As Nigerians go to the polls on February 16, to elect a new president, there are 72 candidates to pick from, but the permutation from analysts shows that it is going to be a two-man race and that one of the two leading candidates is going to be elected
By Olu Ojewale
THE election time is here. In about a week from now, Nigerians are going to the polls to elect the next president who will lead the country for another four years right from May 29. Interestingly, there are 72 candidates interested in the plum job.
There is President Muhammdau Buhari, the incumbent president and the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. There is also former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Both Buhari and Abubakar are veterans in the presidential race with several years of experience to their credentials. Their parties are also the biggest in the country.
The others, who are well known in their own right, can be regarded as greenhorns in the contest. A good number of them have proved their mettle in their various fields of calling and all of them are knowledgeable about the problems facing the country and would want to proffer solutions to them. But they are not part of the established parties with great followings that might help them in the race. Besides, most of them are from the Middle Belt, South-West and South-East whereas the unwritten agreement among Nigerians is that the North should produce the next president to allow the region to fill its quota of ruling the country for unbroken eight years.
This has somewhat put the likes of Kingsley Moghalu, the presidential candidate of the Young Progressive Party, YPP, at disadvantage, despite his ideas and the great appeal he has with the Nigerian youths who may want him to elect him president.
This does not seem to dampen the enthusiasms of Femi Aribisala, a newspaper columnist, who sees Moghalu as the next Nigerian president. In an article, “Kingsley Moghalu: Nigeria’s Next President” published by Premium Timeson Tuesday, February 5, Aribisala wrote about his subject: “Kingsley Moghalu is the Nigerian Barack Obama: a youthful upstart who dared to confront the ancient juggernauts of the Nigerian political establishment. When he started his journey, he met skeptics along the highway. Many were convinced the APC and the PDP are too entrenched to be dislodged from their traditional supremacy. Others felt his timing was misplaced: Why could he not wait until 2023 when there would be a more open field without an incumbent president?
“But it is increasingly clear, from the popular response to his candidacy and from the incredible coalitions he has been able to make, in North and South of the Niger, that Kingsley Moghalu is about to confound all expectations by not only dislodging an incumbent president, but by also becoming the very first Nigerian president of South-East extraction.” With the current turn of events in the polity, Aribisala’s prediction looks a forlorn hope.
Another promising candidate in the presidential race was Oby Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN. Ezekwesili, was arguably the third force in the presidential race until Thursday, January 24, when she pulled out of the contest. She told the world why she had to jettison the ambition, saying among other things: “This decision followed extensive consultations with leaders from various walks of life across the country over the past few days. I deem it necessary for me to focus on helping to build a veritable coalition to ensure a viable alternative to the #APCPDP in the forthcoming elections.”
Indeed, at the time the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, released the list of 72 candidates vying for the president on Thursday, January 17, the Social Democratic Party, SDP, was still in court over the rightful candidate to fly the party’s flag. The rift over the presidential ticket is between Donald Duke, a former governor of Cross Rivers State, and Jerry Gana, a former Information minister. On Thursday, January 24, the Federal Court of Appeal in Abuja, ruled in favour of Duke as the party’s presidential candidate. No doubt, the squabble over who gets the party ticket is likely to affect the chances of the party during the time of elections. Besides, Gana is not a man who would want to let go quietly. He has promised to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court, but whether that is going to affect the election is a matter of conjecture. But the real issue is that neither Gana nor Duke is capable of winning the presidential race as the nation’s politics stands today.
In any case, notable among those still in race are Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress, AAC; Sina Fagbenro-Byron of the KOWA Party; and Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria, ANN.
Others include Eunice Atuejide of the National Interest Party, NIP, who happens to be the only woman now in the race; and Obadaiah Mailafia of the African Democratic Congress, ADC, among several others.
Even then, Nigerians have consciously and unconsciously seemed to have narrowed the battle for the president down to a contest between Buhari and Abubakar. So, it is not out of place that the two gladiators are the most visible and stories on them have been dominating the media.
As expected, the two candidates have been crisscrossing the country on campaign, gathering supporters here and there. Perhaps, based on their respective performances, the two parties also have been receiving endorsements from various groups and individuals.
On Sunday, February 3, some socio-political organisations in the country endorsed Abubakar. The five organisations are the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, Pan-Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF; Middle Belt Forum, MBF; Ohaneze Ndigbo and a faction of Afenifere.
The organisations endorsed Abubakar at a summit with the theme: “The Search for Credible, Free and Fair Elections,” held at Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Abuja.
Among those at the event were Ango Abdullahi of the NEF; Edwin Clark, the leader of PANDEF; Ayo Adebanjo of the Afenfere group; John Nwodo, the president-general of Ohaneze Ndigbo and Bitrus Pogu of the MBF.