Shape of Things to Come in 2023 Elections, By Farooq A. Kperogi
While the forecast for the 2023 elections is still clouded by uncertainties, a few things are coming out in bold relief. One of them is that neither the All Progressives Congress (APC) nor the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would be the same after June 3 this year.
Political parties have a relatively short amount of time to nominate and present their candidates to INEC or risk exclusion from the 2023 election. INEC insists that parties have from April 4 until June 3 to do this. “Where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of the Act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate shall not be included in the election for the particular position in issue,” INEC said in a statement on April 5. In other words, there’s little time left for intra-party politicking.
If APC conducts a primary election (whether it’s direct or indirect), all indications point to the possibility of Bola Ahmed Tinubu winning it handily. Although he is one of the, if not the, least desirable candidates from the party, he is far and away the most prepared to win its primary election.
Since the Aso Rock cabal which now firmly controls the party machinery doesn’t want him, my guess is that the party won’t risk a primary election.
They’ll rather opt for a “consensus candidate”—like they did in the choice of new party officials. And the consensus candidate might be a dark horse.
I sense that it might be Ekiti State governor Kayode Fayemi— if the cabal is inclined to take the ticket to the Southwest. Except for the discomfort that his full-throated support for Amotekum caused among the Aso Rock cabal, Fayemi ticks all the boxes for them. He isn’t confrontational, is mild-mannered, and looks unlikely to rock the boat (although there’s no history of any Nigerian president who has ever allowed himself to be puppeteered by the people who helped him to power.)
Or, as unlikely as it seems, the cabal might settle on Babatunde Fashola if they sour on Fayemi enough to ditch him, although Fashola has publicly said he isn’t interested in running for president.
The other option the APC establishment is toying with is to choose a “consensus candidate” from the South-South. Who that might be keeps changing every day. Top contenders, for now, seem to be Rotimi Amaechi and CBN governor Godwin Emefiele (who is being propped up by the late Samaila Isa Funtua family— who’re unofficial co-governors of the CBN). But there might be a dark horse we don’t even know of yet.
Well, Tinubu is unlikely to accept this outcome lying down. Given his monomaniacal obsession with becoming president and his never-say-die attitude, he would most likely defect to another political party and be its presidential candidate, which won’t get him anywhere.
BusinessDay is already speculating that Tinubu is in talks with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to run on its platform. Let’s see how that goes, but should APC wait until the last moment to turn in its nominee to INEC, Tinubu would be in a real quandary because there won’t be enough time to hatch an alternative plan.
Yemi Osinbajo isn’t even in contention. He can’t win a primary election if one were conducted because he neither has the smarts nor the political structure to win one. He is only hoping that Tinubu would on his own, or be persuaded to, drop out of the race and endorse him, which is as unlikely as a snowball surviving in hell. Nor is he an option to be a consensus candidate given his toxicity as a religious bigot who is unsellable in the Muslim North.
Since no candidate has ever won— and can ever win— a presidential election on the basis of support from only one religious group (never mind that CAN and PFN are bragging that they can singlehandedly cause only Christians to elect a Nigerian president), he would be the riskiest candidate any major political party would ever present for presidential election.
You would think the PDP would take advantage of the impending tsunami in APC to get back to power. After all, in secret cables unveiled by WikiLeaks in 2011, Tinubu had really kind words to say about Atiku Abubakar throughout his interactions with the American Consul General to Nigeria in 2003.
“Tinubu praised Vice President Atiku Abubakar, whom he has known for many years,” the Consul General wrote. “Elaborating on his knowledge of the VP, Tinubu said he has known and understood the VP even before his entry into politics. Atiku is a detribalized politician who knows where he is going and how to build bridges to get there.”
The Consul General also wrote that, “Tinubu credits his going into politics to Atiku’s personal encouragement.” So, given this relationship, you would think a hurt Tinubu would team up with Atiku to defeat APC. But that is unlikely to happen.
PDP is in a worse disarray than the APC is in. Atiku doesn’t seem to have the kind of financial war chest that he had when he defeated Kwankwaso, Saraki, and Tambuwal in the PDP presidential primaries during the 2019 election. Even if he can win the primaries, he won’t be an easy candidate to sell now.
Apart from his age, persuading Christians in the North and in the South to vote for another Muslim from the North who, like Buhari, is ethnically Fulani—even if he is more cosmopolitan than Buhari—would be tough. The argument that the North has only ruled for two years in PDP’s 16 years of being in power, valid as it is, won’t resonate in the South, particularly in the aftermath of the unprecedented divisiveness of the Buhari presidency.
Sokoto State governor Aminu Tambuwal, who is within striking distance of winning PDP’s nomination given how much he has been investing in securing the loyalty of delegates, is a lackluster, provincial politician who has no appeal outside a narrow segment of the Northwest and has recently been dogged by disturbing allegations of corruption. I don’t see how he can win a national election. Plus, he is also, like Buhari, from the Northwest.
Rivers State governor Nyesom Wike who has the PDP in his pocket at the moment and who says he wants to be president, too, missed his calling as a comedian, a humorless comedian.
Channels TV’s Seun asked Nyesom Wike, “Why do you want to be Nigeria’s president?” “I want to become Nigeria’s PROBLEM because, one, we’re in a problem,” he said.
It was a slip, of course, but it was a Freudian slip (i.e., an unintentional mistake that reveals an awkward truth people would rather hide) that betrays Wike’s knowledge that a humorless, incompetent clown like him would be a PROBLEM to any country that has the misfortune to elect him president. I don’t see him winning a national election.
Bukola Saraki is another PDP candidate that looks good on paper, but most of us from Kwara State know him as one of the worst governors we’ve ever had, who went ahead to install a fawning surrogate to succeed him whom he then controlled like a yo-yo. So, he basically ruled Kwara for four terms of 16 years and left it worse than he met it. People from Kwara State will come out to warn Nigerians not to trust someone like him with the presidency.
I can go on, but the point I want to make is that PDP, which is, for the most part, no more than a confederacy of APC rejects, doesn’t look like it is capable of cashing in on APC’s potential Tinubu-inspired implosion to win back power. Is that an opportunity for a third-party candidate? I honestly don’t know, but let’s see.