Interesting times await Nigerians as we march inexorably towards the 2023 presidential poll. The poll, for all intents and purposes, would be interesting in so many ways. For one, the fumbling ailing incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, would not be participating in the poll. The constitution bars him from taking another shot at the presidency having done two consecutive terms. And he had responsibly declared his intention to abide by that constitutional exigency. Therefore, the incumbency factor would not be playing itself out, sometimes fostering electoral crimes and impunity.
In Nigeria in particular and Africa in general incumbency factor plays a rigging role in an electoral contest sometimes engendering violence and instability in the system. Presidents come to power through illegitimate electoral means defeating the major democratic objective of power belonging to the people.
For another, Nigerians are more mobilized and determined to use their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) to usher in a credible change, one capable of altering the political trajectory of the landscape for good. Before now apathy had been the order of the day with the majority of our people shunning going out on election days to cast their votes. This was more because many believed their votes would not count! Godfathers and drugged thugs simply dictated the electoral tune with the moneybags mobilizing hoodlums to steal ballot boxes and compromised INEC officials to declare winners as losers!
Yet it goes without saying that with the recent concluded Ekiti State gubernatorial election which saw Naira raining down on voters INEC still has a long way to go to sanitize our electoral system. Power is now sold and bought by money-bags leaving the poor electorates struggling with the ‘stomach infrastructure’ (apology to Ayo Fayose) other than dividends of democracy only quality leadership can offer.
And for yet another, the declared candidates in the forthcoming poll seem prepared for the highest office in the land. Atiku Abubakar of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), Comrade Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress (AAC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) are all prepared for the powerful office.
Unlike before when we were forced to accept unprepared candidates for the presidency (Goodluck Jonathan, the late Shehu Yar’Adua and the incumbent Buhari) we are faced with desperate ‘democrats’ supremely prepared to throw everything into the race for Aso Villa. Given the quality on display the poll will definitely be rough and tough, too close to call at the fullest of time.
The charismatic former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, leading the ‘Obidient’ movement, is up against formidable opponents like the candidate of his former party, Atiku Abubakar, who is leading the ‘Atikulation’ movement, the ‘Kwankwasiya’ movement led by Rabiu Kwankwaso of the NNPP, Comrade Sowore’s ‘#Revolution-Now’ movement and the ‘Emi-lokan’ movement championed by the former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Tinubu.
Political horse-trading and negotiations behind the scenes are happening here and there. Obi and Kwankwaso were in Port Harcourt to meet with Governor Nyesom Wike who is still licking the wound of defeat at the PDP National Convention. And again, losing out to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State in the race for a running mate to Atiku Abubakar.
Rabiu Kwankwaso’s NNPP party is said to be in serious negotiations with Peter Obi’s Labour Party towards forming an alliance for the presidential poll. The ex-Governor of Kano has suddenly become a beautiful bride being wooed left, right and centre. Like the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, Kwankwaso has seen his profile as a ‘kingmaker’ rise to the sky.
Kwankwaso could well be described here as a political prostitute jumping from one political party to another but his academic credentials and service to the fatherland spanning decades are impressive enough. Besides, cross-carpeting is not alien to Nigerian politicians. The game of swapping parties for personal political interests has been with us from time immemorial. Many politicians move from one party to the other at their convenience.
Even Peter Obi decamped from the PDP to LP citing irreconcilable differences. He had governed Anambra state for eight years as an APGA party man. So, Kwankwaso can be pardoned for belonging to politicians without any serious ideological principles.
As a former Governor and Minister of Defense and Senator he is indeed an accomplished politician in every right. It is within his rights to flaunt his political profile.
Kano is increasingly becoming a battleground for massive votes in the north. While Governor Ganduje could be counted on by the APC to deliver Kano Kwankwaso could act as a counter force. With Comrade Sowore picking the Kano-born Haruna Garba Magashi as his running mate and the defection of the former Kano Governor, Ibrahim Shekarau, from the ruling APC to the NNPP then the Kano votes are going to split down the middle.
Kwankwaso’s rising political profile lately is not unconnected to his gubernatorial achievements and the high positions he had occupied in the past. So the experience is there, no doubt. But saying recently that he cannot be a running mate to Obi because Igbos are good as businessmen and poor in political strategy went beyond decency and constructive engagement.
Now, Obi/Kwankwaso on a single presidential ticket is bound to revolutionize politics in Nigeria. It is a winning team from all indications! And the effect, upon victory, would be automatically felt by many Nigerians. But in the event of the Kano-born politician displaying arrogance other good materials abound (Lamido Sanusi, Attahiru Jega, Nuhu Ribadu).
For us, therefore, whether Obi is the frontrunner and Kwankwaso as the running mate or vice versa is insignificant. What ought to matter most is the duo’s determination to radically alter our corrupt stagnant national life. We sue for their patriotic co-operation and understanding. Pride or unnecessary grandstanding may mar any effort to hammer out an accord that is beneficial to both parties and Nigerians in general.
Having said that Rabiu and Peter must look at the larger picture in their desire to change the developmental narrative of our abused motherland. The survival of Nigeria must rank highest in their scale of preferences and choices.
Recently, a Chieftain of the NNPP, Abdulmumin Jibrin was a guest of Channels TV in Lagos. There he declared that Rabiu Kwankwaso, presidential candidate of the party would not be a running mate to Peter Obi, flag-bearer of the Labour Party (LP). The former member of the House of Representatives was forthright in his submissions.
His words: “Very clearly, Kwankwaso will not be a running mate to Peter Obi. By every standard, Kwankwaso should be the presidential candidate. Kwankwaso has more political exposure and experience. He has a big profile when it comes to that. He has more experience politically on how to win elections.” And continuing he said: “When you look at it in terms of equity contribution, in terms of votes, it will be about a ratio of 70 percent to 30 percent. We are looking at bringing in 70 percent of the contribution.”
Of course one does not know who organized the opinion poll that indicated that in terms of votes cast the projected ratio would be about 70 to 30 percent in favour of the former Kano State Governor. But Jibrin is entitled to his opinion.
Is Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso ‘Obidient’ enough? Well, the answer is neither here nor there. Only time shall tell. But we are all ‘Obidient’! And it is in Kwankwaso’s best political interest to be obedient to the ‘Obidient’ national movement. That is where his service is required and where his political future lies.