Wednesday, 8 June 2022

OPINION : Why 2023 Presidency Is Still A Two-Horse Race Between Tinubu And Atiku


Before the former Lagos State Governor, Sen. Bola Ahmed Tinubu emerged as winner of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC Presidential primaries, I've strongly argued that  despite the popularity the former Anambra State Governor and Presidential candidate of Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi has garnered ahead of the 2023 Presidential race, the real battle will still be between candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and the main opposition People's Democratic Party, PDP.

I may not be a big fan of the messiac reputation some people have created around Mr. Obi but I still acknowledge the fact that he has managed to endear himself to the minds of a lot of young Nigerians. His decision to not just chicken out of the race when it became clear that he had no chance in the PDP was a courageous one and should be commended.

But, can he win in 2023? I still don't think so. I still believe strongly that one of Sen. Tinubu or Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the PDP would emerge the next President of Nigeria.

This is not because Obi is not credible or good enough to be President. In politics everywhere in the world, having a credible and quality candidate alone is not enough to win an election. Political parties with the widest presence and acceptability have the highest win percentage. 

In the US for instance, Democratic and Republican parties are not the only parties. There are other parties like The Reform, Libertarian, Socialist, Natural Law, Constitution, Green Parties, etc that also field candidates during elections, yet a lot of people, including the media don't even talk about them.

The US electoral laws also have provision for independent candidacy. But according to available records, in the 59 US presidential elections since 1788, only George Washington,  elected in 1788 and 1792 has ever won election as an independent candidate.

Similarly, Millard Fillmore, the 13th President of the US, elected in 1850 from the Whig party, is the last to have won a Presidential election from outside the Democratic and Republican parties.

As advanced as the US democracy is, third force or independent candidates have accounted for less than seven percent of the total votes count during Presidential elections. This poor statistics is not because these smaller parties don't have quality candidates but simply because their political platforms don't have wide presence in the country.

In Nigeria today, despite the talk of a third force gathering momentum on social media, the reality remains that, the possibility of any candidate outside the PDP and APC upsetting the 2023 Presidential election is almost non-existence.

The general elections is about eight months from now. To build a national party with structures across the over eight thousand wards in Nigeria or to raise funds for elections in the over one hundred and seventy thousand polling units within this short period of time is unrealistic.

Besides, a lot of those who are talking about the third force are only interested in the Presidential election. With National Assembly and the Presidential elections fixed for same day, it's near impossible to say that the performance of the two major parties in the legislative elections won't have any impact on the Presidential election. And it's a known fact that most national assembly candidates of the two main parties are more popular and seemingly more prepared financially for the elections. 

This not to say there not been rare instances in Nigeria where candidates from different political parties have won national assembly seats and Presidential elections. A typical example is the Sen. Ifeanyi Ubah in Anambra State. He won his senate election under YPP while the PDP won the Presidential election in his Senatorial district. But how many Sen. Ubah are there today as candidates in the third force? 

Tellingly, while there's no doubt about the quality of candidates from the third force, the possibility of defeating the two dominant parties through the poll in 2023 is not just there because winning requires much more than just that great candidate. The other factors like finances, spread, structure, etc, required to win national elections that are lacking in the third force are in abundance in the two major parties. 

Therefore, the most realistic aspiration for the third force crusaders would be to use the 2023 general elections as pilot study in preparation for 2027. Just as in the US, there are obvious signs that at some stage in Nigeria's democracy, a third force would upset the current system but, to expect it in the next election may be futile and a complete political utopia.