Tribune Online – Breaking News in Nigeria Today
With the June 9 deadline for political parties to conduct their primaries over, the country’s electoral process towards the 2023 elections will be entering a new phase. But just before the new chapter is opened, the aftermath of the primaries continue to ripple the polity.
The issue of running mates to presidential candidates in the major parties gave stakeholders cause for caution, although the two major candidates, Atiku Abubakar and Senator Bola Tinubu, have scaled the hurdles by picking their partners for the joint tickets.
The methods employed as well as the processes for the conduct of primaries in some of the parties have left tongues wagging about issues of internal democracy still being a marathon race as far as deepening democracy and democratic institutions are concerned.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, gave a speech of lamentation when the House reconvened last week. He bemoaned how some of his colleagues lost their return tickets to the parliament in the power play within their parties. About 157 Green Chamber lawmakers and 50 senators didn’t make it through their parties’ primaries.
But the parties, despite the overt and covert imperfections that attended the primaries, have thrown up presidential candidates for the transition election next year. Nigerians have now been left with the opportunity to decide the fate of the candidates.
Looking at presidential materials thrown up, Nigerians have expressed what can be described as frustration at the offerings of same old and jaded faces that have dominated the political space of the country since the return of civil rule in 1999.
Mirroring the general question on the lips of many Nigerians, a lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Professor Ibrahim Olaosun, asked rhetorically: “why are we always confronted with two unholy choices (PDP and APC)?» Olaosun’s statement signposts the impression that, unless other parties coalesce to give them a good fight, only the APC and the PDP are in pole position to produce the next president of the country.
The questions observers have been asking since the emergence of the presidential candidates are: Do we have the president Nigeria needs at this critical time from among the materials on offer? Have they demonstrated the capacity to heal the country and put it on the path of real growth and development? What are their antecedents? What are their areas of strength? What are their weaknesses?
 
Atiku Abubakar: three times candidate

No doubt an old war horse in the political firmament, former vice-president Atiku Abubakar is unarguably one of the biggest politicians with a wide network across the country. His allies also cut across party and religious affiliations.
Atiku’s name featured prominently in the politics of the aborted Third Republic as a prominent member of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), which also boasted of the late business icon, Chief MKO Abiola, Musa Yar’Adua and many others. In fact, Atiku contested in the presidential primary of SDP with Abiola, the eventual victor who went on to win the election annulled by the Ibrahim Babangida military junta.
With the birth of a new transition of Abdulsalam Abubakar in 1998, Atiku was also a key player as a member of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), one of the many political associations that morphed to form the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He was won election as the governor of Adamawa State, but was tapped by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as his vice president.
The relationship between the duo blossomed until their second term in office when it turned sour, leading to Atiku leaving the PDP for the defunct Action Congress (AC) where he ran as its presidential standard-bearer and lost to PDP’s Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007.
The Waziri Adamawa  returned to PDP after his ‘wilderness experience’ in Tinubu’s AC and made to wrestle for the ticket of the umbrella party with the then President Goodluck Jonathan. He was not successful and consequently he alongside some governors of the party broke away and named themselves the New PDP which later teamed up with the APC chieftains to send Jonathan packing.
It later turned out that the New PDP members drank hemlock and from poisoned chalice by their decision to join forces with APC leaders. Not only was their expectation cut short, one by one, they were literally forced out of the party, only for them to return to the PDP.
Atiku, in a fiercely contested primary with the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike giving him a run for his money, has since emerged the presidential candidate of the PDP. He was the party’s candidate in 2019, polling 11.2m votes from 17 states, representing his biggest haul of votes since he has been running to govern the country.
He described himself as the man Nigeria and Nigerians need to heal the wounds of the last seven years and navigate the ship of state away from tempest to safety and despair to hope.
“Since the civil war, the unity of Nigeria has never been threatened as it is today. Nigerians are losing hope in the oneness of this country. My fellow Nigerians, I am the unifier that is coming to bond the broken union.
“The 2023 election is not just like the usual elections; it is a referendum to decide whether we want greatness or continuous destruction. It is a choice between two paths: the path of unity and progress or the path of division and backwardness.
“We need a new kind of leadership that will steer us to a positive path. In 2023, we want a president who has ideas on how to fix Nigeria. We want a president who understands, who inspires and is empathetic,” he said.
Experienced and well-prepared as Atiku may appear, there are low points for his candidacy. The first is his age, though this has been argued by observers as one that pales into insignificance as APC also picked a septuagenarian in Senator Bola Tinubu, former Lagos governor, as its candidate.
The second is the perception of him as being part of the class that led the country to where it is today. Many Nigerians think Atiku and others who have been around for about four decades can’t be exonerated from rot that has enveloped the country.
The third and perhaps the strongest perception against him is that of corruption. He has been alleged of various corruption deals bordering on the privatization of public enterprises that he handled, his involvement or otherwise in the $182m Halliburton bribery scandal and others. But curiously, he has not been found wanting or nailed in any of the alleged corruption cases.
Even in 2019 when the Federal Government claimed that fresh facts emerged on corruption by Atiku, he was never prosecuted; leading to the claims from his supporters the allegations may have been cooked up to give him a bad name and proceed to hang him.
What observers think counts for Atiku are many. One, he is the only most formidable candidate from the northern part of the country. Two, in the South where his major challenger hail from, Atiku’s party is dominant in two of the three zones- South-South and South-East.
His ability to manage the consequences of his choice of the Delta State governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate, refusing to go with the choice of Wike favoured by majority of the National Working Committee of the party may be an albatross.
 
Senator Bola Tinubu
APC presidential candidate, Tinubu, is another name that can’t be wished away in the politics of the country. He has been described as the face of the opposition in the struggle to upstage the PDP in 2015.
His main involvement in the political theatre dated back to the aborted Third Republic where he contested and won election to the Senate under the banner of SDP. Though the era was short-lived, he is reputed to have stamped his presence on the national scene with a bang during the period.
During the military annulment of the June 12, Tinubu and other pro-democracy advocates fought tooth and nail not only for the restoration of the mandate freely given to the late Abiola, but also for the military to leave the scene for civilians to run the country. In the process, he became a high profile suspect among other NADECO chieftains that the military junta of General Sani Abacha sought to liquidate. Pronto, Tinubu and others went on exile and returned when Abacha died.
At the return to democratic process, Tinubu landed the guber ticket of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) and governed the State of Excellence for eight straight years. He was the only 1999 Class of AD governors that the 2003 PDP did not sweep away.
His opposition to the Federal Government’s highhandedness under Obasanjo, particularly in putting to test the autonomy of states as independent entities added steel and granite to his credentials as a dogged fighter. Obasanjo, unable to stomach Tinubu’s effrontery, directed the federal allocations to the 20 councils in the state be stopped. He challenged the decision up to the Supreme Court and won, thus establishing himself as a one-man squad.
He thereafter put formidable machinery in motion for the re-take of the states lost by AD under the platform of AC and later the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). One after the other and in some occasion through the instrumentality of the court, Osun, Ekiti, Ogun, Oyo and Edo states came under the control of ACN and to Tinubu’s towering image.
Tinubu led the ACN as one of the biggest partners among the legacy parties that gave birth to APC and wrought the victory of the opposition party to the central government for the first time since the country’s independence. Although controversy had dogged the claim by Tinubu camp that he made General Muhammadu Buhari president in 2015, observers reckon his contribution to the victory can’t be discountenanced.
Before and since winning the ticket of APC, Tinubu has been promising a new lease of life under him as president. Among other things, he says he will revamp the economy, build infrastructure that will service a robust economy and ensure 24 hours supply of electricity.
“We need massive infrastructure plan. No national economy can grow beyond the capacity of its infrastructure to service the economy. Portable water should be readily available in our cities. Electrical power is the fulcrum of our development. We must enact reforms necessary to power business and homes at affordable prices. Firms in the sector must work for as much for the public good as for private gain.”
“My administration’s critical goal is to have 15,000 megawatts distributable to all categories of consumers nationwide to ensure 24/7 sustainable supply within the next four years.”
“I will focus on stimulating jobs, which will be my top priority as president. I will get Nigeria to work by launching a major public works programme, a significant and heavy investment in infrastructure, and value-adding manufacturing and agriculture,” he said.
“My administration will build an efficient, fast-growing, and well-diversified emerging economy with a real GDP growth averaging 12% annually for the next four years, translating into millions of new jobs during this period”, he said.
The public image of Tinubu is greeted with mixed feelings. There are those who see him as having a knack for excellence by head-hunting good successors. Those in this category readily give examples of the commendable performances of Babatunde Fashola, Akunwunmi Ambode and incumbent Babajide Sanwo-Olu as governors of Lagos.
Tinubu is also credited for the transformation of Lagos with the Master Plan he developed and which is being followed by his successors.
However, those who jeer at him loathe his vice grip on the economy of Lagos and the fact that nothing gets done unless he signs off on it. This, his critics say, should not be allowed to be replicated on a national scale.
Some aspects of his background, his education, the university he attended, his parentage, his age and other things about him are mired in controversy. There is also an unproven allegation of money laundering against him, just as a tax consulting firm, Alpha Beta has been linked to him. The company takes taxes for Lagos and is said to smile home with humongous commission monthly.
Tinubu’s health has also been a subject of public concern. He recently went under the surgeon’s knife for a knee problem.
 
Peter Obi
Owing to his familiarity with the Nigerian economic terrain being a member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and having served as a member of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s Presidential Economic Management Team, Peter Obi is one man some Nigerians believe can rescue the country from its existential economic debacle evidenced by the surging inflation worsening the state of hardship of the citizenry.
The man forayed into the political arena when he contested for the Anambra State gubernatorial election in 2003, but lost to Chris Ngigie. But he had to wait for three years before reclaiming his mandate. He was impeached in November 2006, but also reclaimed his mandate through the Court of Appeal in February 2007. Few months’ later, he was booted out of power with the 2007 general election, despite not completing his four-year gubernatorial mandate at the time of the election. The 57-year-old Obi then challenged his removal at the Supreme Court and won, which returned him to the state government house for the third time to finish his four-year tenure. The UNN alumnus re-contested in 2010 and won for his second tenure which later ended in 2014.
Five years afterwards, he ran on a joint ticket with former Nigeria’s Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, who is now the 2023 standard-bearer of the PDP. Obi was to contest the party’s 2023 presidential primary alongside Atiku, but he defected from the party less than 24 hours to the primary to pick the presidential ticket of the Labour party (LP). And since then, he has been vocal on his main aim for jostling to become Nigeria’s next president.
“My interest in the presidency of Nigeria is to restore security and revamp our educational sector and also revive the health sector. I have seriously studied our country and I have come to discover that all that we need is to ensure security so that foreign aid local investments would thrive in all parts of the country. I have come to serve Nigeria and I am sure of restoring our country and uniting the country because if there is no unity in Nigeria we cannot move ahead. I am not contesting because I want a political appointment but to serve this country and unite Nigeria. I am the only person that can unite Nigeria,” Obi said at a recent meeting with the council of Anambra traditional rulers and presidents-general of the 177 communities in the state.
Much like Atiku, Obi has always been critical of Nigeria’s state of governance in recent times as he believes that corruption has eaten deep into the country’s fabrics giving rise to bad governance as well as constitutional and political attrition. Obi has been of the view that leadership failure has been the bane of Nigeria’s development since independence and has now drifted the country towards the threshold of serious socio-economic and security problems. He said to change the country’s fortune, the teeming population of the Nigerian youths must rise to speak decisively with their Permanent Voters Card in 2023 else the country might slide into anarchy.
“Nigeria has been in trouble since independence because of the failure of leadership. Nigerians must resist the temptation by enemies of collective progress, as well as the influence of moneybags as Nigeria prepares for the 2023 general election,” Obi said during the formal inauguration of the National Executive Council of Nigeria Ethnic Nationalities Youth Leaders Council which was held in Abuja in March.
According to him, leadership inadequacy contributed to worsening the country’s problems, from widening the parochial divisions among the citizens to the plundering of the treasury.
He said: “Don’t think you are going to get anything out of incompetent leadership no matter how it benefits you personally. It will worsen the entire country and eventually worsen you.
“Let Nigeria’s next leadership from the local governments to the state and federal levels be people who have the capacity to govern; people who have integrity and managers of resources; people who know where to invest. The biggest assets of a country are the human beings that live in that country. Nigeria as a nation has not invested in its people.
“It is good we have some physical infrastructure. But you cannot make physical infrastructure without investing in human development. Elect those that can invest in you so that we can have a progressive country that can help everybody,” Obi stated.
But despite his numerous priggish speeches in public glare impressing Nigerians to believe that he truly understands not only the causes of Nigeria’s slow-paced development and structural defects, but also the practicable solutions to lift the country out of the mire, some Nigerians have accused Mr Obi of being very tightfisted, saying his presidency might bring about more financial scarcity for the masses, while others have claimed otherwise, saying his frugality will tighten and block the leaking rooftops of the Nigeria nose-diving economy.
Above all, an investigation carried out by Premium Times in 2021 claimed that Mr Obi serially violated the constitution by failing to declare to the Code of Conduct Bureau the companies and assets he tucked away in secrecy havens. The investigation, being part of the global international Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)-led Pandora Papers project, saw 600 journalists from 150 news organisations around the world poring through a trove of 11.9 million confidential files, contextualising information, tracking down sources and analysing public records and other documents.
The leaked files were retrieved from some offshore services firms around the world that set up shell companies and other offshore entities for clients, many of whom are criminals and politicians seeking to conceal their financial dealings. But despite consistently advocating good governance and transparency publicly, Mr Obi was one of the individuals whose hidden business activities was thrown open by the project, which revealed that he has a number of secret business dealings and relationships that he has for years kept to his chest.
According to the online medium, “Mr Obi clandestinely set up and operated some of the businesses abroad, with notorious tax evasions that breached the Nigerian laws. PREMIUM TIMES contacted him with written questions and had an in-person interview with him weeks ahead of this publication.
“The former governor admitted that he did not declare these companies and the funds and properties they hold in his asset declaration filings with the Code of Conduct Bureau, the Nigerian government agency that deals with the issues of corruption, conflict of interest, and abuse of office by public servants. He said he was unaware that the law expected him to declare assets or companies he jointly owns with his family members or anyone else,” the medium reported.
Amid the constitutional breach, only time will tell if Mr Obi’s leadership, if elected, will solve most of the problems he has decried about Nigeria across several forums.
 
Rabiu Kwankwaso
Years after making his first shot at Nigerian politics in 1992 when he was elected as a member of the House of Representatives representing Madobi Federal Constituency of Kano State, Ibrahim Kwankwaso became the state governor on 29th May 1999 and his tenure ended on 29th May 2003. But this first tenure was reportedly marred with high-handedness, effusive diatribes and egregious haughtiness, which many citizens of the state were opposed to, just as they accused him of supporting the Yoruba Presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo. Consequently, he lost his re-election bid that year to his arch-rival, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau. But in May, 2011, Kwankwaso was re-elected for a second term in office as governor of the state and he bowed out of power on 29th May 2015.
But two years into his second stint in office, Kwankwaso joined seven other governors to form the G-7 faction within the PDP. And a few months later, he defected to the APC alongside members of the G-7 PDP faction. In October 2014, Kwankwaso contested the APC presidential primaries, which he lost to President Muhammadu Buhari. Four years later, precisely in 2014, he alongside fourteen serving senators of the APC defected back to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). And in October that year, he contested the party’s presidential primaries, where he came fourth among twelve other aspirants. The primaries was won by Atiku with 1,532 votes and Kwakwanso later endorsed him.  But on 22 February 2022, he set up a national movement against the continuous colonization of the Nigerian political space by the APC and the PDP and he co-opted the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNDP) as the political wing of the movement, thereby becoming the national leader of the party and its sole presidential candidate for the 2023 general election.
Like his co-aspirants, Kwankwaso, has also said that his administration would tackle insecurity and turn around the Nigerian economy if elected in 2023.
Speaking in Calabar while addressing party supporters after his victory in the party’s presidential primary, the former Kano State governor said: “The issue of insecurity such as banditry, among others will be addressed. I will turn around the nation’s economy and will ensure the unity of this country”.
“This country needs somebody who understands the challenges of every ethnic and religious group and carries everyone along, somebody who has time and commitment to ensure that there is equity. I believe if we have the right person, this country would be the right place for everyone,” he said.
He added that attention should be given to restructuring as well as resource control, poverty eradication, unemployment, quality education, water supply and infrastructure, among others, just as he insisted that if elected to rule Nigeria, he will be accessible to every part of the country and effectively address the problems confronting each of the country’s multifarious ethnic groups. But will he eventually match his words with actions, only time can tell.
 
Last line
The factors that will decide who wins the race are many, with some bordering on what the candidates have done in previous public positions they have held, their capacity to hit the rock with their magic wand and get water running and thus creating an oasis in the desert that the country has been thrown into economically.

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2023: The judiciary on trial
2023: The misses, scorers in NASS
Woes at primaries: How far can federal lawmakers go against governors?
Another imminent implosion in PDP?

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