Many Nigerians are hoping the general elections scheduled for February and March 2023 will hold as the insecurity situation worsens and fear grips the nation.
Four major political parties and 14 others are fielding candidates for the polls.
The president’s office naturally evokes the most interest among politicians and the people generally because of its exalted position.
Political debates are taking ethnic and religious undercurrents, which crescendo into further heating an atmosphere already charged by fear and gloom from aggravated insecurity.
Unlike the previous elections, where only two major political parties, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), dominated the presidential polls, two more political parties have surged to threaten an upset in the coming elections.
The new parties are the Labour Party (LP) and the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP).
All four parties parade candidates who appeal to different sections of the population, and whose choices of running mate or strategies to win the elections are heating the polity.
The APC candidate
The APC fields a former Lagos State Governor, Bola Tinubu, who helped Muhammadu Buhari defeat the then incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan, in 2015.
Buhari, a retired general and former Head of State (December 31, 1983 – August 27, 1985), had gone for the presidential election three times – in 2003, 2007 and 2011 – before triumphing in 2015.
Tinubu admits he has lived all his life pursuing the presidency and believes it is his turn to mount the seat after Buhari exits on May 29, 2023.
Though not originally in line to pick the ticket, following the activities of some cabals in the party, his overwhelming victory at the presidential primary has forced the party members to close ranks.
But Tinubu has courted the rage of many Nigerian Christians after he picked a former governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, another Muslim as he, as his running mate.
Citing recurring religious tension in the country and attacks on churches by terrorists, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Northern Christians have formally rejected the Muslim-Muslim ticket.
The controversial choice remains a factor that will shape Tinubu’s fate in the poll.
The PDP candidate
PDP goes to next year’s poll with former Vice President Atiku Abukabar, who had had many shots at the presidency (in 1993, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019).
Atiku contested the PDP’s ticket against calls by the party’s stalwarts from the South that the region should produce the next president after Buhari, who hails from the North like him, completes his eight years in office.
But Atiku’s emergence at the party’s presidential primary as its candidate would seem to rubbish the thinking of those leaders from the South.
After Atiku’s victory, most party stakeholders believed he would pick the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who came second at the party’s primary, as his running mate.
But the former vice-president eventually settled for the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, who did not even participate in the primary.
Although Wike and some other PDP governors – like Benue’s Samuel Ortom, Abia’s Okezie Ikpeazu and Oyo’s Seyi Makinde – who angled for his vice-presidential candidacy, were said to have resolved to remain in the party, the Rivers State governor has continued to express his anger at Atiku, as well as at some PDP leaders, including the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, who Wike accused of working to edge him out of the vice-presidential tussle.
Wike has promised to speak on what he alleged were lies against him by Atiku, whom he accused of allowing his “attack dogs” to vilify him.
Apart from being another northern candidate after Buhari, Atiku faces a backlash in his party over his choice of Okowa as his running mate. The choice, currently a major debate, will impact his performance in the election.
The LP candidate
A former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, will fly the LP’s flag as presidential candidate in the 2023 election. Obi dumped the PDP after it became clear that Atiku would not back down on his ambition.
Obi, Atiku’s running mate in 2019, defected from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in 2014 after leaving office as Anambra governor.
There were discussions on a possible merger between the LP and NNPP, but the talks ended in futility.
Unconfirmed reports claim that neither Peter Obi nor Kwankwaso was ready to be the running mate to each other.
Obi went on to pick Datti Baba Ahmed as his running mate.
Because of his large social media following, Obi’s emergence fuels debates on who Nigeria’s next president will be.
His choice of a young running mate has been a plus to his campaign, but many Nigerians argue that he lacks the solid structures that Tinubu and Atiku had built over the years.
The NNPP’s candidate
The NNPP has a former Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso as its presidential candidate.
Kwankwaso had been a member of the PDP, the platform on which he was a minister (2003 – 2007) and governor (1999 – 2003, and 2011 – 2015).
He was also a senator on the APC’s platform between 2015 and 2019.
Kwankwaso joined the NNPP after quitting the PDP in March 2022.
He then went on to clinch the party’s presidential ticket.
He also picked a Lagos State-based pastor, Isaac Idahosa, as his running mate.
Kwankwanso’s NNPP widens its fold by winning ‘cheated’ members of other parties, alongside its loyal followers based mostly in some states in the North.
Though Kwankwaso commands a large following in Kano, Bauchi, Jigawa, Katsina and other states in the North, his habitual defection from one political party to another during recent elections may bear on his chances at the next election.