The 2023 General Elections are well around the corner and with most of the major contenders having emerged, it appears the contest will be bitten by the bug of past electoral battles.
The signs suggest that a battle royale is afoot. Already, a veteran contender has emerged as the candidate of the main opposition party. The ruling party is gradually unlatching the box of surprises as a country waits with bated breath. Around another candidate, a cyclone of popular support driven by young people has emerged. And despite the relative lightweight of the platform he has chosen as his dais in the debate for Nigeria
s future, his sterling credentials and bewitching diagnoses of Nigerias most pressing problems have left many transfixed.
Because Nigeria`s electoral history is one caked in a lot of blood, the appeal to politicians and their supporters around each elections always includes the need to tone down their rhetoric so as not to overheat the polity. ‘Politics without bitterness’ has not always worked here because experience has shown that once the ballot box is in sight, a loose word is all it takes to cause brimstones to come cascading.
So contenders have always been adjoined to tone down their rhetoric as well as instruct their supporters to keep their fists in check. But this has not always been the case. Desperate politicians in Nigeria who are serial losers in contests have been known to light a fire under their supporters once electoral defeat is a forgone conclusion for them.
Peter Obi has emerged as the candidate of the Labour Party. The former two-term Governor of Anambra State ran alongside Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, the runner up in the 2019 elections. Mr. Obi`s supporters, many of them young Nigerians, pack an aggressive streak. Across media spaces, their belief that their candidate alone can administer the treatment a desperately ailing country needs to survive is infectious. To hear Peter Obi speak, and to take a peek into his sterling credentials and towering antecedents, is to feel that redemption is on the horizon for the long suffering Giant of Africa.
Mr. Atiku Abubakar of the People
s Democratic Party is no pushover. The ‘Jewel of Jada’ who defied childhood orphanhood to rise from tending sheep and become the second citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for eight years is in the contest for a record sixth time. He has little doubt that his time has come. His supporters seem to know that too. So far, they have preferred issues to invectives, and have gone about carefully telling all who care to listen why Atiku alone holds the key that can unlock Nigerias potentials.
With the much extended deadline for political parties to conclude their primaries and put forward their candidates fast approaching, the All Progressives Congress has become a hotbed of intrigues. With the party confident that it can hold on to power in 2023, the presidential primaries of the party which are days away promise to be breathless.
For Bola Ahmed Tinubu, two-time former Governor of Lagos State and the man many credit with forging the political identity of the entire Southwest region since 1999, it is now or never. Long acclaimed as a king maker not just within Lagos State but in the entire Southwest region, his was a key hand in 2015 when the All Progressives Congress broke the hegemony of the Peoples Democratic Party.
Since he threw his hat into the ring for the contest, Mr. Tinubu, usually so self-effacing has gone on the offensive.He has talked about his willingness to fight dirty. He has tooted his own horn even if there are many politicians in Nigeria who would toot it ceaselessly for him because they owe him their political lives. He has variously described himself as the one can bring Nigeria to the promised land.
A few days ago, he was at his most pugnacious self yet. During a visit to Ogun State, he harshly chided the Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, for supporting one of his opponents in spite of the fact that he made him Governor. He went further to remind all who cared to listen that President Muhammadu Buhari was a serial loser of presidential elections before he turned him into a winner.
The most powerful punch came when he declared that it was the turn of the Yorubas to produce Nigeria`s President with there being no better candidates among the Yorubas than himself.
To the ears of those versed in Nigeria
s risk and reward political system, Mr. Tinubu said nothing new. His blessings have gone far in making and remaking political careers in the APC since the miracle of 2015. So, if loyalty were a thing in Nigerias politics, he should get the ticket on a platter. Alas, it is a contest, and that some of those who should ordinarily step aside for him in gratitude for his having plucked them out of relative political obscurity and placed them in the national limelight are crossing swords with him must tell him that the battle will be a fierce one.
It is also instructive to hear him hear say that it is the turn of the Yorubas to produce Nigeria`s president. It must then mean that all the talk about the Igbos having never produced the president and how it would be equitable if they were allowed to have been nothing more than noise to him. Little wonder there appears to be so little trust for him in his party heading into the home stretch. But the roar of the ‘ Lion of Bourdillon’ may yet rattle the jungle and if loyalty is anything to the APC, he should get the ticket. His contributions to the party deserves it.
However, all those loudly and ferociously sharpening their political knives on the grindstone of 2023 must remember that the knives should never be turned on Nigeria but on the many issues that plague it.