As the 2023 general elections approach, the Nigerian political terrain continues to unfold with the emergence of a seemingly third force. Having successfully conducted the primary elections, the ruling All Progressive Party (APC) and the major opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have announced Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as their respective presidential candidates.
Ordinarily, given their existing national structure, it would be concluded that either of these two candidates will emerge as the winner of the presidential election. However, there appears to be an emerging third force with a very strong appeal to the Nigerian youths.
There is an obvious clamour for a new breed of leaders who have a track record of integrity and economic management skills. This is particularly driven by the prevailing economic challenges, including high inflation (high cost of living), unemployment, very poor healthcare system, poor educational system, poor road network, and insecurity, among others. It is an obvious fact that corruption has been a root cause of Nigeria’s economic and social quagmire.
Hence, the youths are clamouring for a candidate that will eschew corruption and drive economic growth and development. Consequently, the youths are drumming support for Mr Peter Obi, an ex-governor of Anambra State in the Southeast. He is widely known for his integrity and frugality with state finances during his tenure as governor. He is also known for the remarkable improvement in education and healthcare while he was in office.
That said, we note that several factors, such as political party affiliations, religious and ethnic sentiments, remain critical in the determination of voting patterns. The ruling All Progressive Congress and the major opposition, Peoples Democratic Party already have strong national structures to leverage on, while Peter Obi’s Labour Party lacks key political influencers across the geopolitical zones. Beyond the ruling party and national structure advantages, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a seasoned political heavyweight in the Southwest, who has deep pockets to champion his cause. However, his chances of winning the presidential elections will largely depend on whom he eventually picks as his substantive running mate.
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While it is expected that his running mate will be chosen from the Northern part of the country to pull reasonable votes from the huge Northern population, the religious affiliation of the chosen candidate also plays a major role. A Muslim-Muslim ticket may be difficult to pull off in today’s Nigeria, which has been badly divided along religious and ethnic lines.
We note again that the collapse of the intended alliance between the Labour Party and the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) undermines the chances of Peter Obi getting significant votes from the North. There had been hopes that Peter Obi could leverage the popularity of Rabiu Kwankwaso in the North, especially in Kano State.
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The former Kano State Governor and the presidential flag bearer of the New Nigeria People’s Party, Rabiu Kwankwaso blamed the failure of the intended merger on the fact that an acceptance of a vice-presidential candidate position would totally defeat his ambition.
Though we reiterate that Peter Obi has endeared himself to the youths, particularly in the south and north-central geopolitical zones and there is a fast-growing movement in his support, we still believe his emergence as President seems farfetched.
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