By Adnan Mukhtar
As the 2023 general elections knock on the door with 18 presidential candidates on the ballot, pundits have narrowed the options available to Nigerians to just four.
This is the first time that Nigeria will witness the rise of major presidential contenders under unpopular platforms. Despite practising multi party system, Nigeria has always witnessed two major contenders for the office of the president since 1999.
It was Olusegun Obasanjo and Olu Falae in 1999. It was Obasanjo of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Muhammadu Buhari of the All People’s Party (APP) in 2003. It was Umaru Musa Yaradua of PDP and Buhari of All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) in 2007. It was Buhari of Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) and Dr Goodluck Jonathan of PDP in 2011. But in 2007 and 2011, Atiku Abubakar and Nuhu Ribadu flew the flags of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) respectively and both came third.
Buhari contested for this office three times and lost before he won in 2015 after the merger with other political parties which won him the southwest and north central.
The decision to elect Buhari in 2015 and 2019 has however turned out to be a regrettable one for Nigerians as sorrow, tears and blood have been the lot of the masses.
With all these challenges facing the country, who can rescue and unite Nigeria at this critical moment?
The All Progressives Congress has Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as its flag bearer, Peoples Democratic Party has Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Labour Party is fielding Peter Obi and the New Nigeria Peoples Party has nominated Dr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.
Analysts are of the view that it’s a repeat of the 1979 general election with five candidates among whom Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) emerged victorious.
Despite having four major contenders, the race is strictly between Atiku and Tinubu. The other two – Obi and Kwankwaso – are just regional candidates like Obafemi Owolowo of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Nnamdi Azikwe of the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP) and Aminu Kano of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP), in 1979.
While PDP and APC have structures across the country, LP and NNPP have not fielded candidates for all the National Assembly, State House of Assembly seats and governorship positions across the country.
While Atiku and Tinubu are aiming for the top prize, Obi and Kwankwaso are apparently in this race to garner experience for the future and claim they were once presidential candidates.
Tinubu’s candidacy has problems of its own. His party is deemed to have failed the country and his presence of mind and general health status are suspect.
Tinubu is relying on the core north to give him votes but his approval rating in the northwest has plummeted in recent weeks with new naira notes palaver and acute fuel shortage supervised by the APC moving people to the edge.
Hajia Najatu Mohammed’s defection to the Atiku camp and recent campaign against the APC candidate have also done incalculable damage to the chances of the Tinubu/Shettima ticket in the North.
Obi is winning the southeast, parts of south-south and parts of north central but there is no credible path to victory for him.
As attested to by Governor Charles Chukwuma Soludo, Obi’s performance in Anambra is also not inspiring, aside saving monies he should have spent on infrastructure and human capital development.
Kwankwaso’s performance as Kano State governor was incredible. He sponsored the children of the poor for postgraduate and undergraduate studies abroad.
His understanding of national politics is however shallow. Like Obi, he has to shatter a huge glass ceiling to be able to get near the Villa.
The NNPP according to analysts can only win Kano, his home state, with a slim margin but cannot go anywhere in Kaduna, Jigawa, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara States.
A vote for NNPP will only strengthen Tinubu’s APC. It is a vote for continuity of Buhari’s failure. The party is no where outside Kano, therefore will not be compared with Aminu Kano’s PRP in the second republic with two governors and members of the National Assembly from Kano, Kaduna and other Northern States.
Atiku is an old war horse, a restless fighter who has experience at the highest level to lead Nigeria to greater heights.
Atiku is contesting for the 5th time. He did it in 1992, 2007, 2015, 2019 and 2023. The ‘unifier’ has built bridges across the country. He was instrumental to bringing El-Rufai, Nuhu Ribadu, Okonjo Iweala and some other best brains into government. The economy was very stable until when he left as Vice President in 2007.
He has the best policy document and has the ability to implement it from the look of things. His ideas are lucid and convincing and everywhere he goes he holds the audience spellbound with his massive presence of mind, clarity of thoughts and clear headedness.
Obviously, he is the best man for the job. He is the right candidate to heal the wounds and cure the illness of that the Buhari administration represents.
Adnan is a Political PR Consultant. He writes from Atiku Abubakar Campaign Office, Zaria Road, Kano.