2023: A Battle of Two Septuagenarians, By Ozumi Abdul
POLITICS DIGEST- Political parties’ primary elections have come and gone, done and dusted with candidates that will be flying their parties’ flags across all elective positions emerging in the process, in tandem with the INEC’s stipulated dateline and deadline.
However, of all the parties’ electoral positions that are up for grabs in the forthcoming 2023 general election, the most appealing and attention grabbing of them all remains the Presidency. Nigerians had to wait with bated breath for months to know who will be flying the flags of each of the parties in the presidential election.
In all of these, the two big parties have commanded the lion share of the attention since it is difficult if not possible for any third force movement to be able to dislodge them for now. This is why I have personally not joined the Peter Obi bandwagon. It is of course too late in the day for any small party to overtake the PDP and APC before February next year. The two major parties control over 95 per cent of elective offices across Nigeria so it will be improbable for any small party to dislodge them with the limited time they have between now February.
So logically as it stands, the real fight is between the former two term Lagos state Governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, meaning we are obviously having a titanic fight in our hands in 2023. This is discernible from the duo’s political and influential clout, twinned with their over three decades of experience since their days together at the Peoples Front (PF) formed by Late Military Vice President, Shehu Musa Yara’adua, before they also met at the horse-bearing Social Democratic Party (SDP), the political platform on which MKO Abiola contested and won the June 1993 presidential election.
While Tinubu was elected as a senator in 1992, Atiku on the flip side sought to be governor of the newly created Adamawa state. He won the governorship primary election but was disqualified by the military government which had the notoriety for cancelling elections. But Atiku would later throw his hat into the presidential fray because of Yar’Adua, his mentor’s, disqualification having emerged in the SDP presidential primary in 1992.
The primaries of the two parties — the other being the National Republican Convention (NRC) — had been cancelled and “old breed politicians” banned, so Yar’Adua entered Atiku as his horse in the new race in 1993. Atiku lost to the late Bashorun MKO Abiola who clinched the ticket.
This simply underscores the fact that the two men have been around long enough to understand the terrain and know how to play the game.
Both Atiku and Tinubu are in their 70s. They are septuagenarians vying to lead Nigerians at a time a lot of youths are clamouring for youthful leadership. These septuagenarians will make that up with the experience and wisdom at their disposal which cannot be found in young people.
Both candidates are Muslims. Tinubu is from the South West, while Atiku is from the North East. Atiku obviously enjoys the luxury of picking a Christian from the south as his running mate, while Tinubu is in the same dilemma Abiola faced in 1993, when he had to pick a fellow Muslim, Babagana Kingibe, as his running mate.
Invoking the spirit of 1993, Tinubu has now also gone to Borno to pick the immediate past governor, Kashim Shettima, as his running mate with the hope of cornering at least two states in Atiku’s northeast and majority of states in the northwest where the APC is very strong.
While Atiku has had it rosy with his choice of an experienced, brilliant, cool and calm Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta state, Tinubu has had to face religious scrutiny that has blocked the view of most commentators to the sheer brilliancy and experience that Shettima brings to the ticket. Critics of Tinubu’s choices are deliberately avoiding the fact that since he is not very strong in the south-south and southeast, he has to bring to the ticket a very popular northerner who can bring the votes from the core north.
Tinubu’s case is helped by the fact that the Obi phenomenon may half Atiku’s votes in his stronghold of southeast, south-south and parts of North Central. But Atiku has to find a way retain his traditional catchment areas and battle the APC’s incumbency powers in the northwest.
As we count down to the polls, a lot of waters will pass under the bridge in the coming months. Wherever the pendulum swings, the winner of this battle royale has a massive job at hand, based on the distressing nature of the country at this time.