New Telegraph

2023: Let the wooing begin!

In four days’ time, campaigning for next year’s general election will kick off officially across the world’s most populous black nation, thus signalling the end of the ‘unofficial’ version which all the parties and their principal actors have been engaging in for months.

This unofficial version actually gained traction at the primaries, which the parties held in choosing their flag bearers – especially at the presidential level. This was why millions of Nigerians stayed glued to their television sets to follow the presidential primaries of the main parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC), which held on June 8 at the Eagle Square, Abuja and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which held their own on May 28 at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja – in order to know who will emerge.

Of course, many Nigerians believe that the man who will replace incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari on May 29, 2023 will most likely come from either of these two parties. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar triumphed for the major opposition party, after polling 371 out of the 767 accredited votes, to defeat his closest rival, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who polled 237 votes.

Former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, placed a distant third with 70 votes. In all, a total of 14 contestants had thrown their hats into the ring hoping to win the PDP ticket. In his acceptance speech, which could be seen as his opening campaign shot, Atiku pledged to make security and the unity of Nigerians his topmost priority if elected President in 2023. He appealed to PDP members to come together in the interest of the party and Nigerians who have placed their hopes on the PDP. He said: “Today history has been made. The history which we believe will bring about fundamental changes in our electoral system.

“Today, we witnessed one of the freest elections in the history of our great party.” A week later, the ruling APC held their own primary, which was won by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who defeated 13 other aspirants. He polled 1,271 votes, while his closest rival, former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, got 316 votes. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo came third with 253 votes. In a twist before the voting process began, seven of the 23 aspirants withdrew from the contest and declared their support for Tinubu, while another one stepped down for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. Furthermore, one aspirant stepped down but did not declare his support for any of his co-contestants. As a result, only 14 of the 23 aspirants took part in the primary.

Speaking after his victory an elated Tinubu, while delivering his acceptance speech, said he did not ‘expect to win the party’s presidential primary’. “I did not expect to win, I won. I must be intoxicated with victory,” he said. The former Lagos State governor also said he holds ‘no grudges’ against members of his party who worked against his candidature. “The competition is now over. Those who did not support me, you have nothing to fear. I hold no grudges and grievances. Let us each agree to join hands in defeating PDP and beat back their retrogressive understanding of Nigeria,” he said in his own version of unofficial campaign speech. However, as things stand two other parties have also propelled themselves onto the national consciousness in the shape of the Labour Party (LP) and New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP).

At the end of May,the LP held its own National Convention and Presidential Primary in Asaba, the capital of Delta State, with Peter Obi emerging the party’s flag bearer after other aspirants stepped down for him. During his acceptance speech titled: ‘Let Us Return Nigeria to Their Rightful Owners’, the former governor of Anambra State lamented that Nigeria, Africa’s biggest nation, has become a laughing stock due to bad leadership. He also said his government would focus on eradicating insecurity which has relatively crippled the nation’s economy, ensure food security and tackle unemployment if elected president in the 2023 presidential election. The other party is the NNPP, which was formed by former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso and which also held its National Convention on June 8 at the velodrome of the Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja.

In his acceptance speech, the former Defence Minister appreciated those who dropped their presidential aspirations for him, and the delegates that elected him, saying among other things: “Our government will ensure that adequate roads are provided, ensure that trains are working.

“We are going to improve the aviation industry to make it more effective and affordable so that as many people as possible can travel either by road, by water or by air in this country.” Subsequently, after becoming the faces of their respective parties, they have taken every opportunity to get their messages across without contravening campaign guidelines, often speaking through their media persons, at public functions or press releases. However, now the ‘phony’ campaign will end on Wednesday, and the real campaign will begin.

Thus, there will be no hiding place for the candidates as they will be under the microscope like never before. For the candidates, the scrutiny they will face will be like none like it, especially as many Nigerians realise that they may have been taken for a ride in recent elections, where their failure to properly, and perhaps most importantly dispassionately, study the credentials of those aspiring to lead then, has led the nation downhill. In 2015 as an opposition party, the APC used their slogan “change” and borderline propaganda to great effect in becoming the first to oust a sitting government.

Four years later, even with their failure to fulfil many of their pre-2015 promises, the broom-wielding party promised to take us to the “next level” with millions now joking that they should have been left where they were before because of hardship they are going through presently. Of course before the clasmatic change of seven years ago, the PDP had also promised the nation heaven and earth in retaining power for 16 straight years, so much so, that they had already started boasting that they would rule non-stop for 60 years!

Unfortunately, so far, most of the rhetoric from the political gladiators has been mainly mudslinging with very little substance of what we should expect should they win the keys to Aso Rock next year. But perhaps, with the curtains being lifted on formal campaigning next Wednesday, maybe the parties and their presidential candidates will finally tell us how they intend to tackle the numerous problems besetting this once proud nation. Of course like any suitor they will promise us heaven and earth, it is, however, left for Nigerians (who are the ‘brides to be’) to sieve the wheat from the chaff and dispassionately decide whom to vote for on February 25, 2023. They should realise that what they do on that day will either improve or worsen their lives for the next four years But for now, let the campaigns begin!

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