By Sani Danaudi Mohammed
With the emergence of the former Governor of Lagos State Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the Presidential Candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, Nigerians especially members of the ruling party have narrowed their perceptions of the need for the party to retain power in the next coming elections. It is becoming clear that the focus on who becomes Tinubu’s running mate has been shifted to demographic considerations than the credibility, competency and delivery being sung.
The former Vice of Nigeria and the PDP Presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar has settled for Ifeanyi Okowa as his running mate from the South South region. His nomination for the slot has generated the most intense interest within and outside his party. Currently, their ticket strikes a balance among the agitators of both regional and religious inclusion. Available records documented that only Yakubu Gowon and then General Buhari had deputies either of the same faith or from the same regions. The Moshood Abiola and Babagana Kingibe of the same religion won overwhelmingly the 1993 Presidential elections though it could not see the light of the day for spurious reasons.
The North as it stands has 16 out of 19 Muslim Governors, and 49 out of 58 senators as Muslims. This makes the North a predominantly Muslim region just as the South is been ceded a Christian region with few Governors being Muslims from the South West region where the Jagaban himself held from. The heterogeneous nature of our country will hardly allow us to go into the next coming elections without taking into account these statistics. This is why the Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress may likely consider the Abiola/Kingibe option 30 years after.
However, Tinubu as a Southern minority Muslim is afraid of losing the support of the Northern Muslim majority if he should pick a Christian from that region. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) had been sniping at his heels even before he won the APC ticket, warning against a Muslim-Muslim ticket. President Muhammadu Buhari has never failed to score less than 12m votes since he joined active politics in 2003 which is a clear indication that the North will in no doubt determine the next President of Nigeria. If Tinubu would have any chance of trouncing his old political associate, Atiku in the 2023 presidential election, he must weigh these factors.
Many have shared their opinions that the Muslim Muslim ticket is the only way to go for Tinubu’s Presidency even though on the other hand, Christians have disagreed and described it as counter-productive. At the time the Former SGF and Chieftain of the ruling APC Engr. Babachir David Lawal from the North is against the Muslim Muslim ticket, His counterpart from the South Orji Orzo Kalu said it is the only way to brighten their chances of winning the forthcoming Presidential elections. These unfolding events may likely be the reasons why Kabiru Masari’s name was submitted to meet the INEC deadline until a substantive Vice President is unveiled after wide consultations in the next coming days.
Nigerians especially those selling the ecthnic and religious cards said the choice of a Northern Muslim to run with Tinubu another Muslim from the South has jettisoned equity, fairness and justice. Since the return of democracy in 1979, Candidates of the same religion or region have never survived the arbitrary Nigerian divisive politics. Tinubu himself has admitted to sacrificing his ambition for Professor Yemi Osinbanjo the current Vice President despite his eligibility, credibility, competency and capacity to deliver as the number two citizen. Nigerian constitution has not cited religion as a prerequisite for choosing a President or the Vice President though it emphasises the need to uphold the unity in diversity as a basic necessity of governance.
The Presidential Candidate of the NNPP has established his Political base in Kano, parts of Jigawa and Katsina States in the North West region. A loss to Atiku would have left the entire North to Kwankwaso as the only prominent northerner running for president. The game has changed with Atiku flying the ticket of the PDP and whose popularity goes beyond the Northern region. Can we say it is now a two-horse race? Absolutely yes, The North will certainly decide either to go for Atiku or Tinubu and anyone who is able to convince the Northern block certainly is the next President of Nigeria.
So how will Obi and Kwankwaso work together if they agree? The time scale and procedure set by the Electoral Act 2022 have ruled out the possibility of a merger of the two parties. Section 81(2) of the Act states that: “Political parties intending to merge shall each give to the Commission nine months’ notice of their intention to do so before a general election. It is less than nine months to the 2023 general elections and the time for nomination of candidates is over, so LP and NNPP cannot merge. They can only enter into an informal alliance, in which the two parties can rally around support behind each other.
The Ekiti governorship election gives a glimpse of the scale of the challenge that Mr Obi faces with his candidate Roland Daramola scoring only 295 votes across the 16 local government areas. His campaign seems to have been embraced across regional and ethnic lines on Twitter, but pundits remain sceptical that the virtual support can berth in polling units without a formidable party structure guiding it. His prominent online campaigners are from the South when someone follows critically the Social Media influencers. Kwankwaso on his part has become a phenomenon in Kano politics. His erstwhile ally Ganduje acknowledged him as a “father of modern Kano” for his role in the massive infrastructural development of the ancient city since the turn of the millennium.
He has a bigger political profile, compared to Obi who only served as Governor of Anambra State and a running mate to Atiku in the 2019 Presidential elections. Apart from being the Governor of Kano State, He was the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives between 1992 and 1993, and a Senator between 2015 and 2019. He was also Minister of Defence between 2003 and 2007, before being appointed by President Olusegun Obasanjo as his Special Envoy to Somalia and Darfur. The downtrodden in Kano and other parts of the North viewed Kwankwaso as a reformer and a leader on a mission to conclude Aminu Kano’s redemption of the talakawas of the North from the oppression of their rulers who died in 1983 leaving his mission unfulfilled. Kwankwaso’s achievements in the education sector that made the youth of the state flock to his Kwankwasiyya movement as hundreds of them have had the fortune to study in universities abroad on public scholarship that opening new vistas for many beneficiaries of the scheme.
Nigerians must turn to new leaves to ensure that leaders with foresight and vision of transforming Nigeria into a first-world nation in the year 2050 where Peace, Unity, equity, fairness and Security can roll. Religion and regions should not be a factor in determining the next President. Our consideration should be the feasibility of the next President to secure both the North and South, create jobs and ensure that Nigeria returns to its footprints left by the Sardaunas, Ziks and Awolowos where Muslim-Muslim ticket or otherwise will not be a discussed in 2027. This is one among too many problems that Tinubu’s ticket is coming to solve and should Nigeria prioritise equity, and regional and religious balancing then Atiku’s ticket stands out. Unless Kwankwaso and Peter Obi support each other, It will not change the results as Tinubu and Atiku been the two horse riders in 2023.
Get your PVC and keep it safe.
Danaudi,National President of Arewa Youths advocate for Peace and Unity Initiative, writes from Bauchi via firstname.lastname@example.org.