2023: It’s Atiku or Tinubu

After intrigues and hullabaloo, the national conventions of political parties have come and gone. Interestingly, both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have settled for Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar, respectively as their flag bearers. They will slug it out with candidates of the other political parties on the February 25, 2023 presidential elections.

But, beyond the forthcoming elections, Atiku and Tinubu are friends and political associates. Tinubu once stated that it was Atiku who encouraged him to venture into politics. Politically, the two strong contenders are long time associates who have many things in common.

Atiku and Tinubu are disciples of late Shehu Musa Yar’adua who In 1987 formed the People Democratic Movement (PDM) “to be the conscience and voice of the masses”. They are also members of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP). However, for more informed analysis, let us peep into their political struggles.

Atiku contested the presidency on the platform of SDP in 1992. He came third in the primaries, losing to MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe. On December 20, 2006, Action Congress (AC) selected Atiku as their presidential candidate. But the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) omitted Atiku’s name in the final list of 24 aspirants for the April 21 presidential election.

Apparently, his name was omitted because a panel set up by the government listed him among corrupt persons in Nigeria. However, Atiku challenged the action in court on March 16. The Supreme Court ruled in his favour and he contested, coming third, behind Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, PDP candidate and Muhammadu Buhari, ANPP candidate.

Atiku also contested for president during the 2011 elections. This time, under the PDP. He lost at the primaries to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. In 2019, Atiku again contested but lost to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Tinubu’s first foray into active politics was as a founding member of the defunct SDP. In 1992, he was elected as a senator, representing Lagos west. With the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election and the consequent fresh militarisation of Nigerian politics, Tinubu became a founding member of the famous pro-democracy group, the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) which, for several years, engaged the military for the very soul of Nigeria.

Tinubu suffered many arrests and detention, harassments and constant threats to his life forcing him to flee Nigeria for his personal safety. He, however, did not give up the struggle as he joined NADECO abroad to continue the agitation for the restoration of democratic governance and the rule of law in the country.

In 1998, Tinubu returned to Nigeria to heed a call for all Nigerians to join in the National Reconciliation and Development. A year later, he was elected governor of Lagos state on the platform of AD. His sterling performance in infrastructure development and drastic improvement of revenue generation of L

agos state raised his profile.

The question is, how will the 2023 presidential election be won and lost between Tinubu and Atiku? It is unarguably to say the duo have formidable political structures. Little wonder, as old timers, during the just concluded parties’ convention, they won their tickets against all odds. Though, PDP in a bid to return to power after eight years threw its presidential contest open, the ruling APC zoned the position to the South.

With Peter Obi dumping the PDP and picking the Labour Party (LP) ticket, Atiku’s running mate is likely to come from the South-south. Where to pick Tinubu’s running mate has remained a nightmare for APC. Ideally, Tinubu as a Yoruba Muslim from should pick a northern Christian as running mate. This will swing the northern Christians’ votes in Kaduna, Plateau, Niger, Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi and even Taraba and Adamawa states.

The highest elected seat the northern Christian minority ever occupied was speakership. But, how will the northern muslim majority voting pattern be with Atiku in the race? Despite the fact that the two dominant parties have fielded Muslims as their candidates, the 2023 general elections will be shaped along North versus South and on the altar of vice president position. At the end of the elections the pendulum will swing either in favour of Atiku or Tinubu, unless strong third force emerges through strong political alliance.

Ibrahim Mustspha,
Pambegua, Kaduna state

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