Ahead of the 2023 general elections, political parties are set to commence their campaign on the 28th of September, in what appears to be a four-horse race.
The leading candidates in no particular order are Peter Obi of the Labour Party, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party.
All the candidates are spread across four geopolitical zones. Obi from the Southeast, Tinubu from the Southwest, Atiku from Northeast and Kwankwaso from the Northwest.
Both Atiku and Kwankwaso have their running mates from the South-South, Obi’s running mate is from North-Central and Tinubu’s Vice is from the North-East.
How are the candidates heading into the campaign
The candidate of the ruling party is still struggling with the controversial Muslim/Muslim ticket, and some Christian politicians from the Northeast, Babachir Lawal, Yakubu Dogara and Elisha Abbo have insisted that they would work to defeat the party from within.
In the past week, Dogara had during a Christian conference in Abuja on Tuesday, warned Christians not to waste their votes on a Muslim/Muslim ticket. He urged the church to rise from complacency and oppose Mr Tinubu.
Meanwhile, Lawal also spoke on Thursday during an interview on Arise TV, where he revealed that there is an ongoing campaign in the North to defeat Tinubu.
Not surprising that these men were excluded from the Presidential Campaign Council of the APC. During the week, Tinubu met with some Bishops from the north, perhaps to checkmate the politicians.
Christians in the Northeast have considerable voting power in Taraba, Bauchi, Adamawa and Gombe. This could cause the ruling party considerable headaches in that region.
The exclusion of two other Christian officials, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Boss Mustapha, also raised eyebrows. Although, Festus Keyamo issued a statement that President Muhammadu Buhari requested exclusion of the Messrs Osinbajo and Mustapha to allow the two to focus on governance, the fact that the two are high-profile Christians continues to fuel speculation that the party may be heading into the election with a divided house.
The former Vice President is struggling to get his campaign running over internal implosion within the party.
The ongoing rebellion by the Nyesom Wike-led camp has almost divided the party into two, and the decision to pull out of the campaign council has caused enormous embarrassment for the candidate.
The Wike group has insisted that Ayu must step down for a southern chairman to balance the ticket. However, Atiku has taken a position that he will not force Ayu to step down.
On Friday, before jetting out of the country, Governor Wike held a media parley and made some remarks challenging the party to dare to suspend him, adding that “PDP cannot win Rivers State without him.”
While Atiku is battling with Wike and his group, there is the rise of the Labour Party movement in the traditional PDP enclave, the South-East.
This region has voted PDP since 1999; however, the popularity of Obi, not just in Southeast but in Southsouth and some north-central States like Plateau, Benue and FCT means that the PDP candidate will be fighting on all fronts, even internally.
Most of the places Labour Party has been gaining ground are places that voted PDP in the last election.
Unless Mr Atiku is able to fix the party within 72 hours, he will be commencing his campaign with a party fighting against itself.
The so-called ‘structureless movement’ of Peter Obi has been flexing muscles with its “one million” march movement, which has witnessed massive turnout in several States, including the FCT.
However, as at the point of filing this report, the party is yet to set up a campaign council, including a spokesperson.
Pat Utomi, the leader of the National Consultative Front (NCF), had announced the appointment of Charles Odibo, however, Arabambi Abayomi, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, announced that only the National Chairman of the party, Julius Abure has such right.
In addition, the list of candidates released by INEC shows that the Labour Party did not field candidates for a number of seats in the parliament.
While the structureless approach has been working thus far, having candidates for elections helps with mobilization in the rural areas. The Labour Party may be popular among urban youths, but elections are different from rallies.
The former Governor Kano State is counting on his popularity in the Northwest, however, his running mate appears not to have much political experience.
Also, the defection of Ibrahim Shekarau means that Kano State will be a three-horse race between Atiku, Tinubu and himself.