As Atiku Confronts Tinubu In Last-ditch Contest

As Atiku Confronts Tinubu in Last-ditch Contest

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As Atiku Confronts Tinubu in Last-ditch Contest

The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s fraternal congratulations to his counterpart in All Progressives Congress, Senator Bola Tinubu, masks the titanic supremacy contest ahead. But this needs not be a bloody duel, writes Louis Achi
Shortly after Senator Ahmed Tinubu’s emergence last Wednesday, as the presidential standard-bearer of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), ahead of the 2023 general election, a former vice president and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, congratulated the former Lagos State Governor.

“Congratulations on your emergence as your party’s presidential candidate. It has been a hard-fought contest, but that you prevailed confirms your tenacity – AA,” Atiku wrote in a statement posted on his Twitter handle on Wednesday.

Atiku’s diplomatic gesture essentially reciprocated the Tinubu’s who had last month also congratulated him on clinching the PDP presidential ticket. A statement by Tinubu’s media directorate had commended Atiku’s “patriotism and commitment to Nigeria’s progress,” and said the former Lagos State governor looked forward to squaring up with him in next year’s election.

Tinubu defeated 14 other contestants to emerge APC presidential candidate, polling 1,271 votes to win the ticket. Former Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi got 316 votes to place second while Vice President Yemi Osinbajo came third with 235 votes. Seven of the 23 contestants withdrew from the race to support Tinubu.

The duo’s emergence as standard bearers of the nation’s two major parties out of the registered 18 is expected to significantly define the outcome of the 2023 presidential election. But the projected impact of two other participating political mavericks can also hardly be ignored.

These are the former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, now the presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP) and Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, former governor of Kano State and now the presidential candidate of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).

The departures or movements of Obi and Kwankwaso from their mainstream political platforms were obviously triggered by irreconcilable contradictions within their erstwhile parties. This is also applicable to several recent defections across parties by many politicians.

The emergence of Tinubu despite several covert plots within the APC to derail his “life-long ambition” as well as rubbish the power rotation understanding within the party by electing a northerner speaks to his nimble mastery of the game. However, the stout position of the northern APC governors who insisted that the next president should come from the South for the sake of fairness must be acknowledged.

In the case of PDP, the power rotation template, incidentally constitutionalised within the party was rubbished and thrown to the dogs pivoting on the argument of winning at all cost over fairness. Given this scenario, a bruised South, especially, South-east are projected to withhold their votes from the party and weigh other options.

But to possibly counter this anger, Atiku who is expected to harvest significant votes from the North would need to pick a running mate from the South-east who ticks several crucial boxes. In effect, a VP pick from the South-east could birth a mitigating scenario. But then Obi lurks in the wings with his compelling and vibrant political outreach to the youths.

In theory, Tinubu’s primary election victory will theoretically lock in South-west votes for the APC in the impending general election. A winning vice presidential candidate choice for Tinubu could facilitate the splitting of northern block vote. But with the significant dissonance in Southern unity, a factor usually astutely exploited by the North, critical vote poaching in the South by Atiku could moderate related projections. Also Tinubu’s choice of a running mate is also crucial.

Another significant dimension to Tinubu’s projected impact in the looming electoral contest is his curious skirting of the South-east during his tour of states to shop for APC delegates’ support ahead of last week’s primary election. This fuelled concerns about possible anti-Tinubu voting during the election.

More, the fact that a president of South-west extraction by 2023 would push back the time it would take the South-east to host the presidency by 16 years makes Tinubu’s courtship of the zone both a bracing task and an imperative. Tinubu is then expected to do considerable fence-mending so as not to be perceived as indifferent to the region.

Similarly, former Vice-President Atiku elicits kindred negative sentiments on account of his becoming PDP presidential candidate against the shrill insistence of the South that the presidency be zoned to it. This position was echoed by Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and Governor Hope Uzodimma (both APC leaders from the South-east).

Onu had reminded the APC leadership that the South-west and South-south regions of the country had produced President and Vice President in the country since 1999 while the South-east has not produced either President or Vice President. Reminding the APC that he singlehandedly paid for the registration of the ruling party, he urged the party to ensure justice and equity in the country. But his pitch may have come late on the D-Day.

It could be recalled that a Muslim-Muslim ticket produced a compelling result during the Abiola era. Could the same be replicated today? Big question. Picking a Northern Christian running mate may produce a tepid electoral outcome. The extent to which Tinubu resolves this dilemma may determine what kind of electoral impact he could make in 2023. But his vast experience in political horse-trading cannot be discounted here.

As both key gladiators as well as other presidential candidates step into the fray, they certainly need to reaffirm through their actions the enduring fact that, indeed, justice is the first condition of democracy. Today, Nigeria needs a leader to alter its dangerous national trajectory and restore healing and hope. The process must also eschew rancour and violence.

The fact that the 2023 presidential contest arguably represents the last outing expected from these two political veterans of several decades standing may introduce engagement variables impossible to predict.

In all, the 2023 presidential poll promises to be a new defining moment for the national journey. Considerable challenges indeed await President Buhari’s successor. Nigerians are waiting.

Luckily, Atiku and Tinubu have known themselves for along time. They have been together. All they can but must do, is to ensure that they play by the rules, campaign with decorum, ensure that nobody is killed or maimed in the cause of their campaigns.

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