels Ltd- following consistent harassment of the business by agents of the current administration. He is an old war horse having been involved in the political journey since the third republic so he can give as much as he takes the punches. As Vice- President for eight years, he has garnered sufficient administrative experience at the level of the Presidency that could help him navigate the tough terrain of governance. He is also known to have the capacity to assemble the right team for the job. He has however drawn the ire of a lot of Nigerians over his handling of the privatization programme of the Obasanjo regime which was directly within his purview. Many still recall the performance of that programme under his watch as below expectation. Another minus for this candidate is the number of times he has gone out of, and returned to the PDP. To some watchers this portrays him as being too desperate for power and disloyal to the party that brought him to power and prominence ostensibly making him unstable and unreliable. Indeed one co-contestant has consistently hit at this sore point at every opportunity. In a related manner, his prevarication over the dastardly killing of a Christian lady in Sokoto by a muslim mob about a fortnight ago has affected his rating but it may not have a lasting effect. Another point going for him is his northern nativity. Though the Nigerian political landscape has come a long way, ethnicity is still a major deciding factor for the vast number of voters and this is particularly true of northern delegates/ voters. Without doubt this is one aspirant who can go the distance against anyone who emerges as APC’s candidate. With the ascendancy of a new party on the block being promoted by Rabiu Kwankwaso, the NNPP, which has the capacity of a spoiler, the need to forge an alliance may arise and I see this aspirant being able to pull an alliance with Kwankwaso easily compared to others. PDP’s jettisoning of its long treasured zoning policy may have something to do with this aspirant. Atiku is the most likely aspirant to pick the PDP ticket!
Enter Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State. If past performance was all that mattered, this aspirant would probably have no rival across the parties especially in the area of shrewd management of resources and his disdain for tampering with public property or resources. While many states are still reeling from the reckless acquisition of debts by governors of several terms past, whatever debts Anambra has now, is not traceable to Obi’s administration. While many past governors have been regular guests of the EFCC over the years for one misdemeanor or the other they committed while in office, Peter Obi has continued to walk freely, proudly, unblemished, free of any negative tar. Passionate, visionary, even his cricket voice is unable to frustrate his resolve to take his message of recovery to the corners of the country. His popularity has grown tremendously in the last few years since he began to publicly share his experience while in office. It is a mark of his seriousness that he has met with delegates across 35 states in record time when some of the aspirants who even have state funds at their disposal are yet to do much. The only state he did not visit is Adamawa as, according to him, a mark of respect for Atiku Abubakar. I sense that this duo have a plan! The entire Igbo delegates are likely to give him their votes but that won’t be enough for him to sail through. Considering the current parlous state of Nigeria’s economy, this aspirant ought to be the most rational choice but Nigeria’s political engineering is still dominated by primordial sentiments and not rationality or logic. He is a great aspirant by whatever standards and might end up getting the running mate slot again, especially if Atiku emerges as candidate of the PDP.
Barrister Nyesom Wike otherwise popularly called Mr. Projects has done tremendously well in terms of infrastructure across his state, Rivers State. Under him, the state has won landmark judgements that has improved its financial standing because of his fearlessness and readiness to challenge whatever he is not comfortable with, legally. He has consistently given of his best at every political berth he has been opportune to have, emerging best local government chairman many years ago, being in the forefront of the implementation of the Almajiri Schools Policy under the GEJ administration where he served as Minister of State of the Education Ministry. He has also been consistently PDP which makes him a thoroughbred of the party. For most politicians in Nigeria, this consistency is a rare quality. Indeed, among the top four candidates of the PDP this piece is focusing on, he is the only one who has the clean record of not having succumbed to the “sokugo” (wandering disease) spirit of Nigerian politicians. His government has supported several states with cash donations during times of emergency. Reports have it also that he has been a major source of financial support to his party. He has promoted himself as the one who can deal with banditry and all the sundry security challenges in the land and most Nigerians believe that he can truly do so because he is focused, fearless and imbued with uncommon will power to do whatever he believes is right. On the flip side Wike has an acerbic tongue, is undiplomatic, spares no one and very uncompromising. These are some of the qualities that tend to obscure his exceptional performance in government given our penchant as a people to elevate sentiments over logic. The records also have it that he contributed, albeit unwittingly, to the crisis that engulfed and almost consumed the party shortly after it lost power at the centre because of the caliber of persons he brought in to administer it. Though his supporters are certain he had good intentions the damage the persons inflicted on the party was quite telling. It is doubtful whether he has any solid political structure beyond his state. The recent arrest of a fellow PDP member by his government may also count against him. While some people believe that he will be a good vice-president giving his principal quality counsel and support, others believe that by his alleged irascible nature, his loyalty cannot be guaranteed. However his supporters cite his performance as junior minister in the ministry of Education when his principal was even a woman to defend him as being capable of subordinating to authority where necessary. They go on to say that without Wike’s supportive role the party may have gone under entirely. Will he emerge as running mate?
Aminu Tambuwal with barely average success as governor in the last 8 years and with a baggage of being perceived as duplicitous may not stand much of a chance in the current ratings. His duplicity tag arise from how he clinched the Speakership of the House of Representatives. Politicians’ memory is always very sharp and they are always keen on taking their pound of flesh whenever the opportunity presents itself. No doubt he has youth and his northern roots as advantage but the stakes are far higher than that right now. It is also believed that he and his administration failed to handle the trending case of Deborah Samuel who was murdered by a mob on the strength of a claim that she blasphemed the prophet Muhammed, quite poorly.
It seems to me that at the end of these primaries, Atiku will emerge PDP candidate while either of Prof. Osinbajo or Senator Dr. Ahmed Lawan may emerge for the APC.
Ladies and gentlemen, let’s go there!

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