IT’S less than five days to the general election in Nigeria and as the polls draw closer, several political and non-political groups have started endorsing one candidate or another for the biggest trophy − the presidential seat.
Though many believe that the presidential contest will be a two-horse race between the two established political parties in the country namely, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), some say there could be surprises especially as discussions continue among some young presidential aspirants to come up with a consensus candidate.
On Thursday, a group known as ‘Citizen Forum’, led by Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, endorsed former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Kingsley Moghalu, as its presidential candidate.
Moghalu, who is also a lawyer and professor, is contesting on the platform of the Young Progressives Party (YPP).
In a statement which he personally signed, Soyinka, who had earlier described the candidates of the PDP and APC − Muhammadu Buhari and Abubakar Atiku − as worthy of absolute rejection, said Nigeria “has been brought on its knees” hence the need for a fresh kind of leadership.
Soyinka noted that the ‘Citizen Forum’, which was last heard of during the Abacha regime, “was pulled out of retirement to join in their effort to arrive at peer consensus”.
“The Forum rejected retrograde propositions of a political merry-go-round, which urge the electorate to choose this or that candidate in order to ensure “our turn” at the next power incumbency,” Soyinka stated.
“Overall, the exercise was exacting but also – therapeutic. It proved yet again that there is over-abundant leadership quality locked up in the nation, and that it is a collective shortcoming that the political space has not been sufficiently opened up to let soar such potential.
“The final determination, however, is – the flag-bearer of the Young Progressive Party – KINGSLEY MOGHALU.”
But while Soyinka’s group was endorsing Moghalu, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) announced the adoption of President Buhari as its candidate going into the elections.
The SDP is one of Nigeria’s biggest political party during the third republic. It was on the party’s platform that the late M.K.O Abiola contested and reportedly won the 1993 general election which was later annulled.
The party, which had adopted former President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP during the 2015 general election, said it was adopting Buhari because of the ongoing court case between the party’s two presidential aspirants − Donald Duke and Jerry Gana.
“With less than 10 days before the presidential election, our great party is caught up in a web with very little room for manoeuver. The options before us at this critical juncture are limited: we either realign our forces or we lose out completely,” the SDP National Executive Committee stated after its meeting on Thursday.
However, both Duke and Gana have distanced themselves from the decision of the party’s NEC.
But the bigger surprise came when a faction of the ‘Red Card Movement’ announced that it was endorsing Atiku for the presidential election.
The RCM was a group formed by former Minister of Education, Obiageli Ezekwesili, who in October declared her interest to run for the presidency but pulled out in January.
Ezekwesili said her objective in forming the RCM was to sensitise Nigerians that the APC and PDP are two sides of the same coin and that neither deserves to be voted into office again in 2019.
“Red Card Movement will not support, participate, endorse or champion an alliance that involves any of the two dominant political parties − PDP and APC,” Ezekwesili said recently.
However, on Thursday, co-Chairman of the RCM, Tony Akabuno, said it is “myopic and delusional” for anyone to think that any candidate could wrest power from Buhari other than Atiku.
In what sounded more like a jab aimed at Ezekwesili, Akabuno said “those who demonize Atiku Abubakar, are either envious, hateful or ignorant” as Atiku “has never been indicted by any court of competent jurisdiction anywhere in the world”.
However, in a tweet on Friday, the RCM said it has “dissociated from Oby Ezekwesili”.
Omoyele Sowore, the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), was the latest to benefit from the endorsement galore when Eniola Olatunji, the candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), stepped down for him on Thursday. Sowore is the Publisher of Sahara Reporters, an online media organisation.
Olatunji promised to mobilise as much as four million votes for Sowore, adding that 85 per cent of the AD leadership supports his decision. He said his support for Sowore was not motivated by money but by his (Sowore’s) integrity and credibility, as well as “the need to save Nigerians from the two corrupt political parties”.
“I stepped down because we want to create alternatives for PDP and APC and also to encourage other political parties to join Omoyele Sowore, because he has what it takes to take Nigeria to glory and move the country forward, so as to bring the dignity of the country back,” Olatunji told Sahara Reporters.
“The party leaders are aware and they are fully in support of my decision. Alliance for Democracy is a well-structured party; 85 per cent are with me and they are ready to back me up.”
The presidential election holds on Saturday, February 16 How all these endorsements will translate into votes for the respective candidates remains to be seen.