ONE Hundred days to the 2023 presidential election, scheduled for February 25, 2023, the leading candidates are battling hurdles which may affect their chances of becoming Nigeria’s next President, The ICIR reports.
Going by projections, the leading candidates are Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP).
The APC is the ruling party and its candidate, Tinubu, will be counting on the ‘incumbency factor’ in his quest to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari. The PDP is the major opposition party and still retains a large and vibrant support base across the country, having been in power for 16 years – from 1999 to 2015. The LP, hitherto one of the numerous political parties on the fringes, has been galvanised by the ‘Obedient’ movement centred around its flagbearer and to a large extent, is now seen as the ‘Third Force’.
Checks by The ICIR indicate that these three leading candidates are contending with hurdles, which may damage their chances, as the election draws nearer.
Spirited opposition from the G5 governors is a major threat that can truncate Atiku’s latest quest for the Presidency. A ghost from the past, in the form of drug trafficking allegations, and a tendency for gaffes, threaten Tinubu’s ambition. An unexpected, damaging attack, launched by Anambra State governor Charles Soludo, could dissipate gains made by Obi.
Atiku at the mercy of G5 governors
The G5 governors – Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) Femi Makinde (Oyo) and Samuel Ortom (Benue) may well turn out to be Atiku’s nemesis in the presidential contest. Having governors in your party is a major advantage in Nigerian national elections but as things stand at the moment, Atiku cannot count on the governors, who are openly leading a mutiny in the PDP.
The governors have continued to undermine Atiku’s presidential ambition at series of regular public events, which appear to be organised just to provide a stage to knock the PDP presidential candidate.
“To hell with Atiku and any other Fulani man. And any man supporting Atiku and all that is an enemy. I want this to be known as long as I am governor. They should go and tell him. You want me to be a slave for a Fulani. Anybody supporting Atiku is an enemy of Benue,” Ortom declared while playing host to other members of the G5 in Makurdi, Benue State capital, on November 6.
Already, the Rivers State chapter of the PDP has decided against campaigning for Atiku ahead of the general elections. Despite being a PDP-ruled state, there are reports that people are not allowed to paste Atiku’s posters in the state.
Wike is the leader of the G5. Having lost the PDP presidential ticket to Atiku, he was subsequently overlooked as running mate, despite reports that a committee headed by Ortom endorsed him as the party’s VP candidate.
Atiku’s pictures and posters were conspicuously missing when the Rivers State chapter of the PDP launched campaigns for the 2023 elections in Port Harcourt on October 24. Going by normal practice, state chapters simultaneously campaign for the presidential flagbearer while canvassing votes for party candidates for all the elective positions. But it appeared that the PDP had no presidential candidate when Wike launched the party’s campaign in Rivers State. Atiku was ignored.
Justifying the development, the governor said Rivers State will not campaign for Atiku.
He made this clear, saying: “Some have asked me why they did not see the presidential candidate, the party chairman’s photos in our campaign vehicles. I said what are you talking about? The presidential candidate entered my state and picked members of the Presidential Campaign Council without the governor of the state having a contribution.
“So they said they don’t need me to campaign for them. They don’t want Rivers people to campaign for them. Would you force yourself?”
Atiku’s ability to make peace with the G5 governors, particularly Wike, would go a long way in determining the outcome of his presidential bid.
Going by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) records, Rivers has 3,532,990 voters – the fourth highest number of registered voters.
Only Lagos (7,075,192), Kano (5,927,565) and Kaduna (4,345,469) have more registered voters.
Drug trafficking allegations, gaffes stalk Tinubu’s presidential ambition
Drug trafficking allegations against the APC flagbearer have refused to go away, despite well rehearsed denials over the years.
Reports on Tinubu’s involvement in a 1993 drug and money laundering case resurfaced on November 8 with the emergence of a certified copy of the judgment delivered by a United States (US) District Court in Illinois, which ordered the forfeiture of $460,000 against the APC presidential candidate.
The 59-page court document seen by The ICIR alleged that funds in an account held in First Heritage Bank with account number 263226700 operated by Bola Tinubu represented proceeds of narcotics trafficking in violation of US laws and consequently ordered that the funds amounting to $460,000 be forfeited to the government.
The Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign dismissed the document as “the same old tale”, adding that it was a campaign of calumny and an attempt to wake up the carcass of a drug allegation in America that had since been buried in 1993.
Evidence suggests that Nigerians are very much interested in the alleged drug trafficking allegation.
In July, legal website, PlainSite.org, reported that traffic to its website surged after it uploaded files of Tinubu’s drug trafficking-related forfeiture case.
Announcing the increase in traffic to its site, PlainSite.org said visitors were drawn to Tinubu’s drug trafficking case files.
Tinubu’s drug trafficking links continue to be the subject of intense debates on the social media as Nigerians weigh their options ahead of the polls.
Tinubu is also contending with reactions to his tendency to commit expensive gaffes during major public outings.
The latest gaffe – at the flag-off of the APC presidential campaign in Jos, Plateau State capital, on November 15 – appeared to be an own goal scored in favour of the opposition PDP.
“God Bless PD…” the presidential candidate said, stopping just in time to change the statement to “God bless APC”.
The PDP has been celebrating the gaffe, which is akin to an earlier incident in October when Tinubu hailed Kaduna State governor Nasir El-Rufai for his creativity and resilience “in turning a rotten situation into a bad one”.
Tinubu’s campaign team, which described the October incident involving El-Rufai as a “slip of tongue” will once again find words to try to convince Nigerians to ignore the gaffes and concentrate on their candidate’s qualities.
Obi faces credibility questions after Soludo’s attacks
The LP candidate Peter Obi has positioned himself as a candidate who would turn Nigeria’s ailing economy around, if elected President next year. The former Anambra State governor has promised to turn Nigeria from consumption to production.
Not a few Nigerians believe and trust the LP candidate, judging by the burgeoning popularity of the ‘Obedient’ movement.
Out of the blues, Anambra State governor Charles Soludo – Obi’s kinsman – launched an attack that could undermine the LP candidate’s credibility.
Obi has been praised for his performance as Anambra State governor. He was reputed to have made sound economic investments for the state, besides leaving a sizeable amount in the state’s coffers for his successor.
But, in interview with Channels TV’s Politics Today on November 11, Soludo, a former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, said Obi’s alleged investment in the state is “worth next to nothing”.
Obi governed Anambra on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which he eventually left for the PDP.
Soludo is a member of APGA – the only governor outside the APC and PDP.
Asked about Obi’s investments for the state, Soludo said: “I don’t know about the investment. I’m not talking about the investments of any of my predecessors. By the way, the one (Obi) that you talked about I don’t know about that. I think there was something I read about somebody speculating about whatever investment. With what I’ve seen today, the value of those investments is worth next to nothing.”
Newspaper headlines from the interview screamed ‘Obi’s investment in Anambra next to nothing’ and the Obidients took to radio, television and various social media platforms to hit back at Soludo.
Soludo took the attack further by dismissing Obi’s chances in the presidential election. According to him, Obi can’t win, and knows he can’t win. “Let’s be clear: Peter Obi knows that he can’t and won’t win. He knows the game he is playing, and we know too, and he knows that we know,” the Anambra governor said.
Obi, and his supporters have dismissed Soludo’s comments, suggesting that the governor was on a vendetta mission, or working for opponents, but there are concerns that some of his (Soludo) claims could undermine the credibility of the LP presidential candidate.