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Strengths, weaknesses of presidential frontrunners

By Tunde Joshua, Politics Editor

Tinubu, especially with FG, more govs, may have edge, others disagree

At the end of the June 9 deadline for the conduct of primaries by political parties, presidential candidates of 15 out of the 18 registered parties emerged.

They are Bola Tunubu for All Progressives Congress (APC); Peter Obi (Labour Party, LP), Atiku Abubakar, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso for New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), Dumebi Kachikwu for African Democratic Congress (ADC), Kola Abiola for People’s Redemption Party (PRP), Dan Nwanyawu for Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Adewole Adebayo for Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Malik Ado Ibrahim for Young People’s Party (YPP).

Others are Omoyele Sowore for African Action Congress (AAC), Hamza Al-Mustapha for Action Alliance (AA), Peter Umeadi for All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Yabaji Sani for African Democratic Party (ADP), Christopher Imumolen for Accord Party (AP) and Okwydiki NwaAnyajike for Nigerian Renewal Movement (NRM). However, the real contest for the 2023 presidency is among four major parties and their candidates.

The leading contenders are Tinubu Atiku, Obi and Kwankwaso. The four are by every standard, eminently qualified to lead Nigeria as they all have academic prerequisites as well as political experiences. But there are some factors that may determine how far they can go in the contest, prominent among which are the platforms on which they stand to seek election. Some watchers believe that APC being the ruling party confers its candidate, Tinubu, with a better chance to leverage on power of incumbency.

However, some observers say that the loss of the PDP as a sitting government to the APC in 2015, may make this assumption not tight. The latter analysts say that riding on the strength of the party may be tough for Tinubu considering some negative perception of many Nigerians ab performance of the APC administration under President Muhammadu Buhari While the APC government may have scored some successes in the area of infrastructure development, its rating in the general economic well-being being of the citizenry is below average. Also the successes recorded have been marred by hydra-headed security challenges which the administration has failed to resolve.

Read Also: Baba-Ahmed confirmed LP’s VP pick, Tinubu to run with another Muslim

Ethno-religious killings, acts of terrorism, banditry, high scale kidnapping and alleged ethnic cleansing in the North have soiled the gains of the APC government, thereby making it difficult for contestants on the party’s platform to convince Nigerians that the current hardship will not be extended in another administration of the party.

Tinubu is expected to do a lot during his nationwide campaign which starts t in a few months to convince the electorate that he will bring a government with human face. Aside party’s influence, Tinubu is a widely acceptable politician who has built bridges of friendship across political, ethnic and religious divides.

This makes him comfortable among many politicians. He is believed to have political surrogates across board who are rooting for him and ready to work for his victory at the polls. His performance at the APC presidential primary attested to his sagacity and acceptability, a factor that will further aid his chances at the polls. Considering the influence of money in Nigerian political contest, Tinubu is one politician with a very deep financial warchest to fund his campaign and mobilize votes.

The influence of money could not be ruled out of his victory at the APC national convention. As a politician with a large heart, the APC candidate hit the ground running by wooing his opponents at the shadow election. He personally visited virtually all of them imploring them to work with him for the victory of the party. This is a rare leadership quality.

The big threat to his chances remain his alignments ahead of 2023 which accounted for the delay in finding a suitable running mate. The outcome of this all important choice means a lot to Tinubu’s chances. Before his formal weekend choice of Shettima, there were back and forth arguments on who to pick as running mate and from where.

While a northern candidate was a sure bet, which zone should the slot go remained in a problem. Considering vote strength of the North West, some thought it was expedient for the candidate to pick a running mate from the zone but a stronger argument said it will not be right for APC to have a Vee Pee from the area that produced President Buhari.

Tinubu therefore, had to jettison his preference for candidates like Kano Governor Abdullahi Ganduje or Kaduna’s Nazir El- rufai and look up north east where he had Kashim Shettima, Yakubu Dogara, Boss Mustapha and Babachir Lawal to chose from . But Tinubu has another naughty issue of religious consideration to contend with. Against the backdrop of reasonable mate. arguments that a Christian northerner may not fetch him expected votes, he was said to have opted for a Muslim running mate. This again raised the dust of a Muslim Muslim ticket.

While consultations were ongoing to find a perfect match for Tinubu, he sent the name of Ibrahim Masari from Katsina as running mate to INEC. Tinubu cannot go far in the southeast and south south while he will do above average in his south west for obvious reasons . In Lagos, he has the PDP candidate, Jide Adediran (Jandor) who is making wave with renegade APC members that defected with him to the state’s opposition party to contend with.

Also, those in Lagos who are rooting for Peter Obi are determined to deplete his votes. He will split votes with PDP in states of Oyo and Ondo while he might not have sweeping votes in Ekiti, Osun and Ogun. Going by past voting patterns in both the south east and south south, Tinubu and APC may not make great impact in those areas.

So, Asiwaju has to rely on the strength of the volume of votes he can get from far north, hence he succumb to the demand to have a Muslim running mate.

Peter Obi of LP

Peter Obi prior to his defection from PDP had no known political structure even in the southeast. He left PDP when it dawned on him that he may not win enough delegates even from his zone ahead of the party’s presidential primary.

Though the Labour Party gave him an express welcome and its presidential ticket simply to boost the image of the amalgam of forces known as the third force, it is obvious that the LP does not have a strong footing especially in the north and can only be said to be a movement among the youth and on social media. He however can split PDP votes in the south east and even win there because of the agitation for Igbo presidency. Even some in Obi’s camp, maybe including him, accept that he is not in the race to win but to make an impact.

His impact, however, may depend on the strength of any serious political alliance the LP can forge. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of NNPP The former governor of Kano who until the formation of NNPP was a stalwart of PDP in the state is a politician to reckon with in the north west zone. With his hold on the Kwanjwasiyya Movement, he can muster votes in states of Kano, Jigawa, Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi and a part of Kaduna.

He will surely rock the boat for both APC and PDP in the zone. Outside the zone, Kwankwaso is not strong in the north central and north east much less the southern parts of the country. Hence, many thought he should have given a second thought to the proposed alliance with Peter Obi and the LP.

Even at that, some argue that even the combined ticket cannot win the 2023 poll but make an impact. Atiku Abubskar of PDP A veteran in the presidential race, Atiku came closer to getting it in 2019 but lost to President Buhari. Atiku is one politician who could be said to have followers across the six geopolitical zones, largely due to the influence of his party the PDP that has ruled Nigeria for 16 years. The PDP no doubt has its presence in all zones but is stronger in both south east and south south where it largely has been in control since 1999.

This may as well work for Atiku. Tinubu’s influence in the south west will constitute a threat to the PDP fortunes in the zone as the APC is largely popular in Yorubaland. This may not mean a total hopeless situation for the PDP and Atiku. The north central may be a catchment ground for Atiku considering the negative perception about the APC and whoever represents it in the zone. People of the north central may want a departure from APC because of alleged persecution and insecurity.

In the north west, Atiku has the APC that controls nearly all the states in the zone to contend with. There is also the influence of the NNPP. The three parties no doubt will feast on the north west. In his North East base, Atiku may make a headway but a running mate for the APC from the zone may decimate his strength. But above all, he has more spread than any of the other leading contenders. Chances of the four contenders depend on how effectively they can consolidate on their strengths while striving to amend their weaknesses.

Profiles of Candidates

Profile: Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu

He was born in Lagos on March 29,1952. After spending his early life in southwestern Nigeria, Tinubu studied accounting in the United States, worked abroad for several years before returning to Nigeria in the mid-1980s and continued working in financial management before entering politics. He was a member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), on which platform he was elected a senator to represent Lagos West senatorial district in 1992 during the aborted Third Republic.

After the then military president, late Gen.Sani Abacha dissolved the Senate in 1993, Tinubu become an activist campaigning for the return of democracy as a part of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) movement. Although he was forced into exile in 1994, Tinubu returned after Abacha’s 1998 death triggered the beginning of the transition to the Fourth Republic.

In the first posttransition Lagos State gubernatorial election, Tinubu won by a wide margin as a member of the Alliance for Democracy over the Peoples Democratic Party’s Dapo Sarumi and the All People’s Party’s Nosirudeen Kekere-Ekun. Four years later, he won reelection to a second term over the PDP’s Funsho Williams by a reduced margin.

Tinubu’s two terms were marked by attempts at modernizing the city of Lagos and his feuds with the PDP-controlled federal government. After leaving office in 2007, Tinubu retained his status as one of Nigeria’s most influential politicians as his allies often filled high offices throughout the southwest and he played a key role in the formation of the All Progressives Congress in 2013. Long and controversial, Tinubu’s career has been plagued by accusations of corruption and questions about the veracity of his personal history. In June 2022, he was chosen as the All Progressives Congress candidate in the 2023 Nigerian presidential election] having polled 1,271 votes to clinch the party’s ticket, defeating 13 other aspirants in the process.

Profile: Atiku Abubakar

Atiku Abubakar GCON (born 25 November 1946) in Jada formerly in British Cameroon but now in modern day Adamawa State, Nigeria. He is a businessman of international repute and politician. He served as the vice president of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007 during the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo.

He ran as governor of Adamawa State in 1990, 1997 and later, in 1998, being elected before becoming Olusegun Obasanjo’s running mate during the 1999 presidential election and re-elected in 2003. An educated Atiku Abubakar worked in the Nigeria Customs Service for twenty years, rising to become the Deputy Director, as the second highest position in the Service was then known; he retired in April 1989 and took up full-time business and politics.

He started out in the real estate business during his early days as a Customs Officer. In 1974, he applied for and received a 31,000 naira loan to build his first house in Yola, which he put up for rent. He started his political career with the Peoples Front of Nigeria in 1989 and since his entry into politics, Atiku Abubakar has unsuccessfully contested five times for the Office of President of Nigeria in 1993, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019.

He was a member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) from 1989 to 1993. He contested the SDP presidential primaries losing to Moshood Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe. He was a presidential candidate of the Action Congress in the 2007 presidential election coming in third to Umaru Yar’Adua of the PDP and Muhammadu Buhari of the ANPP.

He contested the presidential primaries of the People’s Democratic Party during the 2011 presidential election losing out to former President Goodluck Jonathan. In 2014, he joined the All Progressives Congress ahead of the 2015 presidential election and contested the presidential primaries losing to Muhammadu Buhari. In 2017, he returned to the Peoples Democratic Party and was the party presidential candidate during the 2019 presidential election, again losing to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.

In May 2022, he was chosen as the Peoples Democratic Party candidate in the 2023 Nigerian presidential election.

Profile: Peter Obi

Peter Gregory Obi CON is a Nigerian businessman and politician who served as the Governor of Anambra State three separate times from 2006 to 2014. In May 2022, he became the Labour Party nominee for President of Nigeria in the 2023 presidential election.

Born in Onitsha in 1961, Obi graduated from the University of Nigeria in 1984. Afterwards he entered business and banking, eventually rising to hold several high-ranking executive positions at banks. By the early 2000s, Obi was the chairman of Fidelity Bank before leaving the position to enter politics.

He held leadership positions in some private establishments. Some of the companies he served includes: Next International Nigeria Ltd, Chairman and Director of Guardian Express Mortgage Bank Ltd, Guardian Express Bank Plc, Future View Securities Ltd, Paymaster Nigeria Ltd, Chams Nigeria Ltd, Data Corp Ltd and Card Centre Ltd. He was the youngest chairman of Fidelity Bank Plc.[2][13] [14] Obi ran for governor in 2003, as a member of the All Progressives Grand Alliance but his main opponent was unlawfully declared victor.

After three years of legal battles, Obi was declared winner in 2006 and assumed office that March. He was then impeached that November before the impeachment was overturned and he returned to office in February 2007. Again, Obi was removed when a new election was held in April 2007 but the judiciary intervened again and ruled that he should be allowed to complete a full fouryear term. In 2010, he won re-election to a second term. Obi’s terms were marked by improvements in state finances, education, and healthcare.

After leaving office in 2014, Obi gained new status as an advocate for good governance and national political figure after decamping to the Peoples Democratic Party in 2014. In 2019, he was selected as the vice presidential nominee in the presidential election running alongside Atiku Abubakar, but lost to incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari and vice president Yemi Osinbajo. By 2022, Obi ran for president himself, first in the PDP until defecting to the LP in May 2022.

Profile: Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso

Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, FNSE, FNIQS (born 21 October 1956) is a Nigerian politician who was the Governor of Kano state from 1999 to 2003 and 2011 to 2015.

After he lost his re-election in 2003, he was appointed the first Minister of Defence of the Fourth Republic with no prior military background from 2003 to 2007, under the administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo. He was later elected to the Senate in 2015, serving one term under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) representing Kano Central Senatorial District.

In 2011, he was reelected governor of the state and went on to join the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014. In 2015, Kwankwaso unsuccessfully contested the presidential primaries nomination under the opposition All Progressive Congress, but lost to Muhammad Buhari.

In 2018, he returned to People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and contested the presidential primaries losing out to Atiku Abubakar. He has moved across parties in his political career. He was a member of the People’s Front of Nigeria in 1989, Social Democratic Party (SDP) 1989 to 1993.

At return of democratic rule in 1998, he joined the PDP until in 2014 when he defected to the APC where he stayed till 2018 before returning to PDP. He is currently the national leader of the New Nigeria Peoples Party. Kwankwaso enjoys widespread support in Kano and north-western Nigeria; he has been viewed as a charismatic populist.

Why Tinubu has an edge over Atiku and Obi Political alignments, parleys and consultations across parties after the emergence of presidential candidates tend to shape focus and opinion about chances of the candidates. Tinubu’s emergence as APC’s candidate is an attestation of his doggedness. He is a relentless fighter for a course firmly believed in. Midway into the contest ahead of the APC primary, machinations against his candidature were so thick to the extent that some of his supporters were becoming weary that their hero was about losing out.

But the forward looking Asiwaju, undaunted by the swelling antagonism and campaign of calumny against his person and alleged betrayal by those he trusted, was busy marshalling plans to gain grounds, mop up delegates using his affinity with many APC governors and consolidating on his strengths. His emergence proved some bookmakers who have written him off, wrong. And destiny placed him side by side other candidates who are not ordinary politicians: Atiku Abubakar of PDP, Peter Obi of Labour Party and Rabiu Kwankwaso of NNPP.

The leading candidates definitely have their strongholds but ability to make incursion into other areas to eke out votes from the enemies zone, is what some observers believe will stand out Tinubu in the coming election. Obi, no doubt, the political rave of the moment has the south east as the base of his ‘Obi- Dient’ movement with Igbo elders and cultural associations anchored by the Ohanaeze N’digbo marshalling support for an Igbo President as represented by him. Obi’s mass movement if concentrated in the East alone cannot guarantee the Presidency.

He definitely needs other tribes and zones, hence his consultations with the Kwankwaso’s NNPP for a North West – South East alliance. Lurking in the political terrain to weaken Obi’s support base is the PDP whose influence in the South East though dimming, will definitely earn reasonable percentage of votes from Igboland. Also, Tinubu’s APC will not be completely run over in the zone.

The party will still muster votes from APCcontrolled states of Ebonyi and Imo and reap from PDP crisis in states of Anambra, Abia and Enugu. It is instructive to be mindful that the states in the zone are traditional PDP areas not minding that they are currently under the control of APC. So, in essence, whatever votes gained by Obi may not be able to secure him constitutionally required 25 percent votes in 2/3 of the states of the federation.

This is so because Obi and his Labour Party are not really feasible or on ground in both North East and North Central as well as South West. The 2023 election, according some analysts, is just to create awareness for an Obi future presidency. In the same vein, Kwankwaso is just a political giant in mainly Kano, not even in all the North West states. His influence is very minimal in the North East while he could be said to have no root in the North Central.

The Kwankwasiyya movement is not known among the voting populace in the entire three zones of the south. He is known just within the Hausa communities. So, Kwankwaso is just in the race to trouble the political waters and possibly strike a deal with any willing party or candidate. Tinubu is not a neophyte in such political dealings. The major threat to Tinubu is the veteran in the presidential race, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP.

The Waziri Adamawa, like Tinubu is a widely known and acknowledged political figure whose influence cuts across ethnic and religious borders. His most successful outing was at the 2019 presidential election in which he came closer to President Buhari showed that he is a loved politician in whom many Nigerians have hope of rebuilding the nation. His influence within the PDP will always win the presidential ticket despite stiff challenges such as the one put forward by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike in the May 28 primary.

The PDP as a once ruling party has support base across regions, zones and states, to which its candidate can latch on. However, such support base is weakend in some states presently controlled by the ruling APC. Atiku’s chances no doubt, will be tied to the strength of PDP in states. Crises of disaffection caused by precongress and pre- convention matters have polarised the PDP and some members want to distance themselves from activities of the party.

This, if not resolved may affect Atiku’s fortune at the polls. Also, a wide crack among stakeholders of the party resulting lately from the choice of Delta Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as Atiku’s running mate as against the popular preference for Wike by a large section of PDP members portends great danger. Atiku stands the risk of losing votes in South South states of Rivers, Cross River and Edo where Wike has strong associates as other candidates are already wooing him for alliance. He has been visited by Obi, Kwankwaso and the Tinubu camp.

It is obvious that Atiku will have to struggle with Tinubu for South West votes, Obi for South East votes and Kwankwaso for North West votes. Atiku stands the chance of becoming the runner up like he did in 2019, except anything changes. Tinubu has the South West in his firm grip as the APC controls states in the zone except Oyo which is under PDP.

Even in Oyo, APC is not a pushover as it parades strong politicians and all the three senators from the state are now in the party. In the southwest, there is ongoing town to town enlightenment that its sons and daughters irrespective of their political leanings should support Tinubu and not allow the chance of a Yoruba President in 2023 slip away.

Beyond Yorubaland, the awareness campaign is the same among town unions and associations in Yoruba communities in the north and east. The APC controls most of the North Central states except Benue. Most of the governors are favourably disposed to the former Lagos State helmsman. Tinubi’s alliances in the North East are many, hence the quest and why he picked his running mate from the zone, Kashim Shettima, former governor of Borno.

Likewise his successor, Babagaba Zulum, is for Tinubu. Also, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan from Yobe who contested the presidential primary election with Tinubu have no option than to support the APC candidate. For Tinubu in the North West are strong politicians like present Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje and his counterparts in Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Kebbi.

They have resolved to break Kwankwaso’s stronghold to bring out massive votes for Tinubu from the zone. In the South South which is dominantly in the control of PDP, there are politicians with electoral value who can deliver some votes at least in their domains for Tinubu.

Immediate past ministers from the zone such as Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Godswill Akpabio, Dakuku Peterside and serving federal legislators will work for the emergence of Tinubu. Outside the political circles, Tinubu has many technocrats he had made, serving in federal agencies and parastatals who owed their appointments to him.

These people are providing expertise and opinions for the development of a blueprint for a Tinubu Presidency. A few of them with deep pockets are discreetly funding some of the numerous Bola Tinubu Support Groups.

Tinubu also may ride on the strength of influence wielded by political icons like President Muhammadu Buhari to coast home to victory. Many northerners will see a government of Muslim Tinubu as an extension of Buhari’s and APC’s administration.

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