Game of wits between old and new order –

Game of wits between old and new order – The Sun Nigeria

By Sunday Ani

Contrary to belief in many quarters that the 2023 presidential election is going to be a straight contest between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), close watchers of political developments in the country believe that the emergence of Peter Obi from the Labour Party (LP), regarded as a third force, would change the game.

With the conclusion of primary elections by all the political parties for the 2023 general elections, Nigerians are now in a vantage position to make political calculations and permutations based on the prevailing variables.

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When the PDP elected the former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as its presidential candidate, many Nigerians waited anxiously to see who the ruling APC would present. Eventually, the National Leader of the ruling party and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, emerged the party’s candidate after a tension-soaked primary that saw him defeating the sitting vice president, as well as the incumbent senate president after seven contestants, including the governor of Jigawa State, stepped down for him.

Following Tinubu’s emergence as the APCs presidential candidate, bookmakers have gone to town with the story that the contest would be between him and Atiku. They believe it would be a fight to finish between the two candidates because both of them see the contest as their last chance due to their ages.

But, there are those who disagree with this position, insisting that to believe so amounts to being politically myopic. Those on this divide have drawn attention to the fact that the breeze of imminent political tsunami is silently blowing. They want the doubting ‘Thomases’ to know that the proponents of this silent breeze of political revolution are simply saying that Nigerians are tired of gerontocratic leaders and would want a new political order that will be pioneered by a young, energetic, resourceful and charismatic leader. These traits, they argued, are what most Nigerians have seen in Peter Obi, and that is why they are warning the two dominant parties, APC and PDP, that it would not be business as usual in 2023.

However, those who are adept at reading the political temperature of the country and the electorates’ voting patterns are confident that when the chips are down, the old war horses would bring their long years of political experience and mastery to bear on the game. They are confident that what played out during the PDP and APC presidential primary elections, where certain aspirants were already primed to win but got beaten outright by the old war horses, would repeat itself at the general election.

But, there are others who think that it is time to flush the old politicians from the stage and enthrone a regime of young Nigerians. Those in this group are also warning that the stage is already set for the actualization of the German Philosopher, karl Max’s prediction about the defeat of the bourgeoisie or the ruling class by the proletariats or workers.

They are of the view that if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the presidency would not interfere with the electoral process, so that a level playing ground that guarantees free and fair process is provided, Nigerians would certainly reject the two main parties, PDP and APC, at the poll.

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This, they argue, could be inferred from the sudden enthusiasm and interest by ordinary Nigerians, including the tomato seller, the pepper seller, and the Okada rider, as well as the Nigerian students, the teeming unemployed youths and workers to get registered with the INEC and get their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) in preparation for the great battle ahead.

Their position is that Obi’s message of hope and revival has sunk in their brain and is causing a silent political revolution across the country’s six geopolitical zones.

“This time, nobody wants to know where Obi comes from. His message of hope is well understood and Nigerians want him to secure the future of their children. We are tired of the empty promises that don’t make any positive impact on our lives, rather our lives continue to degenerate year in year out,” they said.

One of those who argue that it would be a straight fight between the two dominant political parties is a former member of the Katsina State House of Assembly, and currently, the Senior Legislative Aide to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yusuf Shehu.

He said the election is going to be a fight of the titans because the two candidates are very strong. “I don’t think any candidate from the third force or any other political party will pose a threat because Nigeria has a pattern. You see, three political parties cannot make impact in Nigeria; only two parties can. That has been the pattern in Nigeria and it is not going to change with the 2023 general election. We only have party A and party B. Party C can only succeed in jeopardizing some votes for either party A or party B. So, for now, it is only the APC and the PDP that can make any impact, but this is as far as presidential election is concerned. Maybe, at the National Assembly or state level, other parties can pose a threat but not at the presidential election. So, at the centre, only the APC and the PDP are the focal point,” he noted.

Another person on this divide is the President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima, who acknowledged that nothing is impossible in politics but still doubts if any party could upstage the two dominant parties

He said: “We should expand our scope as Nigerians. Even though the APC and PDP are major political parties, we should not forget that there are other political parties that are in the contest and you will be surprised that things can change. We have an example in Burkina Faso where the minority political party defeated a major political party and the minority is still holding onto power over there till now. In Cameroon, we have a similar story of a minority political party coming to take power from the major political party. So, nothing is impossible when it comes to politics. I know that we are not too matured like that but I want Nigerians to look inward. I believe that someday we will not be talking of APC or PDP; certainly we will get there someday.”

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He expressed doubt in the ability of the people in third force to move in the exact way that Nigerians expect. “The reality is that those major political parties are likely to dominate the scene. The other parties need to do more homework; they don’t have structures. For instance, Labour Party that has a good candidate like Peter Obi, the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) with Rabiu Kwankwaso, Omoyele Sowores political parties, and others have younger Nigerians but they are still coming up. I am sure that one day, the mind of Nigerians will definitely move towards such political parties, so that this issue of the APC or PDP holding people to ransom will be put behind us once and for all,” he said.

Again, there are those who don’t even believe that there is an electoral process currently going on. Those in this group are angry with the monetization of the whole process, which has completely shut out young, intelligent and qualified Nigerians with capacity to turn things around for the greater good of Nigerians simply because their pockets are not deep enough to compete with the political moneybag.

Leading the people in this vanguard is Comrade Abiodun Aremu of the Joint Action Front (JAF). He insisted that there is no electoral contest at the moment and there would never be as far as what he termed, exclusive process of the exploitative ruling cabals, continued. He noted that what Nigerians are simply witnessing is the feast of the corruptly enriched politicians from the collective wealth of the Nigerian society, while the rest of the society groan in mass poverty and deprivations without access to basic necessities of living a meaningful life. “Why should the youths and students who have been out of school for months because of the irresponsibility and insensitive disposition of the ruling regime to fix the tertiary education system, be excited about an electoral contest that, in no way, would care about their future,” he queried.

He called for an aggressive campaign to organise, educate and mobilise the exploited and oppressed poor masses of Nigeria on agenda of socialist reconstruction of the society, insisting that future of the youths and students lies in applying themselves to the agenda of system change. “Atiku, Tinubu and their cohorts in their looters’ political parties, the APC and PDP, represent further doom to the working people and the poor masses. The struggle to rid the Nigeria political space of the looters’ political parties should be a priority consideration to all Nigerians now,” he submitted.

On the possibility of a third force springing up surprises, he also dismissed the notion, saying there is no third force at the moment.

He said: “Organisationally, I wouldn’t even assume that there is a third force, in terms of available option, but there can emerge a third force, not necessarily electorally but politically. An electoral third force isn’t feasible at the moment because the process is heavily monetised and exclusive to access to means and not based on the credibility of those in the electoral contest, in terms of their alternative socio-economic agenda and philosophical values as it relates to the collective basic needs of working people and oppressed poor. For there to exist a third force, such a party should provide a level playing ground for credible elements, who, without means have antecedents of commitment to pro-people aspirations for collective ownership, management and distribution of the means of production. That’s a major factor that would determine whether, irrespective of sex, religion, ethnicity, party affiliation or whatever, every citizen can have unhindered access to publicly funded education at all levels, healthcare for all, decent work and living income, affordable social welfare services including light, water, telephones and others, based on the least income wage earners and other necessities of living.”

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He argued that there is a fundamental issue to resolve in Nigeria, without which every four years election ritual would keep ending in motion without movement. “The fundamental question that the working people and oppressed people need as a third force now is: who controls the economy and for whose interest? It isn’t election that resolves such question; it is a political struggle that can force it. It is such a mass struggle that can compel a new political and socio-economic arrangement. Imagine the ruling APC regime carrying on with impunity in an electoral space in which the registered population of youth is above 50 percent and whose majority is reduced to voting nothing-to-choose political jobbers because like the past elections have demonstrated, the actual voting didn’t count but rigging to power counts,” he said.

However, there are others who are yet to decide whether the election will be a straight contest between the APC and PDP or whether the third force will spring up any surprise because the running mates to the presidential candidates of the two dominant parties have not emerged. They argued that until the presidential running mates of the APC and PDP are known, it will be very difficult to predict what the outcome of the 2023 presidential election will be.

At the forefront of this group is the Coordinator of Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), Comrade Joseph Evah. He said the choice of the running mates for Tinubu and Atiku would determine if the fight will be between the two dominant parties, or whether the third force would become the beautiful bride for Nigerians.

He said: “Let us wait to see the APC and PDP agenda and their vice presidential candidates and then we will know what they have in mind. Only then can we analyse the situation. We need to know whether they are producing Muslim-Muslim or Muslim-Christian tickets. After then, we can compare their characters and background before we know whether to fully mobilise for the third force or not.”

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