2023: Past record, poor governance haunt PDP, APC campaigns
Tinubu, Atiku

By OBINNA EZUGWU

From controversies over their choices of running mates, to several allegations of corruption, drug dealing, certificate forgery and many more, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, presidential candidate of the All Progressives (APC), and Atiku Abubakar, his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, the front runners in the race to replace President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023, are increasingly seeing their campaigns hit one roadblock after another.

At the end of their meeting on Friday, northern Christians in the ruling APC delivered a resounding rejection of Tinubu and his running mate, Kashim Shettima.

Tinubu, former Lagos State governor and a Muslim from the Southwest geopolitical zone, had last month picked Shettima, a former governor of Borno State, Northeast, and a fellow Muslim as his running mate, shunning the argument against Muslim-Muslim ticket in the event.

For the Lagos politician, the logic is simple: He expects to win his Southwest zone, irrespective of the religion of his running mate, and will find it difficult in the Southeast and South South, traditional Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) strongholds, whether he settles for a bishop or an imam.

The north, on the other hand, where he expects to get the votes, is predominantly Muslim, and religion is a huge part of the region’s politics. So, for him, it was best to chose a running mate that would ensure the harvest of the highest possible number of votes in the region.

But things haven’t gone as smoothly as planned. And neither the APC presidential candidate nor the party could have anticipated the level of backlash the ticket is generating, the latest being the Friday verdict of northern APC Christians, and other Christians stakeholders led by Babachir Lawal, former secretary to the government of the federation and Hon. Yakubu Dogara, former speaker of the house of representatives.

Rising from the summit held in conjunction with Christians from the north at Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja on Friday, the Christian leaders argued that the Muslim-Muslim ticket is part of a “plot to marginalize them and islamize Nigeria.”

Speaking as chairman of the event which had Christians drawn from the nineteen northern states, Lawal, a close ally of Tinubu, argued that the Muslim-Muslim ticket was an extension of the exclusion of Christians from the scheme of things in the country.

Babachir who gave a detailed reference of the marginalisation of Christians  in the APC national working committee, federal executive council (FEC), state and federal owned institutions of learnings in the country, charged Christians in, not only the north but the entire country, not to be deceived by the APC leadership on the Muslim-Muslim ticket since matters of religion cannot be divulge from the politics of the country.

“We are not the ones that started this fight. APC started it. They should be ready to carry this cross. We are open to discussion with whoever discuss with Christian community in good faith,” he declared.

Dogara, who was the guest speaker, on his part, noted that not withstanding his love for Tinubu, the argument that Christian votes would not count as that of the Muslims lacks any logical basis as Nigerians irrespective of their religious leanings had ensured the emergence of former presidents, Goodluck Jonathan and Olusegun Obasanjo in the past.

“In 2015, when we were called “janjeweed party”, my response was usually very simple. I could then say that, former governor John Oyegun was the chairman of my party and my Vice-Presidential candidate was Pastor Yemi Osinbajo,” Dogara said.

“We don’t enjoy that luxury anymore as the President, Senate President, Speaker and his deputy; Senate and House Leaders; National Chairman and the Deputy National Chairman; Presidential and the Vice-Presidential candidates are all Muslims, leaving the Christians with just the position of VP Osibanjo and Deputy Senate President Omo-Agege at that level in a country whose population is fairly split between Muslims and Christians.

“For me, it is a rude awakening and I am so happy it happened sooner than later. The very fact that they said we should not worry about a Muslim-Muslim ticket while a Muslim-Christian ticket gave them sleepless nights should make you worry the more.

“To worry about a Muslim-Christian ticket while counselling others not to worry about a Muslim-Muslim ticket is the very textbook definition of cognitive dissonance and an attempt at gaslighting gullible Christians. Truth must be told that anyone who is not bringing us together is consciously tearing us apart.”

The former house speaker noted that the other “unhelpful framings of the debate by the so-called pundits posits that Christians in the North are so small in number that their votes don’t count.”

“This strange argument, he said, “seeks to reinforce the satanic agenda of dividing the church in Nigeria into North and South, and also ignores the fact and reality that Nigeria is evenly split on religious lines.”

According to him, “These pundits are still not smart enough to tell us what is in the Muslim-Muslim ticket for southern Christians. The argument also ignores the fact that our official policy excludes religious affiliation from census data. There is, therefore, no scientific basis for these bizarre conclusions.”

The umbrage among northern Christians over the Muslim-muslim ticket shows no sign of abating, and stems from a long history of facing marginalisation in the region. Tinubu, while seeking to appeal to the Muslim voting bloc in the north may have succeeded in alienating a significant section of the northern demographic, which may indeed haunt him at the February polls.

Dogara and Lawal would subsequently on Friday, hold a closed door meeting with Samuel Ortom, governor of Benue State, a PDP governor, at the Benue State governor’s lodge, Asokoro – an indication that they might be considering switching to the opposition party ahead of the 2023 polls.

At the weekend, the duo also met with Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers State in his home town.

Recent months have seen a number of APC members, both Muslims and Christians, including senators from Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna and among other northern states, defect to the PDP and the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP).

While the idea behind Tinubu’s choice of Muslim-Muslim ticket seems to be to secure bloc votes from the north, feelers suggest that the Muslim votes would be split between him and Alhaji Atiku, former vice president who is the PDP presidential candidate.

“For the APC, the Muslim-muslim ticket is a strategy,” said Yakubu Umar Barde, a member of the House of Reps from Kaduna.
“They believe that they will have a better chance of winning with a Muslim-Muslim ticket. Whether it will work remains to be seen. But for me, from my interactions from the people of my constituency, I can tell that there are those who say they will vote APC because of the ticket, but there are also those who say they will vote for Atiku because he is a northerner and a Muslim too.”

In 2019, Atiku as PDP candidate proved to be no match for Buhari in the Muslim north. His affluent lifestyle doesn’t resonate with the northern streets. But in 2023, he will be up against Tinubu who, unlike Buhari is neither a northerner nor have the street support that Buhari commands in the north.

Thus, the bloc votes may be unlikely for the APC, as Tinubu is expected to take a chunk of the Muslim votes, too.

“Currently in Maiduguri, people are saying they will vote for Atiku,” said Hamma Hayatu, public affairs commentator and a backer of the former vice president.
“I am honestly impressed and surprised despite picking of Kashim by Tinubu as running mate.”

But neither Atiku nor Tinubu is having a smooth sail. While the fact of the former vice president being a northerner running against a southerner will be a plus for him as far as northern votes are concerned, he is likely going to struggle in the Southeast and South South, more so in the former, hitherto PDP strongholds.

The emergence of Mr. Peter Obi, Labour Party presidential candidate, could prove to be a major obstacle to Tinubu and Atiku.

Obi, who for many, especially young Nigerians, represent the future they crave, is widely popular in the two regions, even as he is making inroads in other zones, particularly the north central, and indeed the rest of the country.

Obi and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, NNPP presidential candidate, who has good following in his home state of Kano and a few other northern states – should he not opt out the race – will take a chunk of the traditional PDP votes, Tinubu would hope that this will make up for the potential loss of northern Christian votes.

“I think there is a tendency, especially among the more established parties, to underrate the impact of Peter Obi,” said Chidi Anthony,” Abuja based lawyer and public affairs commentator.

“I’m of the opinion that he would surprise many. He has huge youth support across the south and the middle belt, perhaps even across the country. They can keep arguing that he is social media phenomenon.”

In 2019, Atiku swept southeast, south south and parts of the middle belt while also getting good numbers in the Southwest, but ultimately came short as Buhari won a second term, even if his victory was contentious.

A good number of those who voted Atiku in 2019, considering him as a better option than Buhari, are rooting for Obi ahead of 2023, and for the former vice president, that is a cause for worry.

This is even as his decision to name Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, Delta State governor, as his running mate, has alienated Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers State who was said to have been preferred by majority of the governors and members of the national working committee; a situation that has triggered a crisis in the party, which remains unresolved.

Yet, for the two leading candidates, the Obi factor and the Muslim-muslim ticket controversy are not the only issues to worry about.

As at the last count, there are at least 10 suits challenging their candidacy; cases ranging from frivolous to potentially damaging ones, even so, as in the case of Tinubu, he’s had a hard time shaking off his alleged drug dealing and certificate scandals, which once again, resurfaced to haunt him.

It’s been disclosed, for instance, that both Tinubu and Atiku violated the Electoral Act 2022, which may cause them to be disqualified.
The new electoral act requires political parties to notify the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of their intent to conduct primary elections at least 21 days before the date of their convention, as well as requires parties to submit their membership registers to it at least 30 days before their primary election.

Section 82 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022 provides that, “Every political party shall give the Commission at least 21 days’ notice of any convention, congress, conference, or meeting which is convened for the purpose of ‘merger’ and electing members of its executive committees, other governing bodies or nominating candidates for any of the positions specified under this Act.”

Subsection (5) then says, “Failure of a political party to notify the Commission as stated in subsection (1) shall render the convention, congress, conference, or meeting invalid.”
An invalid convention can’t produce a valid candidate. While the APC is said to have failed to meet both conditions, the PDP failed to meet the second requirement.

Plethora of Court Cases:

Last week, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, former minister of state for education, who lost the APC presidential ticket to Tinubu, filed a suit along with the Incorporated Trustees of Rights for All International, at the Federal High Court in Abuja, asking the court to disqualify both Tinubu and Atiku.

He alleged that the primary elections of the APC and PDP that produced the presidential candidates were marred by vote-buying, while also challenging the legality of the composition of the delegates that produced the two candidates. Also, he asked the court to declare him the winner of the APC’s presidential primary election.

Nwajiuba’s suit has all the trappings of a frivolous lawsuit. It is unlikely that he will get judgement in his favour, but his suit is only one among many lawsuits seeking to disqualify either of the leading presidential candidates.
On Friday, Action Alliance, one of the parties contesting the 2023 election, sued INEC, APC, Tinubu and Shettima over alleged double nomination.

The party, which had in its earlier suit pending before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, sought the disqualification of the APC from the 2023 presidential polls over alleged act of perjury on the part of its presidential candidate, Tinubu, in the fresh suit instituted on July 28, once again, sought the disqualification of the ruling party on the grounds that it nominated a candidate for more than one constituency in the 2023 general elections.
The action, according to the AA, in the fresh suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1256/2022, obtained by journalists on Thursday, contravened Section 35 of the Constitution and the Electoral Act, 2022.

The suit filed on behalf of the plaintiff by Ukpai Ukairo, has INEC, APC, Tinubu and Shettima as 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants respectively.
The plaintiff is specifically seeking, “A declaration that the nomination of the 4th defendant by the 3rd defendant as the Vice Presidential Candidate of the 2nd defendant is void arising from the express provision of Section 35 of the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act, 2022 in that the 4th defendant allowed himself to be nominated in more than one constituency for the 2023 elections.

“A perpetual injunction restraining the 3rd and 4th defendants from holding out themselves as Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates contesting the 2023 Presidential election on the platform of the 2nd defendant.”

The plaintiff also sought for another order of perpetual injunction restraining INEC from listing the names of Tinubu and Shettima as Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates in the final list of candidates in the said election and restraining INEC from placing APC on the ballot for the said election.

Earlier in July, some members of the APC under the Gaskiya youth movement, in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/774/2022, asked a Federal high court in Abuja to disqualify Tinubu, over his “questionable educational background and date of birth”.

Also, in June, Johnmary Jideobi, an Abuja-based lawyer, filed suit at the Abuja high court challenging Atiku’s Nigerian citizenship, despite serving as vice president from 1999 to 2007.
Jideobi, in his suit, argued that Atiku is not a Nigerian citizen by birth as required by the country’s laws and does not qualify to run for the office of the president.

Yet, in a suit dated June 29, three lawyers, Ataguba Aboje, Oghenovo Otemu and Ahmed Yusuf, asked the Abuja court to disqualify Atiku, Obi and Tinubu over their decision to contest the primaries without running mates, contrary to the constitution.

The PDP, meanwhile, had also asked the high court in Abuja to disqualify Tinubu and Obi for replacing their vice presidential candidates, having initially named candidates in placeholder capacities, before replacing them with substantive ones.

It is unlikely that any of the candidates would be disqualified on account of the lawsuits, but could prove major distraction for them going into the 2023 polls.

“I do not see any of the parties getting judgment from the suits being filed here and there,” said Anthony. “Most of them lack substance.”

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