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Saturday, August 20, 2022

2023: Atiku, Obi, Tinubu in three-horse race

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Why youths, others are rushing for PVC

110 million voters may be eligible to vote

Atiku, Tinubu’s campaigns talk tough

By Clifford Ndujihe

THE February 25, 2023 presidential election is exactly 217 days away but the polity is turbo-charged as if the exercise is few days to go.

With ongoing massive scramble for permanent voters cards, PVCs, especially by the youths; intense consultations by presidential candidates across the country; and aligning and realignment of political forces among others, the election is promising to be the keenest in the history of presidential polls in Nigeria. Currently, a three-horse race appears to be in the offing among a crowd of 15 presidential standard bearers.

A peep into past polls

From 1979 to 2019 most of the polls had been two-horse races with 1979 being the only time something close to a three-horse race was observed. In 1979, Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN; Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN; and  Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe of the Nigeria People’s Party, NPP, held the country spell-bound and electrified the polity with their robust and memorable campaigns.

At the end of a very keen balloting, Shagari won with Awolowo following closely. Shagari polled 5, 688,857 votes (33.77 per cent) while Awolowo had 4,916,651 votes (29.18 per cent). Azikiwe came third with 2,822,523 votes (16.75 per cent). The other two presidential candidates in that election- Malam Aminu Kano of the Peoples Redemption Party (1,723,113 votes) and Alhahi Waziri Ibrahim of the Great Nigeria People’s Party, GNPP (1,686,489 votes) came fourth and fifth respectively.

In 1983, the contest was clearly a two-horse race between Shagari and Awolowo even though Azikiwe put up a good show.  Shagari, who was seeking a re-election garnered 12,081,471 votes (47.51per cent); Awolowo had 7,907, 209 votes (31.09 per cent); and Azikiwe polled 3,557,113 votes (13.99 per cent). The other contestants- Kano of PRP, Ibrahim of GNPP, and Dr Tunji Braithwaite of the Nigeria Advance Party, NAP, scored less than one million votes each.

The 1993, 1999, 2003, 2015 and 2019 elections were two-horse races and that of 2007 could pass for one-horse race. In 1993, General Ibrahim Babangida’s decreed two-party system meant that only Chief MKO Abiola of the Social Democratic Party, SDP; and Alhaji Bashir Othman Tofa of the National Republican Convention, NRC, could run. Abiola, who polled 8,341,309 votes (58.36 per cent) compared to Tofa’s 5,952,087 votes (41.64 per cent) had the upper hand.

At the return to civil rule in 1999, three parties were cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to contest the presidential, National Assembly, Governorship and state assembly polls. However, the accord reached by the Alliance for Democracy, AD and All People’s Party, APP, to field Chief Olu Falae as a joint presidential candidate against Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party, 

PDP, made the contest a two-party affair

Obasanjo ran away with victory after scoring 18,738,154 votes (62.78 per cent) as Falae got 11,110,287 votes (37.22 per cent).

While seeking for a re-election in 2003, Obasanjo had 19 challengers but only General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigerian People’s Party, ANPP, put up a strong but ineffective challenge. Obasanjo got 24,456,140 or 61.94 per cent of the votes. Buhari had 12,710,022 or 32.19 per cent. Late Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, came a distant third with 1,297,445 votes (3.29 per cent).

In 2007, Dr Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua of the PDP won the highly controversial election contested by 25 candidates. He scored 

24,638,063 votes (69.60 per cent). Buhari of the ANPP, who came second had 6,605,299 votes (18.66 per cent) while Atiku Abubakar of the Action Congress, AC, garnered 2,637,848 (7.48 per cent) to place third.

In 2011, following the death of Yar’ Adua, the PDP ticket went to Dr Goodluck Jonathan, who as vice president succeeded the late president. Jonathan got 22,495,187 or 58.87 per cent of the votes cast in that election to defeat 19 other contestants including Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, who polled 12,214,853 votes (31.97 per cent). Malam Nuhu Ribadu of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, came a distant third with 2,79,151 votes (5.44 per cent).

The 2015 election was a straight battle between Buhari of the APC (15,424,921 or 53.96 per cent of votes) and then incumbent President Jonathan of the PDP, who polled 12,853,162 votes (44.96 per cent).  The 12 other candidates each scored less than 54,000 votes.

The 2019 election was akin to that of 2015. Buhari had the upper hand in his re-election quest against Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and 72 other contenders. Buhari garnered 15,191,847 votes (55.60 per cent) while Atiku had 11,262,978 votes (41.22 per cent). Mr. Felix Nicolas of the Peoples Coalition Party, 

PCP, came a distant third with 110,196 votes (0.40 per cent).

Race for 2023

Like the 1979 election, a three-horse race is looming in 2023 among Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP; Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party, LP; and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling APC in a contest involving 15 candidates.

The other 12 candidates include Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party, NNPP; Mr. Ademola Adebayo of the SDP; Mr. Dumebi Kachikwu of thee African Democratic Congress, ADC; Christopher. Imumolen of Accord; and Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, retd, of Action Alliance, AA.

The rest are Chief Kola Abiola of the PRP; Malik Ado Ibrahim of the Youth Progressive Party, YPP; Okwudili Nwa-Anyadike of the National Rescue Movement, NRM; Mr. Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress, AAC; Peter Umeadi of APGA; Sunday Adenuga of Boot Party, BP; and Yusuf Mamma Dantalle of the Allied People’s Movement, APM. However, since jostling for the presidential diadem started, Atiku, Obi and Tinubu have been dominating the political space in terms of support base.

The trio have chosen three credible personalities as running mates.  While Atiku and Tinubu are banking on age and experience, as their tickets reflect, Obi is banking on experience and youthful energy.

While Atiku, in his mid-70s chose Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, who is in his 60s, Tinubu, 70, took a similar step in settling for former Borno State Governor, Senator Kashim Shettima also in his 60s.

On the other hand, Obi, 61, chose a younger Senator Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, 53.

Currently, Atiku and PDP’s stakeholders are locked in efforts to resolve the misgivings trailing his decision not to pick Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State as his running mate. Wike came second in the PDP primaries and was the choice of the party’s selection committee for the vice presidency slot.

In the APC, Tinubu and the party’s hierarchy are working hard to diffuse the tension generated by the Muslim-Muslim ticket in the polity.

Scramble for voters cards

In response to the emergence of the presidential candidates and running mates, and attendant issues, millions of people across the country, especially youths, are scrambling to get registered as voters.

As of Monday June 27, 2022, the  INEC had registered 14,137,024 youths (aged 18-34); 6,280,190 middle-aged people (aged 35-49);  2,778,232 elderly (aged 50-69); and 364,597 old people (aged 70 and above).

Specifically, the electoral umpire said that as of June 27, it had received 23, 560, 043 applications including those applying for voter transfer, replacement of PVCs and .update of voter information records. No fewer than 6,146,335 of this figure are students.

With this the INEC currently has 105.9 million registered voters and the figure may hit 110 million by the time registration of voters ends on July 31, 2022.

Behind new wave of massive registration

The outcome of the primaries of the major political parties, especially the presidential, has been fingered as one of the major reasons for the unprecedented upsurge in the number of applicants for PVCs. 

The ruling APC produced former Lagos Governor,  Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as its presidential flagbearer; and PDP, chose former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Former Anambra State Governor, Mr Peter Obi, who was PDP vice presidential candidate in 2019, left the party a few days to the presidential primaries citing corruption saying he could not buy delegates. He joined the Labour Party and picked the presidential ticket. Also, former Governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who left the APC, recently, landed in the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP and was handed the party’s presidential flag.

A sizable number of the youths said they are supporting Obi and Kwankwaso to change the status quo as represented by APC and PDP.

Most of the youths thronging the INEC centres for registration said via many social media platforms that they are for Mr. Obi (OBIDIENT) or Senator Kwankwaso (KWANCERNED) leading to comments that the Tinubu and Atiku camps are jittery and threatened by the rising support base of the duo. 

However, Mr. Paul Ibe, Media Aide to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar; and Senator Dayo Adeyeye, the national coordinator of the South-West Agenda for Asiwaju, a major support group for Tinubu, have pooh-poohed comments that Atiku and Tinubu were threatened by Obi and Kwankwaso’s rising support base.   

Apart from support for Obi and Kwankwaso, there is also a mobilization to stop the APC’s Tinubu/Shettima Muslim-Muslim ticket.

Opposition to Muslim-Muslim ticket

A huge opposition to Muslim-Muslim is building up across the country. The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Catholic Bishops Conference, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, and some prominent Nigerians are among those against the move.

Will massive registration end voters’ apathy at polls?

In spite of the upsurge in the number of people seeking the PVC and the likelihood of Nigeria having more than 110 million voters in 2023, it is not yet certain if this will translate to massive turnout of voters at the polls.  In the history of electioneering in the world’s largest black nation since 1979 the country has not recorded 70 per cent voters’ turnout. The best so far was the 69 per cent recorded in 2003. And worst was the 34.75 per cent recorded in 2019.

Voters’ turnout in presidential polls since 1979

1979

Registered voters – 48,499,091

Voters turnout – 17,098,267 (35.25%

1983

Registered Voters — 65,304,818

Voters Turnout — 25,430,096 (38.94%)

1993

Registered Voters – 33,156,055

Voters turnout 14,293,396 (43.10%)

2003

Registered voters — 60,823,022

Voters turnout — 42,018,735 (69.08%)

2007

Registered Voters – 61,567,036

Voters Turnout – 35,397,517 (57.49%)

2011

Registered voters – 73,528,040

Voters turnout – 39,469,484 (53.68%

2015

Registered voters – 67,422,005

Voters turnout – 29,432,083 (43.65%)

2019

Registered Voters – 82,344,107

Voters Turnout – 28,614,190 (34.75%)

Why voters shun polls

During elections it is not unusual to see barrel-chested youths playing soccer on empty roads and streets instead of going to cast their ballots. Some elderly people also do not go to exercise their franchise. The reasons often cited include:  Violence; rigging (our votes won’t count); poor governance; unpopular candidates; weak campaigns by parties and candidates; poor voters’ enlightenment by INEC, parties, candidates, NGOs and other stakeholders; weak patriotism on the part of the electorate.

How to change trend change in 2023 — Kachikwu

Presidential Candidate of the African Democratic Congress, Mr. Dumebi Kachikwu, in a chat with Saturday Vanguard, said the massive registration of voters will add little or no value if people don’t get their PVCs and end up not voting. According to him inability to collect voters cards harmed previous polls and efforts to deepen Nigeria’s democracy.

Asked his take on the massive turnout of people for voters’ registration, he said: “It is good but the issue has not been about registering. It is about people collecting their PVCs. If registered voters collect their cards and vote things will change. “The question is will they vote and why are they voting? If they had been voting rightly, Dr Goodluck Jonathan and President Muhammadu Buhari would not have won.

INEC must ensure people get their PVCs

“The problem is INEC makes it difficult for people to collect their PVC. Ordinarily, if you register, you collect your card immediately but they make you go to another place later in future. Some will go to the new place and won’t get the PVC. A lot of people get frustrated and abandon the process.”

Atiku, Tinubu’s campaigns talk tough

However, some youths and people have vowed to follow the process to logical conclusion, vote and ensure that their votes count.

With many of the youths declaring their support for Obi, the social media has been abuzz with comments that Tinubu and Atiku are threatened.

Social media ballot different from real ballot – Paul Ibe     

Asked if Atiku is threatened by the rising profile of Obi, his media Aide, Mr. Paul Ibe said: “Social media ballot is different from the way real voters vote. Everything will end on the ballot box. What is there to be afraid of someone making waves on the social media? We will meet on the field. Nigerian voters will determine the fate of the candidates. We are working and marketing our candidates. Nigerians know Atiku as a unifier, who will make the difference and rescue them from the hands of people who have impoverished us.

“Supporters of other candidates are free to make their claims. We are working with decorum. 2023 will be a referendum on the failed policies of the APC. Atiku is a viable alternative giving his long years of experience in government, performance as vice president and handling of businesses.”

Tinubu can’t be jittery over Obi – Dayo Adeyeye

On his part, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, who described the massive turnout of people voters’ registration as a sign that “Nigerians are committed to the sustenance of democracy, especially as it is coming from the youths,” said everything would work in favour of Tinubu at the end of the day.

Averring that Obi was not a threat to Tinubu, he said: “How can we be threatened or jittery over Obi or Kwankwaso? We don’t consider them as serious challenge. If you base your strength on the showings in the social media it does not mean you strong on the field.

“We are not jittery or bothered. Tinubu has the support of Nigerian masses across the six geo-political zones of the country. The whole thing (Obi campaign buzz) will fizzle out shortly.” 

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