Among the front runners who jostle for the exalted seat in Aso Rock Villa from May 2023 who has the highest chance to clinch it? In the United States (US) the vibrant press would have discussed in minute detail what they describe as the pathway to the White House. Nigeria practices the American brand of democracy but excludes the Electoral College system. Nigeria depends on majority of popular votes while US depends on majority of Electoral College votes which implies the winner by popular votes may lose the Presidency if he or she loses the Electoral College votes. A classic case played out in 2016 when Mrs. Hillary Clinton won the popular votes but Mr. Donald Trump became President because he received majority of the Electoral College votes.
Because the Nigerian system has no provision for Electoral College the country has to depend on whatever ‘Independent’ National Electoral Commission (INEC) announces as the outcome. Several questions arise as the country drives the election van towards 25th February 2023.
The first and key question should focus on who has the pathway to Aso Rock Villa given the realities on ground. We should start with the person who wants to succeed the current incumbent who belongs to the same political party. Asiwaju Bolaju Tinubu has the experience, drive, and in particular the passion for the job. While his major critics focus on his health status the actual thrust should have been on his pathway all the more so his colleague and friend has held office for close to eight years with doubtful health. Asiwaju can run Abuja from London the way his predecessor has.
The pathway for him appears hazy given his acts of man when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan held office and made attempt to secure a second term. His actions at the time should make any one wonder why anyone from the Niger Delta should vote for him in a country where tribe and tongue stand higher than capacity.
He may bank on emilokan for Yoruba block vote despite the debacle at Osun but he has to worry about Northern votes when Alhaji Atiku Abubakar presents a juicier alternative in every respect. If we look back to the days of Bashorun Abiola who swept the Northern votes he may have hope but the discomfort with the Moslim-Moslim ticket stands out like a sore thumb more so the Middle Belt continues to be a toss-up in Northern political calculations.
The second person presents a fabulous scenario on the chessboard. Mr. Peter Obi falls into the group Americans would describe as the underdog turned front runner. The man posts the most formidable indices which in a mature democracy would have led to a forgone conclusion on his chances. Impeccable academic qualifications, remarkable performance as Executive Governor of Anambra State for eight years, articulate and visionary, minimum political baggage with respect to gaffes and corruption, a fabulous running mate with minimum baggage, and a frenzied fan base. But in the most mature democracies these great indices provide no absolute certainty of electoral victory because democracy has its base on political calculations some of which are devoid of justification. The primary basis for analysis should be the deep division of Nigeria along geopolitical lines in which the six zones make and unmake election results along with the ‘unbiased’ umpire.
The first port should be the candidate’s South East Zone with his home state of Anambra as case study. If doubt exists in any other state Anambra should by this time have been excluded in absolute terms. But the incumbent Governor Charles Soludo who should deliver the state to Mr. Obi has without reservation showed his anti-Obi inclination in certain and unveiled terms. Will the ordinary voters ignore Governor Soludo and vote for their former Governor? The situation at Awka will be worth an academic study after February 25th. 2023.
Will the other Ibo States fall behind their brother and give him undiluted support at this critical time? Pundits may want to review the performance of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) which continues to declare work free days as if Ibo States are in a different country. Under normal circumstances all Ibos should have closed ranks to deliver a block vote to Mr. Obi but some of them in All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have made no attempt to disguise their preference for the candidates of their parties. I wrote earlier on political endorsements and noted the importance of the endorsement of Mr. Barack Obama of the Democratic Party by General Collin Powell of the Republican Party during the 2008 American elections.
It appears some doubt can be expressed with respect to the South-East. If Ibo States cannot be seen as given in a country where tribe and tongue have strangleholds, which states can one bank on?
Despite the controversy which trails the G5 Governors no one has statistics on the inclination of voters in those states. Which way will the dyed-in-the-wool PDP people of Rivers State vote? Despite the evident confusion and uncertainty in Akwa Ibom State will the people steeped in PDP vote Labour more so incumbent Governor chairs the PDP Campaign Organization and should deliver his state? No one can say whether the extended family members of the Governorship candidate for Labour Party can claim to know the young man well. Can such green horn but with great promise deliver Akwa Ibom to Mr. Obi? Cross River State appears to be another toss up state which may go PDP or APC at the Governorship contest. Will the people vote for Labour at the Presidential level?
Although Delta people can be mercurial but given the politics of ethnicity in Nigeria it appears difficult to expect the people to turn their backs on their son as the running mate to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Edo may see a Vice Presidential seat occupied by a neighbour as one with greater potential for them than an uncertain Presidential seat held by Mr. Obi. Above means the South-South should be viewed with suspicion by a dispassionate analyst in the Labour Campaign Organization.
The Yoruba States have experienced dramatic changes in recent time. In the past the people voted as a block if we can quote Action Group and Unity Party of Nigeria. But the tribal bug which infects all Nigerians exists in the block and emilokan may have a strong resonance in the group. Why should the people be expected to turn their backs on their senior elder and let him return zero votes although the final outcome tells a different story? Have the two tribes lain to rest the ghost of the 1951 Western House of Assembly? A dispassionate analyst may wish to exclude or place minimal premium on the Yoruba States in a review of an Obi pathway to the Presidency.
If the entire South appears hazy how would the North be the bright spot? An analyst may see Dr Yusuf Datti Baba Ahmed from Kaduna State as a trump card in the North. But such analyst should keep in mind the experience of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan whose Vice, Alhaji Namadi Sambo had negative impact on the 2015 reelection bid of his boss. Dr. Jonathan as announced by INEC had 484,085 votes while Alhaii Buhari had 1,127,760 the third highest after Kano and Katsina. Dr. Datti, a refined and visionary fellow can win the Presidency on his own merit but a Vice and a President are poles from each other. The core North may prefer their own to be President than a non-Northerner. I remain baffled by the naive reference to campaign crowds as evidence of probability to win an election. Obi attracts huge crowds these days but little effort has been made to analyze these crowds to determine their actual voting preferences.
One issue analysts appear to ignore rests on what will happen on Election Day. Some Nigerians appear to believe in the electronic voting machines and what happened in Osun State. Can a scenario of ACTUAL votes via use of the machines post a clear victory for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as international monitors watch? If such thought can be considered what factors may account for it?
First, to ignore the influence of money must be seen as naive and unrealistic. PDP delegates who included Ibos returned Alhaji Abubakar as the presidential candidate courtesy of $20,000 handouts which no one has denied till today. The week of elections will as expected witness bundles of the new Naira change hands under traditional oaths. How much has Labour Party put down for this purpose?
Second, how many Nigerians have noticed the conspicuous minimal appearance of Alhaji Abubakar on the campaign trail? Does he know what the rest of us have no idea of or has he conceded a month before the election which dispassionate analysis should show him as the closest person to clinch the ticket? Does he have reason to believe his brother in INEC will deliver and put him in Aso Rock Villa which he missed in 2019 courtesy of a political sleight of hand?
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar stands the chance of massive Northern votes plus votes in the South-South. Among his calculus are his decision to pick a Niger Deltan, a Christian and former Delta State Governor as running mate as well as another Niger Deltan, incumbent Governor of Akwa Ibom State as Chairman of his Campaign Organization. We have heard former President Goodluck Jonathan has in the open called Govenor Okowa in-coming Vice President of Nigeria. If such cannot be termed endorsement I have to return to school to understand the meaning of the word.
A young man has released a string of “Atikugate” videos which would have knocked Alhaji Abubakar out of the race in a mature democracy. But who cares when no presidential debate will be held and if held would make no impact on the masses with their voters’ cards? The man has succeeded to make himself an enemy of the Atiku Clan and worse, the entire Fulani tribe. Such efforts have meaning where people vote based on track record of contestants as background for projection into the future. Where people vote along tribal and hoped future patronage lines, no one cares about political baggage.
At the end of the day reality appears to show a more solid pathway for the candidate of the PDP based on tribal politics in the North and strength in PDP strongholds in the South-South. Few votes will come from the South West and South East to consolidate his lead.
The real essence of this post aims at preparation of minds of Nigerians to the outcome after February 25th. If Mr. Obi loses, will he be as magnanimous as Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to concede just to keep Nigeria one and in peace? Will irate crowds spill on the streets, cause mayhem, and lead to avoidable loss of lives? Will the point man withdraw to re-strategize given the late start of the Labour Party which has minimal structures in Nigeria? Have we given a thought to how a Labour President would function without one legislator in the National Assembly? Well this would matter little because of the lack of teeth of Nigeria’s National Assembly to date.
While the frenzy mounts, well-organized campaign organizations in mature democracies write both the victory speech and the concession speech. This means the exit strategies are outlined, discussed, and installed. Several people including this writer had prepared to take up arms if Goodluck Jonathan lost but his concession immobilized everyone.
If victory bells chime for Obi/Datti as many Nigerians hope, the other hope should rest on a campaign organization which has marshaled out post-victory strategies to enable Mr. Obi to hit the ground running as Americans put it. For the moment we keep our fingers crossed and believe the best candidates will win because the present level of economic deprivation in the polity has caused excessive damage to the psyche of Nigerians.