The political landscape in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is heating up as parties scramble to pick their candidates for next year’s general election that is scheduled to hold in February 2023.
Analysts had projected that the presidential election will be keenly contested between the ruling All Progressive Party (APC) and the major opposition party in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Fuelled by these projections, both parties have had a barrage of presidential hopefuls with 28 individuals jostling for the APC ticket, and 17 over at the PDP.
The sheer number of candidates and other political underpinnings such as the issue of zoning made it virtually impossible for political observers to project a front-runner for either party.
Over at the PDP, the presumed front runners were former presidential aspirants of the party in the 2019 election, Atiku Abubakar, his then-running mate, Peter Obi and party big wig, Wyesom Wike.
The ability of Peter Obi however to eloquently articulated the country’s problem while presenting what he considers a path toward redemption had endeared him to many, gaining popularity on social media and even in the streets.
This popularity was expressed when thousands trooped out in various cities across the country in a first-of-its-kind solidarity march tagged “One million man march for Peter Obi”.
Analysts had expected that the PDP was going to capitalise on Obi’s popularity but Wednesday, the 25th, barely three days to the party’s national convention where the flag bearer would be nominated, Peter Obi not only dropped his presidential bid, he also resigned from the party.
The intrigue did not stop there as on Friday, 27, on the eve of the convention, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the country’s electoral body shifted the deadline for submission of names of party candidates from June 3 to June 10th.
This meant parties had a week’s grace, one that the ruling APC quickly capitalized on and shifted their national convention.
Although it was also speculated that the PDP would follow suit, the party went on with its convention.
With Peter Obi out, it was always going to be a race between Atiku and Wike although eleven others remained in the race.
More political drama played when presidential aspirant, Aminu Tambuwal, the governor of Sokoto State, during his speech collapsed his bid and asked his supporters to vote for Atiku.
This pronouncement gave Atiku a boost which was reflected in the results as he garnered 371 votes compared to Wike’s 237 making him the candidate of the PDP for the presidential election.
In reaction to his victory, he thanked the party for the opportunity to fly their flag while calling on the defeated party members to rally behind him to ensure victory in 2023.
Over at the APC, hopes for a quiet and uneventful run-up to their convention were quickly dashed when the chairman of the party’s screening committee, Chief John Oyegun on June 1st announced that 10 of the 23 aspirants have been disqualified.
Rumours spread through social media and some local news media that the leading aspirant, Ahmed Bola Tinubu was amongst the persons disqualified although Oyegun mentioned no names.
This came on the heel of Mr Tinubu recounting at a mega rally held a day before the role he played in the emergence of Muhammadu Buhari as president in 2015 and during his reelection in 2019, a message that did not go down well with the presidency and APC hierarchy.
While the presidency put out an official statement to counter Tinubu’s claim, the APC party national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu categorically said that Tinubu would be punished over his assertions.
A few days on, Adamu went rogue and announced the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan as the consensus candidate.
Other members of the National Working Committee, NWC of the APC including the presidency quickly put out statements to distance themselves from this announcement.
There was palpable tension as all stakeholders continue to pry to know the identities of the ten candidates that were supposedly disqualified but it was �. much ado about nothing as, during the official announcement, it was revealed that all candidates save those who voluntarily withdrew their candidacy was going to contest for the party’s ticket.
With all that sorted, political analysts declared the fight for the APC ticket a two-horse race between Bola Tinubu and his protégé, the current vice president Yemi Osinbajo (who Tinubu reportedly handpicked as Buhari’s running mate in 2015 and some had tagged him (Osinbajo) �? betrayer’, �?Judas’ for even considering to run for the office of the president).
The APC convention held on June 7 and 8 brought more drama than that of the APC. Seven aspirants stepped down and directed their supporters to vote for Tinubu during the convention while one did for Osinbajo.
Another aspirant, Ken Nnamami withdrew his candidacy on the day of the convention citing the party’s refusal to zone the presidential ticket to the South-east zone of the country.
At the end of the convention, Bola Tinubu emerged as the party’s flag bearer with 1,271 votes. Surprisingly, the country’s minister of transport, Rotimi Amaechi garnered 316 votes to emerge second while the current vice president, OSinbajo came third with 235 votes.
Remember Peter Obi, who pulled out and resigned from the PDP presidential race and party, he carried his support fuelled by the youths of the country and registered with the Labour Party (LP) where he emerged as the presidential candidate.
Although the LP is taunted as not having the structure to win a national election, it emerged on Saturday, June 18 that negotiations are in place for a possible merger with the New Nigeria Peoples Party NNPP which already had a northern political juggernaut, Rabiu Kwankwaso as its presidential candidate.
The possibility of this merger is already changing the political atmosphere as political analysts have argued that it has the potential (if it sees the light of day) to knock off both the ruling APC and main opposition PDP, off their perch.
Published on June 27, 2022