Opinion

2023 Presidential Race: The Candidates, How Nigerians Perceive Them

As the 2023 presidential election draws near, it has become necessary to take a critical look at the presidential candidates and how Nigerians perceive them.

Atiku Abubakar:  The Turakin Adamawa has come a long way in politics right from 1989 he retired as Deputy Director from the Nigeria Custom Service Abubakar has been in politics.

He ran for the governorship of Adamawa State in 1990, 1997 and became governor in 1998 from where Obasanjo picked him as his vice presidential running mate in the 1999 presidential election and was re-elected as vice in 2003.

Atiku has contested five times for the office of president of Nigeria. He contested in 1993, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. He narrowly lost to Buhari in 2019 presidential election, but it was believed that he was the winner but was schemed out by the APC sophisticated rigging machine.

Atiku’s over burning ambition to be president may turn out to be his undoing, especially in the South-East where he was being looked upon as usurping the turn of the region. Many southerners believe that it is the turn of the Igbo to produce the president and that Atiku has not respected that with his 2023 presidential ambition.

Hitherto popular in the South-East, his entrance into the race has drastically reduced his popularity and may cause him loss of votes from the region. As things stand today, majority of the South-Easterners will likely cast their votes for Peter Obi of the Labour Party. If however, new political calculations arise which might affect Peter Obi, the Igbos would still prefer Atiku to Tinubu.

At the national level, Nigerians have an ace to grind with Atiku because they believe he made substantial part of his wealth frandulently. They alleged that he used his position as customs boss then to amass illegal wealth and more so as the chairman of Obasano’s privatization programme when he was vice president. They claimed that Atiku sold Nigeria’s assets to himself and his cronies, alleging that it was the illicit monies from these outfits that he was using to finance his presidential project.

There is also rumours that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is not a Nigerian that he is from Cameroon. Recently, social media became awash with pictures of Atiku’s elder brother whom they showed as a top government official in Cameroon. The pictures of the man displayed in the social media platforms actually resembled Atiku.

Despite this scandal, Atiku, a staunch Muslim will still garner large votes from the predominantly Muslim North.

Atiku’s soured political relationship with his former boss, Obasanjo might affect his chances, especially now that Obasanjo is believed to be working for the victory of Peter Obi.

The Turakin Adamawa’s nemesis in his bid to become president from all indications, might be Nyesom Wike, the Governor of Rivers State. Wike is in total control of the PDP, especially in the South, and his not so good relationship with Atiku is sure to affect Atiku’s chances in the South-South. Political analysts believe that if Atiku wants to win the presidential election he should placate the Rivers State governor who was still nursing the wounds of his loss of the PDP presidential primaries.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu – No presidential aspiration in the history of Nigerian politics has drawn so much criticisms like that Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The man has made his case worst by not coming clean with his age, educational qualification and even state of origin. His real name is even said to be shrouded in secrecy and doubts.

All these have made him a mystery man, and a large population of Nigerians feel such a man is not worth to be entrusted with the leadership of the country.

Although, an experienced and practical politician having been governor of Lagos State for two consecutive times and worked in various top echelons of politics, Tinubu’s ability to perform is now hampered by age and health.

The criticisms of Nigerians against his presidential ambition is hinged on his age and present condition of health.

Tinubu in his public appearances and speeches have shown that he has not the vigour anymore to handle the affairs of Nigeria effectively and efficiently in this jet age.

The Jagaban of Nigerian politics had in the past been accused of amassing illegal wealth from the Lagos State government, particularly when he was the governor of the state. His name is synonymous with bullion vans, a reference to his career in the politics of Lagos State when he was said to have used bullion vans to transport fraudulently acquired money to his Boudillion home in Ikoyi for sharing during elections. He is one of the politicians who pioneered politics of money-sharing in Nigeria.

Tinubu’s name featured prominently during and SARs protest, with some of the youths alleging that he was responsible for shooting and killing of some of their colleagues at the Lekki Toll Gate. The youths of Nigeria had vowed that because of that debacle they would forever not have anything to do with Tinubu’s presidential ambition, which was why they have pitched their tents with Peter Obi of the Labour Party who they believed had the vigor as a young man to pilot the affairs of Nigeria.

BAT, the shrewd political strategist who claimed he single handedly put Buhari in power has devised a shrewd method of wrestling votes from the North. He has picked an alleged religious fanatic Shettima as his vice presidential candidate. Shettima, former Borno State governor is an alleged sponsor of  Boko Haram who made the administration of Goodluck Jonathan ungovernable and have continued their killing spree in Buhari government. Shettima is capable of engineering religious crisis in the country if his party, the APC failed to win the election. And so with him Tinubu is bound to garner votes from the North, particularly North East.

Tinubu will equally get majority votes from the South-West, his base. They will vote for him not because he is capable at his age and health to lead the country, but because of tribal sentiments which had been their pattern of politics.

They will vote him because “he is our own”.

Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso – Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) presidential candidate was a former governor of Kano State. He was also a former Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Although very popular with the talakawas – commoners of the North, particularly Kano State, his soured relationship with Ibrahim Shekaru who recently defected to the PDP will cost him loss of some votes from the Kano electorate. Shekaru, a former governor of Kano State is an influential figure as far as Kano politics is concerned.

Kwankwaso will also lose a lot of votes to Atiku and Tinubu in the North which will certainly affect his chances of emerging president.

Peter Obi – The entrance of Peter Obi, the presidental candidate of the Labour Party (LP) into the presidential race, has not only changed the political equation of 2023 elections, but ignited fear into the candidates of the dominant parties, the APC and PDP.

Born in 1961 in Onitsha Anambra State, Obi graduated from the University of Nigeria in 1984 and went ahead to acquire a higher degree in Economics from Havard University.

He served as governor of Anambra State from March to November 2006, February to May 2007, and from June 2007 to March 2014.

Formerly of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Obi later pitched his tent with the PDP from where he was selected as the vice presidential nominee for Atiku Abubakar in the 2019 presidential election. Atiku however lost to Buhari of the APC in the election.

Obi who had worked diligently for the PDP became disenchanted with the party for failure to zone the 2023 presidential ticket to the South-East as popularly demanded, moved to the Labour Party and became its presidential candidate.

Immediately he made known his presidential ambition,  the youths of Nigeria who had become fed up with the leadership failure of the APC, launched a massive media campaign in the social media in support of his bid. The social media campaigns snowballed into a mass movement which brought together more than 30 million youths both at home and in the diaspora working for the actualization of Obi’s mandate.

These massive supporters known as ‘Obidients’ have started a kind of revolution in the political system which has caused fear in the camp of Tinubu and Atiku resulting in politics of blackmail and mudslinging being hurled at Obi. One of the Tinubu boys, Sam Omatseye – a cash and carry journalist had given backing to the politics of blackmail when some weeks back he had published a scathing piece titled: Obi-tuary in which he literally wished Peter Obi death and maligned IPOB and the entire Igbo race. When the obedients responded to his diatribe, Sam recoiled into his shell and raised false alarm that Peter Obi’s supporters were plotting to kill him. It was later understood that it was his conscience that rattled him to confess his fears.

The Obedients are very powerful both in the social and traditional media and had responded forcefully to every insults hurled at Obi by Atiku and Tinubu’s supporters.

As Obi’s supporters increases in number everyday all over the country, the presidency of Atiku and Tinubu is being threatened. To downplay Obi’s popularity the Atiku and Tinubu camp have alleged that the Labour Party’s presidential candidate is only popular in social media, adding that he had no political structure to win election. What they meant by political structure was the rigging machine they had in place over  the years for manipulating election results. Even at that, Peter Obi had told them that his structures are the millions of pauperized Nigerians who were now working to install him in Aso Rock wins 2023.

As it stands today, if Nigeria holds free and fair election devoid of manipulation, Obi will win hands down. The millions of obedients who whole heartedly believe he will revive the country economically will vote for him. Their belief is hinged on Obi’s achievements in Anambra State when he was the governor. Obi revived the almost moribund Anambra State economy, turning it into investors’ paradise by putting in place the infrastructures required to attract investors.

A recent opinion poll by an independent body indicates that Obi will win the 2023 Presidential election ahead of Tinubu, Atiku and Kwankwaso.

But would the powers that be and the rigging structure which Atiku and Tinubu alluded allow Obi to fly? There is a popular belief that the oligarchy will not relinquish power easily and for that will likely manipulate the election, or even annul it if Obi wins.

“If Obi is manipulated out of the election, based on his popularity with the youths presently, Nigeria may head to anarchy”, one political analyst posited.

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