October 7, 2022

Once again, after founding fathers of Nigerian politics left the scene, another batch of succeeding titans head home in Lagos and Abuja this weekend in what promises to end (whether in victory or defeat) apparent gnashing of teeth. In comparison, weeping will be child’s play.
For the outstanding ones, this one (more?) effort to go for the highest prize of Nigerian politics may be the last time. That vividly illustrates the gravity of any possible failure among them. When the bell rang for the contestants to throw their hat into the ring, quite unusually, almost 50 aspirants (about 25 from either party) expressed interest, a development, which, perhaps, unfairly painted the bidders as trifling the Nigerian presidency. When the trials began in United States last time, up to 20 aspirants appeared at the early stages of the debates. Among them were the ageing radical Senator Bernie Sanders and the lady who eventually got elected Vice President, Kamala Harris. President Joe Biden, himself Vice President to former President Barack Obama, was not even among the aspirants initially.
Following a series of debates among the candidates, most of them dropped in public ratings, thereby compelling opposition Democrats to specially recruit former Vice President Joe Biden, who almost from behind eventually won the primary. After Nigeria’s primary elections this weekend, similar fate awaits most of the aspirants for Nigerian presidential tickets. Among the lot aspiring for the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), four of them are outstanding. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, ex-Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu, former Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun and ex-transportation minister Chibuike Amaechi.
This is in the firm belief that the APC presidential candidate will be from the South. If southern aspirants lose the ticket to any among themselves, it is unlikely that any political problem will arise. It is, therefore, unthinkable that the APC presidential candidate may come from the North through whatever method, direct or indirect voting or, in particular, consensus.
Prospects of potential political upheaval should not be underestimated. A situation in which one part of the country will be perpetual rulers and the other part of the country will be permanent subordinates? What type of political arrangement is that? In the run-up to the 2015 elections, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), under President Goodluck Jonathan, never bargained for a showdown against his (Jonathan’s) insistence that the North would not produce the next President, a violation of an earlier understanding that it was the turn of the North. Most northern governors as well as members of state and national assemblies quit the PDP,  joined the new APC and rode to power on the wave of Muhammadu Buhari’s cult following. In short, by the time Jonathan faced the consequences of his political miscalculation, it was too late for minister Godsday Orubebe to prevent the inevitable.
At the moment, a northerner is the national chairman of the ruling APC. A northerner is the outgoing President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and another northerner as the in-coming President of Nigeria through an electoral subterfuge disguised as democracy? At the worst, a southerner may lose the election for APC. So what? That could only be because of the performance of the APC government in office for the past seven years and not because the candidate is a southerner. After all, Buhari, a northerner, lost election in the past to Obasanjo, a southerner. The same Buhari also lost election in the past to Jonathan. Atiku Abubakar, also a northerner, lost election in the past to Jonathan. Did Atiku lose the election because he was a northerner? How about the latest bogus theory that bloc voting strength will always win election for a northern member of a party? Meaning what? On account of that, southerners will never win the presidency. It is the duty of a political party to deliver votes for the party/candidate. Hence, a people deserve the government they choose.
Out of the four titans running in the weekend’s primary election on the platform of the APC, two of them are dark horses for whom observers should look out. Ex-Ogun State governor, Amosun, should be taken as a very serious contender for the presidency. Much as his canvassing for votes might have been limited, the declaration of his candidacy on almost all major television networks in the country was compelling and not in any way negligible. Only a serious contender could have gone that far. The other dark horse is Amaechi.
The two most formidable contestants for the presidency on the platform of the APC are Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Tinubu. The ex-Lagos governor must have taken too much, if not everything, for granted for the past seven years, in his quest for the presidency. In that frame, he had gone a long way to establish himself. Only slightly short of being overconfident, Tinubu seemed not to have learnt that, in politics, indeed, throughout the political world, it is only when it is, not the least, from his own past experiences of or with others. Failure to grasp that principle accounts for Tinubu’s weaker position and/or political prospects today. Of course, it may be too soon to write him off. But there is no doubt the man, Tinubu, has a fight on his hands this weekend.
The only opponent? Osinbajo, whose entry into the presidential race (has) caused such an upset in the Tinubu camp, rendered Osinbajo the most maligned, yet the most feared, such that top notchers in South West APC had to hurriedly arrange a “don’t rock the boat” tete-a-tete between the two sides. In his sober moments, Tinubu must face the facts his supporters are either not facing or are not telling him. For example, how many of those close to him (Tinubu) 20 years ago are still close to him today? In short, what surrounds Tinubu today is widespread revolt rather than Osinbajo’s alleged disloyalty.
In politics, surprise is a valuable element. Thus, in 1965, Alhaji A.F. Masha was revelling as chairman of  Action Group-controlled Lagos Town Council, confident that he would be re-elected to the post he had occupied since the 1962 landslide victory, only to be replaced by the young Turks led by Ganiyu Dawodu. Tony Enahoro and Joseph Tarka, erstwhile political and prison associates of Obafemi Awolowo, served as a threesome in the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon, with the hope of solidifying their days of pre-Independence political alliance after military administration. Enahoro and Tarka found the going incompatible with Awolowo or vice versa and ended in different political camps after the exit of the military in 1979. Ibrahim Imam broke away from Ahmadu Bello’s Northern People’s Congress and existed on Borno Youth Movement. The list could be endless. Yoruba put it well in perspective, In most cases, kids will lose touch before adulthood and no tears may necessarily follow. Whatever tne outcome of the weekend’s primary elections, participants will at the worst remain acquaintances.
On the PDP side, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, somehow rose to the highlight in the past seven years and emerged as the sole advocate of remnant PDP and oil-producing states with shock victories in  top legal battles against the Federal Government. Governor Wike soon became the unofficial leader of the PDP, a status, which, naturally induced envy against him, in the hope he might emerge the party’ presidential candidate. In the process, Wike incurred rebuff from some party members who wrong-footed him by zoning the party’s presidential ticket to the North, or at least making the offer open. In that situation, Wike will have to battle it out with key members from the North who are themselves real stalwarts.
It is not yet clear how much of old electoral strength Sokoto State governor Aminu Tambuwal still posesses. In 2015, he came second to candidate Buhari in the primary election for the APC presidential ticket. The surprise in the PDP is Mohammed Hayatu-Deen. If he entered the presidential race early enough or if the contest is extended for another three months, the man would be the candidate to look for. He has been very cool and meticulous in analysing his plans and selling same to Nigerians. Unless he makes it this time, Hayatu-Deesn’s first lesson is to commence his campaigns early enough next time. But even as a late starter, in view of the quality of his campaigns, especially television interviews, nobody should be surprised if he turns out to be a dark horse, even this time.
Sceptics call him a serial contender for the presidency, but rivals deride or ignore ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar at their own risk. He has the most formidable campaign team and seems well-prepared. Even the cheap blackmail of old age does not seem to handicap him as in the past, compared to American President Biden who won the presidency at the age of almost 79. Atiku is sharper at 75.

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